New welcome event creates community for academic staff instructors

Photo of Provost Charles Lee Isbell, Jr., speaks to a room full of instructors seated at tables around him.
Provost Charles Lee Isbell, Jr., greets new academic instructional staff during the Teaching and Learning Welcome on August 29. (Photo by Jeff Miller / UW–Madison)

First day of class nerves aren’t just for students – teaching, especially for the first time on a new campus, can feel intimidating, too.

The Teaching and Learning Welcome, a new campus event for instructional academic staff, aims to ease that transition and help instructors build a sense of community on campus. Offered for the first time on August 29, the event brought together about three dozen instructors from across campus to hear from experienced colleagues and explore campus teaching and learning resources.

About one-quarter of the university’s academic staff are instructors and they hold a range of job titles – adjunct professor/instructor, clinical instructor/professor, instructional administrator, instructor, lecturer, professor of practice, teaching faculty, teaching professor, and teaching specialist. Together, they contribute significantly to the university’s teaching mission.

“You’re touching almost every student that comes through here,” Provost Charles Lee Isbell, Jr., told the group. “And when they leave this place, they’re going to remember you.”

Photo of 3 instructors seated in a row at the front of a room, speaking to instructors seated at round tables.
Experienced instructors David Johnson, Hannah Silber, and Loren Eadie shared advice and answered questions.

These instructors come to UW–Madison from a wide variety of backgrounds. Amanda White Eagle previously held a clinical fellowship in tribal sovereignty at Yale University and is now teaching tribal law in the Law School. Heather Schatz has many years of experience as an artist and a teacher and is now coordinating the Art Department’s Art 100 program, teaching art to non-art majors, in the School of Education. Bipin Karunakaran is transitioning from a career in corporate data analytics to teach in the Wisconsin School of Business. And Amy Leichliter was recruited to teach a course in the School of Human Ecology’s retail studies program through her full-time job as director of global sourcing at Lands End.

Did you know… registration is open now for CTLM fall workshops?

“Today definitely helped me – meeting people, learning new things, jumping in on Canvas,” Leichliter said. “Hearing about all the different resources available – it’s just been invaluable.”

The instructors spent time talking in small groups about how the four pillars of the Wisconsin Experience – empathy and humility, relentless curiosity, intellectual confidence, and purposeful action – can come to life through teaching and learning.

Three experienced instructors – Loren Eadie, director of the Italian Language Program; David Johnson, senior lecturer in economics; and Hannah Silber, teaching faculty in industrial and systems engineering – then shared insights on everything from how to encourage students to come to office hours to how to prevent instructor burnout.

All three said they are consistently impressed by their students’ openness to learning.

“They’re like sponges,” Johnson told the instructors. “And that experience is awaiting you as well.”

The event’s resource expo featured representatives from more than a dozen units involved in teaching and learning, advising, student affairs, shared governance, and human resources as well as a visit from Bucky Badger.

Creating a connection with fellow instructors and with campus resources was a main goal of the event, said Sheila Stoeckel, associate director for strategic operations of the Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring. CTLM co-sponsored the event with the Office of the Secretary of the Academic Staff and the Office of Human Resources.

An event like this “does reinforce that UW is very supportive of teaching,” Heather Schatz said. “I feel a kinship here.”

Photo of a graduate student speaking to two staff members standing at a resource expo table.
Greg Konop, center, and John Martin, right, from the Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring speak with a graduate student instructor during the resource expo at the Teaching & Learning Welcome. (Photo by Jeff Miller / UW–Madison)