CARPE News #15

Hello, all:

I hope this finds you well and finding some way to get out and enjoy the beautiful spring weather. This week’s newsletter is very short, with just two items.

First, we’re pleased to announce a Faculty/Staff Summer Book Club. We’ll be reading Cathy N. Davidson’s THE NEW EDUCATION: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux. While Davidson’s book, which came out in 2017, obviously has implications for the current crisis, it also offers an opportunity to step back, take a deep breath, and look at the big picture: where are we now in higher education? How did we get here? And what opportunities do we have to really rethink higher ed in terms both large and small? How might doing so improve our students’ lives, our careers, and the world more broadly?

The book club will meet six times over the course of the summer (see dates below) and will be run seminar style, with different participants leading the conversation each time. Participation will be capped at 20, but we’ll keep a waist list and if enough demand occurs consider starting a second cohort.

Interested? Please e-mail me directly at

Once you’ve signed up, books will be ordered and delivered to your campus office. If you live outside of Rockbridge County and aren’t coming into your office, let me know and we’ll make arrangements to have a copy sent to your home.

Dates for the book club are as follows. All sessions are on Wednesdays from 3:30-5:00 (Participants are encouraged to bring their own refreshments!) While we understand that not all participants will be able to make all sessions, we do encourage those who sign up to commit to as many sessions as possible.

  • May 27
  • June 10
  • June 17
  • July 1
  • July 8
  • July 22

At this point, all sessions will be virtual, though we recognize the possibility that that may change. Similarly, should some miracle occur lifting us out of the current crisis, we recognize that vacation plans may change and some dates may need to be shifted to facilitate maximum participation.

Second, I wanted to recommend an episode of Teaching in Higher Ed exploring work/life balance. While this podcast, hosted by Bonni Stachowiack is generally excellent, this particular episode, in which she interviews organization psychologist Andrew Stenhouse, really stands out. Over the course of a 30-minute conversation, Stenhouse offers multiple ways to reframe how we think about the relationship between our work and our lives outside of work. It’s an excellent listen, one that allows all of us to walk away with some powerful ways to rethink our own lives, particularly in the current moment.

And that’s all for now. Be well, folks!

CARPE News #14

Hello, everyone:

I hope this finds everyone well, and that those who are teaching Spring Term have had a smooth transition–and those of you who are not teaching Spring Term are not gloating in the company of those who are!

At this point, the CARPE mailing will be officially transitioning from crisis mode to newsletter mode, essentially providing folks with information about events and opportunities related to teaching and learning and our work in the liberal arts more generally. If you have materials you’d like to see included in these mailings, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’ll do my best to include as much information as possible, space and time permitting. Preference will go to anything even vaguely funny, because we need that right now.

Many thanks, all. Please be well.



1) Spring Term course design resources
2) Mays Imad on trauma-informed teaching
3) Remote Teaching While Introverted (an essay)
4) Two webinars on ensuring inclusion in virtual instruction
5) Two articles on raising our game in virtual instruction
6) Danielle Allen on how we can safely and ethically re-open our country and the economy
7) A gentle (and uplifting) reminder of the power of the liberal arts
8) Your weekly dose of faculty brilliance, courtesy of Lynn Rainville

  1. Spring Term course design resources
    If you’re teaching a Spring Term course but weren’t able to take part in last week’s truncated course design workshop, you can still access videos, powerpoints, links, and other resources.
  2. Mays Imad on trauma-informed teaching
    I’ve referenced Mays Imad’s work before. A neuroscientist, bio-ethicist, and survivor of the first U.S. invasion of Iraq, Imad is uniquely qualified to address issues of teaching in a moment of trauma. Her work is compelling, so much so, in fact, that her recent webinar had nearly 2,500 attendees. If you’re interested in learning more about her work, we have access to a recording of this session, courtesy of Alessandra Del Conte Dickovick. In order to view the webinar, you’ll need to enter the password: trauma372. This video will only be available for 30 days.
  3. Remote Teaching While Introverted (an essay)
    If you haven’t yet come across the work of “Geeky Pedagogue” Jessamyn Neuhaus, you’re in for a treat: Neuhaus is unapologetic about embracing an introverted lifestyle that celebrates all things geek. This piece on remote instruction from an introvert’s perspective is gracious, funny, and wonderfully practical. If you give this piece a read and enjoy it, let me know: I’ve been thinking about forming a reading group around Neuhaus’s book, and wouldn’t mind some input.
  4. Two webinars on ensuring inclusion in virtual instruction
    Creating course structures and classroom practices that are truly inclusive is always difficult–and going virtual doesn’t make it any easier. For all who are interested, there are two webinars in the next week addressing this issue. The first is by Kelly Hogan and Viji Sathy, UNC-Chapel Hill scholars who visited W&L last fall. Their session is sponsored by the Chronicle of Higher Education and takes place tomorrow, Friday, 1 May at 2pm EST.The second webinar is sponsored by the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) and takes place on Thursday, 7 May, from 2-3:00 PM.
  5. Two articles on raising our game in virtual instruction
    I hesitate even mentioning the next two resources because I don’t want to assume that we’ll still be virtual come fall. That said, I’m aware that faculty at W&L are intent on providing high-quality education, whatever the circumstances, so here goes:The first piece is from a few years back and asks four scholars who’ve authored books about online instruction for their top tips. It’s a quick and informative read, offering some ideas that might also apply to face-to-face instruction.

