Center for Faculty Development
Programs and Events

Past Candid Conversations

  • In 2011 the Center for Faculty Development piloted a new format for faculty events: candid conversations. These are intended to be relaxed, late-afternoon discussions where faculty can share their views and experiences on topics that may be more controversial or "hot" at the time. These facilitated conversations have less emphasis on current research, more on exploring the topic in its Seattle University context, with gentle moderation from the Center for Faculty Development.


    A dialogue with Sherman Alexie: Creating inclusive environments for Native American students - Winter 2015

    Co-sponsored by Dr. Christina Roberts, Program Director for Indigenous Initiatives at SU

    As SU faculty consider various approaches to "Inclusive Excellence," we also need to consider inequities in student success and how to close achievement gaps by creating opportunities for underrepresented students. Recent literature about Native American student success in higher education points to the importance of maintaining familial connections and a student's ability to function bi-culturally.

    So what resources do faculty need to make excellence inclusive of Native American, Alaska Native, and Indigenous students? How do we support these students toward success at Seattle University? Join local author Sherman Alexie in a candid conversation about working with Native American students.


    "Don't stand so close to me:" Managing boundaries in student-faculty interactions - Spring 2014

    A candid conversation facilitated by David Green

    On the face of it, boundaries may sound like a non-issue at SU, and yet we know from the associate deans that this is a hot topic on campus that can begin on either side of a studentfaculty interaction.

    These interactions cover a wide range, from using first names to taking a student for lunch to discuss a class issue, from texting between instructor and student to a faculty member adopting the role of counselor or social worker in an attempt to support a student.

    Inescapable power differentialswhere one individual grades the work of anotheradd a layer of complexity to these interactions, especially when SU faculty often feel a strong responsibility to get to know their students as part of the university's value of "care." Indeed the research on the importance of rapport for a positive learning environment would back up those efforts, but only up to a point.

    So where exactly does the dividing line lie? What difficulties might we unexpectedly find ourselves in? And what kinds of repercussions are colleges and schools reporting around the country?

    Infantilizing our students? Attendance, surveillance, and the degradation of learning - Winter 2014

    A candid conversation facilitated by David Green

    Many of us require attendance in our classes. We expect students to engage actively with the material and with one another. We check who has viewed pages on Canvas. We monitor online discussions for levels of contribution. And we often assign points for each of these as a carrot or introduce penalties as a stick.

    Why do we do this? Common reasons are that it is for the students’ own good, that it reflects our university’s value of “care,” and that it gives students practice for workplace professionalism.

    While these reasons may be valid, could the opposite be true at the same time? That by removing choice, we infantilize students, deny them agency and academic freedom, and thwart their chances of developing their own professionalism through trial and error? Or that by awarding points for everything students do, we perpetuate a point-chasing attitude more akin to high school, at the expense of higher learning in a post-compulsory setting?

    In this late-afternoon session, we’ll have the chance for a candid conversation over drinks and appetizers to discuss these troubling and paradoxical notions and to weigh up the many alternatives available to us.


    Presumed incompetent: The intersection of race and class for women in academia - Winter Quarter 2013

    A candid conversation with Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Associate Professor, Modern Languages & Cultures and Women & Gender Studies; and Carmen Gonzalez, Professor, School of Law

    Seattle University has a higher than average proportion of students from underrepresented groups, yet its faculty profile doesn't yet reflect that diversity. At many institutions, a gap exists between the "ideal" of faculty diversity and the actual experience of underrepresented faculty. Using the example of women of color as an entrée into the topic, this Candid Conversation creates space for an open dialogue about the daunting challenges faced by underrepresented faculty as they navigate the often hostile terrain of higher education.

    Editors of Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, PhD, and Carmen Gonzalez, JD, will facilitate the conversation. We'll discuss some of the concrete strategies offered in the book to help junior faculty thrive in academia and will hear some of the problems that they encountered with editing a book about difficult issues of the intersections of gender, race, and social class within the Academy.


    "Outcomes schmoutcomes" versus "Impressive objectives:" A candid conversation on Learning Outcomes Winter Quarter 2012

    Mere mention of the phrase "learning outcomes" – or "learning objectives" – can raise the hackles of many a faculty member throughout the English-speaking world. And yet the learning outcomes agenda and the discourse of outcomes assessment are fast permeating US higher education, driven in large part by the accrediting bodies that assure the quality of our degree programs. What pitfalls do we see and how do we sidestep them? What benefits might learning outcomes present and how do we capitalize on them? What can we learn from faculty experiences of the learning outcomes process in other countries? 


    A candid conversation on Grade Inflation – Winter Quarter 2011  

    "Grade inflation" has long been a hot topic on US campuses, and we hear it discussed at Seattle University, too. So to what extent is it a problem for the university, and how is it manifested here? Is grade inflation evidence of a humane educational environment that supports learners, the result of a sense of entitlement among students, a non-issue due to a mastery model in some SU courses, or a myth that needs to be dispelled?