The University Center for Teaching and Learning welcomed nearly 250 faculty, faculty support specialists, and graduate students to campus on March 11th for the 2019 Pittsburgh Regional Faculty Symposium. The one-day conference gave education professionals a chance to spend a day together to share resources and insights about teaching and learning, educational technologies, and pedagogical strategy.
“It was an honor for the Teaching Center to host the Pittsburgh Regional Faculty Symposium,” said Cynthia Golden, director of the Teaching Center. “We were hopeful that this would be an opportunity to learn from colleagues at other institutions, and the event did not disappoint. This symposium was an occasion through which several new partnerships and collaborative strategies formed.”
A combined effort between the Teaching Center, Colleagues in Connection (a regional professional development collaborative), and the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education, the symposium welcomed attendees from more than 40 schools in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, New York, Massachusetts, and Canada. Attendees participated in a series of activities including interactive workshops, recipes for success, posters, affinity groups, and lightning rounds in David Lawrence and Posvar Halls.
Dr. Sarah Rose Cavanagh, associate director of the D’Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College, opened the symposium with her keynote address and described the event as an invigorating day. “I loved seeing all of the cross-pollination of ideas occurring,” she said. Dr. Cavanagh found particular value in Students Design 3D Brain Models to Learn and Teach Neuroanatomy, a lightning round presentation by Dr. Erika Fanselow, faculty in Pitt’s Department of Neuroscience, and Dr. Sera Thornton, learning scientist and teaching consultant at the Teaching Center. “The very next day I started talking to people on my campus about getting our neuroscience students access to a 3D printer,” Cavanagh said.
Collectively, 35 presenters from 15 different schools shared information about topics ranging from gaming, to sparking legislative advocacy in the next generation of college students, to assessing students’ presentation skills through digital posters. Pitt faculty and staff comprised about a dozen of the presenters throughout the day, including the Teaching Center’s Robin Albright, Lorna Kearns, Lindsay Onufer, and Sera Thornton. Faculty from several disciplines presented during the posters and lightning rounds, including Olivia Long, PhD, associate professor of Biology/Biochemistry at Pitt-Greensburg. Dr. Long found great value in the symposium’s offerings. “The symposium was very engaging and I got to interact with educators from a wide range of institutions,” she said. “Everyone was really focusing on the same goal—to improve teaching and learning. I got some great examples and suggestions that will encourage me to try new things.”
Positive feedback arrived immediately following the symposium via online survey. One faculty wrote that “too many conferences and programs like this are planned out over two or more days; this packed in information that connects broadly to my work as a faculty member and did it all at a fast, efficient pace. It felt like a very good use of my time.”