On a recent afternoon, a visitor to the Graduate Life Center might have been tempted to peek into the multipurpose room, drawn by the sound of laughter. They would have seen 15 faculty members from Ecuador’s Universidad San Francisco de Quito engaged in theater improvisation exercises under the direction of Patricia Raun and Carolyn Kroehler.
Raun, director of the School of Performing Arts, and Kroehler, a biologist and writer, were teaching a Communicating Science workshop, a slimmed-down version of the intensely interactive Graduate School course they teach each semester. The bilingual visiting faculty members worked in pairs, mirroring each other's movements in an improvisation exercise designed to sharpen concentration and attention.
The session was one of several workshops the visitors participated in during the weeklong 21st Century Faculty Initiative, a joint venture between the Graduate School and Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ).
Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education Karen P. DePauw said the seeds for the institute were sown in March 2015, when she visited the Universidad and the president of the university, Carlos Montúfar, asked her to give a presentation on the Graduate School’s Transformative Graduate Education (TGE) program to faculty at the Ecuador institution.
DePauw developed and launched the university-wide TGE program more than a decade ago. Its goal is to change the way graduate students prepare to become future professors or professionals outside academe, emphasizing knowledge, leadership, scholarly inquiry, and social responsibility. The program complements academic disciplines, encourages interdisciplinary research and collaboration across fields, and provides professional development opportunities. Graduate School classes, such as Preparing the Future Professoriate, Contemporary Pedagogy, Communicating Science, Citizen Scholar, and others, are part of the TGE program.
Administrators and faculty at USFQ liked the program, and DePauw returned to Quito in November 2015 to share more about it. She took a group of Virginia Tech graduate students with her who had taken the professoriate courses and participated in the Global Perspectives higher-education research program.
DePauw said Montúfar wanted to “develop an initiative patterned after the Preparing the Future Professoriate for their institution, to be headquartered there. They eventually want it to be available to faculty at other institutions in Ecuador and Latin America. We’re helping out with that.”
DePauw returned to Quito in March for the university’s faculty development day and met with the first group of faculty members in the newly created institute. Further communications led to the development of the week-long program at the Graduate School.
Nicole Johnson, a Ph.D. candidate in the higher education program from Searcy, Arkansas, who helped organize the week-long July institute, said the Quito faculty have participated long distance in Virginia Tech class sessions of Preparing the Future Professoriate and Contemporary Pedagogy.
The cohort from Ecuador continued that focus at Virginia Tech during an “intersectionality, power, and discrimination in the curriculum” session with Graduate School alumnus and visiting professor of government and international affairs Christian Matheis, and doctoral students Erin Lavender-Stott and Michael Stewart. Matheis; Lavender-Stott, of Blacksburg, Virginia; and Stewart, of Charlotte, North Carolina, are Global Perspectives alumni and have earned the Preparing the Future Professoriate certificate.
The Quito faculty also worked with Shelli Fowler, who developed the Contemporary Pedagogy class at Virginia Tech, and now is interim dean of the University College and associate professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University.
In addition to those sessions, the group toured ICAT and the Moss Arts Center; participated in a workshop on digital teaching and learning tools with Quinn Warnick, senior director of academic innovation and user experience in Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies; and the Communicating Science workshop with Raun and Kroehler.
DePauw said she and another cohort of Virginia Tech Global Perspectives Program scholars will return to Quito in November, and the Graduate School will hold another institute workshop for Quito faculty members next summer.
DePauw said the partnership with Universidad San Francisco de Quito and the Global Perspectives program align with Virginia Tech’s role as a global land-grant university: “We are preparing faculty for the future.”