Category Archives: CATL Stuff

do work that matters

Why I Care

As a 2014 CATL faculty consultant I have spent a number of hours concerned with facilitating the development of our colleagues during their early years on campus. Those of us who have been at it for a while recognize the importance of mentoring our nouveau faculty. But in addition, I value the importance of faculty revitalization, as we all recognize that the intense 24/7 demands and politics of academic life have the potential for burnout. This is not an anecdotal observation—a search of the scholarship on faculty burnout yields pages of titles, from “Academic burnout: Faculty responsibility and institutional climate, “to “Emotional labor in American professors.” This burnout issue does not only exist on U.S. soil. There are studies from Turkey, China, the Netherlands, and Columbia. And then there was the opinion in the New York Times Sunday Review of May 30, 2014, entitled, “Why You Hate Work.” Authors Schwartz and Porath speak to many of us academics: they claim that our disenfranchisement with works stems from not feeling appreciated, finding it difficult to get anything done, and feeling as if our efforts do not make a difference anyway. Yet, we all know of faculty who have been on our campus for many years, whocontinue to remain enthusiastic and passionate about the teachinglearning process. What motivates them, especially when the tangible rewards are so meager? Why do they continue to care?

For this blog at the end of the 2014 spring semester, I reflect on my own journey from burnout to recommitment to my teaching. Why do I continue to care? For the most part, this journey juxtaposes the professional with the personal:

I actually have three major sources of inspiration for my teaching.

One source is my daughter Laura. Laura received her Master’s Degree in Student Affairs and Leadership from the University of St. Thomas on May 24th. So I actually had a second graduation to attend the week following UW-Green Bay’s. This time, I was the ridiculously proud parent in the audience. When the processional began, and that all-too-familiar “Pomp and Circumstance” accompanied the sea of caps, gowns, and hoods, I cried like a baby. The rituals were very familiar, the commencement address themes I have heard before. But I was there to honor my daughter as I was there to honor the graduating students of UW-Green Bay.

illene cupit

Laura and Illene

My teaching insight from Laura stems from her high school days. I remember once coming home from a full day of teaching, drained, and running on fumes. I also was fuming because my classes were not going well, students were not participating, and clearly were not connecting with me or the material. And so I whined to my child about “those students,” clearly placing the blame for the poor classroom chemistry on their shoulders. To which my daughter replied: “Mom—when you look at those rows of kids, they are me sitting there. And the reason why there are so many of them not responding to you is because, like me, they have a history of burnt out teachers who stopped caring about their students and their learning process. So if you feel that way, go and do something else and open the door for another teacher who does care. And if you do still care, picture me sitting in the back row.” Wow—it was an epiphanous moment—changing me forever as a teacher.

My second source of inspiration is my son, who currently holds the position of Director of Jazz Studies at Boise State University (sorry—I am a proud mother). Early on in Alex’s graduate studies, he made a shift from concentrating on being a performer on trumpet to being a teacher. It was a deliberate decision. Alex found that he loved teaching—must be something genetic. He was excited about helping students become the best musicians they possibly could, looking for solutions to technical problems, instilling musical maturity, and fostering a love for the art of making music. Alex and I have had many conversations about teaching, what students need, and what makes effective pedagogy. Although his teaching experiences are very different than mine, his enthusiasm, innovative ideas, and genuine concern that his students learn have influenced my own pedagogical techniques in countless ways. I cannot teach my students to play the trumpet, but I have had them journal about their learning process (an Alex idea), look for patterns in their learning (also an Alex idea), and keep on demanding excellence from my students (not unique to Alex, but we frequently talk about this). Most importantly, Alex reminds me that our careers are a gift because we get to do work that is meaningful to us.

Finally, it is my students at UW-Green Bay who have inspired me. Truly I hate it when I hear complaints about the current generation and their bored culture of self-indulgence and indolent materialism. All I see are students with lives complicated by demanding jobs and family, and a passion to create a meaningful existence. And for as long as I am able, I want to guide them through the process of discovery and help them to develop a thirst for life-long learning. If I can teach them that their education is more than just the degree, and that there are committed faculty who want to guide them along the way, then I will consider my days of teaching to be of value. It is why I continue to care.


In the New York Times article mentioned earlier, Schwartz and Porath specify that when four core needs are met people are happiest in their jobs. I am not certain I fulfill all four, which involve opportunities to renew and recharge (alas the summer is too short), feeling valued and appreciated (although I often get wonderful letters of gratitude from my students), opportunities for mental focus (too often I feel like a scatterbrain here in my office) and feeling connected to a higher purpose at work. Ah—the last one is what keeps me going. I hope that I am not totally delusional, but I do believe that I have made a difference through my work with my students. And I certainly feel that is true of my incredible colleagues.