    The second piece engages in a thought experiment: are there ways that we can make virtual instruction better than face-to-face–even for small residential colleges? It’s a provocative argument, and worth the read.

  6. Danielle Allen on how we can safely and ethically re-open our country and the economy
    This link comes from Ken Lambert, professor of computer science, and features Danielle Allen of Harvard, discussing what it will take to return both our country and our economy to “normal.” Allen’s talk does a nice job of clarifying how COVID-19 is, finally, a problem that requires liberal arts thinking, drawing in equal parts from STEM, the social sciences, and the humanities. If you’re looking for an opportunity to think a little more about the big picture, this will be helpful.
  7. A gentle (and uplifting) reminder of the power of the liberal arts
    Just a gentle reminder (from an essay written for an audience of international students) of the value of what we do as a liberal arts institution. Also, at a time where our institution is exploring possible changes to gen ed, an opportunity to glance at what some other schools are doing.
  8. Your weekly dose of faculty brilliance, courtesy of Lynn Rainville
    Finally, it seems appropriate to conclude with a flash of brilliance from one of our colleagues. More particularly, I’d like to share the “trailer” Lynn Rainville created for her Spring Term course as an introduction to the class for her students. It contains so much that is good: wit, charm, a sense of what tech can achieve, a sense of what the course is about, a sense of the approach the instructor will take with course and the students. Enjoy! And then, you know: emulate.

CARPE News #13

Hello, all:

I hope this finds you well, and that as our shift to off-campus instruction moves into its second month, you’re finding new ways to energize yourself, whether in your classes or in your life away from class–which, of course, is a gentle reminder that it’s important to attend to and even nourish your life away from class. Find those good books, good shows, good movies, good hobbies, good languages to learn. Spend some time out in the yard. If you need garden supplies (mulch, etc.), Lexington Farmer’s Co-Op is now delivering. I don’t consider myself much of a yard person (one need only drive past my house to see that), but at this point I appreciate the opportunity to work on something tangible, where, once I’m done, there are visible results.

This week’s content covers a range of materials. Enjoy!


  1. Spring Term Course (Re)Design Workshop, Thursday, 23 April
  2. Resources regarding final exams in the age of COVID
  3. Links exploring ways to create the experiential in a virtual environment
  4. Spring Term library resources
  5. An excellent summary of effective but low-tech virtual pedagogies
  6. More materials on teaching in the age of trauma
  7. Banksy and my brief but eventful career as a standup in the Catskills

1) Spring Term Course (Re)Design Workshop, Thursday, 23 April

If you’re teaching Spring Term, there will be a four-hour, comprehensive course (re)design workshop on Thursday, 23 April. The workshop will consist of four discrete but linked (yes, I know that’s a contradiction) sessions, each lasting approximately one hour. The first session will go from 9:30-10:30 and will cover developing goals that are achievable in a virtual context. Though I know that the language of “goals” likely falls into that suspect category of administrative edu-speak, given the challenging task of balancing the “experiential” with the “virtual,” I’d encourage any one who can to attend at least that portion of the workshop/conversation.

The rest of the workshop will consist of three additional conversations/brainstorming sessions related to topics still being determined based on polling of Spring Term faculty. I’ll write later this week or early next week with details.

Zoom information for the workshop is here. The same Zoom details will apply to all four sessions.

