#ThisIsTRSM: Ensuring Creativity in the Classroom

If you take MKT 100 or MKT 300 and expect Dr. Fathima Saleem to simply stand behind a podium and read from a PowerPoint presentation, you may be in for a surprise. The Assistant Professor of Marketing likes to knock down the traditional barriers between professors and students, sitting amongst her class during lectures, using funny and insightful YouTube clips to demonstrate marketing techniques and encouraging creativity in student presentations. Dr. Saleem’s research focuses on consumer culture theory and social media, and she joined TRSM in summer 2015.

Fathima Saleem

Here, in her own words, Dr. Saleem describes her approach to teaching, why creativity in the classroom is important and what makes TRSM students unique.

TRSM students are different, which makes for a richer classroom experience

“One unique thing about TRSM is the diversity of the students, and I’m not just saying that because we’re located right at Dundas Square. I have noticed that students come from so many different programs. I have students in my classes who come right out of high school and some who have years of work experience. That’s something I like to pick up on in class – to use a student’s experience or background to make the classroom interaction and content more interesting.“

“I did my undergrad in the United Arab Emirates, where most students come right from high school. There is a very typical pathway to university. Whereas here, I find there is such a variety in the types of students who come to Ryerson – the fields they come from, whether they have a lot of exposure to marketing metrics, analytics or the creative side of marketing, the programs they come from. I have some students from the fine arts who take marketing because they recognize the value of it. There is definitely a variety of students here – not just culturally, but in every aspect.”

TRSM is part of the city, and the city is part of TRSM

“I think it’s a completely different animal, to have a university embedded with the heartbeat of the city. Ryerson is smack in the middle. Other universities have a separate university life and university culture, whereas here it’s the city culture that’s integrated into the university. You are part of the city. Ryerson is part of the city. You step out, whether you’re inside the school or outside the school, you don’t notice the difference. Which is saying something, since we’re right at Yonge and Dundas!”

An interactive class is a more effective class

“I tend to learn from the environment around me and from professors I really admire. I had a professor during my postgrad, who would make music playlists for the class and play them while students were getting seated, so that students would be relaxed and in a better mood when the class began. What I’ve started doing is finding ads on YouTube that resonate with the course and class content. At the same time, the video would have an element that is funny or heartwarming or positive, it’s great to watch the students and their expressions. It’s a nice thing to hear students laugh.”

“I’ve picked up some things from HR trainings. In a class where I find that students look completely blank and overwhelmed, I ask them to stand up to do some basic physical movements together, to wake and shake students and make sure they are more engaged. I do this because I like an interactive class, and students enjoy it too. If students come to class and just sit there without participating and have blank stares, no one is really benefiting. I like to make class more entertaining, because that is what students are used to in their everyday consumption; they need content to be entertaining or interesting to stay focused.”

“One thing I don’t do is stand behind the podium – I like to walk around and relate stories that tie in with the content. This is a way to help students remember the information that they are receiving. When I use this technique I find that students are able to remember the actual examples or stories and refer to it in open-ended exam questions.”

Always finding the creative approach

“One of my favourite assignments to give is storyboarding. Let’s say we have a case study, and we’re going through the different types of advertising. I break students into groups and have them come up with a storyboard. Rather than having them simply tell me about their idea, they actually go to the board and draw it out. And then that group sits back down and I ask the class what they think is going on. It’s quite funny because of course the average students doesn’t draw perfectly – but what happens is the creation of a real dialogue while tying in marketing content with interactive learning.”

“Something I learned from another faculty member, who is an Associate Professor in the HTM department: in one of his introductory slides, he asks students to introduce themselves to other students sitting next to them. This little innovation makes so much sense when students do group work. I make the students work in groups and try to avoid directly asking a question and then expecting someone to raise their hands. I would prefer to have students discuss in groups, get some validation for their opinions, and then discuss with the rest of the class. I tend to lean more toward group work and tell my students to talk to their peers sitting next to them.”

No PowerPoints allowed

“When it comes to group presentations, I dislike PowerPoint. I have worked in a couple industry positions, and the best salespeople I ever came across would never use PowerPoint. Instead, they sit across from you, confidently, and tell you a story. So one thing I would like to try to do is challenge my students, and grade them on creativity in content delivery. If they use PowerPoint, they get downgraded. I’ve had students do skits, presentations, and even demonstrate the effectiveness of food delivery apps. I’ve had students talk about different car companies and they bring in items that represent the brand, or do giveaways with inexpensive products. They go above and beyond when you give them the opportunity. Let them experiment with presentation styles while they are in a less risky context– I love that.”

Research with social impact

“At TRSM, there is real infrastructure in place to support research. There is a focus on having research that impacts the community at large. Here, they want research that impacts society. Faculty here work on large projects with companies or with the government or even the community, and that’s incredible because your research isn’t just sitting there – it’s actually benefiting someone. The connection here is to a wide range of stakeholders, including consumer groups. So not only is journal impact factor important, but so is real world impact, which is something you don’t find in a lot of universities.”

Find your mentors at TRSM

“One of the amazing things about Ryerson is the large number of mentors you can find here. I have spoken to fourth year students who are extremely happy to have chosen TRSM because of the professors they have had. As you progress through your program, you form relationships with professors and they can become mentors and have such a significant impact on the path you take. I can name colleagues who I would have loved to have had a class with.”

“The university journey isn’t only about becoming responsible and going out on your own and attending class on time; it’s also about finding those people who can guide you later on, who influence you in a positive way and inspire you. You get a lot of that type of faculty here at TRSM.”

“That is something that I aspire to be: someone who can impact students positively, not only someone that students learn from, but someone that can inspire students. That’s why I genuinely love education.”

Does Marketing Management at TRSM sound like the program for you? Check out our website to learn more about the program.

Are you a current TRSM student or thinking of joining us in the future? Share your TRSM story with the hashtag #ThisIsTRSM.