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Educators discuss academic vitality as part of UCA's AVID Week

Posted: October 8, 2013 - 5:55pm
ANGELA SPENCER STAFF PHOTO  Dr. Patty Phelps, director of the Instructional Development Center and professor of teaching and learning in the College of Education, holds up a ribbon she received at a conference that says "I had an aha moment," illustrating the university's goal toward academic vitality.
ANGELA SPENCER STAFF PHOTO Dr. Patty Phelps, director of the Instructional Development Center and professor of teaching and learning in the College of Education, holds up a ribbon she received at a conference that says "I had an aha moment," illustrating the university's goal toward academic vitality.

Academic vitality can mean many things — students who are excited about their chosen field, teachers who do not stop learning and educational institutions that provide a solid boost for graduates to enter the workforce.

Faculty members from the University of Central Arkansas’ six colleges shared their ideas of academic vitality at the first event of AVID Week Tuesday afternoon.

UCA has publicly dedicated itself to academic vitality, integrity and diversity — AVID — and is celebrating that commitment with AVID Week.

While academic vitality was the focus of the discussion, Assistant Professor and Director of the Gender Studies Program Taine Duncan pointed out that vitality works hand in hand with the other components of the mission statement — integrity and diversity.

“The idea of vitality means the enriching or enlivening our academic understanding, I think through methods related to diversity and integrity,” she said.

Patty Phelps, director of the Instructional Development Center and professor of teaching and learning in the College of Education, said teachers can maintain their vitality by continuing to pursue knowledge.

“If we reach a point where we feel like we have arrived as faculty, we know everything about our discipline, we know everything about how to teach, then I think we’ve lost our vitality,” she said.

Assistant Professor of Economics Thomas Snyder said there are many ways to achieve goals, which lends to different teaching and learning styles.

“I don’t think you could say, ‘This is the way to do it,’” he said. “If you told every golfer they should swing like Tiger Woods, most would do worse.”

Vitality thrives as learning extends beyond the classroom, said Steve Tucker, assistant professor and interim chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.

“I think that education is more than didactic learning in a classroom,” he said. “Taking notes, looking at Power Points, filling out Scantrons — that’s the basic information that you need to know, but there’s also the application of it.”

David Harvey, associate Professor in the mass communication and theater department, said he has also seen how vitality is preserved when students remain active in their field of study.

“That’s been a joy for me in mass communication, film and the theater program and journalism,” he said. “The students are so involved. They’re so involved outside of themselves and they’re so involved in the active creativity.”

When it comes to who is responsible for academic vitality, Krista Peppers, lecturer and Biology 1400 coordinator, said it isn’t really about enforcement.

“It’s difficult for me to imagine with either diversity or integrity or vitality the idea that somebody’s in charge of those things or enforcing those things,” she said. “Instead, I’m sure the hope is that those become a culture.”

AVID Week will continue Thursday at 11 a.m. with a student panel with psychologist Dr. Paul Wachtel about diversity and a discussion on integrity with Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Jim Hannah at 1:40 p.m. Both of these events will be held in the Student Center Ballroom.

(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at angela.spencer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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