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Faculty Members Receive Grants to Explore New Methods of Teaching

  • News Image
    Chemistry professor Gulnar Rawji is using her grant from the ACS to redesign the laboratory component of her Metals in Medicine class. Biochemistry major Tran Le (left) and chemistry major Antonio Lopez (right) are among the students taking the course this semester.

Grants fund collaborative projects among liberal arts colleges in the south

The Associated Colleges of the South has funded four proposals submitted by Southwestern faculty members that will enable them to explore new methods of teaching. Several of the projects will involve collaboration with faculty and students at other liberal arts colleges throughout the south.

  • Sandi Nenga, associate professor of sociology, and Allison Hurst, associate professor of sociology at Furman University, received a $10,000 grant to organize an interdisciplinary workshop on “Innovative Approaches to Social Class” that will be held at Furman in June. Nenga said she and Hurst want to make ACS institutions known nationally for innovative approaches to social class research which can then be linked to improvements in both classroom teaching and involving undergraduates in related research.
  • Michael Kamen, associate professor of education, received $7,213 to work with Candace Wentz, instructional technology coordinator at Centre College, on an education technology course that will give students experience using many of the tools that will be available to them as public school educators. Kamen and Wentz are currently teaching a similar course at their respective institutions. The grant will enable them to identify portions of both classes that could be taught well online and allow for online collaboration between students taking these courses on the two campuses.
  • Head football coach Joe Austin and Erika Berroth, associate professor of German, received $7,000 for a proposal titled “Blended Learning for Global Players: Leadership, Football and Intercultural Learning in Germany.” Austin and Berroth plan to take members of the Pirates football team to Germany for two weeks in May. The program will include visits to businesses and cultural sites as well as football games with German teams. The grant will help Berroth develop the academic component of the course, which will be cross-listed in both German and Business/Economics.
  • Gulnar Rawji, associate professor of chemistry, received $4,000 for a proposal titled “Using Original Research to Enhance Learning in Chemistry Laboratory Courses.” Rawji has designed the laboratory component of her Metals in Medicine class so that students will pursue original publishable research for the entire semester instead of pre-designed experiments. Rawji will collaborate on the course with biology professors from two other ACS institutions − Pamela Hanson at Birmingham Southern College and Angie Hilliker at the University of Richmond. Students in courses taught by Hansen and Hilliker will investigate how yeast is affected by the potential metal-based drugs that Rawji’s class will be researching. The students from all institutions will share their data through a wiki or Google apps set up by Southwestern students. Funding from the grant will help pay for student research assistants/peer mentors who will work with the student research teams in Rawji’s class, and for supplies and small equipment for the research. Rawji said this new approach to laboratory teaching could be easily adapted to a wide range of science courses.

Southwestern faculty members also will be part of four other projects that were recently funded by the ACS:

  • Melissa Johnson, professor of anthropology and environmental studies, and Laura Hobgood-Oster, professor of religion and environmental studies, are part of a team that received $10,000 to develop a digital library of materials related to environmental justice. Their collaborators on the project include two faculty members from Furman, a faculty member from Spelman College and a faculty member from Trinity University. Material in the library will be available to faculty and students at all the ACS member institutions.
  • Hobgood-Oster and Josh Long, assistant professor of environmental studies, are part of a team that received $10,000 to develop a digital library of materials related to food and the environment. Their collaborators on the project include faculty members from Centre, Furman, Sewanee, Washington and Lee University, and Trinity.
  • Carl Robertson, associate professor of Chinese, will be participating in two projects. One involves developing “World Language Webinars” and includes faculty members from Washington and Lee, Furman and the University of Richmond. Robertson also will be participating in a “Study Away Summit” at Trinity, in which he and faculty members from Centenary College, Centre, Davidson, Furman, the University of Richmond and Trinity will discuss how ACS institutions can work together on study abroad programs.

In all, the ACS recently funded 34 proposals to help faculty at the 16 ACS member institutions explore new methods of teaching. 

“I was delighted to learn that so many Southwestern faculty members had been awarded these grants,” said Provost Jim Hunt. “These projects are excellent examples of the innovative ideas that continue to emerge from our faculty and I am very excited that many include collaborations with colleagues at other ACS schools. We are proud of our affiliation with the Associated Colleges of the South and are grateful for their support of these important projects.”

The Associated Colleges of the South received funding from the Teagle Foundation, the Mellon Foundation and the Woodruff Foundation to support these new initiatives.