Teaching and learning center provides a space for faculty to tune up classroom approaches
by Susie P. Gonzalez
Thomas E. Jenkins has been named director of the Collaborative for Learning and Teaching at Trinity University, a center where faculty and staff can learn or refresh skills to enhance undergraduate instruction.
Jenkins, also a professor of classical studies, served as the Collaborative’s interim director for the 2016-17 academic year and is eager to continue several ongoing programs while introducing some new ones. He also will continue to invite outside scholars to bring innovative ideas to the classroom.
The Collaborative is a space for faculty and staff from all departments to “come together to explore problems and challenges, and to identify ideas and solutions” that will benefit all academic disciplines across the Trinity campus.
“Faculty members are trained to talk about research,” Jenkins says. “We love using our 'elevator pitch' to talk about our current books or articles or grants, but are shy about developing similar pitches for our teaching. The Collaborative is a space for us to talk about how we teach, and how our students learn."
Jenkins notes that Trinity is known as a place where “productive collisions” take place to promote interdisciplinary learning. At the Collaborative, productive collisions will help break down the “silo walls” that may prevent professors and instructors from learning from each other. “The University is a place for people and ideas to collide,” he says. As an example, Jenkins cited the resuming of a book club that drew a range of faculty and staff members who read and discussed the same volume. (Last year, those books included J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy and Berg and Seeber’s The Slow Professor.)
Special events form a large part of this year’s schedule, including an upcoming “interactive theater” workshop on diversity and inclusion in the STEM disciplines. “We will continue the Collaborative’s commitment to inclusive, evidence-based learning and partnerships that advance Trinity’s mission,” Jenkins says.
He will hold four to five faculty-led discussions – popularly-known as “High Noon Luncheons” – every semester to focus on specific challenges and successes in teaching. Sample topics include technology in the classroom, “difficult dialogues,” and high-impact practices in service-learning.
Also continuing is the Tigers as Partners program, spearheaded by Collaborative Fellow Sophia Abbot, in which a Trinity student is “embedded” in a professor’s course and who provides weekly reflections on learning from a student’s perspective. In addition, Jenkins is planning workshops that offer insight into implementing digital literacy in the Pathways curriculum at Trinity.
He also serves as a consultant for professors who are writing grants involving higher education pedagogy, or who require support concerning best practices for delivering complex subject matter. Jenkins says he encourages professors to develop a culture of reflection about what works--and what doesn’t--as faculty refine course syllabi and content from term to term, and he hopes that the Collaborative is a first point of contact for faculty as they think about both new and revised courses.
As a professor, Jenkins will teach one course every term. This fall, he is teaching Intermediate Latin and has proposed a new course for the spring titled Reimagining Tragedy, involving the classics and contemporary theatre. This course will be co-taught with theatre professor Kyle Gillette and will feature undergraduate students “re-writing” or otherwise transforming Greek tragedy into modern dramatic forms.
Jenkins holds a doctorate in classical philology from Harvard University and earned a bachelor’s in classical languages and literatures from Yale University. He held visiting and postdoctoral positions at Washington and Lee University and Rice before arriving at Trinity in 2001. He is a professor of classical studies and chaired the department from 2008 to 2014. He was a Fellow at Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies in 2006-7, and held an emerging leaders Fellowship with the American Council on Education from 2015-16.
Susie P. Gonzalez, senior manager of public relations, can be reached at susie.gonzalez [at] trinity.edu () or on Twitter @susiegonz.