First Year Faculty Thoughts

Catherine Graham, Ph.D.
Director, Honors Program LEAD Track

PhD English, University of Kentucky
MEd Counseling, Vanderbilt University
MA English, College of William and Mary
BA English, University of Tennessee

In my role with the Honors Program, I have been impressed by the intellectual curiosity of the students and by their admirable goals. The students demonstrate commitment to living out their faith, to serving others, and to tackling intellectual and cultural challenges. Belmont’s talented and dedicated faculty and staff know the students and encourage them in their aspirations. I enjoy the creative energy, the supportive collaboration, and the transforming vision at Belmont, and I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute to this vibrant and innovative learning community!

Upcoming Events for February

Lunch Discussions:

Wednesday, February 8
Syllabus and Course Design for Faculty-Led Study Abroad
12:00 – 1:30 pm
Frist Lecture Hall

Thursday, February 16
Academic Rigor and Student Success
11:30 – 1:00 pm
Massey Boardroom

Tuesday, February 22
Why Diversity and Inclusion Matters in Higher Education
11:30 – 1:00 pm
Vince Gill Room


New Faculty Seminars:

Friday, February 10
Boyer Model for Scholarship
1:00-2:00 pm
JAAC 2089

Friday, February 24
Transitioning from First to Second Year
1:00-2:00 pm
JAAC 2089


Formative Reviews:

February 7 – 23, scheduled through the Teaching Center


Teaching Center Travel Grants:

Tuesday, February 14 @ 4:00 pm Deadline

MLK Week Lunch Discussion Reflections

Teaching Center Luncheon
Dr. Marla Frederick,
Professor of African and African American Studies and the Study of Religion, Harvard University


“Between Racial Reconciliation and Social Justice: The Challenge of Contemporary Christianity”


On Wednesday, January 18, as part of MLK Week at Belmont, Dr. Marla Frederick led a Teaching Center lunch discussion for an engaged and attentive audience in an effort to open up dialogue about “racial reconciliation” and the related ideals of “diversity” and “inclusion”.  Below are comments from participants after the discussion.


“Dr. Frederick’s timely message was welcomed. Her authenticity and courage allowed me to leave the luncheon both challenged and hopeful.  Her call to engage students- their histories, and racial identities, to consider our call as faith communities and citizens, to lean into this conversation were striking.  These ideas keep swirling in my mind since her visit, and have come up in conversations with students and faculty.  One quote I jotted down in my notebook was: 

“We lack DEPTH in our knowledge and understanding these days, as we live on sound bites.” 

So I want to read her books and those she recommends – I want to continue to participate in the conversation with our community in a deeply knowledgeable way.” 

“I appreciated her perspective and found her work at Harvard in religion and diversity intriguing.  Since our campus is talking about how to integrate more targeted learning in diversity, I think some of her work and experiences may be helpful to us going forward.  It is evident that we are interested in developing thoughtful ways of teaching our students across their entire educations how to be responsive to all peoples and how to really value one another.”

“By the time I had returned to my office after the luncheon, I had developed (in my head) a First Year Seminar course on Science and Citizenry, complete with topics and readings, merely because I heard and understood Dr. Frederick say “citizenry” in a way that I had not considered before.  Her comments about not reading literature by African-American authors for her first 12 years of her education was my experience, too.  How can this be?  Doug Murray’s story of the history of Belmont characters left be gob-smacked.  How do we not know and teach this history to our students? (Maybe we do?).  Dr. Frederick shifted my way of thinking and I am grateful for the opportunity to have heard her speak.”

“I was moved by Dr. Frederick’s story of never reading anything by an African-American. I thought about how often the mathematicians we talk about are white males, even though there are lots of women (white or not) and men from other racial backgrounds who have made contributions. It made me more aware of sharing the diversity of mathematics. In fact, I started a Google Map where I’ve been “pinning” the locations all around the world tied to things we talk about in my Honors Analytics Math Models course and I hope to share this with them soon.  I also immediately purchased two books she mentioned – The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’ve started Alexander’s book and it’s a bit shocking – the statistics on mass incarceration in America are sobering.”

“Dr. Frederick’s presence on campus, and particularly in the Teaching Center luncheon, reminded me of two central truths about Christian higher education.  The first responsibility of a Christian university—and of any university—is to be committed to the truth, and to telling the truth at every opportunity.  This is no small or easy thing, particularly because it means we have to confront so many tragic and troubling aspects of our past and current situations.  The second is equally important:  a Christian university has to a place where all are welcome—particularly those who have been historically excluded from communities like this because of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.  And these two truths go hand in hand:  one does not adequately exist without the other.  Dr. Frederick’s presence was a call to put aside pious pretentions and to hear God’s radical call to be an inclusive, truth-seeking community.  In these days, I can think of no more important mission or vision.”



