Spotlight
 
Faculty

Check out some noteworthy stories of Texas A&M Faculty who have committed to creating high impact learning experiences for students!
Have a story of commitment you'd like to share? Visit our Submit Your Story page.

STORIES
 
Jennifer Mercieca James Petrick
 Adrienne Brundage Jinmoo Heo
Edie Cassell Mathew Kuttolamadom
Gwen Webb-Hasan Stephen Courtright


Jennifer Mercieca | Associate Professor & Associate Department Head, Department of Communication, LBAR

 
 
What inspired you to create learning experiences of this nature for your students?
"As a scholar of American political rhetoric I write about America’s history of citizenship and how what we thought about how citizens can act politically in the past has informed citizen apathy and disengagement today.  As a teacher of college-age citizens I use the classroom as a forum for learning the skills necessary to enable a lifetime of active citizenship.  Through my classes my students have discussed and debated political events, learned about the electoral process, studied the media’s effect on politics, learned critical thinking and debate skills, written “advocacy letters” for local non-profit organizations and volunteered as a class to help those organizations, acted as “political consultants” and devised campaign strategy plans, and become Brazos County Deputy Voter Registrars and registered new voters both on and off-campus.  In 2012 my Political Communication class partnered with the Commission on Presidential Debates to host Texas A&M’s first ever DebateWatch events, which enabled them to think critically about the debates, organize and lead discussions with their fellow students about political issues, and discuss the debates with students from 23 other universities across the nation (via a common Twitter hashtag)."

"Congressman Flores has been very generous to our Political Communication students. Last semester he visited with the class and answered their questions about everything from his voting record to his experience with political campaigning. This semester, not only did he visit with the class and answer their questions, but he gave the students the opportunity to write a ceremonial speech for him to deliver at either a Naturalization ceremony or for Veteran’s Day. The students had the chance to study his former speeches, meet with him via conference call to interview him about his needs for the upcoming speeches, and then draft a speech that he might actually deliver!  Each student got the chance to apply their research and writing skills to actual real-world events, which is the best way to learn, in my opinion."
 
What impact does student involvement have on the learning experience?
"My students have amazed me this semester with what they can do. When students in Political Communication learn how to conduct campaign finance research, opposition research, and examine voting records, committee assignments, and endorsement rankings then they are enabled to be critical consumers of political information as well as trained to act as political campaign consultants. My hope is that by taking my class my students will be enabled to work in politics, if that be their goal, and practice a lifetime of active citizenship."
 
Are there specific aspects of high impact learning that you believe students are benefitting from the most?
"Anytime you ask students to apply what they’ve learned from their readings to solve real problems they benefit. The “problems” that they have to solve in my classes might appear to be minor—something like what should a Congressman say to a group of new American citizens? Or, how can we craft a successful political campaign within the specific constraints of this Congressional district? —but they are real-world problems. Problem solving is a necessary skill for success in any aspect of life, but especially for the student’s future career. The more opportunities they have to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills in college—identifying the problem, researching what has worked or not worked in the past, advancing solutions, and adjusting to feedback—the better prepared they will be to succeed in all aspects of their life. My hope is that my classes combine political research with theory and practice in ways that enable students to think critically, participate actively, and lead justly."

 
 


Adrienne Brundage |
 Assistant Lecturer, Department of Entomology, AGLS

 
 

Dr. Brundage’s ENTO 481 students become editors of departmental journal that would be open to all entomology students for submissions. Each class section reviews papers using a standard rubric and a series of other methods to decide of publication pieces. Students are required to write a scientific review paper, participate in online lessons, and conduct interviews with accomplished scientific writers. 
 

What initially inspired you to pursue a learning experience of this nature?
"I have been working with both undergraduate and graduate students for many years, and noticed that new graduate students had very little practical writing knowledge. They were often thrown into a writing situation with no assistance, and ended up floundering. Some of them quit out of frustration, and that is a completely preventable issue. Undergraduates have very little opportunity to write for a scientific forum, and I wanted to give them that experience to perhaps make the transition to graduate school a bit easier, and to get them excited about the scientific writing process."
 
What impact does student involvement have on the learning experience?
"In this case, a great impact. The entire journal is run by students, and what the journal becomes is a direct result of the amount of effort each student gives to the project. Since this journal is a public forum, the students placed great effort into their work, and ended up working harder on their writing and editing for this class than they had in many other courses."
 
Are there specific aspects of high impact learning that you believe students are benefitting from the most?
"The students are benefiting the most from opening up their work to outside parties. This 'public display' of work allows them to see that what they are doing can have impact beyond the classroom, and that these assignments have actual real-world meaning."

