Category Archives: Faculty Life


GeoGeeks Unite

On a sunny July day in San Diego, I happily found myself behind a computer surrounded by fellow Geographic Information System (GIS) educators.  Thanks to a Teaching Enhancement Grant from CATL, I attended the 2014 ESRI Education Conference (EdUC) and the general User Conference (UC).  For five days I honed my GIS technical skills while attending presentations on the skills needed for new GIS professionals, ESRI’s latest software offerings, spatial and computational thinking in higher education, and best practices in GIS education.

One of the main attractions of the EdUC is that it offers a vast array of technical training sessions.  These workshops offer hands-on training for a range of GIS topics and skill levels.  I attended many of the advanced skills sessions to finding new material for this spring’s PU EN AF 450: Advanced GIS class.  I am constantly on the lookout for what is “new and next” in the world of GIS. I want students graduating from UWGB with GIS experience to meet today’s demand for basic skills and be confident in emerging areas of digital display, multimedia integration, and web platforms.

Did I mention the training session rooms overlooked the pool area?

Did I mention the training session rooms overlooked the pool area?

With the help of the training sessions and user presentations, I am developing lab exercises and class material to introduce students in PU EN AF 450 to WebGIS.  Maps are no longer constrained to a printed page or a desktop computer.  We interact with maps on tablets and on our smartphones.  WebGIS allows you to build, collaborate, and interact with maps across devices and across organizations—an essential skill for students entering into a workforce centered on new media.

Part of my interest in attending this event was the chance to gain insight into interactive methodology for teaching GIS skills.  Teaching PU EN AF 250: Introduction to GIS can be a challenge.  Traditionally, student learn new skills through self-guided lab exercises.  This practice can be isolating and tedious for students and decrease student interaction.  I was disappointed to find most of ESRI’s technical skills training sessions to be more of the same, a short introductory lecture followed by a self-guided exercise.  I did gain some ideas from other educators in the sessions and from user presentations, but overall I was frustrated by what I felt was the absence of innovation in GIS teaching methods.  The lack of sufficient and substantive updated material available has inspired me to rethink, develop, and test new GIS teaching methods for a way to fill this pedagogical gap.


Throughout the EdUC and the UC, I was able to meet new GIS professionals and reconnect with old friends and colleagues.  Large-scale conferences with thousands of participants and vendors can be overwhelming and impractical for making contacts or having a productive experience.  The smaller meeting rooms and informal nature of training sessions promoted conversation and the exchange of successes and failures in classrooms around the country and world.  Additionally, the LARGE name tags provided by ESRI made for easy introductions—and chance meetings.  Before one of the EdUC plenary sessions I happened to walk by Martin Goettl of UWEC and Douglas Miskowiak of UWSP and my name tag caught their eyes.  It was great to meet more UW System GIS professionals and get networked into a larger support network.

I look forward to sharing the ideas and skills I acquired this summer with students taking GIS classes this fall and spring!

Thanks CATL!

Mike CrumRachel Russell,
Assistant Professor,
Environmental Planning and Policy

at the circus

Innovative Teaching & Cirque du Soleil

The Annual Conference for the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL) was held in Quebec City last month. I had the privilege during this conference to hear a plenary from Bernard Petiot who is the Vice-President for Casting and Performance for Cirque du Soleil. He spoke on the environment that welcomes creativity at Cirque du Soleil and Continue reading

QM Process

Hook, Line & Sinker at Quality Matters

“Charting the Course”, “Navigating the Currents of Change”, “Set Sail on a Course Tour”, “A Voyage through QM”.

The harbor-based puns (and subsequent groaning) came hard and fast at the 6th Annual Quality Matters Conference held in Baltimore, which I was lucky enough to attend and present at in September. The conference attracts faculty, designers and administrators from across the county to learn more about Quality Matters and it is a great opportunity for CATL to learn more about the process, share our progress and network with institutions with similar goals. Continue reading


Finding the right fit: integrating URSCA

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Workshop on integrating undergraduate research into faculty workload and tenure and promotion guidelines.  You may wonder, why would the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning be interested in this topic?  Continue reading

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. Continue reading