Happy Summer!

Illene CupitIllene Cupit,
Professor, Human Development
Faculty Consultant


The Freshman Five

Over 25 staff, faculty and students met recently to talk about the Rebekah Nathan’s ethnographical book My Freshman Year, the CATL Book Club selection for Spring 2014. With discussions led by Professor Denise Bartell of the GPS program, participants talked about Nathan’s insights into the Freshman experience. While the discussion and the reading led to many considerations, here are were my top takeaways! Continue reading


Don’t be the 71%

By the time you are standing in front of a classroom of students, ready to teach for the first time, you have probably spent at least 20 years on the other side of the lectern. You have sat through years of wonderful, inspired teaching, and probably an equal amount of less than exhilarating lectures. You have taken hundreds of tests, submitted literally tons of homework and skipped months of classes. You stand there with the benefit of an ‘Apprenticeship of Observation’[1] having become an expert in teaching through exposure.

Did you feel as prepared the first time you taught an online class?

Continue reading

American Gothic

The History of CATL

In 2008 the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (CATL) was officially formed. CATL was established in response to a recommendation made by the Task Force on Teaching Evaluation in fall 1998, a Faculty Development Council proposal submitted to the Academic Affairs Team in spring 1999, the recommendation of the Comprehensive Academic Program Review Task Force in fall 2006, and the receipt of initial funding to support the Center through the UW-Green Bay Growth Initiative.  Continue reading

Professor Advising Students

How hard is advising?

When I was first starting out as a professor students would ask me questions I just found ridiculous. Like, did they need to take a particular art history course. I thought, geez, take what the catalogue tells you to take! I didn’t always comprehend that a major or minor could have options, there could be confusion, and that the students themselves maybe didn’t know who else to ask those questions of. No, I thought, as the professor, their questions for me should be strictly limited to class content! Everything else was, “See your advisor.” And the advisor was never going to be me. Continue reading

Simpsons, Spring Break

Spring OPID Meeting

While the weather outside did not feel like Spring, the recent Office of Professional and Instructional Development (OPID) Council meeting focused on exciting Spring programming that is available to faculty across the UW System.  I wanted to take this opportunity to give you a little background on OPID, as well as share with you some of the programs OPID offers that, perhaps, you might this year (or in the near future) like to get involved in. Continue reading

Signature by Flickr user Losinpun

Have you written lately?

I was sitting down with my undergraduate research assistants today to discuss current data we needed to analyze and it became amazing that there were some very interesting trend emerging.  We didn’t get the entire analysis complete, but we got a nice start to it.  Luckily I didn’t have to sigh after they left and wonder when I will next get to working on that project…I already know: Thursday at 9am at our Encouraging Writing Group. Continue reading


Students Do What With Pencils and Bottles?

Cheating never crossed my mind when I was a student. Not once while in grade school, high school or college.  In my mind you don’t cheat, you just don’t go there.  In fact, my sophomore year in high school I walked into my health class and saw there were numbers with associated letters written in pencil on the desk.  I freaked out! Were these the answers to that day’s quiz?  I could not have erased them fast enough! Continue reading

Whistling Vivaldi

Bookclub Review: Whistling Vivaldi

Every semester, CATL sponsors a bookclub to discuss books that broadly impact teaching, learning and life on campus. Fall 2013 saw an invested group of faculty and staff discussing Whistling Vivaldi, an insider’s view into Claude M. Steele’s research and groundbreaking findings on stereotypes and identity. Dr. Gaurav Bansal offered this review of the book.

In Whistling Vivaldi Claude Steele describes that no one is immune from the threat or fear of being stereotyped – that is the fear of what other people could think about us solely because of our race, gender, age, etc. Claude talks about the series of creative experiments he has carried out where he deliberately induced or cleverly removed the stereotype threat. The book shows that the fear of being stereotyped hinders our performance – and it affects each group differently. It affects African Americans on test of intellectual abilities, as it hinders the Math performance of female students among others. The findings presented in this book unearth the powerful and prevalent ways in which group identity affects us all. Every one of us is part of some group affected by negative perceptions and stereotype threats. The awareness of this commonality should help us reconcile with the experiences of others around us.

Copies of Steele’s book are available from the CATL library in IS1144. Interested in suggesting a book or joining us for the Spring Bookclub? Email us at