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2) Resources regarding final exams in the age of COVID

I’ve posted this before, but as we approach final exams this valuable piece from the London Times Higher Education supplement is worth revisiting. It’s thoughtful, thorough, and based on our highest ideals for our students and our work.

Among other things, the Times piece discusses creating complex, open-ended questions that really test students’ abilities to create a comprehensive understanding of the course material. On that note, one question I’ve had tremendous success with, particularly in general education courses, is “What did you learn in this course that really matters?

As a humanist who’s spent years working across the divisions, I’m well aware that, at first glance, many of you might find this question low-bar, opinion-driven, and even meaningless. Please trust that it is not.

For one thing, these are the criteria necessary for a successful answer to this question:

  • The answer must not only address WHAT matters, but WHY.
  • The answer must take a unified, thesis-driven approach to the question.
  • The answer must draw upon at least three specific contents from the course, be they artistic works, social theories, algorithms, chemical reactions, historical documents, etc. etc. Students need to show that they’ve done the work of the course and understand it in a nuanced way.
  • The answer must employ the methodologies of the field. Students must show that they’ve mastered the skills taught in the course, be that literary exegesis, mathematical problem solving, or developing scientific hypotheses. Whatever it is we do in the field, it must be in this essay.

Finally, this is a meaningful question because it forces students to shift from passive receivers of information to curators of meaning: how, finally, do the dots connect in this course? And further, how do the materials in this course connect to the realities (some tangible, some abstract) beyond this course? Why does this material matter?

Given the historical moment in which we’re living, this question of how what we do in the classroom relates to life outside of the academy demands an answer. Given how many of our students are struggling right now to make sense out of the moment, providing them a platform to process their learning in a way that also demonstrates their mastery of course content seems both valuable and gracious.

Further? Some of the answers will surprise you. Reading these responses will not be boring.

3) Links exploring ways to create the experiential in a virtual environment

I want to apologize ahead of time for bringing up Spring Term yet again, but given this year’s shortened break, it seems wise to lay out some resources early on. If even just reading this stresses you out, please set aside until the end of next week.

These two resources are intended largely to spur your own thinking. Put another way, while it’s possible they may relate directly to your course, more than likely you’ll have to do some translation. If you find these ideas interesting and need a sounding board as you work through that process, please don’t hesitate to reach out, either to me directly or to others in your field/department. Talking through these revisions is always helpful.

This first site covers fields in every discipline, and gives examples of how research can be crowdsourced online.

This second site states explicitly that it’s for the humanities, but the ideas here–visualizing complex subjects, curation, question roulette, learning through teaching, etc.–are powerful learning tools in all fields. I would strongly encourage faculty to give the practices here some careful consideration, when they have the time.

4) Spring Term Library Resources

Just a reminder from Emily Cook that the library has access to RedShelf & VitalSource until May 25 (both are on the resource list created by Kaci Resau at These resources contain many academic e-textbooks-Pearson and APA are routing their temporarily free ebooks through both providers, just to give a few examples.

Faculty can create free accounts by going through the library’s links and searching for desired titles. Or, they can contact a librarian for help searching. Students also go through the process of creating a free account via the provided links to “checkout” these e-textbooks. Emily Cook has created instructions for navigating these resources.

The library also have several other free e-book resources available, as well as their normal ebook holdings. If faculty need help finding e-texts, they can contact their departmental library liaison who will work with them to try to get the materials they need. Emily Cook is also happy to field any direct questions from faculty as well.

5) An excellent summary of effective but low-tech virtual pedagogies

Every crisis has its stars: Flower Darby, author of SLOW TEACHING ONLINE, is finally getting the attention she deserves. Her brief article, below, ranges from the macro–create a predictable schedule for your course–to the micro–how to make sure your students are doing the reading.

Darby’s article will be particularly useful for faculty who still feel like they’re banging their heads against the wall. Finally, no tech can help us recreate exactly the chemistry we have in a face-to-face setting. Darby’s ideas, then, can help us shift to more productive ways of thinking.

6) More materials on teaching in the age of trauma

This piece by Kara Newhouse dovetails nicely with Darby’s piece. Newhouse’s four principles for responding to the emotional and affective dimensions of our current crisis are clear and easy to enact: Predictability, Flexibility, Connection, and Empowerment.

This last idea, empowerment, is particularly important, reminding us that agency is crucial to student learning in all circumstances, but especially now, when so much is out of their control.

