Las Vegas, N.M. – Increasing student success through ongoing faculty development is the aim of the new Center for Teaching Excellence at Highlands University.
There will be an open house at the Center for Teaching Excellence Nov. 20 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., with opening remarks at 10 a.m. The center is in the Victoria D. Sanchez Teacher Education Center, Room 102, 1031 11th St.
“The primary goal of the Center for Teaching Excellence is to provide Highlands faculty and instructors with the tools and knowledge to help their students be more successful,” said Diana Marrs, CTE director. “The center will offer ongoing faculty development in a wide variety of topics like fostering student engagement, active learning, classroom management, using online resources in traditional classrooms, and culturally responsive assessment.”
Marrs said the Center for Teaching Excellence will tap into existing programs at Highlands that use high impact practices, or HIPS, that are tied to increasing student retention and academic success. The center will also work with Educational Outreach Services to increase the use of educational technology.
“I will be working closely with programs like ARMAS because it has already created a strong foundation of professional development for faculty. ARMAS also implements high impact practices like undergraduate research and internships that make our students more successful.
ARMAS, the Achieving in Research, Math and Science Center, provides comprehensive support services to science, technology, engineering and math students and faculty at Highlands
“I’ll also work with the Learning Communities, another high impact practice that launched this semester at Highlands with every freshman enrolling in classes with their peers who share a common interest,” Marrs said.
The Learning Communities at Highlands are linked courses that allow freshman to explore a theme from multiple perspectives while also forming meaningful relationships with their peers, fostering a sense of belonging that promotes student success.
Teresita Aguilar, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the Center for Teaching Excellence was developed in collaboration with the university’s faculty.
“For a number of years, the faculty has worked on a proposal to develop a resource center to support faculty development,” Aguilar said. “I worked closely with the Faculty Senate executive committee to refine the proposal, which the Faculty Senate approved.”
Aguilar said the next step was for her to ensure the resources needed for the center, ranging from hiring the director to identifying a location, securing start-up costs, and establishing an advisory council for the center.
“Dr. Marrs brings a wealth of expertise to this position and is a visionary in improving teaching at the university level. She’s done an excellent job reaching out to faculty and staff across campus to assess their baseline interest and needs for services the center could offer,” Aguilar said.
Marrs said an important element of the center’s work will be to highlight the excellence of the faculty at Highlands.
“This will give the faculty opportunities to share their expertise and best practices. For instance, languages and culture professor Eric Romero recently presented a superb talk on diversity and cognitive development. In addition, the center will offer trainings, bring in outside experts, and provide individual consultations,” Marrs said.
She added that the new initiative will work with faculty and instructors on the main campus, as well as reach out to the university’s statewide centers via distance learning. A 30-person classroom at the Center for Teaching Excellence will be used for trainings at the main campus that will be shared with the centers through Zoom, a web conferencing tool.
Marrs assumed her responsibilities as the Center for Teaching Excellence director at the beginning of fall semester.
She earned her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Kansas and has taught in higher education for 16 years. Most recently, she held positions as the director of academic program development and the associate director of instructional development at the University of Kansas – Edwards.
Marrs also holds master’s degrees in information systems and teaching English as a second language.
“My true passion lies in helping faculty implement best practices in teaching, with a focus on incorporating technology into their instruction,” Marrs said.