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ACM Faculty Explore Innovations Inspired by Pandemic and Racial Injustice

ACM Faculty Explore Innovations Inspired by Pandemic and Racial Injustice February 10, 2022

Above: A 2019 dance performance at Lawrence University, one of the colleges that received a FaCE grant for “Race in Motion: Galvanizing Antiracist Praxis in Dance Studies.” Image via Artstor.

What have the pandemic and the social and racial unrest of the last 18 months taught liberal arts educators about pedagogy? How can those lessons be captured and shared for the benefit of students and colleges going forward? 

Five teams of faculty from nine ACM colleges received grant awards totaling approximately $140,000 under the ACM’s Faculty Career Enhancement (FaCE) program to address these questions from a variety of disciplinary and pedagogical perspectives.  

“Even as the last two years have tested us in myriad and unexpected ways, I have been continually moved and inspired by the care, creativity, and innovation with which the ACM community has responded,” said Sonya Malunda, President of the ACM. “Collaboration is the hallmark of the ACM, and I look forward to seeing what our FaCE grant recipients develop as they work across our campuses to distill the lessons from this period into projects that strengthen teaching and learning for our faculty and students.” 

The funded projects are: 

Examining and Engaging Conventions of Academic Writing Across the Liberal Arts Curriculum 

Colleges: Carleton, Colorado, Grinnell, Macalester, and St. Olaf 

To grow as writers, students need to be able to transfer what they learn about writing in one course to other courses and contexts. But this transfer isn’t necessarily intuitive for students, nor is facilitating it a simple matter for faculty. This project brings together faculty to educate each other about effective writing in their fields so that they can help students see how writing in one course relates to writing in other disciplines. 

The Faculty Teaching Fellows Program 

Colleges: Carleton, Luther, and St. Olaf 

One way that ACM institutions support the development and review of high-quality teaching is through peer observation. However, we aren’t always intentional in developing faculty to be effective peer observers. This project will create a cohort of trained peer observers who can bring pedagogical professional development directly to colleagues through an inter-ACM Teaching Fellows Program. 

Incorporation of Racial and Social Justice Issues into Mathematical Sciences and Computer Science Curriculum 

Colleges: Carleton, Coe, and Grinnell 

Although computers and machines may not harbor biases, the creators of algorithms, mathematical models, and statistics can perpetuate systemic racism and bias. By educating faculty in mathematics, statistics, and computer science to attain a standard level of cultural competency, this project hopes to inform students on how to be more responsible and civic-minded creators and users of data, mathematics, and technology. 

Race in Motion: Galvanizing Antiracist Praxis in Dance Studies 

Colleges: Colorado, Grinnell, Lawrence, Luther, and St. Olaf 

While the establishment of dance research within the academy has expanded the faculty and diversified curricula at large universities internationally, dance programs at liberal arts colleges remain disproportionately small. This project seeks to leverage virtual programing to imagine new intersectional programming that explores innovative models for integrating students across the humanities in order to engage all bodies who want to move in ACM dancing communities. 

Supporting Student Well-Being and Academic Success 

Colleges: Grinnell and Macalester 

Teaching and learning during the pandemic and racial injustice have taken a significant toll on the well-being of students, faculty, and staff. Faculty can and do play a significant role in student well-being via course design decisions, classroom culture, and one-on-one interactions. This project supports faculty to develop strategies and implement changes that can benefit them and their students and support deep academic engagement without imposing additional burdens. 

Supported by a $2 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2014, this final round of funding brings the total number of FaCE projects funded to 55. All have been designed to strengthen some aspect of teaching and learning at residential liberal arts colleges.  

As the final round of projects commences, ACM staff will begin an evaluation of the FaCE grant designed to assess and articulate the effects that FaCE projects have had on teaching and learning on and across the ACM campuses. 

Recipient Perspectives

The Faculty Teaching Fellows Program:

Our initiative will develop a multi-campus cohort of faculty with expertise in peer observation of teaching to provide teaching-related professional development opportunities for faculty. In doing so, we hope to strengthen teaching cultures within and across our campuses and reduce feelings of isolation for faculty who lack disciplinary kindred spirits at their home institution.”

—Louis Epstein, Co-Director of the Center for Innovation in the Liberal Arts and Associate Professor of Music, St. Olaf College.

Supporting Student Well-Being and Academic Success:

Our project is designed to expand the capacity of colleagues across the ACM to integrate ‘low effort’ strategies for supporting student well-being that can enhance students’ intellectual engagement and academic success. We are excited to partner with colleagues from Grinnell, and to work as a collaborative faculty-staff team, on this effort. Conversations—and concerns—about student well-being and mental health are evident across the higher ed landscape; this will be an important opportunity within the ACM to engage colleagues’ commitment to our students in a small liberal arts context. ”

—Joan Ostrove, Director, Jan Serie Center for Scholarship and Teaching
Professor, Department of Psychology, and Jennifer Jacobsen, Director of Health Promotion and Sexual Respect, both Macalester College

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