An Invitation to Lead: Using the Symposium Model to Engage Faculty in Campus Initiatives

Wednesday, January 22, 9:00 AM–5:00 PM (lunch provided)
Marriott Marquis
Washington, DC 20001
Held in conjunction with AAC&U’s 2020 Annual Meeting (Visit the AAC&U website to register for the annual meeting; register here for the ODI.)

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Leading in times of change requires new models of engaging faculty in the planning and implementation of campus initiatives. As Watson explains in AAC&U News (2018), “Recognizing the change agency role of faculty development, senior leaders should work to leverage CTLs to accomplish academic change and consider models that incentivize or reward broad faculty participation.” Our team has been leading this type of work using a symposium model, based on the Academic Affairs Faculty Symposium used for over 25 years at the University of Georgia, to provide faculty opportunities to make recommendations about big campus issues (e.g., the role of SoTL in tenure). We describe our use of the model for broadening faculty participation in campus change initiatives and for providing avenues for collaboration. Our primary goal is to guide participants to plan a symposium for their campuses so that faculty are able to take a larger role in leading change initiatives.

A common complaint among faculty is the initiative fatigue they feel, which is often the result of top-down initiatives. Symposium encourages a meet-in-the-middle and lead-from-the-middle model in which faculty, staff, and administrators are asked to engage in meaningful work in ways that support campus priorities. Morris (2008) explains that symposium is “a ‘problem-solving and social interaction model’ with the brainstorming of problems and solutions under the umbrella of a topic” (p. 68). We view symposium as a tool for organizational change that encourages and supports faculty participation. Kezar (2015) describes several facilitators of organizational change, and a number of these are built into symposium. These facilitating factors include aligning the initiative to a campus priority, capitalizing on passion, engaging in shared leadership between faculty and administrators, and empowering people to act.

This institute is relevant to higher education administrators, CTL directors, faculty, and other campus leaders who are looking for ways to invite faculty to lead in times of change.

During this full day institute, participants will:

  • Learn about the symposium model and how it has been used to increase faculty engagement in change initiatives;
  • Discover ways to connect the symposium model to campus priorities;
  • Plan strategically to broaden involvement and prepare participants to succeed in the work, given various campus contexts and culture; and
  • Leave with a draft symposium plan to take back to their campuses.

There will be short presentations throughout the session, but the majority of workshop time will be devoted to planning activities, facilitated in small groups by our team members. We will provide example agendas, symposia invitations, ideas for logistical planning, and symposium prompts, as well as a planning guidebook with individual activities for participants to complete as they create their draft symposium plan.

During this day-long institute, participants will:

  • Consider the characteristics of effective educational development units, through a guided series of image-based and inductive exercises
  • Discover and apply a strategic planning process for a new or newly reimagined CTL, which will include a range of examples from a variety of campus contexts
  • Consider a series of guidelines helpful for developing responsive and research-based educational development initiatives in their own contexts
  • Leave with ideas, connections to leaders in the field whom they can contact after the ODI, and suggested resources to consider at their own institutions.

This session is based on a model of CTL leadership, which highlights key POD Network values, particularly evidence-based practice, collegiality, and inclusion.


9:00 am Introductions and Plan for the Day
9:30 am Large group discussion: Challenges in engaging faculty to lead change
9:45 am Presentation: Symposium’s essential elements
10:15 am Break
10:30 am Story: How Symposium Created Excitement and Urgency around a LEAP Campus Plan (UWG)
10:50 am Small group discussion: How can you get a seat at the table?
11:20 am Story: Creating Collaborative Department Cultures & Chairs (DU)
11:40 am Facilitated small group discussion: What do you need to create a sense of urgency about?
12:00 pm Lunch
12:45 pm Large group discussion: Settling on a symposium topic
1:20 pm Facilitated small group discussion: What outcomes do you expect and what will you do once participants meet them?
1:45 pm Presentation: Nuts and Bolts—Who gets a seat at the table and how do you prepare them for the work?
2:15 pm Facilitated individual work: Draft your plan—topic, participants, preparation
2:45 pm Round robin pitch:  1-minute share of your idea
3:30 pm Presentation: Follow-through—the only way to make it stick
3:45 pm Facilitated small group discussion: How will you make it stick?
4:30 pm Where do we go from here? Questions & Answers

Kezar, A. (2015). Scaling and sustaining change and innovation: Lessons learned from the Teagle Foundation’s “Faculty Work and Student Learning” Initiative. New York, NY: The Teagle Foundation.

Morris, Libby V. (2008). Faculty engagement in the academy. Innovative Higher Education, 33(2), 67-69.

