Williams Council announces funding for six new teaching projects

Tom and Carol Williams
Tom and Carol Williams

The Tom and Carol Williams Council for Undergraduate Education has announced funding for six new instructional projects in the next academic year. 

Dave Hubin, senior assistant to the president and chair of the Williams Council, noted that “we had an exceptionally strong pool of proposals this year. This led to great reading for the council and hard choices, of course, in developing the slate of endeavors we could support. We believe the 2015-16 group of funded projects is a great slate.”

The funded projects are:

Professor Mark Alfano, philosophy, and collaborator Christina Karns, a research associate in psychology and neuroscience, to develop an interactive, large-format, interdisciplinary course on virtue, tentatively titled “Why We Do Good Things: A Conversation Between Philosophy, Psychology and Neurosciences.” By bridging disciplines, the course will give students a range of analytical tools to consider how “generosity, gratitude and other prosocial traits and emotions are experienced in real life.”

Professors Craig Parsons and Alison Gash, both political science, to support the development of a pair of quantitative literacy courses, one at the 100-level called “Thinking Like a Social Scientist,” and one at the 300-level called “Getting the Facts.” Both courses “will concentrate on real-world examples from policymaking and politics, but their conceptual and methodological content” — which allows students to become critical readers and savvy users of data — “will serve a wide variety of majors and career paths.”

Professors Bethany Steiner and Robert Parker — both planning, public policy and management —for their project to engage advanced undergraduate students in experiential learning opportunities that previously were available only to graduate students. Students will work in small teams on policy and planning issues with local governments and nonprofit university partners. This capstone experience — with a strong emphasis on writing — is designed to integrate and build on all aspects of the students’ undergraduate course of study in PPPM.

The Teaching Effectiveness Program, directed by Lee Rumbarger, to pilot a new program that creates “Teaching Excellence Professorships.” Senior members of the faculty with distinguished teaching records will apply to become directly engaged with the Teaching Effectiveness Program to take techniques and issues that matter to them in their own teaching and expand the impact across campus. Professional staff from the Teaching Effectiveness Program will support these senior faculty members in developing programming or conducting teaching-focused research and invite them to participate in the program’s many initiatives to enhance teaching.

Professor Betsy Wheeler, English, to support a new course, “Life Stories: A Disability Studies Off-Campus Seminar.” The innovative course will allow undergraduates to learn not just about people with disabilities but with and from them. Half the students will be UO undergraduates and the other half will be young adults in the Lane County Transitions Program who experience intellectual and developmental difficulties. Students will create an archive of oral histories and craft them into a Life Story Theater performance and a class book and develop term papers in which they develop original theories and definitions of identity.

A project titled “Learning Chemistry” and led by senior instructors Deborah Exton and Thomas Greenbowe,  lecture demonstrator Randy Sullivan and graduate student Brandi Baldock, all in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, to provide direct support to students experiencing difficulty in General Chemistry 221. This new program will complement the successful SUPer Chemistry peer tutorial program that was funded for its first year by the Williams Council in 1997. “Learning Chemistry” will identify students in CH221 whose early work in the course indicates they are at risk of not succeeding and will draw them to creative, supportive, supplemental instruction sessions.

The Williams Council was formed in 1996 by then-President Dave Frohnmayer to advise on the best use of funds from a generous endowment supporting innovation that enhances the university’s undergraduate experiences. The council is comprised of a dozen faculty members who have been formally honored for their teaching.

For more information on the Williams Council and projects it has supported, go to http://williamsfund.uoregon.edu/.