University of Southern Indiana

New director building community and fostering collaboration among USI faculty

New director building community and fostering collaboration among USI faculty

10/9/2012 | University Communications

Dr. Chris Garrett is a champion for teaching and learning. As the new director of Faculty Development in the Center for Academic Creativity, Garrett joined USI this fall after serving five years as director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Oklahoma City University.

An Open House for the Center is planned for mid-November. Date and time will be announced soon. Faculty who attend the Open House will learn about the Center for Academic Creativity’s services, which include faculty workshops and retreats, programs to foster innovation in support of student learning, and activities that will enhance and encourage a greater sense of community among faculty across the campus.

“Having the Center for Academic Creativity at USI sends a clear message to faculty, students, and the community that USI values teaching, learning, and faculty research,” Garrett said. 

A focus of his work will be maintaining orientation programming for new faculty members. He continues to meet frequently with faculty, deans, and chairs to learn about faculty needs at USI. He held a workshop in September for new faculty and others; participants learned about the components of effective course design and engaged in the process of creating significant learning experiences.  A workshop on active learning and student engagement is planned from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, October 19.  

“I want to share my passion for teaching and create a haven for faculty to gather,” said Garrett. “Good teachers are always seeking to improve. They gravitate to programs like this one, where they can learn about best practices and have opportunities to meet and share ideas with other faculty.”

He also serves as a faculty coach, providing one-on-one consulting, and is available to visit classes and provide formative feedback. “This is a confidential service,” Garrett said. “It’s all about supporting the faculty member’s quest for improvement as a teacher. When consulting with faculty I help them identify their strengths and also areas that they’d like to improve.  My purpose is not to rate their teaching performance, and the feedback I provide has no connection to promotion and tenure.  Instead, I guide and facilitate the process of critical self-reflection of teaching philosophy and practice.”

Garrett also offers help to teachers working toward promotion and tenure. The Center for Academic Creativity is organizing a portfolio retreat for tenure-track faculty early next year and will also provide programs to support faculty scholarship. “At the retreat, we’ll focus on preparing portfolios,” he said. “In other programs like our Faculty Writing Groups, we will encourage faculty to carve out time for their scholarship and offer time management tips.  Faculty members have multiple commitments, but they want to be productive in their research projects. New faculty can be overwhelmed by the teaching alone. We want to assist tenure-track faculty make progress and find a balance between teaching and research.”  

He plans to introduce Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) to USI. These groups meet on a regular basis with eight to ten people in a group.  “Each faculty learning community is focused on a particular topic, and these groups promote collaboration among faculty.  FLCs encourage faculty to be more open about sharing their teaching practices and discussing both their successes and challenges.”  He’s had success with similar communities at OCU with more than 35 percent of the full-time faculty participating.

Garrett leads by example. He holds faculty rank as associate professor of English.  His teaching passion is English Literature. “I’m looking forward to teaching Introduction to Literature  this spring, a course offered in the Core. The theme of this course will be “Live like you were dying,” and we’ll be studying and engaging with the works of various authors including Sophocles, Henrik Ibsen, and Willa Cather.” 

He welcomes calls from faculty who are interested in meeting him and learning more about the Center for Academic Creativity’s services and programs.  The CAC is located in UC East 2263, and his office phone is 461-5476.

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