Teaching across the globe from India and Bangladesh to small town Iowa, Dale DeWild, professor emeritus of sociology, has seen it all in his 35 years of teaching. But he has just one small piece of advice for American students: Wake up and smell the textbooks!
“As a 21st century student, you are competing in an international marketplace,” says DeWild. “I enjoyed knowing that I was helping students compete internationally by expanding their understanding and helping them develop new skills. But the students abroad are outworking you.”
With a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Hope College (Mich.), a master’s degree from Wayne State University (Mich.) and a Ph.D. from Florida State in sociology, DeWild started his teaching career in Florida before moving to India to teach for two years.
After working at William Penn upon his return from India, DeWild made his way to Central in 1989. Joining the Central community was one of the most rewarding experiences of DeWild’s career because of Central’s strong tradition of excellence. “I was attracted to the mission, goals and programs of Central, especially the small classes and international education opportunities,” says DeWild. “The priority that we place on teaching and the friendliness and collegiality of people I met while on campus were just a few of the reasons I taught at Central.”
An advocate of international education, DeWild has taught in Tamil Nadu, India, and Dhaka, Bangladesh. His teachings in the United States have been directly affected by his time abroad; DeWild loves to share his experiences with his students. “I am always eager to inform students about how most of the people in the world live,” says DeWild. “While teaching outside of the U.S., I became an advocate of international social justice, which I try to convey to students.”
Besides emphasizing his international experience, DeWild engaged students by encouraging participation and discussion in the classroom. DeWild admits that sometimes his games did not always turn out like he expected. “In class, I sometimes played the role of advocate for one position and then the role of advocate for a different position,” DeWild says. “One time I jokingly said that I had multiple personalities. I later heard that one student thought I was serious!”
DeWild says his fondest memories will definitely be of the students. “I will miss one-on-one conversations with students,” DeWild says. “I loved it when students wanted to keep talking as I walked out of the classroom or when they stopped by my office to continue a conversation.”
Senior Melanie Hopkins, a sociology major, knows all about DeWild’s enthusiasm for sociology, teaching and students. “Professor DeWild is personable, passionate about his subject and genuinely desires that his students grab onto the material and grow a passion for it,” says Hopkins. “His kind smile, sincere words and overall fervor for sociology will be missed.”
In retirement, DeWild is looking forward to catching up on some important things in his life, including family and volunteering. DeWild has always been an active volunteer, having previously served The Work of Our Hands in Pella for ten years and initiated the Serve Our Youth program in Marion County.
“I want to promote criminal justice reform, travel and spend time with friends, as well as spend more time with my beautiful wife,” DeWild says. “I am also looking forward to reading, grandparenting, gardening and continuing to volunteer within the community.”
DeWild leaves Central College knowing that the next generation of students will achieve great things in the coming years. “With the leadership that President Putnam will provide, I have high hopes that a student culture will increasingly develop in which students hold each other accountable for persistence in learning,” DeWild says. “With that accountability, Central College graduates will be able to live inwardly rich and outwardly flourishing lives.”
Q&A with Dale DeWild
Q: What was your most memorable moment as an educator?
A: When students come back years later to thank me. One student was obviously frustrated with me because I insisted he revise a big paper over and over. Later he came back to say that he was chosen as the editor of the law school student journal.
Q: Who influenced you the most at Central?
A: Don Maxam. He hired me, mentored me, encouraged me and challenged me.
Q: What kind of impact do you hope you made on Central?
A: Good scholarship is a source of excitement, beauty and joy. I hope a few people have been enticed by that joy.
Q: What is your biggest goal right now?
A: To catch up on reading.
Q: What are you going to miss most about teaching?
A: I enjoyed knowing that I was helping some students expand their understanding and develop new skills. For example, in my Conflict Resolution course, I often heard from students that they had tried a new approach or skill — maybe it worked or maybe it didn’t. But they were able to see the possibilities of it working better in the future.