From the Director: September 2017

August 30, 2017 / By: Dr. Kris Wammer, Director of the Center for Faculty Development

Kris WammerWelcome to a new school year! This year is particularly exciting for me because I am new to the role of Director of the Center for Faculty Development, and I am thrilled to join the talented staff at the Center. For those who don’t know me, I come from the Chemistry department and am beginning my thirteenth year at St. Thomas. I am an environmental chemist, and my undergraduate student researchers and I study chemical and biological processes of contaminants in natural waters. I also have strong interests in curriculum development and pedagogical innovations, and have been very involved in thinking about curricular change here at St. Thomas as part of strategic planning efforts over the past few years.

I hope you’ll visit our website to remind yourself of the broad range of services we provide to assist you with your continuous development as a faculty member:  workshops (including the very popular Inclusive Classroom Institute series), internal grants (see this article for information on upcoming opportunities), classroom consultations (highlighted here), writing support, faculty learning communities, mentorship opportunities, and more.

My main goal for the immediate future, as I begin to settle into my new role, is to continue to support the valuable and broad-ranging programming that you have come to rely on from the Center for Faculty Development. I have also been thinking about what new opportunities we might explore in the coming months. Some areas of interest include:

  • Strengthening the resources we offer for supporting research. We have a robust internal grants program, which is valuable for getting work off the ground, in addition to great writing support for those trying to get work out the door. Through conversations with colleagues, however, I’ve gotten the sense that more support would be helpful for other aspects of our professional engagement duties; I’d like to explore ways to tap into the wealth of expertise on our campuses to help us increase our offerings. At the recent New Faculty Orientation, eagerness was expressed for learning about strategies for working with students, for example. I should mention that efforts are underway to strengthen ties between Faculty Development, the newly reorganized Sponsored Programs Office, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, and the Development Office; this is great news for faculty seeking funding for their research projects as processes should become more transparent and streamlined.
  • Supporting strategic planning efforts. This is a time of exciting new initiatives and potentially transformative change on our campus, including a proposal for a revised undergraduate curriculum coming up for consideration by the faculty this year. As we’ve begun to implement aspects of the strategic plan over the past year, I’ve been so inspired by all the amazing energy and ideas you have for innovations that will help us realize our strategic planning goals. I look forward to thinking of ways our office can target support to enable you to pursue development of these innovations.
  • Listening to your ideas. Some of you are familiar with and use our services, but have ideas for how we could offer additional support. Some of you tend not to engage with the Center, for whatever reason. In both cases, I want to have as many conversations as possible over the coming months with faculty. Please, if you have ideas for how Faculty Development can support your work, reach out to me. I’d love to hear how we can help you to be an even better teacher, scholar, and university citizen.

Finally, a few things to highlight:

  • IDEA, our system for student ratings of instruction, is moving online. You received a message from Ann Johnson in late August detailing some important information about this transition; in addition see the new IDEA web site, and watch for more information from us this fall as it becomes time to specify your learning objectives and then administer the evaluations. Some of the new functionality of this system looks to be quite helpful for formative assessment, and we anticipate offering workshops later this year to demonstrate these new tools.

  • We are transitioning to Canvas as our learning management system (LMS). Blackboard, our current LMS, will no longer be available after this year. Our colleagues at STELAR are offering many training opportunities in the coming weeks, and are eager to help you make the transition. For more information see the STELAR web site.

  • One resource you may not have yet taken advantage of is our institutional membership with the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD). I’ve been a member since 2011. My participation in this organization has improved my productivity, taught me to be intentional about how I prioritize my work, and given me strategies to improve work/life balance. With our institutional membership, you can become a member for free, so please join and start to explore the various offerings and upcoming webinars and workshops.