Deidre T. Guion Peoples Reflects on Her Career, Teaching, Faith

She was one of NC Central's Award for Excellence in Teaching Recipients this Spring

Students are not the only ones recognized for their achievements at the end of the school year. Professors of merit are also honored by their institutions, and this spring, Holy Cross parishioner (and choir member) Deidre T. Guion Peoples, Ph.D., was one of three professors to receive a 2017-18 Award for Excellence in Teaching from North Carolina Central University.

Photo of Deirdre T. Guion PeoplesGuion Peoples is a professor of marketing on the faculty of NC Central’s Department of Business Administration.

The award recognizes the university’s “outstanding faculty members who are committed to our highest priority – student success. Recipients of this award have demonstrated superior teaching ability, commitment to effective and transformative teaching, and have contributed to creating a culture of teaching excellence within their respective departments,” the university announcement states. 

“Dr. Guion Peoples feels much satisfaction in her career whenever her former marketing students enter master’s or doctoral programs and begin to truly appreciate their previous experience in her classroom.”

“Her genuine interest in the academic lives and overall well-being of her students has been instrumental in building connections. In turn, these connections have prompted students to become more positively receptive to course content. Guion Peoples uses a variety of teaching methods to engage students, including lectures, small groups, class discussions and student-led lectures, along with a creative problem-solving approach known as design-thinking that her students find intriguing and effective.”

Teaching: A Natural Progression of Career Interests

When asked what led her to university teaching, Guion Peoples said: “I really did not choose this profession; it chose me. This is career number three or four for me.”

Her first career was in banking – in corporate loan administration, she said. “I then changed my focus from banking to marketing, and after I earned my MBA I worked in brand management at General Mills in Minneapolis, Minn.”

She left that role to start an advertising agency with a few friends from the banking business.

Then, she said, “I left the agency to pursue my doctorate because I was really interested in researching some of the things that I saw happening with my clients and their customers while I had the ad agency,” she said.

“Teaching and research are both integral components of being an academic, so this is where my experiences and interests led me. It has been a natural progression of my career interests.”

She encourages her students to continue learning as well.

“I often tell my students that they should strive to be life-long learners, and that education holds the key to anything they wish to accomplish in their professional lives. 

“It brings me great joy when I see students get excited about their future and about the power of education to transform their lives. The sense of confidence that is exuded from a student who feels academically prepared for the next chapter of his or her life is immensely rewarding to me.”

For students considering academia, she says, “This is a GREAT career to consider because you have flexibility and freedom – nobody is looking over your shoulder in the classroom – and you can research topics of interest to you. You can also absolutely impact the lives of the students you encounter.”

The annual work schedule is an added value. “I work for 10 months, get paid for 12, and get summers off,” she said. (Note, though, that professors’ annual salaries typically are allocated over a 12-month period, instead of the 10-month teaching schedule).

Also, Guion Peoples said, “I think that it is imperative that students see people who look like them in the front of the classroom.” (Read more about diversity in higher education at The PhD Project website.)

A Life of Gratitude, Rooted in Faith

Her faith life has been a constant for Guion Peoples, who grew up in the Holy Cross Catholic Church community in Durham and has been a member of its gospel choir since 1979.

“This faith community has shaped and guided all aspects of my life,” she said. “I have received every sacrament except holy matrimony at Holy Cross so, the foundation of my faith rests with this community. 

“I approach life with gratitude, love and joyful expectation. God is love and as children of God we are called to be vessels of love everywhere we go,” she said. “I have lived in other states and attended other Catholic churches but Holy Cross is and always will be home. The genuine warmth and love that everyone feels when they enter into our space is the love and warmth that I have been blessed to be a part of all of my life.”

Her faith has informed her approach to life. “I am keenly aware that for many of the students that I encounter, and even some colleagues, I may be the only face of God that they encounter. Therefore, my approach to work is to do unto others as I would have them do unto me," she said.

Praising God in Song

“At Holy Cross, I’ve been a part of the choir for so long that I can barely even remember a time when I was not in choir,” she said. “I do remember singing with John P. Kee (a gospel performer, producer, and pastor of the New Life Fellowship Church in Charlotte, N.C.) when I was in high school," Guion Peoples said.

“John started a community choir with mostly high school students and it was incredible. He was – and is – a wonderful arranger; he and the other musicians made gospel music relevant and fun and exciting. Because I knew how to read music (piano lessons when I was younger and clarinet in the high school band), it was easy for me to learn new songs and catch on to his arrangements. When Gloria Burton started the gospel choir (at Holy Cross) it was a no brainer that I would be a part of it.

“I stay active in the choir because singing really is like praying twice. I love hearing all of the voices come together to create something bigger than each individual voice. God loves for us to give him glory and honor and praise, and I love to see the power of music to move people,” Guion Peoples said.

“Singing in our choir is not easy because we practice and sing every week. In most other churches a choir sings once or twice a month but we sing every week. It is a ministry that takes a lot of commitment and time.  For me it is time well spent,” she said

In addition to the choir, Guion Peoples is a member of the Holy Cross Ladies’ Altar Society. In the past, she has served on the parish’s pastoral council, as president, and as co-chair of the parish’s 75th Anniversary committee in 2016. Going back a bit further, she served as a counter during the cookie sales season for the Girl Scout Troop that was based in the parish at that time.

Build Your Faith, Like You Would Your Muscles

Guion Peoples offered a few words to ponder for teens, young adults and others about developing and maintaining an active faith life.

“I think that faith is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. I encourage everyone to learn about their faith and develop a prayer life before they need it. That way, when trials come, they will know what to do,” she said.

“I (also) think teens and young adults should understand that for most of their lives, they have probably relied on the prayers of others – their parents, grandparents, church family and friends. At some point, we must all learn to lean on our own faith and prayers. Nothing in the world beats having your own personal relationship with God!”

Tags: Deirdre Guion Peopoles, NC Central Award for Excellence in Teaching, Holy Cross Choir

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