Ross “Potato Professor” goes viral on TikTok

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It’s not always business as usual when it comes to Assistant Professor Ryan Ball’s accounting class.

Earlier this month, an anything but conventional Zoom review session kicked off with a thunderous rendition of “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!” by Michael Buffer. and an image of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan on screen. The students, confused but intrigued, danced to the music without knowing exactly what was to come.

Then, in an entry of nothing less than spud-tacular, Ball, with the screen name Dr. Po Tato, suddenly appeared as a floating potato with sparklers and a birthday hat, dancing around it. Zoom screen.

After watching the entire footage unfold, business graduate student Amelia Charamand-Quelas told the Michigan Daily that she wanted to share the show with her family in Argentina.

“The main way (my family and I) communicate due to the jet lag is to just send each other WhatsApps, YouTube videos, and TikTok videos,” Charamand-Quelas said. “I just posted on (TikTok) so that my four subscribers, who were pretty much all family members, can see.”

The next morning, Charamand-Quelas woke up to find that his video, originally intended for family and friends, has gone viral on TikTok with hundreds of thousands of views. Not expecting the video to go viral overnight, Charamand-Quelas hadn’t asked Ball for permission to post the clip, so she quickly deleted it.

“My initial thought was, ‘Oh, I’m going to get kicked out of the (Masters of Management program),’” Charamand-Quelas said. “I knew I had to contact the professor and let him know this had happened.”

Although she fears the worst, Charamand-Quelas said Ball asked her to repost the TikTok for her kids to see. Shortly after being recharged, the TikTok went viral again, quickly attracting 19.4 million views and 4.5 million likes.

As the viral video found its way into the direct messages of nearly every UM student, the For You page and the Facebook group, the entire UM community shared the joy of watching a teacher dance like an apple. Earth.

For Ball, humor plays a key role in his teaching, and he said his potato stuffing was just another way to keep his students engaged – especially on Zoom.

“I think with any course, especially virtually, you reach a point where you can just tell people are tired,” Ball said. “And I think it happens in person too, but I would do other things, tell stories, whatever, just to get their attention… I don’t plan it.” It seems fair.

When business junior Alysse Armstrong first saw TikTok, she said her reaction was like most users.

“I was initially surprised by it all,” Armstrong said. “But I do appreciate that the teachers are working to make Zoom classes more enjoyable and fun, even though we’ve all been doing them for so long.”

Brands around the world even joined in the fun, with the official Zoom TikTok account commenting, “They just won at Zoom.”

The response to the video was so overwhelmingly positive that Charamand-Quelas worked alongside Ball and released a follow-up video, which unsurprisingly surpassed the original with 26.1 million views and 5.9. million likes.

“I had hoped it (would work better) just because I knew it was such a good video,” Charamand-Quelas said.

In Part 2 of the Spud Saga, Dr. Po Tato checks out his “family members” who, to his horror, have all been cooked. Ball then “gets serious” and moves on to his exam review session, still like a floating potato.

Among the most appreciated comments on this second video is the one from the official account of “The Office” which says: “Really such an energy Michael Scott.”

Despite the comment’s 489,000 likes, Charamand-Quelas doesn’t find the comparisons to be true when it comes to Ball’s overall teaching style.

“I think Michael Scott can be a problem sometimes, and Professor Ball has absolutely never been a problem,” Charamand-Quelas said. “I think at that point he was plugged into the goofy side of Michael Scott, but overall I wouldn’t say they’re too similar.”

Although his accounting class went virtually, Ball said he found that his installation music alone was successful in bringing his classroom to life, replicating the energy and excitement of a classroom. class in person.

“It’s not part of the viral video, but I also have a recording of my students’ gallery, and everyone is dancing… it was really fun to see everyone doing it,” Ball said. . “People were dancing or talking to someone off screen and gesturing. Next thing you know, someone else would put their head in it. “

As awkward as Ball seems to most viewers, Charamand-Quelas said it shows how far he will go to ensure the well-being of his students and ensure they are engaged during distance learning.

“(Professor Ball) has been absolutely unreal,” said Charamand-Quelas. “If all the teachers approached virtual learning with as much grace and fluidity as he does, I think the virtual wouldn’t be a problem at all. “

After being online for a year and a half, Ball found a silver lining with distance learning: endless possibilities for good-hearted pranks.

“There is always an opportunity,” Ball said. “It’s actually to the point where I think I’ll miss the virtual… you can’t do things like potato in person.”

While Dr Po Tato may not exist beyond Zoom’s virtual classroom, Ball said he will continue to find innovative and engaging ways to teach the material. These can include visiting an alpaca farm to introduce income taxes or purchasing thousands of Olive Garden breadsticks to teach M&A accounting.

As the University returns to teaching in person, Ball’s students can certainly count on his beloved antics to keep it going.
Daily journalist Evan DeLorenzo can be contacted at evandelo@umich.edu.


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