September 2021

Vanderbilt’s return to the classroom this fall isn’t going exactly as we might have predicted or hoped back in June, given the changing conditions of the pandemic. However, between Vanderbilt instructors’ experience with adaptive teaching last year and an impressively high vaccination rate for the Vanderbilt community, I am still optimistic about the coming academic year. We can continue to confront the changing conditions of teaching with resolve, creativity, and compassion.
Last year was certainly a challenging one, both for the Vanderbilt teaching community and for the CFT. That’s one reason I’m excited to share the CFT’s 2020-21 Year-in-Review. I’m honored at the trust the university teaching community placed in the CFT during the first phases of the pandemic, and I am proud of the work my CFT colleagues accomplished. See the Year-in-Review to learn about the many ways the CFT supporting the teaching mission of the university last year.
As we start this new academic year, I want to highlight a new resource at the Center for Teaching. This August, we opened a new Digital Media Lab in the Digital Commons building at 1101 19th Avenue South. You can read about the Digital Media Lab elsewhere in this newsletter. If you have an interest in using audio or video in your instruction, you will learn a lot from the Digital Media Lab.
The CFT’s digital media services wouldn’t be possible without the two newest members of our staff, digital media specialists Tracye Davis and Seth Shepherd. Tracye has a degree in mass communication from Jackson State University and previously worked at Mississippi Public Broadcasting and Howard University. Seth has a degree in journalism and cinema studies form UT-Knoxville and comes to us from the Nashville Public Library. We’re glad to have them on staff at the CFT.
That staff includes an expanded Brightspace support team, thanks to the addition of a new instructional technologist position this summer. That has, in turn, enabled the CFT to expand its Brightspace support hours to seven days a week. We now provide email ( and phone (615-322-0200) support Sunday 5pm to 11pm, Monday through Friday 7am to 11pm, and Saturday 9am to 5pm.
Derek Bruff, executive director, Vanderbilt Center for Teaching
Promoting Persistence in STEM Learning Community:
Resources and Reflections

STEM disciplines have long been concerned with disparities between underrepresented and well-represented student groups and the associated “pipeline” problem, where underrepresented students are more likely to switch away from STEM majors. In 2020-2021, a group of about twenty faculty from eight departments met biweekly to consider ways to address this problem individually and collectively. Members of the group have produced several resources for instructors thinking about making their courses more inclusive and equitable:
CFT Opens New Digital Media Lab to Support Faculty
The Digital Media Lab in the Digital Commons building at 1101 19th Avenue South provides guidance, instruction, and resources to all faculty, regardless of technology experience, who want to create and use digital media in their teaching. The digital media specialists at the DML can help faculty learn about video production, audio production, graphic design, and web design.
Have a teaching challenge that you imagine digital media might help answer? Have you seen or heard about an application or a tool that looks potentially useful in your teaching, but you don’t know where to start? Have you tried some technology in class and want to reconsider how you use it or if there are other, better options? An in-person consultation might be a good place to start.  Call 615-322-7290 or email Rhett McDaniel, CFT assistant director for digital media.
Find out more about the new Digital Media Lab at
Course Improvement Grant Spotlight: “Restoration and Rehabilitation of Vanderbilt Fossil Teaching Collection”
In this new blog series, CFT associate director Cynthia Brame and assistant director, Julaine Fowlin talk with faculty about their grant projects. In this installment, Cynthia Brame talks with Neil Kelleyassistant professor of earth and environmental sciences about his project, “Restoration and rehabilitation of Vanderbilt fossil teaching collection.”
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Spotlight Event:
Teaching with Wikipedia

Wikipedia is home to over 55 million articles. The website is a valuable source for information, but it also has systematic knowledge gaps, as well as biases toward historically privileged perspectives. Vanderbilt political scientists Brooke Ackerly and Kristin Michelitch have been working to correct these gaps and biases by engaging their students as Wikipedia contributors.
Students are, in fact, the ideal Wikipedians according to Ackerly and Michelitch, given their access to scholarly resources and support from faculty and librarians, as well as their “semi-expert” status. Thanks to resources from Wiki Education and support from Vanderbilt librarians, these faculty have integrated Wikipedia into their teaching and seen benefits not only to Wikipedia, but also to their own students’ learning.
In this spotlight event, Ackerly and Michelitch will share their experiences teaching with Wikipedia. They will be joined by their Vanderbilt Libraries collaborators, Cliff Anderson and Mary Anne Caton. The course-based assignments and extra-curricular “edit-a-thons” they’ve used can be adapted by faculty in a variety of disciplines.

Date: Tuesday, September 21st
3:00pm to 4:00pm
Digital Commons, Room 200 (upstairs)
Spotlight Faculty:
Brooke Ackerly, professor of political science, and Kristin Michelitch, assistant professor of political science
Digital Commons, Center for Teaching
Join A CFT Learning Community
The CFT hosts a number of learning communities, intended for members of Vanderbilt’s teaching community interested in meeting over time to develop deeper understandings and richer practices around particular teaching and learning topics. Consider joining one of the following learning communities: 
Queer Teaching, Queer Thriving: A Learning Community on Inclusive Teaching for All Educators
Open to all faculty, graduate students, and staff of any background, the learning community will discuss a wide variety of issues: the needs of LGBTQI+ students and faculty on campus, the complexities of gender and sexual identities, inclusive course design and teaching practices, queer pedagogies, building LGBTQI+ community, as well as educator wellness and self-care. 
Learning Assistant Instructors 
Learning assistants, or LAs, are undergraduates who serve as peer educators in courses that they have previously taken. Supported by training in pedagogy, they extend the reach of faculty members implementing active learning components in a course and help provide personalized experiences that increase students’ sense of belonging. In this learning community, faculty who are currently working with LAs or are considering doing so in the future will meet regularly to discuss challenges, successes, and the approaches they are trying.
Online Teaching and Course Design
This learning community is for those who want to dig deeper into online course design principles in order to create excellent. Group members work together to contribute to the CFT’s Online Course Development Resources website.
Lessons from a Journal Club
Blog Series
Assessment of student learning is a familiar and essential component of teaching. As college instructors, we constantly ask ourselves questions like: “Are my students learning?” “What do they still not understand?” “Do students feel they can approach me with questions or concerns?” or, “That cool new thing I tried this semester — did it work?!”
To explore this question, CFT associate director Cynthia Brame and Leah Marion Roberts, senior graduate teaching fellow, developed and facilitated a journal club for faculty, postdocs, and graduate students last spring. For each meeting, the group read pairs of papers to illustrate types of questions instructors could ask in their teaching contexts and then discussed and extrapolated the papers’ findings to their own classrooms. Read Leah’s blog series about the themes that emerged.
Applications for New Round of Internal Teaching Grants
Now Available
The Office of the Provost established two internal funding programs in April 2021, the Educational Advancement Fund and the Course Improvement Grant, designed to support excellence in the classroom through continued pedagogical advancement and long-term educational transformation. The deadline to submit for the upcoming second round of funding is October 15.
©2016 Vanderbilt University · The Center for Teaching 
1114 19th Ave. South, Nashville, TN 37212
Phone: 615-322-7290 Fax: 615-343-8111
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