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Course Design Institute

Core Faculty & Learning Facilitators


Core Faculty
With nearly 30 years combined experience in educational development, the core faculty have created a highly interactive, immersive learning environment to help you systematically design your course. They will engage you in lively discussions and lead you through a variety of activities designed to clarify ideas and expand your pedagogical knowledge base.

Photo by: Christian Hommel Photography

Photo by: Christian Hommel Photography

Dorothe Bach, Professor, General Faculty & Associate Director, Center for Teaching Excellence – University of Virginia
Dorothe’s most recent pedagogical passions include course design, student reflection, and intercultural learning in community engagement and study abroad contexts.  She has taught literature, culture, and language courses in UVA’s German Department and Comparative Literature Program.  She also teaches yoga in the community.
Michael Palmer, Professor, General Faculty, Lecturer in Chemistry, & Director, Center for Teaching Excellence – University of Virginia
Michael’s pedagogical interests include active learning, collaborative learning, creativity in the classroom, large enrollment courses, and student motivation. He teaches a highly interdisciplinary, discussion-based seminar on infinity, a large-enrollment, inquiry-based laboratory course for first-year chemistry students, and a course on the science of learning.

In addition to leading the CTE’s Course Design Institute, the core faculty have also developed, designed, and led similar institutes for UVA faculty teaching community engagement, study abroad, and academic medicine courses. They have facilitated extended-length institutes at Berea College, George Washington University, James Madison University, University of Louisville, University of Richmond, SUNY Oneonta, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, Teikyo University, Japan, and King Faisal University, Saudi Arabia and consulted regularly with colleagues in Germany.

Learning Team Facilitators
Along with the core faculty, several highly experienced facilitators lead individual learning teams through the process of learning-focused course design. By actively listening and asking powerful questions, your learning team facilitator will guide you in developing your dream course. Brief bios for current and past facilitators are listed below.

John AlexanderJohn Alexander, Associate Director of Sciences, Humanities and Arts Network of Technological Initiatives – University of Virginia
John creates learning communities in his classrooms and anywhere else he is able. He encourages his students to jointly own the course as they explore contemplative practices, in particular reflective writing and reading. John teaches small discussion— and reading—intense courses in the departments of German, Comparative Literature, and Media Studies.  He is also a Fellow in the Hereford Residential College.

Connors_croppedKaren Connors, CTE Postdoctoral Research Associate (Education) – University of Virginia
Karen is interested in student motivation, course organization and sequencing, transparent assignments, and incorporating technology in the learning environment. She has experience teaching small (>30 students) and large enrolment (>160) courses. Karen began her teaching career with high school history and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses on intercollegiate athletics, legal aspects of higher education, and group processes and development. In Fall 2016, she will be instructing a first year seminar course (USEM) on how college works. For the CTE, Karen conducts research and assessment projects including syllabi analysis and classroom observations.

Claire CronmillerClaire Cronmiller, Professor  of Biology – University of Virginia
Claire’s pedagogic focus has been on the application of scientific teaching principles to redesign a large-enrollment, lecture format science course. The rationale here is that teaching science should reflect the very nature of science. In other words, it should embrace the process of discovery. Claire’s approach to scientific teaching combines active learning strategies with a broad range of teaching methods and activities that can engage students with diverse backgrounds and learning style preferences. She teaches both large and small courses in genetics.

Elizabeth DickensElizabeth Dickens, Assistant Professor, General Faculty & CTE Assistant Director (English) – University of Virginia
Elizabeth’s PhD is in English and Book History, and she has taught a variety of literature, writing, and history courses, small (10-30) and large (150). She is interested in what active learning looks like in the humanities; in diversity, equity, and inclusion in the classroom; and in writing to learn. She is particularly fascinated by the possibilities of blogging and portfolios to facilitate metacognition, integration, and reflection.

Stephanie DoktorStephanie Doktor, CTE Graduate Student Associate (Music) – University of Virginia
Stephanie Doktor teaches music and media studies courses and enjoys helping students develop critical listening skills and historical perspectives on music. Her favorite course objectives implore students to listen to the sounds of race, gender, and class in 20th-century musics of the US. As a founder of Co-create UVA, she specializes in using student feedback to improve teaching and learning. She believes humor, authenticity, and a solid think-pair-share can transform a classroom environment. Lately, she has been trying to teach students about metacognition and design assignments which excite and motivate students while facilitating deep learning.

