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Empowering Teaching Excellence 

Seminar Series & Learning Circles

The Empowering Teaching Excellence Seminar Series features speakers selected from USU's faculty and occasional visiting guest speakers. Topics pertain to various aspects of effective teaching and primarily focus on practical application, learned through experience, by seasoned teachers. 


Propose a Seminar

If you're interested in presenting on a topic in the ETE Seminar Series, you can now propose a session. We are accepting proposals for a limited time for seminars to be held in upcoming Fall and Spring semesters. Please access the survey to propose an ETE Seminar by clicking the button below.

  Propose Seminar Now

Please contact Travis Thurston at or 435-797-4950 with questions.

Understanding Gen-Z Students: Wielding the Double-Edged Sword of Twin Literacies
Thursday, April 11, 2019, 3:30 - 5:00 PM
LSB 231 (Logan Campus) and webcast statewide on WebEx


     Kit Mohr
     Professor & Director of Graduate Studies, School of Teacher Education and Leadership
Eric Mohr
Professional Practice Associate Professor, School of Teacher Education and Leadership

From the Mohr & Mohr (2017) article downloaded over 6600 times in the Journal on Empowering Teaching Excllence, this session provides an update on the topic of teaching Gen-Z/Digital Native students. Helping students appreciate that educated people have always had to negotiate The Past and The Present to fashion The Future can empower a new generation of students to wield the twin literacies of both print and digital. The goal of this session is to equip instructors with ways to relate to and support the newest generation of learners in the college classroom.

View the article:
Mohr, K. A. & Mohr, E. S. (2017). Understanding Generation Z Students to Promote a Contemporary Learning Environment. Journal on Empowering Teaching Excellence, 1(1), 83-94. DOI:10.15142/T3M05T 

Session files: 

Active Learning Strategies to Improve Student Engagement
Tuesday, February 12, 2019, 3:30 - 5:00 PM
LSB 231 (Logan Campus) and webcast statewide on WebEx


     Kelli Munns
     Lecturer & Riding Instructor, ADVS Department
Travis Thurston
ETE Coordinator & Senior Instructional Designer, Academic & Instructional Services

With the limited “seat time” instructors have with students, it's important to maximize learning during class time. There are a variety of instructional strategies that instructors can use to keep students engaged and present during lecture. Instructors don't have to completely revamp course curriculum or assessments, rather insert small changes that will make an immediate difference. Engage students now by using evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning.

 Active Learning webpage:


Impactful Teaching Practices: Plan, Implement and Evaluate
Thursday, January 31, 2019, 3:00 - 4:00 PM
LSB 231 (Logan Campus) and webcast statewide on WebEx

     Norm Jones
 Professor, History
Harrison Kleiner
Assistant Professor, Philosophy
Heidi Kesler
Director, Student Retention and Completion

USU has many faculty members who have effectively implemented high impact practices, sometimes abbreviated as "HIPs," both in and out of the classroom. These faculty are having a direct impact on the quality of the student experience, and faculty involved with HIPs report greater satisfaction and enthusiasm in teaching. Empowering Teaching Excellence (ETE) is excited to present a seminar led by Heidi Kesler, Dr. Norm Jones and Dr. Harrison Kleiner focused on impactful teaching practices. Whether you are new to HIPs or you have been engaging in these practices throughout your tenure, you will benefit from attending this ETE session. You will leave the session with a clearer understanding of how to define, implement, and measure your impactful teaching practices.

