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Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014

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University Professors inspiring their fellow professors


Thanks to the generosity of Jim Bruning and his wife Marlene, Ohio University faculty and graduate students have a new source of help as they strive to improve their teaching -- The James Bruning Teaching Academy and the associated Bruning Teaching Fellows. 

Bruning began his career at Ohio University as a professor of psychology and later served as provost during the administration of President Charles Ping. He was also named one of the first three University Professors when the award was launched in the 1970-71 academic year.  

"I have met so many alumni who had Jim as a professor," said David Descutner, dean of University College and executive vice provost for undergraduate education.  "His commitment to fostering their learning and willingness to help them outside of class, no matter how large his classes were, made a lasting impression on his students."  

Bruning’s guiding idea has been that the University should provide, what he called, "organized access" to University Professors so that the professors could share their expertise and innovations with fellow faculty and graduate teaching associates.

He and Marlene created the endowment for University College, the home of the University Professor Program, to ensure that such "organized access" was available.  With the support of Dean of Libraries Scott Seaman, the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, and the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the academy’s office is now open on the third floor of Alden Library in the Faculty Commons adjacent to the CTL.

The Bruning Teaching Fellows’ responsibility is to share their philosophies of teaching, learning and assessment, their approaches to specific teaching challenges such as large lectures, their methods for incorporating writing assignments and technology, and their techniques for class management and discussion.  

Tim Vickers, associate director of the CTL, oversees the University Professor Program and, noted, "Not every Bruning Fellow will have expertise in all of these areas, but they all will be committed to engaging faculty and graduate teaching associates in dialogue about teaching and in creating opportunities for conversation and reflection toward the end of becoming better teachers."

Vickers anticipates a fruitful partnership between his center’s activities and the fellows’ work and envisions collaborating with the fellows in helping faculty redesign courses as part of the University’s move to semesters.

The first James Bruning Teaching Fellow is Linda Rice, associate professor in the Department of English and former associate dean of the Patton College of Education and Human Services.  Rice was named University Professor in 2006-07.  

"I saw Dr. Rice on a panel of other University Professors during the New Faculty Orientation this past fall and was struck by her deep knowledge of the literature on teaching and her manifest love of teaching," said Descutner.  "I learned so much that day from her observations and was impressed by her dedication to helping our new faculty think of teaching in fresh and constructive ways.  She was an obvious choice as our first Bruning Teaching Fellow."  

University College’s goal is to add another Bruning Fellow by fall quarter and to make sure that the campus knows about the academy and the fellows.  

 "Our plan is to begin with the deans and then involve chairs and directors in our information campaign," said Descutner. "We need to do a better job of getting the word out to faculty and graduate teaching associates."

To make a gift to the Bruning Teaching Academy, please contact the University Foundation at 800-592-FUND or giving@ohio.edu.   Checks may be made payable to the Ohio University Foundation. Please be sure to write “Bruning Teaching Academy” in the notes section of the check and send it to Ohio University Foundation, P.O. Box 869, Athens, OH  45701.  Gifts can also be made online at www.ohio.edu/give.