Hope FitzgeraldHope Fitzgerald, Instructional Designer, The Language Commons and A&S Learning Design & Technology – University of Virginia
Hope is interested in proficiency-based, communicative approaches to language teaching. She has taught Arabic at all levels in the US and the Middle East, and has collaborated on language performance assessment design and classroom best-practice resources at the national level. Her pedagogical interests include authentic task-based instruction, language learning strategy training, and the integration of language acquisition and intercultural competence development.

Emily GravettEmily Gravett, Assistant Professor of Religion, Assistant Director of Teaching Programs, Center for Faculty Innovation – James Madison University
Emily is interested in active learning, formative assessment, discussion leading, writing instruction, and inclusive classroom communities. She teaches introductory religion courses as well as upper-level seminars, such as Religion and Film. She is also an alumna of the University of Virginia, where she earned her Ph.D. in Religious Studies and worked part-time at the Center for Teaching Excellence for two years as a graduate student.

Brian HelmkeBrian Helmke, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering – University of Virginia
Brian is interested in technology-enhanced collaborative learning that helps prepare engineering students for professional practice. He encourages creative problem-solving by integrating previous coursework, online resources, and peer discussions. Brian teaches a large format undergraduate biotransport course, a smaller nanomedicine laboratory, as well graduate courses in mechanobiology, biomechanics, and cell biology.

Gail HungerGail Hunger, Instructional Designer, A&S Learning Design & Technology – University of Virginia
Gail is interested in creating collaborative teaching and learning environments with an inquiry-based process approach. Her teaching and research focus on theory and design-based research, including collaborative team-based design, active learning, and authentic instruction. Gail has extensive experience leading synergistic projects incorporating technology-enhanced learning and course redesign at national and international higher education institutions.

Melissa LevyMelissa Levy, Assistant Professor (Youth and Social Innovation, Curry School of Education) – University of Virginia
Melissa’s pedagogical interests include creating classroom community, providing opportunities that encourage students to question their beliefs, motivating students to change how they interact with others, and strengthening student writing. On a quest to find the perfect balance between maximum student engagement and instructor workload, Melissa teaches community engagement/academic service learning courses in the Youth and Social Innovation major as well as a writing-focused course.

Debie LoheDebie Lohe, Director, Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning (English) – Saint Louis University
Debie is interested in assignments and activities that foster meaningful and authentic learning. Specific areas of focus include: designing effective writing assignments and other authentic assessment projects; teaching students to use writing-to-learn, critical reflection, and critical reading strategies; active learning, interactive lecturing, and effective discussion techniques; and fostering responsible source use and preventing plagiarism in researched writing. In addition to teaching graduate-level pedagogy courses, Debie has taught writing, literature, and gender studies courses to undergraduates at all levels of study.

Cara MeixnerCara Meixner, Associate Professor (Graduate Psychology) & Assistant Director, Center For Faculty Innovation – James Madison University
Cara is passionate about service-learning, community-based research, integrative learning, and learner-centered teaching. Her philosophy on teaching is largely inspired by an array of great texts, namely the Tao te Ching and The Journey to the East. She has taught small and large courses in leadership and organizational development; at present, she teaches graduate seminars in statistics and research methods, mixed methods research, and fundamentals of qualitative inquiry.

Adriana StreiferAdriana Streifer, Assistant Professor, General Faculty & CTE Assistant Director (English) – University of Virginia
Adriana teaches courses in literature (particularly Shakespeare and other authors of the English Renaissance), and academic writing. She is interested in using writing across the curriculum as a form of inquiry, cultivating engaged discussion, and helping students discover their motivations for caring about and enjoying literature. Lately, she has been considering what a more active and “applied” approach to studying literature would look like.  As a co-author of the CTE’s syllabus rubric, Adriana specializes in helping instructors develop learner-centered teaching goals and design assignments in alignment with those goals.

Juliet TrailJuliet Trail, Managing Director, Contemplative Sciences CenterUniversity of Virginia
Juliet’s pedagogical interests include integration of high impact practices into course such as reflective and contemplative strategies and use of ePortfolios to increase awareness, intentionality, and meaning-making for students and faculty alike. She has taught mindfulness and compassion as well as music pedagogy, performance, and practice (voice and piano areas). Her Ph.D. in Higher Education focused on social-emotional intelligence skillsets and network behaviors among empowering professionals in the university setting. She’s also a performing musician in the community.