HIPS handout for the session:
Impactful Teaching session slides:


Engaging Students in Collaborative Learning using NEHMA
Tuesday, November 6, 2018, 3:30 - 5:00 PM
NEHMA (650 North 1100 East, Logan Campus)


     Donna Brown
 Scholar in Residence & Head of Academic Initiatives, Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art
Travis Thurston
ETE Coordinator & Senior Instructional Designer, Academic & Instructional Services

With the recent reopening of the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art (NEHMA), there are new opportunities for instructors to engage students using the resources available. Social-constructivist learning theory suggests that as we engage students in interaction, and provide scaffolded learning environments students can work together to construct knowledge in new and creative ways. This session will model for instructors how to use the museum as a tool to engage students across the curriculum, which includes tips on how to help students improve skills, including:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Collaboration
  • Observation

Community-Engaged Learning Workshop
Tuesday, October 23, 2018, 12:00 - 1:00 PM
DE 013 (Logan Campus) and broadcast statewide on IVC   


        Kate Stephens, Associate Director of USU Center for Community Engagement
        and faculty panel

Through Community-Engaged Learning, faculty can help accomplish USU’s goal to prepare Citizen Scholars who participate and lead in local, regional, national and global communities. Students are given the opportunity to apply course content while addressing real community-identified needs. Faculty often claim that Community-Engaged Learning courses offer students an opportunity to better internalize course materials, and lead to deeper student engagement and meaningful class discussion. 

Any USU course can be designated as Community-Engaged Learning/Service-Learning (SL) in Banner. The SL designation (course attribute) indicates that the course involves community-engaged teaching or research. The designation can apply to all sections of a course or an individual section and specific instructor. Before courses can receive the SL designation, faculty complete a brief online Community-Engaged Learning course designation form, outlining the learning outcomes, community-engaged work, and reflection. Submitted forms and syllabi are reviewed by the Community-Engaged Learning Faculty Advisory Board each semester for the upcoming semester.

Join us to:

  • Learn how to find community-identified needs that directly relate to your course content
  • Learn how to develop a Community-Engaged Learning course
  • Learn about project funding opportunities and faculty awards for Community-Engaged Learning


Mentoring Students for Success
Wednesday, October 17, 2018, 3:30 - 5:00 PM
HH 270 (Logan Campus) and broadcast statewide on IVC


        David Law, Don Busenbark, Mike Christiansen, Trish Kingsford & James Taylor
USU Uintah Basin Campus


In higher education student persistence continues to pose challenges even though it has been studied from many angles for the past 40 years. To address these challenges, faculty at the Utah State University Uintah Basin Regional Campus have implemented a mentoring program. The goal of the program is for faculty to mentor students in a manner that helps students feel more connected to the social and educational community of USUUB. Learn how faculty are helping students feel more connected, and helping students achieve their educational goals.

Streaming live on AggieCast at:
Broadcasting via IVC to:
Brigham City - USU-Brigham-D106
Price - RV 181
Roosevelt - USU-Roosevelt-SC-173
Salt Lake - SLC-101L
St George - Dixie-HCC-353

Tooele -TOTOCR Conf-114
Vernal - USU-Vernal-B-138B

If you would like to attend this event via IVC, please contact Travis Thurston to schedule an IVC room at your location.

Dynamic Lecturing
Friday, September 7, 2018, 1:00 - 4:00 PM
HH 270 (Logan Campus) and broadcast statewide on IVC



     Dr. Christine Harrington
     Director of the Center for the Enrichment of Learning and Teaching

Don’t stop lecturing!  Research shows that lecturing is one of the best ways to teach novice learners (also known as first year students).   Come explore how to maximize the effectiveness of your lecture by activating prior knowledge, zooming in on the most important concepts, integrating brief opportunities to reflect and process information, effectively using multi-media, and incorporating retrieval practice opportunities.  You’ll walk away with several easy to implement strategies designed to increase learning.

Resources:  Dynamic Lecturing worksheet and ppt slides

Helping Students Learn in an Age of Digital Distraction
Thursday, April 5, 2018, 4:00 - 5:00 PM
(Price Campus) and broadcast to Logan Campus


     Dr. Kathryn Linder
     Research Director, Oregon State Ecampus

Our students are inundated with an overwhelming amount of information each day as they navigate social media, peruse various websites, listen to the radio, read print media, and flip through innumerable television channels. Unfortunately, very little of this information is directly connected by our students to their interactions with us in the classroom. In this session, we will explore how to break through the cognitive overload that our students experience on a daily basis and discuss how we can help our students develop effective strategies for learning in the midst of this Age of Digital Distraction.

