What sets Rob apart from many academics is the breadth of experience he has acquired outside the academy and how he desires to bring those experiences into the classroom. He does not believe that universities are islands isolated from the outside world. Instead, universities are, and must continue to be, interconnected with the world in which we live. This mindset has been a hallmark of Rob’s teaching.
As President and CEO of Viewpoint Policy Consultants Inc., Rob led a research and consultancy practice that advised some of the leading Canadian corporations, associations, and political leaders. His team at Viewpoint helped these organizational leaders understand the public and craft strategic and communications plans that met their organization’s objectives. Armed with this experience, Rob joined Laurier Brantford to teach in their new public relations specialization, his first experience teaching in an interdisciplinary setting.
Rob was also fortunate to be elected to public office at the provincial level in Ontario. At Queen’s Park, he quickly became known for his understanding of parliamentary procedure. Rob did much of his work in legislative committees, which gives him a thorough understanding of them. Rob was a leading figure in the opposition benches, so much so that he was ranked in a Queen’s Park Briefing as one of the most influential people in Ontario politics for 2013. Rob spent a lot of time learning about organizations, studying leadership success (and failure) from the inside, and how key decisions are made. After politics, these experiences underscore his instruction in the classroom. They have also allowed him to advise corporations on various government relations and corporate governance issues.
Rob is a firm believer in active learning, and he aims to maintain a very interactive classroom that is full of discussion of contemporary issues. Rob has experimented with inverted classroom formats that have turned unpopular classes into favourites. He is a proponent of experiential and problem-based learning activities, and his assignments are geared toward practical activities that can be applied to real-world settings. In each of his course offerings, Rob is up to speed with utilizing information technology to deliver material more effectively. He has also moved his assignments away from traditional social science essay-type assessments and have instead asked students to role play and/or deliver a practical assignment that builds a portfolio of skills for his students.
One of the things that Rob has noticed is that students, particularly those in the social sciences, are looking to acquire hard skills. While communicating ideas and thinking critically about them is an invaluable skill, and a trademark of social science education, Rob believes students are also seeking to acquire skills that they can market to future employers. Because of this, he tends to focus more heavily on applied skills, and this corresponds with the principle of knowledge mobilization.
All of this means that Rob strives to be an enthusiastic and engaging professor, and one that students gravitate toward. He has many former students enrolling in his current courses, which can be taken as an endorsement of the quality of instruction being offered.