A Plethora of Riches

So, let me start by noting that this kind of post is not typical.  People don’t generally write these kind of posts. And, frankly, there are good reasons for that. And yet, here I am writing it.  I’ll explain why shortly.

But let’s start with the context.  I’ve been working as the Special Assistant to the Provost for Teaching, Technology, and Innovation at the University of Mary Washington since April of 2014.  It’s a great job where I get to be a faculty member (a Professor of History and American Studies) half time and the rest of the time oversee our Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation, our Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, our recently created (but thoroughly awesome) Digital Knowledge Center, and one of the coolest student-centered buildings in academia, the Information & Technology Convergence Center (now named after our current president, the Hurley Convergence Center). Although we’ve seen turnover this past year in DTLT (no year when you lose Tim Owens, Ryan Brazell, Andy Rush, Jim Groom, and Lisa Ames can be all good), we’ve also done some amazing hiring, bringing in Jess Reingold, Jesse Stommel, and Lee Skallerup Bessette, and soon Nigel Haarstad, with another superb new colleague soon to be announced.  They are creative, terrific, brilliant people who have joined Martha Burtis, Mary Kayler, Leah Tams, Amanda Rutstein, Cartland Berge, Roberta Gentry, and Zach Whalen in the Teaching, Technology, and Innovation Unit.

So, despite these changes (in fact, partly because of them), I wasn’t looking for a new job.  And yet, one came looking for me.  A search firm contacted me late last fall about a new position at a Research 1 University at the Vice Provost level.  I’m a big fan of this school, having worked for many years with great people there.  The job is a new position that brings together a number of elements that exist at a university that is clearly on the move, clearly on its way upward, clearly at the forefront of the struggle over the soul of higher education.  And after an application and an initial interview with the search committee, I was a finalist for the position with an on-campus interview.  Now, I know that I’m operating from a place of remarkable privilege, a privilege that so many other academics have not and do not have.  I have a full-time position and I love my job, one that has tenure and a good salary and terrific colleagues, and I’m fortunate enough to have developed a reputation within the discipline that has allowed me to travel around the country giving workshops on digital history, digital humanities, and digitally enabled pedagogy, as well as editing a section of a leading journal for one major organization on digital history projects, and leading a digital history working group for another major professional organization.  Most importantly, I applied for this job knowing that I loved the position that I’m currently in with no risk of losing that position if it didn’t work out.

Yesterday, about a month after my on-campus interview, I found out that I am no longer being considered for the position, that they have offered the job to someone else.

Now we get to the point about why posts like this are unusual.  Typically people don’t talk about these positions when they don’t get them, in part because they don’t want people at their current job to know that they were willing to consider leaving, in part because they are worried that they might be embarrassed by not getting the job, in part because they are worried about what the people at the job they applied for will think about them, and in part because they worry about how people at potential future jobs might view someone who talks about the often-closed search process.  These are very good reasons not to talk about jobs for which you have applied but not been selected.

So, why am I doing so?  I spend a great deal of time telling my students that they should create a digital identity that reveals who they are, that makes it clear what they want to do and be, that claims boldly what they believe in and what they want to do, and that acknowledges (even celebrates) failures or incomplete paths as part of the learning and development process.  I was unsuccessful in applying for this job; now what have I learned from it?

You know what I’ve learned? That I’m glad. [Now, I know that it’ll be easy for people who don’t know me to dismiss this as simply me settling, or me rationalizing not getting a job.  To them, I’ll just say, “That’s a reasonable point of view given the evidence you have, and you’re wrong.”]  I’m really happy I didn’t get this job, and not because I have anything against the school to which I applied, but because I’m convinced that I already have an important contribution to make, that I have an amazing team to work with, that I have colleagues who value what matters in higher education right now where I am right now.  [Let’s be clear: there was much to attract me to the school I applied to, and not just the increased money and significant promotion.  It was a chance to work on a different stage, as part of a school that is often mentioned in conversations about higher education. And there were great, terrific colleagues there to work with as well.]  But in the end, as I thought about the two positions in the weeks after the on-campus interview, I increasingly realized that UMW was the place where I wanted to be, a place where I was able to make a bigger difference, a place where my students continue to inspire me every day, a place where my team, my colleagues, and even my incoming president shared the values that I believe in, a place that keeps the focus on students, that believes that a liberal arts education is the best foundation for a changing world, that integrates digital tools into that liberal arts education better than almost any school in the nation (and has earned a national reputation and big grants for doing so), that balances teaching and learning and research and service and community in ways that represent one incredibly valuable path for higher education over the next few decades.

