Booth Ferris Foundation awards Fairfield University $100,000 to fund Center for Academic Excellence


Fairfield University's Center for Academic Excellence, an on-campus resource for professors seeking to learn and share information about the newest educational tools and techniques, has won a $100,000 grant from the Booth Ferris Foundation to continue rolling out its operations, and conduct teaching workshops.

More than 50 Fairfield University faculty members have been involved, in recent years, in various projects that try to incorporate more interactivity - particularly via technology - into the classroom. The Center is designed to centralize the efforts of and act as a resource for faculty who would like to update their teaching methods, said Dr. Laurence Miners, Ph.D., associate professor of economics, and director of the Center.

The Center for Academic Excellence was first launched in summer 2003 with part of a $200,000 grant from the Davis Educational Foundation. "We had a terrific first semester and we have great programs planned for the spring," Dr. Miners said.

Among the initiatives already undertaken, the Center has consulted with Dee Fink, Ph.D., director of the Instructional Development Program at the University of Oklahoma and president-elect of the Professional and Organizational Development (POD), Network, an organization of more than 1,200 faculty developers from various institutions. In addition to conducting faculty workshops. Dr. Fink met with key Fairfield University administrators to discuss ways for the Center to be effective in aiding professors in their attempts to improve course designs and learn about the newest pedagogical practices.

"With the additional funding, plans are underway to expand the staff of the CAE," Dr. Miners said. This spring, the Center will also be able to host a series of free workshops for faculty that will be open to educators from other institutions.

Fr. Francis T. Hannafey, S.J., will run a workshop on philosopher and thinker Parker J. Palmer's text, "The Courage to Teach."

Patricia Calderwood, Ph.D., associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions, will hold a workshop on active learning and student outcomes, to encourage faculty to think about what they want students to come away with when they take a course.

Another workshop will focus on teaching online courses, a subject that Fairfield University faculty members have expressed interest in, Dr. Miners said. Another workshop will demonstrate how faculty members have used WebCT and other technologies in their face-to-face classes. WebCT is an online course management system to which Fairfield University subscribes, that allows professors to post assignments and grades, return graded homework and hold online chats and threaded discussions with students.

The Center will also sponsor Fairfield University's fourth annual conference on "Empowering the Learner: Technology, Pedagogy & Course Redesign IV," which will be held this summer on June 15-17.

In addition, the Center is allocating funds to support faculty release time to redesign a course. The Center is accepting proposals this spring to fund two faculty members to be released from teaching one of their classes in the fall, so that they may use the time to revamp one of their courses. The money would be used to hire someone else to teach the class for that semester.

"The grant from Booth Ferris is wonderful confirmation of the exciting work we have begun. It will help the Center for Academic Excellence become an integrated part of the campus community and a major source of pedagogical exploration and research," said Orin Grossman, Ph.D., Fairfield University's academic vice president.

Media inquiries should be made to Dana Ambrosini, assistant director of media relations at Fairfield University, at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on March 5, 2004

Vol. 36, No. 188