By Grace Woo
In April of 2015, the position “Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning” was created and offered to Diane Bunce, a Chemistry professor who taught at the Catholic University of America for thirty years. However, Bunce chose to resign in mid-July of the same year.
The goal of the new Vice Provost’s office was to “improve and maintain the quality of teaching and learning at The Catholic University” said Bunce.
Bunce was interested in utilizing the University’s faculty to research the difficulties students encounter and effectively intervene to better both the learning experience of the students and the teaching experiences of the faculty, graduate teachers, and post-doctorial fellows.
The genesis of this project can be found five years ago in the University’s report to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Every ten years, many institutes of higher learning perform thorough self-evaluations in order to gain the approval of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education organization, which reviews and evaluates hundreds of universities. One of the many proposed improvements was a Center for Teaching Excellence.
In April of 2015, the Interim Provost, the Very Reverend Mark Morozowich, set into motion the plans to realize this goal. Bunce was offered the newly created Vice Provost position, and in May 2015 she accepted the job.
Bunce then began setting out a five-year plan for the Teaching Center with the Interim Provost. Bunce, who earned the title of the “Patrick O’Brian Chemistry Scholar” during her time teaching at Catholic University, began to devise concrete plans for improving and refining the teaching skills of the educators on campus.
When the new Provost, Andrew Abela, took office on June 1, he reevaluated the direction of University improvements. Abela had not been involved in the planning meetings between Vice Provost Bunce and Interim Provost Reverend Morozowich.
“The activities for the Center are on hold until we are able to identify a source of funds for it,” said Abela.
Bunce decided to resign from her position in mid July and retire from the University as well.
Bunce was not the only one disappointed in the new direction the Provost chose to pursue. Phillip Henderson, a First Year Experience LC instructor and English graduate student, feels lucky in his department but concerned for his fellow teachers. “Between FYE and the training in the English Department, I’m fairly taken care of,” explained Henderson.
Henderson’s specific position in the University allows him access to a variety of resources. However, he is concerned that the situation is “worse for non-FYE teachers.”
Other faculty members also expressed their concerns. An emphasis on teaching quality and a concerted effort to maintain excellence is what makes a university great, and also what makes its reputation.
Reputation draws committed undergraduates, dedicated faculty, and scholarly graduate students. If Catholic University cannot sustain a competitive level of teaching, it will continue to lose students and faculty to other institutions that are proactively committed to cultivating academic excellence. It has become a common practice for institutes of higher learning to establish centers like Bunce’s proposed office. Those new to teaching can gain confidence in their skills, and established professors can stay up to date on new teaching technologies.
There are no current plans to restart the Teaching Center project at this time.