Junior Faculty Teaching Fellow Spotlight: Dan Morgan
Each month, the CFT Newsletter highlights the work of our Junior Faculty Teaching Fellows. This month, Dan Morgan , Senior Lecturer in the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, talks about his teaching philosophy and interests:
“I enjoy teaching both scientists and nonscientists, and one of my teaching goals is to provide students with skills that they can apply to any project, regardless of the field they end up in.”
Many geoscientists consider themselves story tellers because we develop ways to tell the history of the earth. My goal as a teacher is not simply for students to be able to recite the facts of the story of the planet, but also to understand the logic, importance, and applications of the narrative so that ultimately the students can tell their own geologic stories. To achieve this goal of getting students to become authors of their own scientific stories, I strive to: 1) create a learning atmosphere that promotes critical and creative thinking, 2) break down seemingly random events into measurable parts and processes, 3) incorporate field and lab based material into my courses, and 4) make students aware of the learning objectives that I have set. I enjoy teaching both scientists and nonscientists, and one of my teaching goals is to provide students with skills that they can apply to any project, regardless of the field they end up in.
In the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences I teach a wide range of classes: from our introductory course (EES 101: Dynamic Earth) to the capstone senior seminar (EES 299), from a required course for our majors (EES 240: Structural Geology) to a Maymester course in New Zealand (EES 210: Field Investigations), and from special topics seminars for first-year students to senior honors projects. I enjoy the variety of these teaching interactions because they bring me into contact with the entire range of Vanderbilt students, and with EES majors throughout their academic career. Then I get to work with these students in a variety of environments – the classroom, the field, the laboratory, and the computer lab – and this diversity of teaching settings energizes and challenges me to develop engaging courses.
At Vanderbilt, I am also involved in various student life activities because I believe fostering a living-learning community supports the broader liberal arts goal of teaching students how to be lifelong learners. I serve as a mentor to first-year students through the VUcept program, am the faculty advisor for the undergraduate Geology Club, and advise a Mayfield living-learning community. As the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the EES department, I advise all our majors and minors, and I am honored to be a part of these students’ journeys through Vanderbilt.