Faculty fellows Cadavid and Muzyka lead conversations about creativity and diversity at Centre
In 2015, Centre College established the faculty fellows program, one element of Creative Centre, a long-term initiative meant to enhance and link creative and critical thinking in the classroom as part of the College’s quality enhancement plan (QEP).
Those faculty fellows lead campus discussions about creativity and its relationship to pedagogy at Centre and disseminate the results of those discussions to the campus community.
In the 2016-17 academic year, Stodghill Professor of Chemistry Jennifer Muzyka (above, left) is the Creative Thinking Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor of Philosophy Eva Cadavid (above, right) is the Diversity and Inclusion Faculty Fellow.
Jennifer Muzyka, Creative Thinking Faculty Fellow
As Creative Thinking Faculty Fellow, Muzyka is specifically looking at ways to integrate and assess creative thinking into Centre’s curriculum, as she believes that the concept of “creativity” is misinterpreted by many.
“I think understanding creativity could enhance the learning experience if we recognize that it is not just about artwork—it’s about everything we do,” she says. “We don’t have to do things the same way every time. Change is good, and we learn from new experiences.”
To develop an expertise in assessing creativity, Muzyka has utilized part of the fellowship’s enabling fund to pursue training, including at the Assessment Institute in Indianapolis at Indiana University. She has also maintained a blog about creativity and what she has learned about it.
Earlier in the academic year, Muzyka led a faculty and staff learning circle around the subject of creativity. Participants read and discussed books and scientific articles about the topic—how both to stoke creativity and to assess it, personally as well as in students.
Muzyka continues to facilitate collaborative learning opportunities on campus by bringing experts to Centre, including Charlotte Hamlin, who teaches in the textile design and fiber arts program at The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and will give a convocation on Thursday, Jan. 5 entitled “Peaks and Troughs: Plotting a Course to Creativity.” The convocation, on at 7 p.m. in the Vahlkamp Theatre of the Grace Doherty Library, is free and open to the public.
“[Hamlin] will also come and talk to and teach my class techniques about art,” Muzyka says, referring to the first-year CentreTerm course she developed and is currently teaching, “Creativity: Weaving Patterns.”
The course allows students to discuss creativity with one another and also to implement it in the act of weaving with fibers and beads. They will also complete projects that necessitate creative problem-solving, including one where they will design patterns that are aesthetically pleasing to people with various types of colorblindness.
Eva Cadavid, Diversity and Inclusion Faculty Fellow
As the Diversity and Inclusion Faculty Fellow, Cadavid will seek to understand the challenges and opportunities of incorporating lesser known topics, methodologies and authors into traditional courses as a means of diversifying the curriculum.
“My project is specifically about a pluralistic classroom, focusing on how we can make them more inclusive, safer spaces,” she says.
Cadavid hopes to not only encourage the creation of more diverse courses at Centre but also to make the content of those classes diverse as well—something she and her fellow philosophy professors have attempted to incorporate over the last few years.
“[Professor of Religion and Philosophy] David Hall and I have been working now in philosophy for two and a half years on diversity and inclusivity in the classroom,” she says. “For us, it’s a longterm research interest.”
The issue of diversifying subject matter in the classroom became important to Cadavid after coming to the realization that the not widely diverse content many students received in introductory courses gave those students a misrepresentation of the field of philosophy as a whole.
“Often in philosophy, professors teach the regular intro courses and do a separate class on feminism or race theory. That ghettoizes the philosophers doing those topics,” Cadavid explains, “and it makes the students think what we’re doing in introduction to philosophy is really philosophy and that those classes are not really dealing with the true questions philosophers deal with. The goal is to change the field to incorporate those theories and viewpoints in our everyday classes.”
Cadavid has been pleased to see already that many of her colleagues have begun to change this by incorporating new and different perspectives into their syllabi.
“Such a model removes stigma of ‘otherness’ often associated with topics and methodologies that are associated with underrepresented groups,” Cadavid says.
To facilitate these types of changes in all of the academic divisions, Cadavid will hold group discussions with other faculty members, including a learning community much like Muzyka’s. She also plans to bring in an expert to advise Centre faculty on approaches to incorporating diverse topics into the curriculum.
Also like Muzyka, Cadavid has looked to off-campus resources to expand her understanding of the subject, including attending an American Association of Colleges and Universities conference called “Diversity Learning and Student Success: Shifting Paradigms and Challenging Mindsets.” She hopes that the kind of projects she saw presented there can be replicated at Centre.
by Elizabeth Trollinger
January 4, 2017