Inspiring Teacher: Mark Strand, professor of pharmacy practice
Published November 2018
Mark Strand challenges his students in the classroom with case studies and practice exercises. The process deeply engages students, and they work hard to complete the assignments with the skills they’ve learned in class.
Strand’s focus on student success has helped him become a well-liked teacher since he arrived at NDSU. He teaches public health for pharmacists in the pharmacy department, and three courses in the Master of Public Health program. Strand earned his bachelor’s degree at Luther College, his master’s degree in cell and developmental biology from the University of Minnesota and his doctorate in health and behavioral science at the University of Colorado at Denver.
What do you like best about teaching?
Finding ways to bring real-world problems into the classroom, so that students are learning basic knowledge and skills through wrestling with problems that we face in health care currently. For example, I have a three-part case study on the opioid epidemic in our country. This is a concern to everyone, and pharmacy students should know how to analyze the problem, and what things they can do as future pharmacists to address the problem. The students tend to enjoy being able to analyze the problem as a team, and come up with solutions rather than having the teacher describe the problem and the solutions for them.
What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is that students need enough information to know how to approach a problem, and clear instructions on what they need to do, and then be given challenges that exceed what you have given them thus far which they have to master or solve.
In my experience this increases student engagement, and by working together, they are able to both demonstrate mastery of what has been taught, and extend their competence beyond what they thought they could do.
What is the most common trait of successful students?
Staying on top of tasks, and practicing the exercises until one can both do them and understand them is what successful students do. Cursory review of lecture notes is not sufficient for success.
What is your favorite film or book featuring a teacher?
Dead Poet’s Society starring Robin Williams. It shows the way a teacher can inspire students to take an interest in courses they previously found boring.