Lindsay WheelerLindsay Wheeler, Assistant Professor, General Faculty & CTE Assistant Director of STEM Education Initiatives (Chemistry) – University of Virginia
Lindsay is interested in implementation of active learning strategies in large-enrollment and STEM courses.  She focuses on supporting faculty in implementation of reform-based curricula which includes training of teaching assistants for large-enrollment courses, assessment of course success, and methods for modifying courses to meet the needs of students.   Lindsay is the instructor for the General Chemistry Laboratory course that serves approximately 1400 students per semester and trains nearly 30 teaching assistants each year to be instructors in the laboratory context.

Undergraduate Student Teaching Consultants
In addition to consulting with core faculty and experienced facilitators, you will have the opportunity to get feedback from trained undergraduate consultants. These brief introductions give you an idea of why they’re excited about working with you. Students also share one thing they wish instructors knew about them as learners.

Candace Collins, 4th year, Government & Religious Studies
I am really excited to be a student teaching consultant and have the opportunity to take ownership of my learning style in a way that will hopefully benefit others. As someone who is interested in student affairs I am also looking forward to gaining greater insight into the changing landscape of higher education. One thing I wish professors knew about me is that I am not defined by any single experience or affiliation. For example, I am a member of Greek life. However, I am that and a motivated and curious student. I love to take experiences from within the classroom and apply them to my life outside of the classroom and vice versa as I believe that aligns best with the Jeffersonian vision of learning.

Matthew Cooper, 3rd year, Anthropology & Psychology
I am interested in being a student consultant because I want to help improve the quality of education at UVA. I think this position offers me a great opportunity to help shape the educational careers of my fellow students. I wish that my professors knew that when I am interested in a topic I want to discuss it in depth. Often, I end up talking to all my friends about the material because I want to share the information with everyone.

Erin Cunningham, 2nd year, Engineering
I’m interested in being a student teaching consultant because I want to contribute to the UVA experience. I will supply valuable insight to students and faculty and work toward success for all.  It is a great opportunity that I can use my academic experiences to help other students. I wish my professors knew I am highly artistic and creative, but I chose engineering because the curriculum provided more room for me to grow as a student.

Susannah Jones, 3rd year, Computer Science
I’m interested in being a student teaching consultant because I feel that it is important to approach education and learning from more than just one perspective. I wish that my professors knew that I appreciate the dedication they put into their work, but I believe that there is also room for growth.


Jacob Hardin, 3rd year, History
I’m interested in being a student teaching consultant because it’s the most active and productive way to change learning experiences in real time. I wish my professors knew that I care about their course’s outcome and impact on students.


Sarah Kenny, 3rd year, Political Philosophy, Policy and Law & Government, Gender Studies
Our university can’t fully embrace student self governance if our courses and assignments aren’t rooted in this sacred cornerstone principle.  I’m eager to bring a student perspective to the official course design process and rejuvenate a culture of equitable student-professor relationships that Jefferson envisioned for our community. I would love my professors to know that I want to work the hardest for them when they connect their courses to a greater narrative that incorporates both personal and professional/academic development.

Blair McAvoy, 3rd year, Youth and Social Innovation & Statistics
I am interested in being a student teaching consultant because, as a student of education, I want to play an active role in shaping and improving the educational experience at my university. I wish my teachers knew that I care much more about my experience in the class than I do about my grade. I would gladly trade an easy A for a valuable learning experience.


Nqobile Mthethwa, 4th year, Foreign Affairs
I’m interested in all aspects of higher education and really excited to help develop course material that contributes to the learning experience of students. I hope to help foster an environment where students are valued for their input. I wish my professors knew the range of subjects and topics I’m interested in.


Aditya Narayan, 3rd year, Biochemistry & Biology
Aditya’s interest in student-faculty partnerships arose from opportunities he saw for change in undergraduate “weed-out” courses, among others which create unnecessary anxiety in the UVA student body. Beyond this he holds a particular passion for drawing together design thinking and course design as it offers a unique application for empathetic problem solving in education. He believes that this collaboration is a unique opportunity to cause lasting change at the University and inspire a new generation of learners. I wish my teachers knew that if I fall asleep in lecture, odds are it’s because I was studying for their class.

Jonathan Yang, 3rd year, Systems and Information Engineering
I’m interested in student teaching consultant because I believe that with the collaborative effort of both teachers and students, effective changes can be made to benefit the classroom for everyone. I have many different experiences that have taught me what kind of practices are useful and which ones are less productive. I have a strong desire to be the bridge between students and teachers and aid in troubled areas of learning. One thing that I wish my professors knew about me is when I’m not doing well in a class, it isn’t because I don’t care or don’t want to try. As busy as my student life is, I can’t always do as well as I want to but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to improve. I always strive to do the best that I can and give it everything I have.