Faculty learn to breakdown academic ‘silos’

Sessions on multidisciplinary collaboration, accessibility and reaching underrepresented students all part of second Faculty Intersession Showcase

Elizabeth Lamark

Alex Lobos, right, assistant professor of industrial design, checks in with Fereydoun Kazemian, associate professor in the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, and Sheila Brady-Root of St. John Fisher College during one of the Jan. 14 faculty-led sessions, part of the second annual Destination Intersession, hosted by The Wallace Center.

Nearly 100 people—including faculty from Rochester Institute of Technology and several area colleges—braved single-digit temperatures Wednesday to attend the daylong Tiger Talks Faculty Showcase, part of the second annual Destination Intersession, hosted by The Wallace Center.

Destination Intersession is designed to help faculty renew and re-energize between academic terms. At Wednesday’s showcase, the centerpiece of the intersession program, attendees chose from a variety of half-hour interactive, faculty-led sessions. For instance, assistant professors Callie Babbitt and Alex Lobos led a session entitled, “Mixing it up! Sustainability, Engineering and Design,” during which they discussed strategies they’ve used the last four years in a cross-disciplinary program developed and offered between the sustainability and industrial design programs at RIT.

The session provided useful tips and ideas for the development of remarkable prototypes that have come out of the popular RIT course.

“Students have traditionally learned or been trained in silos,” said Babbitt, an assistant professor in the Golisano Institute for Sustainability who teaches the sustainable product design course with Lobos, an assistant professor of industrial design in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. “Our course has really evolved over the past four years to help address that.”

Participants were also asked to bring in broken or unused electronics to probe during one activity. “RIT is clearly a leader in the area of sustainability and it’s wonderful that we’re invited here to learn how to implement some of these ideas,” said Sheila Brady-Root, a community service liaison at St. John Fisher College who helps organize biology and science events.

“And why should students work singly in their areas and miss out on the many ways they can collaborate?” Brady-Root added as she was busily taking apart a cell phone with Fereydoun Kazemian, an associate professor of computer science in RIT’s Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences.

Some 20 faculty from across the university offered presentations, including:

  • “A Garden of One’s Own: Nurturing Pedagogical Practice Outside of the University Classroom” in which College of Imaging Arts and Sciences Professor Carole Woodlock discussed how she applies the principles of planning, creating and observing a garden to cultivating and energize curriculum ideas.
  • Zen Tao Color, in which College of Science Professor Mark Fairchild, director of the Munsell Color Laboratory, sought to “draw parallels between our quest to scientifically study our perception of color and the sometimes equally mysterious principles of Zen (thoughtful introspection and meditation) and Tao (the way of nature), which represent one of my more personal interests.”
  • Geraldine Cochran, associate director of the Multicultural Center for Academic Success, discussed research “beneficial to understanding how to support underrepresented students both inside and outside of the classroom.”
  • Raja Kushalnagar, instructional faculty at National Technical Institute for the Deaf, discussed how to make educational presentations more accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

For a full recap of the presentations, log on to the Faculty Showcase website page.

New this year was a “chill out room” where participants were invited to relax and converse with colleagues and foster new connections between sessions. There also was a “post-it board” inviting guests to provide comments, questions and ideas for future events.

Destination Intersession events continue through Jan. 23. To view the schedule and register, go to https://www.rit.edu/academicaffairs/destinationintersession/schedule.

art and design

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