So, today, I’m incredibly glad to be at the University of Mary Washington with my colleagues and my friends and my students.

Terrific News for UMW’s Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies

I am so excited to have been able to send the following announcement to the UMW community.

It is with great pleasure that I announce the hiring of Dr. Lee Skallerup Bessette as an Instructional Technology Specialist and of Dr. Jesse Stommel as the Executive Director of DTLT.

Lee Skallerup Bessette is coming to us from the University of Kentucky, where she worked as a Faculty Instructional Consultant at the Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching. Previous to her time at UK, she had taught at various regional, public institutions in three different states. Originally from Montreal, Canada, she holds a PhD in Comparative Literature, where her research interests include translation and canon formation, but her first love has always been teaching. She blogs and writes about teaching, pedagogy, technology, and higher education more generally on her blog, College Ready Writing, which is housed at Insidehighered.com. She also is a contributor at ProfHacker, and has written for Hybrid Pedagogy, Women in Higher Education, and Educating Modern Learners. You can also find her on Twitter as @readywriting. Currently, Lee is interested in networked learning and student-centered pedagogy, which includes the unconference format for learning and professional development, as well as technology enhanced collaborative spaces.  She will start November 10.

Jesse Stommel is Founding Director of Hybrid Pedagogy: a digital journal of learning, teaching, and technology and Co-founder of Digital Pedagogy Lab. He is an advocate for pedagogy and the public digital humanities. He has worked in faculty development in various ways since 2003. He has held faculty positions at University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marylhurst University, a liberal arts institution in Portland, OR. Jesse is also a documentary filmmaker and has taught courses about American literature, film, and new media. He experiments relentlessly with learning interfaces, both digital and analog, and works in his research and teaching to emphasize new forms of collaboration. He’s got a rascal pup, Emily, and two clever cats, Loki and Odin. He can be found online at www.jessestommel.com and on Twitter @Jessifer. He will start October 12.

Please welcome them to the UMW community.

Jesse and Lee join Martha Burtis and Lisa Ames, as well as another recent (and terrific) hire, Jess Reingold, to form a powerful team to work with students and faculty at Mary Washington in integrating technology into teaching and learning.  They join the other members of the Teaching, Technology, and Innovation Unit (CTE&I‘s Mary Kayler, the ITCC‘s Cartland Berge, and Leah Tams, as well as Faculty Fellows Roberta Gentry and Zach Whalen) in a group that makes me excited and proud to come to work each day.


Changes and New Opportunities for UMW’s DTLT

Changes are often hard, but they can also be opportunities for an academic unit to grow and develop in new ways.  That’s the case for UMW’s Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies right now.  Tim Owens and Jim Groom will be leaving DTLT this summer (Tim) and fall (Jim) to pursue Reclaim Hosting, their company that provides hosting services to the academic market. Ryan Brazell just left to take a position at the University of Richmond.  We will miss all of them greatly (though it looks like Jim and Tim may continue to be affiliated with UMW in other ways going forward).

While it will be impossible to replace exactly what these three have brought to UMW and DTLT in particular and ed-tech at the higher-ed level in general, we are fortunate to be able to announce three position openings at DTLT to join Lisa Ames, Martha Burtis, and Andy Rush, as well as the other members of UMW’s Teaching, Technology, and Innovation Unit (of which DTLT is a part).

1) Executive Director of DTLT — [Full posting and application information: https://careers.umw.edu/postings/2950 ]

The Director of the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies leads DTLT, supports and partners with faculty and colleagues in the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT), the Center for Teaching Excellence & Innovation, the Department of Information Technology (DoIT), and the University Libraries in the integration of information technologies and digital media into the teaching and learning environment, and provides leadership for the effective and innovative use of information technologies and digital media to the larger University community, particularly within academic and research contexts. [This position reports to the Special Assistant to the Provost for Teaching, Technology, and Innovation (me).]

2) Instructional Technology Specialist — [Full posting and application information: http://careers.umw.edu/postings/2980 — This link is correct, though this job won’t be posted until later this week.  UPDATE: This job is now posted too.]

