NewsletterEdelnant InterviewChatham-Carpenter Interview

On the Carver Institutes
Carver Fellow April Chatham-Carpenter, Professor of Communication

First , by way of introduction, Dr, April Chatham-Carpenter is an Associate Professor in Communication Studies. She teaches courses in Interpersonal Communications, Research Methods, Ethics in Communication, Conflict Management, and the LAC Oral Communications course. She serves on numerous university committees, including the UNI Curriculum Committee, Residency Review Committee, and Educational Policies Commission. Her scholarly pursuits include intrapersonal and interpersonal or instructional communications research.

Jeff:In what Carver Institutes did you participate?

April : Integrating Disciplines in the Liberal Arts Core (Summer, 2005)

Jeff:What motivated you to take part in the institute(s)?

April: Our department was getting ready to propose a university-wide capstone course, and I was the primary instructor of this course, so I wanted ideas on how to make our current departmental course more interdisciplinary. Plus, I have taught the LAC Oral Communication course many times, and wished to enhance my teaching of this course.

Jeff:In your experience at UNI, what other experiences or professional development opportunities have been similar to the Carver Institute(s)?

April: The workshops hosted by the former Center for Excellence in Teaching would be the closest – in that you had the opportunity to share teaching ideas with colleagues across campus.

Jeff : What distinguished the Carver Institute from other Professional Development experiences in which you’ve participated?

April: The intensity of the learning within a 2 week period – you truly grew to love, hate, and respect each other! (Just kidding). The time period allotted gave us time to do a lot of hands-on learning, not just in theory, but also in practice.

Jeff:What are some highlights, or “take-home themes” that emerged from your Institute experience?

April: I was amazed at the number of teaching strategies I left with that I can apply to any of my classes. Some of the more memorable ones were concept mapping, role-playing in non-traditional roles (in the Canterbury Game), jigsaw teams. I also was grateful for the technology resources demonstrated – for example, MERLOT, videoconferencing, and web-CT. I truly enjoyed the engaging discussions we had among different disciplines represented – getting to meet new colleagues was a plus!

Jeff:How has participation in the Carver Institute(s) manifested in your teaching and other professional pursuits?

April: I have taken up web-CT again, for all of my classes, after a hiatus of several semesters in my teaching. I am more apt to think of interdisciplinary connections and examples in my teaching. I look forward to designing our new capstone course (Ethics in Communication) to be offered for the first time this coming Fall, with these connections in mind.

Jeff:Characterize the sort of faculty member most likely to benefit from participating in the Carver Institutes. And the least?

April: Most likely to benefit: persons willing to think outside the box & learn from others. Least likely to benefit: persons too busy to revamp their syllabi & to rethink their classes to make them better

Jeff: Finally, how has the climate of higher academe changed (students, scholarly expectations, societal expectations, etc.) over the course of your career, and how instrumental are projects such as the Carver Institutes to keeping up with change?

April : I think the climate of higher education has moved to a more consumer model, for both students & faculty – what will I get out of this to make me more successful in my career? This is a hard challenge to face in our liberal arts courses, which students (and faculty) often don’t see as useful for their future careers. These types of Institutes allow us to have useful idea-exchanges on these kinds of issues – not just to “whine” but to come up with creative solutions to try.

I never imagined having these kinds of cross-disciplinary discussions when I first arrived here. I was pretty much in my own departmental world. We are so blessed to have these sorts of opportunities now. Thank you!

Dr. April Chatham-Carpenter, interviewed by Jeff Weld