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

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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.  

Teacher Center Hosts Webinar on Mindfulness

MindfulnessA variety of Belmont faculty members have successfully integrated mindfulness activities—practices of paying attention and being in the moment— into their curricula in classes ranging from First-Year Seminar to graduate courses. On April 7, for faculty interested in this teaching strategy, the Belmont Teaching Center hosted a webinar entitled “Everybody Present: Mindfulness in the Classroom.” The webinar featured Dr. Kristin L. Roush, an award-winning psychology faculty member at Central New Mexico Community College. Dr. Roush examined how mindfulness strategies in the classroom can restore focus and attention, and she demonstrated numerous strategies for promoting mindfulness that are easy to adopt and effective. In line with this topic, the following article provides a good introduction and includes indirect connections to cognitive overload as presented by Stephen Chew in the Teaching Center’s August 2013 workshop:

Faculty Interest Groups Present

FIGsOn Thursday, April 27, the Belmont Teaching Center hosted a lunch discussion featuring three faculty interest groups, each of which has developed community, collaboration, and scholarly activity among faculty.  Mitch McCoy and Abbie DeBlasis spoke about a faculty interest group that grew out of experiences during their New Faculty Orientation. Sally Barton Arwood, Kate McGowan, and Ryan Fox discussed ways in which their faculty group uses a process called “Critical Friends” to improve pedagogy.  Finally, Hope Campbell, Cheryl Slay Carr, and Edgar Diaz-Cruz reported on a recently formed faculty interest group that meets, discusses, and studies concerns of minority faculty.