The Instructional Technology Specialist (ITS) will work closely with faculty and colleagues in the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT), the Center for Teaching Excellence & Innovation, the Department of Information Technology (DoIT), and the University Libraries to explore the use of information technologies to augment teaching, learning, and research at the University, with a particular focus on designing, developing, and managing projects growing out of UMW’s academic departments and programs. The ITS will also contribute tactical and strategic perspective to the development of the University’s vision of effective use of technologies in teaching and learning. [This position reports to the Executive Director of DTLT and is intended for someone with a fair amount of experience in education technology and faculty development.]

3) Entry-Level Instructional Technology Specialist — [Full posting and application information: https://careers.umw.edu/postings/2964 ]

The Entry-Level Instructional Technology Specialist position involves the following responsibilities: Collaborate with faculty and colleagues in the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT), the Center for Teaching Excellence & Innovation, the Department of Information Technology (DoIT), and the University Libraries, and assist with the integration of instructional technology and information resources into teaching, learning, and research at the University; assist faculty in the evaluation of discipline-specific software and technologies; engage in individual and collaborative professional research about the general landscape of technology for teaching and learning; assist in exploring new instructional technologies for the UMW campus community; serve as an advocate for the effective and innovative use of information instructional technologies and digital media, particularly within academic and research contexts. [This position reports to the Executive Director of DTLT and is intended for someone with limited–but some–experience in education technology and faculty/student/staff development.  We currently envision this as a position for which recent grads especially might be interested in applying.]

If you or anyone you know is interested in any of these positions, please contact me, or the chairs of the ITS (Martha Burtis) and Entry-Level ITS (Lisa Ames) search committees before the July 1 application deadlines.



Teaching, Technology, Innovation Faculty Fellows

I sent out this email to all UMW Faculty earlier today.  I’m excited to see what kinds of ideas and programs develop when we embed a couple of UMW’s great faculty members in the Teaching, Technology, and Innovation unit.  It’s part of a number of changes happening over the next few months in the unit, and I hope to share more on those soon.


During the 2015-2016 school year, the Teaching, Technology, and Innovation Unit is starting a new TTI Fellows program, building on the success of the Faculty Fellows Program in Academic and Career Services and the DSI Faculty Fellows program of the Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation.  The two TTI Fellows will work closely throughout the 2015-2016 school year with CTE&I, the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies, and the Special Assistant to the Provost for Teaching, Technology, and Innovation on issues related to digitally related faculty development and teaching excellence.

Specific responsibilities and work will vary depending on the background of the particular faculty member, but in this first year the unit is particularly interested in two areas of focus: 1) creating a broad-ranging set of approaches to help UMW faculty develop online or hybrid courses and 2) developing innovative and creative uses of technology in teaching, research, or service.  Both are core areas of interest for TTI more generally, and active intense collaboration with two faculty members will strengthen the work of the unit and the opportunities for faculty members at UMW.  The general expectation is that fellows will contribute several hours of work each week during the fall and spring semesters, participate in regular TTI staff meetings, work on a project related to the area of focus, and offer at least two faculty workshops over the course of the year.

The TTI Fellows program is open to any member of the full-time teaching faculty. Compensation will involve an $8000 stipend (payable over the academic year) and it is expected that the fellow will serve for the full academic year.

If you are interested in being considered to serve in such a role, please send a letter addressing your interest in working with either of the two main areas to me (jmcclurk@umw.edu) by July 1. Your letter should include specific ideas for projects and workshops you might offer in that area. A review committee made up of the Director of CTE&I, a representative from DTLT, & me will consider applications in the context of the needs of TTI.  Our goal would be for the Fellows to be in place by August 24.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to further discuss this opportunity.


Jeff McClurken
Professor of History & American Studies
Special Assistant to the Provost for Teaching, Technology, and Innovation

Updates on the Convergence Center

So, 8 weeks after the ITCC opened, I decided it was (past) time for an update to students, faculty, and staff about what was going on in the building and was still to come.  This is the email that went out to Faculty and Staff.

To:  UMW Faculty and Staff
From: Jeff McClurken, on behalf of the Information and Technology Convergence Center User’s Group
Subject: Update on the Convergence Center

The Convergence Center has been open for two months now and hundreds of students (& faculty and staff) have already taken (or taught) classes there, walked across the bridge to the library, had coffee at Blackstone’s, charged devices while sitting on the powered lobby furniture, taken a spin in the famous red chairs on the 4th floor, held meetings in one of the conference rooms, reserved a collaboration space or room online, tried out the computers in the training lab or in the lobby, visited one of the many student support centers, and studied in the numerous niches around the ITCC.  Last week the new Digital Knowledge Center (like the Writing and Speaking Centers, but for digital class projects) began accepting appointments with its student tutors. [For those who are interested, Director Martha Burtis recently wrote about the creation of the Center.]  

