Welcome to our December edition of “What’s happening at UCAT?” While December can be a busy month in terms of grading and administering final exams, we hope you are also looking forward to a relaxing break and some time for restoration. This post will highlight some upcoming events in December and January and also include some staff recommendations for reading and relaxing this winter.  Be sure to read all the way to the end of this post to enter our final book giveaway for 2018!

Reading and Relaxation

We polled our UCAT staff about their reading plans over break as well as their plans to relax.

Alan Kalish, Director

“My professional reading over break is mostly catching up on journals. The only book currently on my agenda is Haras, C., Taylor, S.C., Sorcinelli, M.D., & von Hoene, L. (2017). Institutional commitment to teaching excellence: Assessing the impacts and outcomes of faculty development. Washington DC: ACE – American Council on Education. [The PDF is available online.]

As for relaxation – dog and cat time, and board games with friends (Clank in Space, and Russian Railroads are at the top of my lists, but we’ll see what comes along).”

Sarah Holt, Instructional Consultant

“Reading for pleasure is something no one in academia gets enough of. One of my favorite holiday traditions is to read a literary classic with my husband during the weeks of winter break. No annotations, no lesson planning, no critical analysis required. Sometimes we take turns reading out loud to each other at night while we wrap presents or prep dinners. Other years we indulge in an audio book for the car while we drive to visit family. Over the years we’ve gotten to know a lot of famous literary characters and they’ve felt like companions for our holiday celebrations.

If taking a break from academic literature is part of your winter break self-care, you may appreciate Texts From Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg as much as I do. These short, witty exchanges between characters from many classic texts are prefect for dipping in for a few minutes while you wait for the coffee to brew or the pie to cool. Seeing these men, women, (and monsters) through the lens of modern text messages is a fresh take on old stories, and you’ll be making text to life connections between The Great Gatsby and your drunk great-aunt like never before.

Of course, even when I’m reading for pleasure, I’m still always thinking about teaching. Getting our students to write from a character’s perspective, or asking them to re-write an interaction in a new genre is a powerful way for them to demonstrate an understanding of theme, character, place, and voice. Ortberg’s book was a joy to read, but it also reminds me of some of the innovative ways teachers use writing in higher ed. Students can become characters on Twitter, for example, or give a fallible narrator advice. This could even be applied to non-fiction “characters” such as theorists and historical figures. Imagine the text exchanges between Huxley and Wilberforce or Freud and Popper!

Whether it inspires you to try a new classroom activity or just gives you a deserved break from close reading, Texts from Jane Eyre is great winter reading for anyone who appreciates an irreverent take on the literary cannon.”



Carly Martin, Graduate Consultant

“I just read Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie and would definitely recommend it for winter break reading!

Over winter break, I like to bake different kinds of cookies – gingerbread, candy cane, and of course sugar cookies for decorating with friends and family!  I also like going on walks outside, either in my neighborhood or in the woods. It’s not too cold here around the holidays, and it’s especially festive to walk around when there’s a little snow on the ground!


Upcoming Events

While December is a quiet month around UCAT as we prepare for the upcoming year, we do have a few events on the schedule. We also have a number of events lined up for January and we encourage you to pre-register for these or mark your calendars.

  • UCAT is facilitating Course Design Institutes this month. Selections were recently made from our applicant pool. Our next Course Design Institutes begin in January—one for designing a face-to-face course, and one for designing a fully-online course. Please read our blog post about Course Design Institutes for more information.

We will also continue with our GTA Toolkit breakfasts in January. At these sessions, we will provide breakfast and coffee for all participants to enjoy while we chat about teaching in a relaxed, supportive environment. To read more about our past STAR Breakfasts, please browse these takeaway posts from participants about Active Learning and Student Feedback.

Book Giveaway

We are delighted to announce a book giveaway contest for the month of December! This month we will be giving away a copy of Lee, Amy, et. al. (2017). Teaching Interculturally: A Framework for Integrating Disciplinary Knowledge and Intercultural Development. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing. [Amazon]

Amy Lee, Robert Poch, Mary Katherine O’Brien and Catherine Solheim wrote this book to lay out a pedagogical framework for allowing a diversity of voices and experiences to emerge in the classroom. The basis of their intercultural pedagogy holds that all students bring specific experiences and backgrounds to the class that informs their work and their learning. By implementing certain practices in the classroom, instructors can draw on these diverse perspectives to create an inclusive, student-centered learning environment.

The first part of their book explains the concept of intercultural pedagogy and offers advice for “unlearning” teaching practices that may not promote inclusivity. This part of the book also establishes the rationale for using an intercultural approach and considers how this approach could lessen the achievement gap in classrooms. The second part of the book considers case studies from Robert Poch and Catherine Solheim, respectively a professor of Higher Education and a professor of Family Science. Each of these authors describes how they began using intercultural pedagogies in their classrooms and offers reflections on activities and practices that did and did not work.

Teaching Interculturally has been designed for individual readers and communal readings. Discussion questions are interspersed throughout the text, making it ideal for small group learning and discussion or individual reflection. It is a useful text for any instructor hoping to center more student voices in his/her classroom.

To enter, click this button, and answer a few easy questions about your teaching.


We look forward to reviewing your entries for the book giveaway contest.  Good luck!

The UCAT staff wishes everyone a safe, restful break, and we look forward to seeing you in the new year!