7) Banksy and my brief but eventful career as a standup in the Catskills

Finally, to end on a light note: First, artist Banksy has shared some of his most recent work from his remote setting. It’s worth a glance, even if, like me, you’re not a fan of rodents.

Second, this week’s top one-liners regarding our current crisis. Yes, they sound like something from a bad act in the Catskills, but these are desperate times, folks; we’ll take what we can get!

  • I don’t think anyone expected that when we changed the clocks we’d go from Standard Time to Twilight Zone.
  • This morning I saw a neighbour talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I came into the house, told my dog, and we had a good laugh.

Aaaaaaand, I’ll understand completely if ITS pulls my e-mail privileges.

Take care, folks. Seriously.


CARPE News #12

Hello, all:

I hope this finds you well, and that you’ve had some time to get out and enjoy the nice weather. At times like these, it’s difficult to keep perspective, but getting outside can help. Remember, too, to limit the number of times a day you check the news–including the number of times you hit a link a friend has shared on social media. This allows more space in the day–and in our thoughts–for the things that help us thrive: our families, our students, our love of books and ideas and music and cooking.

This week’s e-mail will be relatively short. First of all, just a reminder that CARPE office hours are now two days a week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10 am until noon.

Second, if you’re still looking for resources that might help you make better videos for your classes, I’ve included a short article forwarded to me by Jeff Rahl, chair of Geology, that contains some excellent tips.

Next, I wanted to share this webinar on trauma-informed pedagogy by Mays Imad. Dr. Imad was in her mid-teens during the 1991 U.S. invasion of Iraq; after surviving forty days of bombing, she returned to her school to discover empty desks in her classes. Dr. Imad is a professor of Genetics, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, and her talk is a powerful blend of science and the humanities. This video is rather, long particularly at the start (the webinar was over-enrolled, and the site crashed), but is worthwhile, particularly toward the end where Imad presents thoughtful pedagogical advice.

Still on the topic of student perspectives, I’m linking this piece, forwarded to me by Helen MacDermott, on students’ responses to the shift to virtual instruction. It’s a short article, and does a nice job of summarizing data–scraped from social media–on how students are seeing their own learning, their peers, and their professors as we make this giant pivot.

Finally, when W&L announced it was closing campus and moving to virtual instruction, Professor Toni Locy urged her students to document this moment of crisis in their lives. Some of the results are linked below. They’re a great read, both for their polish and insight, but also simply as a reminder of why we do what we do. I’ve included Tony’s introductions to each piece.

Many many thanks, all, for your hard work these last few weeks. Please continue to take care of yourselves and your families.


Paul Hanstedt

W&L Student Reporting on the COVID-19 Crisis

Jimmie Johnson, a senior in Journalism 362, Producing for TV and the Web, put the Rockbridge Report website together today, creating pages for the stories and deciding their order of importance. He also chose national Associated Press stories about the coronavirus crisis to keep our readers informed of national developments.

Prof. Kevin Finch oversaw Jimmie’s work, and technical director, Michael Todd, made sure everything worked as it should.

CARPE News #11

Hello, everyone!

I hope this finds all of you well and that classes this week have been, if not as productive as they would be under usual circumstances, at least a means of bringing some small degree of routine and normalcy back into your lives. Keep in mind, of course, that a slightly rocky shift to virtual instruction is to be expected. And remember that, always, you have it in your power to change your approach in order to get better results.

I apologize, again, for the length of this e-mail. Since I’m shifting to a semi-daily delivery, information and resources tend to accumulate. Please feel free to skim or use the Table of Contents below for quicker reading.

One quick note: starting next week, I’ll be shifting to two-day-a-week office hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10 a.m. until noon. Please feel free to stop in–but also know that you can contact me to set up a one-on-one appointment at any time.

Thanks, all. Remember to breathe deep. And to go for walks. And to laugh. All three will reduce your anxiety and increase your brain’s capacity to function normally during this peculiar (but finally, finite) moment in our shared history.



  1. CARPE and Academic Technologies Zoom Happy Hour!
  2. Not feeling the energy in your Synchronous Classes? Here’s a tip.
  3. Not feeling the energy in your Asynchronous Classes? Here’s a tip.
  4. Speaking of connectivity in a time of physical distancing . . .
  5. Still wondering what to do about testing and the Honor Code?
  6. Rethinking grading in a time of virtual instruction
  7. YuJa Faux Translations: A Request
  8. Whiskey, Guns, and Sponge Bob: Always Hit “Record”!

