Jordan LeBel, who began working in kitchens when he was 12 years old, was destined to be a chef. But his parents weren’t so sure. They persuaded him to take a hospitality management course instead, putting him on a career track that would include restaurant reviewer, author, and a renowned chocolate expert who colleagues and students call Dr. Chocolate.
Now LeBel, 44, teaches Concordia’s highly popular, one-of-a-kind food marketing class, where he shares his passion with students. It’s his enthusiasm for his subject—consumer psychology and the pleasure of food—that makes him a favourite among students and one of 10 3M National Teaching Fellows for 2013.
“There is just so much to learn about it from so many different angles,” says LeBel. “I want to open people’s eyes and teach them everything they can learn about food.”
After getting his master’s degree in marketing from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., LeBel taught in Norway. He joined the faculty at Montreal’s Concordia University in 2000 after receiving his Ph.D. from McGill with a thesis about the relationship between pleasure and the consumption of chocolate.
As a professor, LeBel says his first priority is to energize his students. One method he favours is to have small groups take over the first 10 minutes of class to talk about something “hot and new” in the world of marketing.
“It’s a good way for me to take a pulse on what they notice, and often someone will come up with something that I can use to relate that week’s material and make a connection. I’m always looking for a level where I can make a connection and relate to them,” he says.
LeBel also tries to maintain an innovative approach toward class assignments, balancing the necessary exams with more practical and engaging activities. For the past few years he has assigned a term-long group project that concludes with marketing presentations to executives from Canadian food companies. These are among some of LeBel’s proudest moments.
“Last semester I had tears. A few of the teams just hit the nail on the head. I’d put their presentations against any marketing agency in Montreal or Canada.”
It’s seeing his students achieve that makes it easy for LeBel to put teaching first. “We get a lot of pressure to focus on research and it’s very easy to let teaching become something you have to do, but I look at it the other way,” he says. “I learn as much from the students as they do from me. When you approach it like that, a certain magic sets in.”
LeBel looks beyond grades when it comes to his students, which helps him connect on a more personal level. “The point I try to convey to students is that they’re still a human being,” says LeBel. “We’re shaping young minds. They’re individuals and you have to try to relate to them at their level.”
While the fellowship came as a surprise to LeBel, he couldn’t be more grateful. He credits his past professors for inspiring a love of teaching, and his students for challenging him to improve every day.
“It makes me feel like I must be doing something right. I am ecstatic and quite humbled to join in the ranks.”
3M Teaching Fellows 2013
Every year, 10 Canadian professors are recognized for their exceptional contributions to teaching and learning by the 3M National Teaching Fellowship, created by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and 3M Canada.
To read upcoming profiles on all the 2013 3M Teaching Fellows, go to our website at macleans.ca/oncampus.
Department of Geography and Environment, Mount Allison University
Laroque teaches harmony with nature—which he learned from parents and elders—though it is his work with dendrochronology (tree rings and dating objects) that lands him on TV.
Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia
Described as “innovative, engaging and unconventional,” Dahl’s teaching style is student-centred, and his “New venture design” course offers students a shot at CBC’s Dragon’s Den.
Kim Fordham Misfeldt
Department of Humanities, Augustana Campus, University of Alberta
The German professor is a “teaching leader,” one who offers “a life-changing, life-altering experience” through language learning (including a summer camp in Germany) and drama.
Department of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta
The professor of writing and literary theory teaches students how to “read Edmonton” through theoretical texts, local literature, cartography, personal experience and history, changing the way they view their city.
John Molson School of Business, Concordia University
The food marketing professor, a highly sought-after chocolate expert, created the award-winning online course “Marketing yourself,” which teaches students how to manage their careers.
Department of Philosophy and Education, Saint Mary’s University
A model of collegiality and mentor to both students and faculty, Crooks teaches students the value of critical reflection to shape effective and autonomous thinkers.
Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia
As a kid, Ellis wanted to be a Coke-truck driver or a meteorologist, but now the “professor of wood” is so inspiring a student suggested cloning him so he can “teach the world.”
Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University
The doctor is listening, even in the often chaotic clinical setting where he practises what he teaches about bedside manner and asks the right questions, a skill hard to teach in the lecture hall.
June Ann Larkin
Women and Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto
Larkin helps her students see the “transformative power of their academic knowledge” as she encourages community connections at home and in Africa, and guides them “to effect social change through civic engagement.”
Rowe School of Business, Dalhousie University
An enthusiastic and demanding accounting professor who emphasizes the ethics of the business, Conrod’s students earn some of the highest pass rates on professional exams and are sought by top firms.