Circle of Trust Retreats

Judy Skeen, Ph.D.
essor of Religion




Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together.
—Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach

I read Parker Palmer’s work in graduate school and it struck me as insightful and intriguing but it wasn’t until I first experienced a Circle of Trust retreat sponsored by Belmont’s Teaching Center that I began to have a sense of how central the integrity of the teacher is to the creation of an environment hospitable for learning.  For 15 years, I have been a participant or a facilitator of the Circle of Trust retreat experiences for Belmont faculty.

I began my teaching work at Belmont in the fall of 1998.  I found the challenge of four classes a semester exhilarating, for a while.  In addition, committee work, convocation planning and co-curricular projects kept presenting themselves.  Soon, I was at Belmont every day and most evenings simply trying to keep up.  At that time, the School of Religion culture encouraged individual and group reflection on whether we were living out our calling as teachers.  As my colleagues listened to my struggles to manage my curiosity driven overwork, I learned how helpful it was to step back and zoom out the lens of my mind, heart and soul to regain some perspective on what was important.  I was learning how to reflect in solitude and in community, which is what the Circle of Trust experience provides.

The retreat experience itself provides the opportunity for participants to slow down and reconnect soul and role.  This is crucial as our pace grows exponentially faster and our workload expands beyond the time and energy available.  It is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive to slow down in the face of more demand, and yet this deeper listening is central to knowing how to choose and be present to others and our worthy task.

Our students need us to show up and bring our full selves to the important task of learning.  Yes, we are preparing them to be skilled workers.  But more importantly we are cultivating a place where they can learn how to be mature human beings, who sustain healthy relationships, careers, creativity and meaningful lives. 

Maintaining the passion to teach and lead wholeheartedly takes not only skill but inner strength…”
— Marcy & Rick Jackson, Stories of the Courage to Teach




SPACE – Symposium for Part-Time, Adjunct and Contingent Educators

The Symposium for Part-time, Adjunct, and Contingent Educators (SPACE) is a conference where part-time, adjunct, and contingent faculty can present their original scholarship in a peer-reviewed, professional setting. SPACE also provides a venue for contingent faculty members to share what they are doing in the classroom and to connect with their contingent colleagues.  This year’s conference is in Atlanta, Georgia, June 10, 2017.  The deadline for proposal submission is Tuesday,  February 7th, 2017.  Click here for more information.

First Year Faculty Thoughts

Over the next few months, we will be posting thoughts from first year faculty on the experiences of their first semester at Belmont.  We hope it will bring back fond memories of your early weeks on campus.


Dr. Patrick Morse of Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Patrick Morse, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Psychological Science

BS Psychology, Elon University (2008)
MS General Experimental Psychology, Villanova University (2011)
PhD Social/Personality Psychology, University of California, Riverside (2016)

The past fall at Belmont is a time I won’t soon forget. Having graduated in June, I hurried my way across the country to start this next chapter of my life, and then I waited (impatiently) a few months for classes to start. As the semester approached, I had the chance to meet more of my colleagues and get to know some of the ins and outs of the university through new faculty orientation and mentoring programs. Each experience helped prepare me for the semester, but the most transformative was witnessing Belmont move-in day. Working in McWhorter I had a front row seat to the singing and cheering and joy associated with welcoming new students. As I watched from my office, I reflected on my own freshmen move-in and realized that my nervous excitement then closely paralleled my feelings as I embarked on my new career. Now, like those years ago, was an opportunity to start a new journey, to build relationships, and to develop personally and professionally. In many ways I was not unlike those new students, excited to give and grow in this community, and I found comfort in knowing we all had a home here at Belmont.

Teaching Center Writing Groups

In the summer of 2015, the Teaching Center initiated Summer Writing Groups as a way to support faculty in their Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). It was clear that many faculty members were doing SoTL, but some needed the structure and accountability of a group to help their work progress to a presentation or publication.  Since then, approximately 8 different writing groups have formed and worked together following the ideas of the book, Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Belcher, a recommendation of our colleague Cheryl Slay Carr, Associate Professor of Music Business.

Below is a reflection by Rachel Rigsby, Associate Professor of Chemistry, about her experience with a Teaching Center Writing Group. Be on the lookout for an invitation from the Teaching Center in April to form your own summer 2017 writing group!