Broadcast to Logan - DE 012 

Controversy in the Classroom: Opportunity or Catastrophe 
Tuesday, February 27, 2018, 3:30 - 5:00 PM
Library 154 (Logan Campus) and broadcast statewide on IVC

Faculty Panel, featuring:

     Roslynn Brain, Associate Professor, ENVS/Moab 
     Colin Flint, Professor, Political Science
     Chris Gonzalez, Assistant Professor, ENGL
     Ravi Gupta, Associate Professor, HIST

Teaching is not without its risks. Education exposes students to new concepts and challenges existing assumptions, so controversy and confrontation can be inevitable. When it happens, how should a teacher to respond? This seminar addresses that question. A panel of experienced faculty will facilitate discussion around true-to-life case scenarios, share how they responded, and what the results were. Bring your insights and leave better prepared.  

Helping English Language Learners Succeed in the Classroom and Beyond

Thursday, February 15, 2018, 3:30 - 5:00 PM
BNR 314 (Logan Campus) and broadcast statewide on IVC

Faculty Panel, featuring:

     Ekaterina Arshavskaya, Assistant Professor
     Marta Halaczkiewicz, Lecturer  
     Taira Nieves,
     Jim Rogers,
Professor and Director of the Intensive English Language Institute
     Elena Shvidko,
Assistant Professor
     Nolan Weil, Associate Professor

Students for whom English is not a first language are no longer an uncommon phenomenon for many institutions of higher education in the U.S. The types of support that a university offers to help English language learners is crucial to their academic and social success. Faculty members across campus should also understand what challenges these students have and what kind of support they need in order to succeed at the university. A panel of faculty members from the Intensive English Language Institute will share their experiences working with language learners and offer suggestions on how to facilitate their success in the classroom and beyond.

The following topics will be discussed:
     -Understanding language learners' challenges related to classroom participation;
     -Working with international graduate students;
     -Helping language learners integrate in the university environment through university resources and services;
     -Providing interpersonal support to language learners beyond the classroom;
     -Making use of faculty resources, tools, and materials to facilitate student success at USU.

Related resources can be accessed here: 

Connecting with Your Students: Student Retention through Mentoring & Caring

Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 3:30 - 5:00 PM
Huntsman Hall 326 (Logan Campus) and broadcast statewide on IVC

Faculty Panel, featuring:
     Don Busenbark, Lecturer, USU-UB/MATH 
     Jennifer Grewe, Lecturer, PSY
     David Law, Professor, USU-UB/FCHD
     Crescencio Lopez Gonzales, Assistant Professor, LPCS
     Derrik Tollefson, Professor and Department Head, SSWA

"The most valuable relationships students have with teachers are mentorships." -Daniel F. Chambliss

Faculty mentoring plays a significant role in students having a successful college experience. Students who view their instructors as mentors are more engaged in the coursework, express greater satisfaction in the course, and are more likely to persist toward graduation. Mentoring is both an art and a skill that can be learned. This ETE panel will discuss what has worked and what hasn’t worked in a variety of mentoring programs and situations. Learn from faculty who are making a real impact on students through their mentoring.

March 30, 2017, 3:30 - 4:30 PM, LIB 154 (Logan Campus)

Competency Based Education: Separating Fact from Fiction

Matthew Pellish, Senior Director of Strategic Research and Education, Education Advisory Board

MOOCs are a thing of the past, and many parties within and outside of higher education (media, government entities, foundations) have turned their attention to competency-based education (CBE). As with MOOCs, the hope is that CBE will lower costs, increase access, and improve outcomes—and the fear is that those who don't adopt it will lose relevance and market share if new programs scale quickly.

Feeling beset by "disruption" fatigue—but fearful of dismissing a model with the potential to spur gains in enrollment and student success—higher education leaders are struggling with how fast and how far their institutions should venture into CBE.