 
For more details about this project, click here. 
 
 



Edie Cassell | Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Teaching Learning & Culture, CEHD
 


Undergraduate students preparing to teach elementary and middle school students will live in Mexico and teach English as a 2nd language in an elementary school for 4 weeks after completing INST 462 ESL Methods and INST 463 Methods II. Students will travel to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in June 2015 to work with Emiliano Zapata Elementary School while using curriculum developed by TAMU students in Spring 2015. They also will offer the community a 2 week English as a second language class at the Public Library of San Miguel. 

 
What initially inspired you to pursue a learning experience of this nature?
"My own experiences living overseas have been transformative and each time I have taken undergraduates overseas, they have reported the same positive experience.  I wanted to develop a sustainable program that provides a larger number of pre-service teachers the opportunity to be immersed in a community of a different culture while at the same time providing a needed service to that community."
 
What impact does student involvement have on the learning experience?
"During our orientation and pre-program planning sessions, the program participants have been developing guidelines and materials to work in teaching teams while in Mexico.  The students will be running the educational program within their teams once we arrive in Mexico and will be responsible for daily English lessons as well as the implementation of the digital story project.  They will meet with faculty each evening to review the day’s progress and adjust the curriculum plan for the following day."
 
Are there specific aspects of high impact learning that you believe students are benefitting from the most?
"Two aspects that I believe are most beneficial to students are the autonomy and leadership that the students exhibit in their teaching teams and the relationships they are given the opportunity to build with the children they are teaching, the families of those children, the Mexican teachers, and their fellow students.  These relationships are prerequisite for the deep levels of trust needed to foster learning in multicultural settings."

 
For more details about this project, click here
 
 



Gwen Webb-Hasan | Associate Professor, Department of Education and Human Development, CEHD
 

 
Educational Administration Masters students will further engage in strategic study of Bryan, Calvert, College Station, Hearne, Snook, and Somerville with the intent to bring resources together for a community forum to be held in Fall 2015. Students will work in teams to study the most research in the area of family and community engagement, participate in studying 6 communities, conduct an “I Am an Aggie” essay, poster, and multimedia contest, complete a 20 hour service learning project, and host a community forum.

 
What initially inspired you to pursue a learning experience of this nature?
"I was very concerned about my students being able to apply the information they were learning in our leadership program. Social justice and equity are important tenets of our graduate programs. I wanted theory to be translated into practice in meaningful and practical ways. As a result, I felt that service learning projects and special class projects (Future Aggies) would assist them in better understanding the reciprocal nature inherent in culturally responsive leadership, especially in community partnerships."
 
What impact does student involvement have on the learning experience?
"Student involvement has a great impact on the learning experience. My students have had the opportunity to work in small Professional Learning Communities. In that process they have been able to not only assess their new learning experiences from readings and class engagement, but they have also been able to access the creativity of each community member and design “Future Aggie” learning experiences in elementary, middle, and high school settings across the State of Texas, and in two other states. Students have shared a great satisfaction in assisting young learners in planning their future to include college as a real life option, as well as their increased knowledge and action base as it relates to engaging in community partnerships."
 
Are there specific aspects of high impact learning that you believe students are benefitting from the most?
"I am happy to report that my students are benefitting from each of the six tenets of high impact learning (Kuhn, 2008). If I had to choose specific aspects, I would choose engagement across cultural and racial differences, and reflecting on the type of leader they are becoming. However, the process is multidimensional and I believe each tenet becomes the foundation for the next. As a result, a holistic experience is achieved throughout the semester."

 
For more details about this project, click here. 
 
James Petrick | Professor, Department of Recreations, Parks and Tourism Sciences, AGLS
 

 
RPTS 331 will involve partnering with a public and private tourism entity and then allow for students to complete a collaborative assignment for each. Both assignments involve data collection and a breakdown into smaller groups for writing proposals. Each group will compete to see who could solve the real-world marketing problems given to them. The partnering firms would be available to answer questions and assist in evaluating the groups. Top groups will give oral presentations. Finally, results of all groups’ projects will be given to partnering firms. 
 

What initially inspired you to pursue a learning experience of this nature?
"I’ve always taught my UG classes using case studies as that was my preferred way to learn when I was an UG.  My favorite Professor during my UG used cases, and I just took it a step further to have the cases be done for actual businesses."
 
What impact does student involvement have on the learning experience?
"To me it is crucial.  I need the students to “buy-in” to how important the project is for both their learning of the material and the companies we work with.  I need them to become fully involved/engages in the process."
 