Starting today the multimedia editing room with vocal recording booth opens on the first floor (accessible to all students via the EagleOne card).  In the weeks and months to come, the building will offer new opportunities, from checking out digital equipment at the Information Desk, to the opening of an Advanced Media Production Studio and the Digital Auditorium, to the unveiling of the Library’s Digital Archiving Lab and Digital Gallery on the third floor near the bridge.  Keep an eye as well on the Digital Media Wall in the lobby of the ITCC as we begin to display more student-created digital media projects.

If you have any questions about the Convergence Center’s resources, policies, hours, options, and opportunities for students, faculty, and staff, or simply want to keep up to date on what’s new in the building, check out the newly launched website, http://convergence.umw.edu.  You can also ask any of the student aides who work in the building about what is here and how to use it, especially those staffing the Information Desk found as you enter the building from Campus Walk.

See you soon!

A Day in the Life of a SAPTTI

I haven’t written much about my new job as Special Assistant to the Provost for Teaching, Technology, and Innovation (SAPTTI), in part because it has kept me quite busy, especially since it is “only” a half-time position (meaning I’m still teaching two courses each semester).  But today I had a day that involved many of the aspects of this new position that I deeply enjoy, and I wanted to share them, both for my own sake, and for others to get a sense of what a position like this one entails.

At various points today, I was involved in the following activities (in no particular order, since many of them overlapped):

  • Collaboratively planning a new First-Year Seminar–“Beyond the Selfie: Exploring Digital Identities”–with an amazing team of faculty and staff from multiple disciplines to be taught in the Fall of 2015.
  • Sitting a shift at the Convergence Center Information Desk where I saw over a hundred students, faculty, and alums (it’s Homecoming Weekend) walk in to go to class, to hang out in the chairs, to study (on a Friday!) in the collaboration spaces, to meet with people from the Help Desk, Writing Center, Speaking Center, Center for Teaching Excellence & Innovation, and just to check out the building.
  • Reviewing with the ITCC building contractor and UMW’s project inspector the myriad of small things that continue to be revised in any new building.
  • Collaboratively hacking out a grant proposal with several of people I work with in UMW’s stellar Teaching and Learning Technologies unit (DTLT).  It has the potential to be an amazing partnership involving faculty, students, and some terrific people outside UMW as well. [And yes, I’m going to leave it that vague for now.  Hopefully we’ll be able to brag about it later.]
  • Finishing up one of the last duties of my life as department chair, a duty that reinforced for me how great the faculty are in my home Department of History and American Studies; they are a gifted group of scholar-teachers.
  • Swapping strategies on framing a proposal a number of people from various departments have been working on for a new major in Communication and Digital Studies.
  • Discussing evolving student projects from my classes on US History and Film and History of the Information Age, reminding me how creative and impressive our students are capable of being.  [More about these as they get further along….]
  • Writing up an email to UMW students about the resources currently available in the Convergence Center, the new ones coming on line (including our Multimedia Editing Lab) and the features still to come, like our Digital Auditorium and Production Studio.
  • Working to finish up the process of adding an important final piece to the people who make the ITCC go, a part-time Building and Digital Auditorium Manager.
  • Reviewing questions for a survey of students to assess their interest in digitally enabled learning of all forms, their digital fluency, and their experiences using technology in learning.  [A survey built and to be run, in part, by UMW students.]  This survey results will be a key set of data as I work with others on a digital learning strategy for UMW this year.

Finally, toward the end of the day, I walked by the brand new Digital Knowledge Center where I saw students working one-on-one with other students to learn how to use digital tools in their classes.  This idea, first proposed by a number of us in 2011, has finally happened. [And founding Director Martha Burtis has a wonderful description of that new academic resource that you should read.]

At so many points today I was surrounded by smart, thoughtful, creative, gifted people, all teachers and learners (despite their titles of student, faculty, staff, administrator, director, or whatever).  Laughter abounded, ideas blossomed, learning happened.

What is the day in the life of a Special Assistant?  Well, this one was pretty good, but frankly, on the whole, most of them are.