Seeking relevance in teaching: Q&A with Rick Perry

Perry standing in front of a green space.
Rick Perry

Rick Perry is an instructor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science at Colorado State University. Learn more about why he came to CSU and his teaching philosophy.

1. What brought you to this department at CSU?

During my ten years of education in the Health and Exercise Science field, a few programs were consistently mentioned as being the gold standard: CSU’s HES department was always on that list. I actively sought to be a part of this department and was thrilled when I became a faculty member. After joining HES, I quickly learned how deserved this department’s reputation is and also how the people (students, faculty, staff and administration alike) are all vital pieces of the puzzle that make this department great. My excitement for being a part of this family is still growing, and I am greatly appreciative of the student-centered culture that has been cultivated here.

2. What’s your teaching philosophy?

I believe my teaching philosophy can be best summed up in two words: relevance and empathy. Having been a long-time student myself, I know that students do not want to learn facts for the sake of learning facts. They want to see the big picture and be able to connect to the material with professional and/or personal relevance. Every class I teach, I place great emphasis on how the material will be seen in their career(s) or how they can use it to enhance their personal lives and/or the lives of their friends and family. I also empathize with students living the college life and facing the monotony of attending classes day after day. Therefore, I try my best to make class engaging, fun and even entertaining. We expect above average effort and commitment from our students, so it is only fair that they first receive and witness above average effort and commitment from their instructors.

3. What are your research interests, and how did you get into the topic?

My research interests throughout graduate school were confined to how chronic diseases (diabetes, cancer, obesity) affected cellular signaling pathways in skeletal muscle and also how skeletal muscle regenerating from severe damage reacted to different repair strategies. As an undergraduate, I never thought I would have such a vested interest in basic science research since I always shied away from upper level biology and chemistry classes.

However, after graduating, I immediately began teaching anatomy and physiology and quickly learned how shallow my knowledge of the human body was without first having a deeper understanding of intra- and inter-cellular functioning. Therefore, I returned to college to become educated in biochemistry/cellular mechanics and to subsequently conduct research on skeletal muscle within the scope of basic science. Though I am thankful for everything I learned and gained during my time as a researcher in graduate school, I was never able to fully step away from teaching which I continued to do throughout graduate school. Teaching is my one, true passion, and I feel honored that I am able to return 100% of my efforts to this passion as a teaching faculty member at CSU.

4. What’s your favorite thing about campus?

This campus offers so much, and there’s so much to love. Briefly, I’ll say that I really enjoy the availability and convenience for alternative transportation (I bike to work everyday), the buildings and grounds are beautiful which further adds to the joy of biking to work, but most of all I have to say that my favorite thing about the campus is the rich diversity of people. People watching is a guilty pastime of mine, and I’m not sure where else you can go to witness the variety of fashions, expressions of individuality, cultures, unspoken stories, and backgrounds that are constantly on display here on campus. Thinking that there is such variety and yet we are all here for the singular purpose of wanting to enhance our lives and strive for a better “me” is humbling and acts as a daily, fresh reminder of my purpose to help every student succeed in reaching that unifying goal.

The Department of Health and Exercise Science is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.