Jennifer Peet, a Chapman peace studies professor and ‘97 alumna, brings an international style to both the dance floor and the classroom. She knows what it takes to execute a cha-cha or a rumba with the same precision that she prepares her students for Model U.N. competitions.
Growing up, Peet participated in theater and dance programs. Through dancing in showcases, restaurants, and even weddings, Peet has developed an appreciation for several different dance styles, including the rumba, the cha-cha, the paso doble, and even the jive. When she started dancing in the early 2000s, Peet primarily focused on the Argentine tango.
Peet said she stopped dancing for a few years while she raised her daughter. But nearly six months ago, she started taking private ballroom lessons to diversify her dancing profile, focusing on international Latin ballroom dancing.
While Peet plans out course material for her upcoming Model U.N. class, she’s also practicing and training for her first dance competition in San Diego this summer.
Peet said that she has always had an appreciation for the diversity and unique traits of national cultures, and that appreciation has transformed her love for dance.
“(You experience) different music, different languages, different cultures, different ways of expressing yourself,” Peet said. “Dancing does that too. It’s an expression of thoughts and ideas.”
Peet plans to travel to Blackpool, England, next year for a competition. She practices at OC Dance Studio and has also picked up some Czech from her instructors. She often responds to commands like “znovu,” which means “again,” with “dekuje,” meaning “thanks.”
“I have two separate instructors both from the Czech Republic, one (teaches) international Latin,” Peet said. “And the other is for the American smooth and that’s Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot and those smooth dances.”
Before Peet became a professor at Chapman, she was a student in the peace studies department after transferring in 1993. She took a Model U.N. class taught by Donald Will, then-chair of the peace studies department.
After graduating, she received a doctorate in sociology, traveling back to California after finishing her studies. She then learned of Will’s death when she returned, later attending his memorial at Chapman.
At Will’s memorial, Peet was offered a job – teaching the same Model U.N. class Will had taught.
“I had a fabulous time at Chapman doing Model U.N.,” she said. “It was Donald’s legacy. Carrying that on felt important for me to do.”
Model U.N. has allowed Peet and her students to travel to conferences around the U.S., including New York ‒ the site of a weeklong international conference, which Student Government President Mitchell Rosenberg, one of Peet’s students, said was the most competitive and interesting conference of the year.
Whether it’s public speaking, speech writing, learning the technique for debate or perfecting a new dance, Peet craves proficiency in her crafts.
“You want to master it,” Peet said. “You want to master teaching, you want to master the ability to provide a space for students to experience something and hopefully be transformed by it.”