04.24.2019 8×8 Leaps of Faith: 8 Stories about Cultivating Complex Thinkers for a Messy World

8 presentations, 8 minutes each, 8 ideas worth knowing

With the Our Shared Humanities grant (generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation) coming to a close June 2019, this capstone event celebrates and highlights the tremendous effort and instructional renewal we have achieved as a community of dedicated educators over the lifecycle of this grant.


8 x 8 and the FDI

Over the past five years, 64 faculty have participated in a one week summer faculty development institute (FDI). The goal of the FDI is to help faculty effectively implement new instructional technologies, evidence-based instructional design methods, and student-centered teaching strategies. During the FDIs, instructional consultants challenge faculty to reevaluate teaching methods to increase student learning and engagement. This event was to showcase how some of these participants have taken what they learned to transform their teaching.

Meet Our Speakers

Faculty Development Institute Alumni

Bio: Joy Wang is an Associate Professor of Mathematics. Her research interests include medical image processing and analysis, fluid dynamics and turbulence, and mathematics in health care. Her research goal is to develop effective models and methods that help access clinically meaningful information embedded in complex data in order to improve medical diagnosis and cancer detection. In collaboration with Albany Medical Center. She is working on automatic breast cancer detection and classification. Joy went to college in Peking University in Beijing and studied Mathematics. She earned her Ph.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Bio: Megan Ferry is Professor of Chinese and Asian Studies in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. In addition to Chinese language at all levels, she teaches Chinese and Asian American film, Gender and Sexuality in Modern China, East Asian literature and culture, as well as co-teaches an interdisciplinary course with a civil engineer on China’s Three Gorges Dam and development. She has written on Chinese women writers and the literary field in 1920s and 1930s China; advertising, consumerism, and sexuality in contemporary China, and China-Latin America and China-African relations. In addition to these publications, she has written the Chinese curriculum for the Schenectady Public Schools (NY). She received her B.A. in Asian Studies and German from Mt. Holyoke College, M.A. and Ph.D. degree in Comparative Literature (Chinese and German, with an emphasis on modern Chinese literature and culture) from Washington University in St. Louis.

Bio: Lorraine Morales Cox is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Visual Arts Department and has served as the Director of American Studies and Faculty Development. Her teaching areas include courses on modern and contemporary visual art and culture of Europe and the Americas, many of which contribute to various Interdisciplinary programs. Her student learning objectives integrate critical making, visual literacy, design thinking, and the development of an entrepreneurial mindset. Her scholarly research and publications focus on critical artistic practices that address social and political issues including the subjects of race, gender, consumer culture, and the environment. Lorraine earned her BFA (1992) from Virginia Commonwealth University and her MA and Ph.D in Art History from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (2001).

Bio: Matt Anderson is a computational complexity theorist and Visiting Assistant Professor in the Computer Science department (and is soon to drop “Visiting”). He enjoys teaching courses across a wide swath of the computer science curriculum including game development, algorithm design, graphics, theory of computing, and operating systems, and has ongoing research projects on matrix multiplication, descriptive complexity, and virtual reality. Matt spent Fall 2016 at the University of California, Berkeley as a fellow at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing. Before joining Union, Matthew did post-doctoral research in algebraic and descriptive complexity theory at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory and at the Technicion in Haifa, Israel. Matt completed his Ph.D. and masters in Computer Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science and Physics from Carnegie Mellon University.

Bio: Jeff Corbin is a Professor of Biological Sciences, and also teaches courses in the Environmental Science, Policy, and Engineering Program (ESPE). He is an ecologist who studies the impacts of human activities on the environment and how we can design management strategies to best restore degraded ecosystems. In his classes, he strives most of all to encourage his students to think like scientists – to observe, to hypothesize, to design experiments, and to interpret the outcomes of their experiments. He does this in his lectures, his courses’ labs, and of course, in his supervision of undergraduate research. He tries to convey his own enthusiasm for biology and the natural world, to make his classes exciting places to learn. Jeff received his PhD from the University of North Carolina, and was a Postdoc and Adjunct Professor at UC Berkeley before coming to Union.

Bio: Nicole Theodosiou is an Associate Professor of Biology and co-Director of the Biochemistry Program at Union College. Nicole’s research focuses on how organs of the digestive tract have changed their shapes over 450 million years of animal history. She currently presides on the committee for Professional Development and Education in the Society for Developmental Biology. With 15 years of experience teaching at liberal arts colleges, she recently has been exploring how to promote creativity and engage deeper student learning in the classroom. Nicole recently was selected to share her evolution as a teacher on the TEDx stage. She received her B.A. in Biology from Swarthmore College, a Ph.D. in Genetics from Yale University, and a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School.

Bio: Kara Doyle is an Associate Professor of Medieval Studies who has been teaching literature for more than twenty years. After training in Cornell University’s First-Year Writing Seminar program during completion of her Ph.D., she joined the Union College English Department in 2000 as the resident medievalist. In her first year at Union she put her training to work, helping to redesign and shape the college’s First-Year Preceptorial (FYP) into its current format. She teaches English courses on Chaucer, medieval women writers, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen, and has contributed sections of the College’s FYP and Sophomore Research Seminar (SRS) to the General Education program. Most recently she has been among the first faculty at Union to integrate skill-focused writing portfolios into Writing Across the Curriculum courses.

Bio: Joe Johnson is Director of Writing Programs. His academic interests include nineteenth-century thought and literature, especially non-fiction prose; and writing studies, especially genre, style, creativity, and the relationship between college writing and civic engagement. Joe is also interested in literary and intellectual biography, as well as the history and theory of liberal education in the United States. His goal is to help students see writing, research, and scholarly argument as a way of entering into conversation with ideas — and engaging with perspectives different from one’s own.

Bio: Deidre Hill Butler is an Associate Professor of Sociology and former Director of the Africana Studies Program whose research focuses on Black maternal activist strategies. She teaches courses focused on Sociology of Black culture, intersectionality, and Afrofuturism and her current book project with SUNY Press, Beyond Mammies and Matriarchs: Visibility of Black Stepmothers, investigates identity politics of Black stepmothers. Her previous publications are found in Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, the Journal of the Association for Research on Mothering and The Journal of Pan African Studies, and she contributed an essay to the 2018 edited collection Michelle Obama’s Impact on African American Women and Girls. Hill Butler is a lifetime member of the Association of Black Women Historians and National Women’s Studies Association Constituency Group Chair for the Feminist Mothering Caucus. Deidre attended Fisk University in Nashville, TN and after two years transferred to Oberlin College in Ohio to complete her B.A. degree, earned her masters’ degree in African and African American Studies from Cornell University and her Ph.D. in Women’s Studies from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Bio: Barbara Danowski is a Professor of Biology with research and scholarly publications focused on understanding crawling cell locomotion, and more specifically, how one set of cytoskeletal filaments, the microtubules, influences another cytoskeletal system, the actin microfilaments, during locomotion. The regulation of cell motility has important implications for the processes of wound healing and cancer metastasis. She teaches courses and labs in cancer cell biology, intro biology, senior seminar, and most recently, designed and developed an interdisciplinary and team taught course, social identities and science in the genomic age. Barbara received her B.A. at the University of Connecticut, a Ph.D. degree from the University of North Carolina, and then received an NIH post-doctoral fellowship to conduct research at the University of Pennsylvania.

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