Are there specific aspects of high impact learning that you believe students are benefitting from the most?
"I think that having the students see that the principles they learn in class have true practical relevance in the real-world is the biggest benefit.  Once they see that their learning principles are needed, and are able to apply them, it greatly increases their perceptions of the value of all lessons taught."

 
For more details about this project, click here
 
 


Jinmoo Heo | Assistant Professor, Department of Recreations, Parks and Tourism Sciences, AGLS
 


RPTS 321 is a service learning course that provides students with field experience in event management settings in partnership with select community agencies. Students engage in a minimum of 25 hours with their community partners and assist in planning, organizing, and implementing events in the BCS areas. The events include Brazos Valley Senior Games, Brazos Valley Earth Day, Brazos Valley Fair & Expo, Games of Texas, ect. Students are required to attend the event as assistants, which will give them the opportunity to experience running a sporting events and interacting with older adults.  

 
What initially inspired you to pursue a learning experience of this nature?
"I learned from colleagues that service learning activities facilitate students to develop practical skills, improve social interaction skills, and promote interaction with people from diverse cultures."
 
What impact does student involvement have on the learning experience?
"Intergenerational learning – both older adults and the younger generation seem to experience changes in perceptions, attitudes, or behaviors as results of service learning projects."
 
Are there specific aspects of high impact learning that you believe students are benefitting from the most?
"Students in the RPTS321 class are expected to develop a collaborative relationship with community partners (City of College Station), and develop an understanding and appreciation of the issues and needs of the populations served by our selected community partners."

 
For more details about this project, click here
 
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Mathew Kuttolamadom | Assistant Professor, Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution, ENGR
 

 
Through a course titled, “Mechanical Design Applications-II,” students develop, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of unifying collaborative learning exercise as part of an open-ended final design project that is assigned in an upper-level technical course. Students work to solve problems in the company of others, enhance their own understanding, and get exposed to others’ viewpoints while comprehensively integrating the material content and concepts of the course as well
 
 
What initially inspired you to pursue a learning experience of this nature?
“I wanted to provide the students who are in their graduating year, a good conclusion to their mechanics-track of courses from over the past 2.5 years. This would help tie together all the content and concepts giving a good structure to their knowledge, as well as show them how it is applicable to a real world problem. Besides, I wanted them to experience formal team work and the resulting synergy, as well as get them a taste of the open-ended nature of real world problems.”
 
What impact does student involvement have on the learning experience?
“Huge! Rather than a ‘passive’ final report that is submitted at the end of the semester, the students in this case get really involved and take ownership of the project and are proud of it as one of their major accomplishments. Working in teams also helps immensely.”
 
Are there specific aspects of high impact learning that you believe students are benefitting from the most?
“I would say that this is the tying together of all of the material content and concepts to accomplish the project objective, that gives them the confidence and metacognition of their acquired knowledge and skills.”

 
For more details about this project, click here
 
Stephen Courtright | Assistant Professor, Department of Management, MAYS
 


One of the only courses of its kind in the U.S., this partnership with Startup Aggieland provides students with knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to successfully assume roles as leadership coaches in for-profit, non-profit, and consulting organizations. Students will be matched with one Startup Aggieland organization, conduct an actual needs assessment on the entrepreneur/organization they are assigned, develop a training design, provide a report of the needs assessment and a plan for their training design. Finally, clients will provide students with an assessment of their reactions to the intervention and students will write up reflection paper.
 

What initially inspired you to pursue a learning experience of this nature?
"First, I have done service-learning activities in classes that I’ve taught previously, and they have been extremely rewarding for the students. Second, a service-learning activity for the particular course that I will be teaching in the fall seemed like an especially good opportunity. The course I am teaching (and developing from scratch) is on training and developing organizational leaders. It may sound simple, but it just didn’t make sense to teach my students how to train and develop leaders without putting them into a situation where they actually had to do what I will be teaching them. Finally, connecting them with budding entrepreneurs in Startup Aggieland seemed like a great way for students to contribute to and experience the entrepreneurial spirit of Aggieland, and contribute to a cause that is highly valued by A&M."
 
What impact does student involvement have on the learning experience?
"Student involvement means everything for my project. It will require them to plan a training program from “the ground up” and go through all the steps necessary to make a leadership training program successful. In short, it will give them the opportunity to apply many of the concepts that we discuss in class in a real-world, impactful setting."
 
Are there specific aspects of high impact learning that you believe students are benefitting from the most?
"Again, my project has not yet started, but I’ll be very anxious to see what aspects of the project were particularly meaningful for my students. I will have both an assignment and an evaluation tool to help identify what aspects of the project were particularly beneficial for them."

 
For more details about this project, click here.