Watson, C.E. (2018, March). Centers for teaching and learning, academic change, and institutional zeitgeist . AAC&U News. Available online: academic-change-and-institutional-zeitgeist

Cher Hendricks
Cher Hendricks
Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives at the University of Idaho

Cher Hendricks is Vice Provost for Academic Initiatives at the University of Idaho. Working in partnership with deans, department administrators, faculty, and senior leadership, she is responsible for the overall quality, relevance, and effectiveness of the university’s academic programs.  This work involves improving and expanding undergraduate and graduate curricula and programs, supporting student success initiatives, and overseeing faculty development to enhance teaching and learning. Prior to her appointment at University of Idaho, Cher was founding director of the University of West Georgia’s Center for Teaching and Learning. 

Cher is author of Improving Schools through Action Research: A Reflective Practice Approach, now in its fourth edition and contributor to The Wiley Handbook of Action Research in Education (2019).  She earned a Ph.D. in educational research and measurement from the University of South Carolina and holds a faculty appointment at U of I in the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences. 

Jesse Bishop
Jesse Bishop
Dean of Planning, Assessment, Accreditation, & Research, Georgia Highlands College

Jesse Bishop is Dean of the Office Planning, Assessment, Accreditation, and Research, and Professor of English at Georgia Highlands College in Rome, GA. He has more than 15 years’ experience in the classroom and as an administrator. His work interests include writing pedagogies, strategic planning, organizational development, and analytics. Previously Jesse served as Director of Georgia Highland’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Jordan Cofer
Jordan Cofer
Associate Provost for Transformative Learning Experiences, Georgia College

As Associate Provost, Jordan Cofer directs GC Journeys, Georgia College’s emphasis on high impact practices and essential learning outcomes. Cofer also oversees the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Office of Leadership, the Mentored Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors (MURACE) initiative and helps to coordinate the high impact practices on campus. The GC Journeys program expects all students to take five high impact practices, three of which are embedded in the curriculum, while making sure that the all 120 hours of each degree program align with the essential learning outcomes. Cofer is also a Professor of English and the author of The Gospel According to Flannery O’Connor and co-author of the forthcoming, Reconsidering Flannery O’Connor. 

Cofer has been an active member of the POD Network and the Georgia CTL consortium. He has previously served as a CTL Director and was the recipient of the 2017 POD Educational Development Internship Grant.

Brian Etheridge
Brian Etheridge
Director of the University Honors Program and Professor of History, Kennesaw State University

Brian Etheridge is director of the University Honors Program and professor of history at Kennesaw State University.  In addition to honors programs, Dr. Etheridge has led centers for teaching and learning and an office of academic innovation.  In all his work, Dr. Etheridge has been deeply involved in working with faculty in a variety of institutional contexts to create significant and transformative learning experiences for students.

Rod McRae
Rod McRae
Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, University of West Georgia

Rod McRae is the director of the Center for Teaching & Learning and a lecturer in the English Department at the University of West Georgia, a comprehensive institution.  Working with UWG’s full-time and contingent faculty members, along with graduate teaching assistants, he focuses on how the CTL supports the ways that they enrich their instructional practices, regardless of teaching modality.  Of particular interest in his CTL work is fostering a campus culture of collaboration and engagement, especially through transparent practices and inclusive pedagogies that boost academic achievement for underserved populations.

Marina Smitherman
Marina G. Smitherman
Chair, Department of Life Science, Coordinator, Committee on Academic Excellence, & Professor of Biology, Dalton State College

Marina G. Smitherman is Chair of the Department of Life Sciences and Professor of Biology at Dalton State College. With two decades of college teaching experience, Dr. Smitherman has specialized in Educational and Organizational Development; serving as Director of the Center for Academic Excellence leading faculty development in Teaching and Learning, leading High Impact Practice curriculum innovations, chairing the Georgia Consortium of Teaching and Learning Directors, and working collaborative on scholarship with POD, CUR, and AAC&U colleagues. She is a co-author of “Taking Flight: Making your Teaching and Learning Center Soar” published with Stylus in October 2019.

Kate Willink
Kate Willink
Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, University of Denver

Dr. Kate Willink is the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs (VPFA) at the University of Denver. Kate has served for the last twelve years as a faculty member in DU’s Department of Communication Studies and most recently served as the Faculty Director of DU’s Office of Teaching and Learning. As VPFA, Kate advises DU leadership on a broad range of faculty affairs and professional development programs and services, including hiring, promotion, leadership development, and diversity initiatives for tenure-track, teaching-track, professional-track, and academic administrators. Through collaboration and innovation, Kate works closely with deans and department heads to support their work and to recruit and retain high-quality faculty, as well as to work with them to improve transparency, equity, and trust. Kate earned her bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies from Cornell University, her master’s from University of New Mexico, and her PhD in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.