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From the Director

Posted by on Monday, September 7, 2020 in News.

From the DirectorThis summer I marked 15 years on staff at the Center for Teaching. Looking back at those 15 years, I can’t remember any season as busy or as fulfilling as this summer. With hundreds of Vanderbilt instructors looking ahead to an uncertain fall, the Center for Teaching launched new programs to help our community prepare for the kind of adaptive teaching necessary for 2020.

The centerpiece of our efforts was the Online Course Design Institute. Participants came from all over campus to develop course plans, design online learning materials, learn how to help students thrive, and build skills with educational technology. We offered the institute every two weeks from May through August, and we saw a total of 490 faculty and other instructors complete the institute.

For those who couldn’t commit two weeks to the institute, we offered dozens of short workshops focused on online and hybrid pedagogy. A total of 753 individuals attended these workshops, including 570 faculty representing all of Vanderbilt’s colleges and schools. Meanwhile, our Brightspace support team responded to more than 3,000 requests this summer, three times our usual support volume.

Center for Teaching offerings are, for the most part, opt-in, and we’ve never seen demand for our services like we did this summer. Faculty and graduate students, postdocs and staff—they knew that teaching this fall would require new technologies, new skills, and new approaches. And they looked to the CFT to help them teach effectively in whatever teaching contexts they found themselves in.

I am honored at the confidence that the Vanderbilt teaching community placed in the CFT this summer, and I’m proud of the role we could play supporting the university’s teaching mission. I’ve lost count of the many thank-you emails and tweets I received from program participants. I’m also deeply grateful for our amazing staff, who worked tirelessly all summer to do what seemed impossible back in May.

And that staff is about to get a little more amazing! Please join me in welcoming not one, but two new assistant directors to the Center for Teaching!


Ransford Pinto is our new Assistant Director for Graduate Programs. Ransford completed his PhD in educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Missouri earlier this year. While at Mizzou, Ransford served as a graduate research assistant at the Teaching for Learning Center, among other roles. Prior to his doctoral studies, Ransford worked at the British Council in his native Ghana as the administrator in charge of the University of Cambridge International Exams.


Julaine Fowlin will start as our new Assistant Director for Instructional Design in October. Julaine has a PhD in learning sciences and technology from Virginia Tech, and comes to us from Auburn University, where she is the director of faculty development at the Harrison School of Pharmacy. Julaine has helped design and launch online and blended courses and programs at Auburn, Virginia Tech, Holy Names University, and the University of the West Indies, and we’re excited to have her bring this expertise to Vanderbilt.


Starting in January, Ransford will oversee the CFT’s programming for graduate students and postdocs, taking over that portfolio from CFT assistant director Heather Fedesco. Heather and her family are relocating to Huntsville, Alabama, where she will teach for Purdue University and continue researching student motivation. We are very sad to see Heather leave, but we’re glad we don’t have to say good-bye until December!


Derek Bruff
Director, Vanderbilt Center for Teaching

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