Faculty gathered for lunch Wednesday to recognize the 20th anniversary of the Teaching Center and its impact on Belmont faculty.
“These are my heroes who helped make Belmont into what it is today. I will always be grateful for the leadership you have showed,” said Provost Thomas Burns. “You have helped us serve our students better. What the Teaching Center is about is making sure that we are excellent teachers and learning how we can continue to grow and develop. It is also a reality center and work-life center to develop the entire educator.”
During the luncheon, faculty were taken on a broad sweep over the center’s 20-year evolution through the words of its former directors.
Seeds for the center were planted in the early ‘90s when an academic committee of faculty, students and administrators discussed campus needs, said Teaching Center Founding Director Mike Awalt, who also taught philosophy. He and a group of faculty examined teaching centers across the country and applied for grants, eventually receiving $100,000 for the establishment of Belmont’s Teaching Center.
“One of the things we were concerned about then is that most teaching centers had full-time directors who did not teach,” he said. Belmont set up a three-year rotating director position that selected from among the University’s faculty. “We wanted someone in the Teaching Center who was active in the classroom. If we wanted to teach about innovation, then the director needed to be doing innovative things in the classroom.”
Among its initial programs were lunch discussion groups and mentoring programs for faculty to help them develop portfolios for tenure application as well as “Belmont timeout,” a reduction of course loads for one semester for faculty to revamp their syllabi and classes. Since then, the Teaching Center has had six directors and eight assistant directors, and the University has grown to employ more than 400 full-time faculty.
“Our students learn a lot when they talk to each other, and that conversation began with the Teaching Center,” said Psychology Professor Pete Giordano, who served as director from 2000 to 2003. He said he focused the center’s many initiatives, developed the assistant director position and worked on issues of faculty development, including new faculty orientation and conversations for when when senior faculty wonder how to stay alive and engaged with students after 25 years in the classroom.
“I get chills when I think about this group and how it has been pivotal in my development as a faculty member.”
Through the Teaching Center, Belmont has implemented a community garden, faculty cohort groups and service learning. Established in 1994, the Belmont University Teaching Center grew out of the belief that teaching is a craft requiring much effort and reflection. The goals of the Teaching Center are to create an atmosphere where teaching is valued, to promote teaching as a primary form of scholarship and to encourage, assist and support faculty in their efforts to further develop as teachers. In pursuit of its goals, the Teaching Center aspires to foster faculty efforts to investigate and implement responsible strategies for teaching and learning, to help faculty to become reflective practitioners, and to help the University fulfill its mission to be a leader among teaching universities.