Students weren’t the only ones experiencing a return to normal during Welcome Week. Under the theme of “Reconnect, Reignite and Reimagine,” the Day Program faculty held a two-day conference prior to the start of Fall classes.

Dr. Blake Nielsen, assistant professor of Psychology and director of the college’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), said the conference was an important milestone for the faculty this fall. He recalled a fun icebreaker coordinated by Adjunct Instructor Ed Schumacher early in the conference.

“We spent 18 months apart from each other; we needed a moment to reconnect,” he said. “We needed to see our colleagues’ faces and recognize that they live outside of the Zoom bubble that’s on our screen. For faculty, it was such a great moment to just be present with one another and understand that there are things going on outside the classroom that we could really engage in.”

Dorsey Gym filled with faculty watching a presentation from Dave Stuart, Jr.
Dave Stuart, Jr. provided the keynote address to the Fall Faculty Conference.

Planning for the conference began in May, with Nielsen enlisting the help of his CTL predecessor, Dr. Kristi Clevenger, along with Dr. Sandra Hamar, Dr. Melinda McPherson, Amy Johns, and Schumacher.

The conference was preceded by a two-day orientation for the four new members of the Day Program faculty: Brad Scharf and Evan Anderson, both visiting professors in Biology; Amy Enderle, visiting professor in Communication Studies, and Stephanie Woods, tenure-track professor in Education. “It’s a great opportunity for us and for them to meet their new colleagues, make sure they are comfortable with our systems, and build a sense of camaraderie going into the new semester,” said Nielsen.

On the first evening of the conference, the faculty held a celebration dinner where several awards were handed out. Nielsen was presented the Deans’ Award for Excellence in Service, Associate Professor of Art Dr. Danielle Langdon was given the Deans’ Award for Excellence in Teaching, and McPherson, an associate professor of Forensic Science, was presented the Deans’ Award for Excellence in Scholarship.

Two adjunct faculty members were given the Deans’ Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching: Dr. Jared Opoien, an instructor at the college’s location in Fort Worth, was presented the award for in-seat instruction, while Patricia Hernandez earned the same honor for online instruction.

The evening closed with the Trustees’ Award for Teaching Excellence, which was given to Dr. Aurelien Mauxion, associate professor of Sociology and chair of the Psychology, Sociology, and Human Services Department.

Four Columbia College professors displaying their faculty awards
(from L-R) Dr. Aurelien Mauxion (Trustees’ Award for Teaching Excellence), Dr. Blake Nielsen (Deans’ Award for Excellence in Service), Dr. Danielle Langdon (Deans’ Award for Excellence in Teaching), and Dr. Melinda McPherson (Deans’ Award for Excellence in Scholarship)
Jared Opoien Faculty Photo
Dr. Jared Opoien, Deans’ Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching (In-Seat). Not pictured: Patricia Hernandez, Deans’ Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching (Online)

Award-winning educator and bestselling author Dave Stuart Jr. served as the conference’s keynote speaker, and spoke about the will to learn. “He really gave us practical tips to help motivate her students to reignite and energize them in the classroom and really be excited about the learning process,” said Nielsen.