1) CARPE and Academic Technologies Zoom Happy Hour!

Yes, yes, this likely is something of a ploy to get around W&L’s rule about alcohol consumption before 5pm, but it is also, very sincerely, an attempt to find out how everyone’s first week went–to vent, to trouble-shoot, to reconnect with colleagues. So, whatever your reason–the chardonnay, or the camaraderie–please join us tomorrow, Friday, 3 April, at 4:00 for this event co-sponsored by CARPE and Academic Technologies.

Oh, and it perhaps goes without saying: BYOB.

Topic: CARPE/Academic Technologies Zoom Happy Hour!
Time: Apr 3, 2020 04:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Meeting ID: 161 033 211

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2) Not feeling the energy in your Synchronous Classes? Here’s a tip.

Teaching synchronous class sessions, but feeling like the energy is a bit low, like students seem to be atypically passive? Part of it, of course, might just be the students getting used to the new format. Particularly in times of crisis, transitions can be difficult.

If you’d like to warm up the (virtual) room, however, adapt this old trick from face-to-face teaching:


  • Pause twenty minutes into your lecture or discussion. Ask students to write about the single most important thing they’ve heard so far–and WHY they think it’s important–OR about a question they have.
  • After giving students 1-2 minutes to do this, use the Zoom breakout rooms function to put them into teams of 2-3. Ask them to share ideas with each other, and take notes on what they’re hearing.
  • Allow them 2-3 minutes to share.
  • Reconvene as a large group, and ask a few teams to share their thinking/questions.
  • Repeat after another 20-30 minutes.

3) Not feeling the energy in your Asynchronous Classes? Here’s a tip.

Feeling disconnected from your students? If you’re teaching asynchronously, this isn’t surprising. Many of us feed off of the energy generated by a room full of students engaged in meaningful intellectual work. Being there, seeing them shift their thinking or encounter an “a-ha” moment is what makes all the hours of prep and grading worthwhile.

If you feel like you need to just reconnect with your students, try this:

  • Send them a collective e-mail or message via Canvas asking them for there feedback on two questions.
  • Question 1: Tell me how you’re doing in general, on a scale of 1-5, 5 being very well, 1 being not-so-good.
  • Question 2: Tell me how you’re feeling as a student and a learner, using the same scale of 1-5. How’s this shift working out for you?
  • Feel free to encourage them to include brief paragraphs of explanation, if they’d like.
  • Feel free to write your own responses, on a scale of 1-5, of how you’re doing in general, and how you’re doing as a member of the professoriate, to share with the students. Do not write separate versions for every student (unless you wish to); just write it once, and share if they request it. Feel free to include brief explanatory paragraphs as well.

4) Speaking of connectivity in a time of physical distancing . . .

. . . here’s an excellent article, passed along by Gene McCabe, about how connectivity is essential to feeling fully human, and about how we can maintain a sense of connection even at this weird moment.

5) Still wondering what to do about testing and the Honor Code?

The issue of testing and the Honor Code has come up several times in conversations I’ve had with faculty. Here’s a very thoughtful take on this issue from the London Time Higher Education supplement. Should you find any of the proposed solutions intriguing, please reach out to me if you want to brainstorm ways to implement.

6) Rethinking grading in a time of virtual instruction

We’ve known for some time that, as much as grading can be a motivating factor for our students, they don’t necessarily help lasting and meaningful learning. Given that reducing the emphasis on grades might also aid our students at a time of high anxiety, now might be a moment to explore some different “ungrading” options. This article, shared by Mackenzie Brooks, is a good place to start, as is this piece by anthropologist Susan Blum, of the University of Notre Dame.

If you find yourself having further questions about this, feel free to contact me. I always find these conversations interesting and productive!

7) Yuja Faux Translations: A Request

Louise Uffelman ( has asked that anyone encountering bizarre, funny, or just plain peculiar Yuja closed-caption translations please forward them to her. The best she’s encountered so far? When Yuja translated “a trompe l’oeil painting” into “a Trump lawyer painting.”

Seriously. Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

8) Whiskey, Guns, and Sponge Bob: Always Hit “Record”!

And finally, as weird as things are, a little humor always helps. Here’s a nice piece about UVa’s sometimes rocky, sometimes drunken, sometimes just plain funny transition to virtual instruction. It’s a nice, quick read, with many take-aways, including, very seriously: always always always be sure to hit “Record.”