Successes of a Teaching Center-Sponsored Writing Group
Rachel Rigsby Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry

Most faculty would probably agree that scholarship, especially preparing scholarly manuscripts, can be challenging. In addition to teaching and service responsibilities and actually doing the scholarly work, the task can be daunting.  To help with this, in 2015 the Teaching Center sponsored several inter-disciplinary writing groups organized loosely around principles found in Wendy Belcher’s book Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks.  One copy of the book was provided to each group.  Our group consisted of the following members:

Rachel Rigsby            Chemistry
Andy Miller                 Mathematics & Computer Science
Krista McBride           Physics
Danielle Garrett          Chemistry
Ann Coble                   Theology & Christian Ministry
Jayme Yeo                  English

The group was a mix of Assistant and Associate Professors and a Lecturer. We met every other week during the summer of 2015 and read the first five chapters of Belcher’s book.  Group members agreed to provide a chapter summary and lead one discussion.  We discussed the topics and related them to our own scholarship, attempting to work on writing tasks recommended in the book.  This included creating abstracts or outlines for our intended scholarship and being open about ‘excuses’ for not writing.  A listing of the chapters that guided are meetings are:

Week 1:  Designing Your Plan for Writing
Week 2: Starting Your Article
Week 3: Advancing Your Argument
Week 4: Selecting a Journal
Week 5: Reviewing the Related Literature

The summer was very informative and productive, so we decided to continue meeting every other week and progress through the book and our writing at our own pace. At meetings, we gave updates and feedback on our scholarship in progress.  By the end of fall 2015, every group member had successfully completed at least one scholarly work, ranging from conference presentations to peer-reviewed manuscript submissions.  Members unanimously agreed that they would not have been as productive without the support and accountability of the group, which fostered a positive, encouraging environment in which faculty could effectively move forward in their scholarship.

Our group continued to meet through the spring and fall of 2016. Several of us saw the manuscripts we had labored over in 2015 published.  We celebrated with chocolate at every ‘acceptance’ notification!  In the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, we published in the disciplinary journals Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education, Physics Teacher, and Chemical Educator.  Other scholarly works included an invited online encyclopedia article and a (funded) grant proposal.  Multiple conference presentations were also successfully given by group members.

One of the most effective aspects of the writing group for everyone was the accountability of the regular meetings. Having multiple mini-deadlines forced us to be productive, even if it was only a little bit of progress the night before our meetings.  Over the course of the semester, that time added up.  The best take-away from the book for me personally was the additional accountability of adding specific writing tasks into my calendar.  This varied from ‘read 1 background paper’ to ‘create a table of results’.  Creating these bite-sized tasks made my manuscript feel less daunting.

I would encourage everyone to consider being part of a writing group. Belcher’s book provides many practical tips to help people get started and keep moving forward in their scholarship.  You will enjoy meeting with colleagues and learning about their scholarship while you move forward with your own.  And you have a group to celebrate with when you succeed!

New Faculty Mentor Breakfast

img_4614 img_4615

On Tuesday, August 23, new faculty gathered for breakfast and to meet their faculty mentor. The faculty mentoring program has existed for many years and pairs new faculty with a current faculty member outside of his/her discipline.  This program allows for building community, seeking advice, networking, and friendship.  This year’s new faculty and mentors are:


Alexander Assouad                                                 mentor Jim Al-Shamma

Michelle Corvette and Janet Hicks                      mentor Natalie Michaels

Alan Coverstone                                                      mentor Scott Weston

Stephen Eaves and Tom Knowles-Begwell         mentor Rush Hicks

Jeremy Fyke and Patrick Morse                            mentor Joel Overall

Catherine Graham                                                    mentor Cindy Bisson

Yang He and Adam Pfleegor                                 mentor Edgar Diaz-Cruz

Phillip Lee and Quinton Owens                             mentor Mark Schenkel

David Schreiber                                                        mentor Bruce Dudley

SoTL and GenEd Addressed at Lunch Discussion

SoTLJigsawOn April 21st, for its final lunch discussion of the 2014-2015 academic year, the Belmont Teaching Center hosted several faculty members from a variety of disciplines, each of them addressing Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) they have developed in direct connection to their general-education teaching.  Charmion Gustke (English) discussed her work connected to First Year Writing and First Year Seminar.  Robin Lovgren (Mathematics) and Kara Smith (CBA) talked about a Learning Community Course that links statistics and economics.  Jimmy Davis (Communication Studies) considered varied outlets for SoTL in connection with administrative work and First Year Seminar.  Alison Moore (Chemistry) and Rachel Rigsby (Chemistry) discussed Learning Communities connected to various chemistry courses.  Finally, Sally Holt (Religion) talked about her scholarly work connected to Junior Cornerstone classes.


Lunch Discussion Addresses Writing In The Classroom

WhyWriteOne reason many teachers encourage students to write is because the activity promotes deeper, more rigorous learning.  With writing assignments, students often must grapple with their own ideas, connect them to the ideas of others, and forge associative links across different pools of knowledge. As such, well-designed writing assignments can promote student engagement and student growth.  On April 8, in a lunch discussion organized by the Belmont Teaching Center, a multi-disciplinary panel consisting of Dr. Jennifer Thomas (Biology), Dr. Eric Hobson (Pharmacy), Dr. Beverly Schneller (Associate Provost/Honors), and Dr. Bonnie Smith Whitehouse (English) shared ideas about using writing in the classroom to support student learning.  Connected to this theme is the March 2015 edition of The Art of Teaching newsletter.