Faculty Who Care
Jared Sorensen Rife, ABD
Program Chair, Humanities
Jared Rife serves as the chair of the Humanities Department in the School of Humanities and Sciences. He is working on his PhD. in American Studies from Pennsylvania State University, his M.A. in American Studies from Trinity College, and his B.A in American Studies (Minor in Spanish) from Brigham Young University. His areas of focus are on 20th and 21st century history, folklore, literature, film and culture, with a particular interest on depression era college students and activism. He has published articles on religious folklore and children's games.
I have lots of loves in my life. The first is the love of my life, my wife Rachel. Followed closely behind her are my four children, Jackson, Madison, Emerson and Ellison (all the names of significance, ask me about it!) I also love Boston Sports, and have been very blessed in that regard. I love to eat and travel and my hopes are to do much more of both for a very long time. Last, but not lease, I love to teach college.
I approach each class as a chance to teach and a chance to learn. This is a role that I fulfill by respecting the student, pushing the student and demanding a high standard of work from them. The student’s learning should require effort and diligence. Students will at times lose their motivation, but that is where learning in a classroom becomes paramount.
Before each class, I ask each of my students to answer a discussion question and dialogue with their classmates about their assigned reading in a designated discussion forum. These questions help the student to respond to the assigned readings, and at the same time join in a conversation with the rest of their classmates about the reading. I will then read over these answers and use the themes and ideas they raise in the responses to guide classroom discussion and help students continue the dialog they started online. This practice has been effective as each student realizes their collective role as a part of a larger group who can rely on each other to teach themselves. They can gain insight and ideas from one another. They can learn from more than just one teacher. By utilizing large and small group instruction, group projects and individual presentations, students learn from others who help them forge their own ideas and opinions.
It is always about the student. I may be the professor, but I come away from each class having learned something from the students. If not then I am being too much of a “sage on the stage,” or I am not committed for students to raise their own voices. I help them learn by first presenting material in multiple media formats. I use primary and secondary source documents, images, music, film, literature and monographs. Second, I encourage the students to study. By study I want them to make connections to other material in and outside the class. I want the students to make connections to their lives, to their ethnicity, race, religion and identity.
Finally, I want them to formulate their own opinion and add their voice to the discussion of scholarship that is already going on around them. They can express their voice in class, on papers or exams or even outside of class. They begin the first steps of becoming their own “guides” to others when the complete they process. As the old adage goes, “practice makes perfect” and I make them repeat the process all over again.
In order for me to require their best efforts, I must give them mine. If I am prepared, knowledgeable and willing to help them then both our efforts are equally matched. When I approach each class with enthusiasm, commitment and am fully engaged in their learning I have found success. When the student can come away from a semester having learned how to take in information, study it and make connections and then express their own in formed opinion to the scholarly discussion that is happening all around them then I am fulfilling my teaching philosophy.
- Louise E. Hoffman Adjunct Memorial Teaching Award, Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg, PA, 2015.
- Harold F. Martin Graduate Assistant Outstanding Teaching Award, Highest Award given to Graduate Assistants in recognition of their teaching excellence. The Pennsylvania State University the Graduate School, The Office of the Vice President, and Dean for Undergraduate Education, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, 2013.
- W. W. Newell Prize, Best Graduate Student essay on a topic in children's folklore, The American Folklore Society, 2012.
- Simon J. Bronner Award – Honorable Mention. Outstanding graduate paper in American Studies, The Middle Atlantic American Studies Association, 2011.
- Graduate School Doctoral Teaching Assistantship, Pennsylvania State University, 2010-2012.
- Robert W. Graham Endowed Graduate Fellowship, Pennsylvania State University, 2010-2012.