Based on interviews with over 100 experts and practitioners, this presentation aims to separate the hype from what's really working. We examine CBE's primary objectives, the most prevalent myths in the field, and which factors are likely to accelerate CBE's competitive threat to current higher education programs.

 In This Session, Members Will Learn… 

  • What lessons have CBE's early adopters learned from their experiences? 
  • Under what circumstances, and for what institutions, is personalized learning the right fit for an institution? 
  • What pedagogical elements of competency-based education can be replicated within traditional program structures? 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017, Seminar 2 - 3:30 PM, Workshop 4 - 5 PM, LIB 154 (Logan Campus)

The Future is Open - Open Educational Practices Seminar & Workshop

Rajiv Jhangiani, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Seminar Keynote
Higher education promises to be a vehicle for economic and social mobility; however, this promise increasingly goes begging as our institutions are structured to reinforce existing inequalities, with engagement, persistence, and achievement still closely tied to affordability. The oft-heard institutional claim to be student-centered is similarly hypocritical, as it is usually faculty, accreditation requirements, and budgetary constraints that dictate both the structure and content of the learning experience. It is against the backdrop of such paradoxes that open education practices have emerged as a transformational force in higher education.

Open educational practices (OEP) encompass the creation, adaptation, and adoption of open educational resources, open course development, and even the design of renewable assignments where students are empowered as co-creators of knowledge. OEP represents a truly learner-centered approach to education that radically enhances both agency and access. This presentation will draw on a diverse set of examples to make a case for why the shift away from traditional (closed) practices is not only desirable but also inevitable, and how OEP support the modern university’s mission by serving both social justice and pedagogical innovation.

OER Creation/Adaptation Workshop
This hand-on workshop is designed to help you locate relevant and high quality open educational resources (OER) for adoption in your classes. Attendees will become familiar with large, curated repositories for OER (including open textbooks, images, and videos) and will learn how to use Pressbooks, a popular open-source platform, to create, revise, or remix OER.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017, 3:30 - 5:00 PM, LIB 154 (Logan Campus)

Objective and Subjective Truth in the Classroom

Norm Jones, Professor, History
Rose Judd-Murray, 
STEM Educator, School of Applied Sciences, Technology and Education
Peter Crosby, 
Instructor, Political Science
Moises Diaz, 
Clinical Assistant Professor, Sociology, Social Work & Anthropology
Idalis Villanueva, 
Assistant Professor, Engineering Education

The panel will address the curriculum and processes used to help students make informed judgments in areas of objective and subjective truth in the classroom. The panel will explore ways we build on the skills students develop in general education as they continue into their major. General topics will include instructional methods at the curriculum and teaching level that help students think critically and incorporate multiple viewpoints, “in-the-trenches” experience dealing with classroom issues and challenges relating to the nature of objective and subjective truth, and how to identify and address the hidden curriculum in our courses.

Infographic on "Engaging Students through Issues-Based Topics"

Learning Circles

Learning Circles are small communities of faculty that meet on a regular basis during a single semester. Each community reads a particular book or set of articles on learning and teaching and engages in discussion at each of their sessions. Learning Circles are open to all faculty, adjuncts and graduate instructors. All participants can earn an ETE10 Engage badge at the end of the semester.

Current topics for Learning Circles include:
     -Active Learning Strategies
     -Blended Course Strategies

Learning Circles are listed along with ETE Seminars and workshops in the full ETE events calendar on AggieSync.

To propose a new Learning Circle topic, or to create a department specific Learning Circle please contact Travis Thurston

Join a WebEx Meeting

Resources are available through CIDI on technology preparations to make to join and participate in a WebEx meeting:

View ETE Archives

ETE Archives

Several past Empowering events have been recorded and are available for viewing. After viewing a past event, instructors can submit a reflection of takeaways, and earn an ETE10 Engage level badge for that event.

View ETE Recordings