The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday February 6th

Center for Faculty Excellence spurs classroom performance

The center is under review for budget cuts.

Hogan applied for a grant from the center to help her restructure her Biology 101 class. She said she would have eventually made the changes on her own, but the grant gave her the support and resources needed to speed up the progress.

“Every teacher is motivated to want to be the best teacher, but you’re pulled in a lot of directions. But if someone gives you the time and support, it allows you to push forward,” she said.

Hogan said the center also helped her measure the effects of her course redesign. Since changing the format, she said the achievement gap for first-generation college students disappeared, and the gap in African-American students was cut in half. She said more than 2,000 students have been impacted since her Biology 101 course was redesigned.

The center, which is one of nine centers and institutes at risk of losing state funding, pays for up to 10 full-time staff members who support its mission.

Created in 2008 out of the former Center for Teaching and Learning, the center is unique because it expands beyond teaching to research, leadership and professional development, said Eric Muller, director of the center.

“We are instrumental to faculty members’ growth and development as teachers and leaders and scholars,” he said. “We are crucial to breaking down the walls and silos that separate faculty members from each other.”

In the last three years, the center has given 26 grants worth up to $5,000 to professors to increase interactive learning in large lecture classes.

Aside from funding, Hogan said the center helped her make valuable interdepartmental connections that allowed her to exchange and learn from other faculty.

“Dr. Viji Sathy and I met through the Center for Faculty Excellence through the learning community ... We’ve learned so much from each other,” she said.

Psychology professor Viji Sathy echoed Hogan’s feelings on the role the center has played in making interdepartmental connections, which promote classroom development.

Muller said his center spends the majority of its budget paying for its full-time employees, who serve in various capacities ranging from administrative support to IT service. While his center fell under Board of Governor’s criteria for review, he said he feels that judgment alone did not merit the center being placed on the final examination list.

“One of the criteria focused on was return on investment or what kind of financial return was coming back,” he said. “Unlike the Morehead Planetarium that charges money for show, we do not charge for our services. That’s not our model. That’s not the model of a professional development center.”

Michael Fern, associate chairman for administration, finance and entrepreneurship for the computer science department, said the center helped him gain an understanding of University structure and better connected him during his first year at the University.

“I think the most valuable thing for me is the relationship building and understanding what groups do, and being able to follow up with them,” he said. “Without this program, I’m not sure I would know who to reach out to.”

The Board of Governors will decide final funding for the nine centers in question at the end of the month.

Alison Fragale, board chairwoman for the center, said the center has a lasting impact on the University.

“Given the cost of retaining top faculty, the cost of funding the CFE is small in comparison but is critical to getting the most out of our largest financial investment,” Fragale said.


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