In recent months, we have been featuring stories by past participants in the Rackham-CRLT Intercampus Mentorship Program. [Edit 5/13/16: The mentorship program ended in 2016, but that need not prevent graduate students and postdocs from setting up highly beneficial mentoring relationships on their own.] In this post, U-M Psychology Ph.D. student Katy Goldey describes her visit to a nearby liberal arts college, which was funded by the program. Her story speaks to the range of experiences a single campus visit might entail and gives a glimpse into the kinds of conversations with college faculty that the Intercampus Mentorship Program makes possible. The program is open to any U-M graduate student or postdoc.

Katy GoldeyIn Fall 2011 I spent a day at Oberlin College as part of the Rackham-CRLT Intercampus Mentorship Program. My interest in the program stemmed from my own experience as an undergraduate student at a liberal arts college (Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX) and my eventual goal to become a professor at a teaching-focused university. I chose Dr. Jan Thornton as my mentor because of our shared interests in hormones and behavior, and Jan enthusiastically agreed to meet with me for a very full day at Oberlin.

In line with U-M’s mission to develop internationally engaged and globally competent students, the Provost recently announced a new CRLT Grant for Internationalizing the Curriculum.

CRLT has created web resources to support U-M instructors as they develop new ways to internationalize the curriculum, including those who are considering applying for the new grants.  Here’s what you can find when you click on the “Internationalization” button on our home page.

  • A learning outcomes page helps define the complex work of course design. The page lists categories and examples of student learning goals that can help instructors identify priorities in their own courses.
  • A page on cross cultural group work identifies key challenges to students working in teams where the members have  different native languages as well as different understandings of matters such as decision-making and authority. 
  • A page summarizing common pedagogical issues for teaching students previously educated outside of the U.S. provides strategies to all faculty members who work with students from abroad – not only those who explicitly incorporate international themes and questions into their courses.  
  • Two pages provide resources for thinking beyond a single course: a page on options for internationalizing the curriculum and another with links to tools for assessing intercultural and global competence.  The first sketches a range of possibilities, including changes to existing courses as well as development of additional courses and off-campus options.  The Tools page lists the key diagnostic surveys used nationally to document the impact of internationalized courses and programs on student development.

As always, CRLT can also provide consultations to faculty members seeking to innovate or improve their teaching. 

When a professor receives a standing ovation from his students at the semester's end, he must be doing something right. And something rare as well: in the words of one student of Thurnau Professor of History Brian Porter-Szűcs, “the much deserved standing ovation was something I have never seen before or since.”

Porter-Szűcs certainly doesn’t win his students’ acclaim by taking on obviously popular topics. His courses on the history of Poland and the development of the Catholic Church, for instance, focus on subject matter about which many students report having had no prior interest or knowledge. And his courses often treat grim and difficult themes such as the effects of war and the moral complexities of major European social struggles.

Brian Porter-Szűcs But as both students and colleagues report, Porter-Szűcs is beloved for his remarkable commitment to taking undergraduates seriously as intellectual interlocutors and key members of the History department’s academic community. In his undergraduate classes, he engages students as fellow thinkers by giving them primary documents along with a range of historical interpretations—often arguments with which he fundamentally disagrees—and asking them to come to their own conclusions. He uses class blogs to facilitate their interactions with one another’s analyses. And he inspires students to pursue their intellectual passions beyond the bounds of the classroom. Under his guidance as the department's first Director of Undergraduate Studies, the once-moribund History Club has grown into a vibrant intellectual community for undergraduate concentrators. And under his mentorship, a steady stream of students have proceeded to post-graduate study, many of whom who say they would never had thought of themselves as scholars before taking one of his courses. In short, students stand up and applaud Porter-Szűcs not because he entertains them but because he respects them as thinkers.

They do also admit, though, that he is an extraordinarily engaging speaker.

In this space, we occasionally highlight items from around the Web that offer interesting perspectives on college teaching and higher education. Here are some short, thought-provoking pieces about learning and technology that have recently caught the eye of CRLT staff:

  • An article from Campus Technology about two professors at Albion College who have developed mobile apps for learning in a liberal arts context. These tools, one for a chemistry course and one for a literature course, provide intriguing examples of interactive course materials that allow students to practice and get feedback on their learning. 
  • A blog by Teaching Professor author Maryellen Weimer about recent studies assessing the effects of "multitasking" on student learning. She compiles data showing that students who engage in text messaging, social networking, and internet searching during classes learn less and perform more poorly, concrete evidence for what many teachers know from experience.

CRLT has also published an Occasional Paper on a related topic, discussing best practices for using laptops as an effective tool to promote student learning. You can link to the pdf here.