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ACUE Faculty Development Institute

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The ACUE Faculty Development Institute at Southern Miss is an intensive professional development program offered to enhance teaching practices. The Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) was founded by leaders in higher education to advance instruction, support college educators, and promote student success. ACUE helps colleges and universities achieve their goals for students through innovative faculty development partnerships and a research-based Course in Effective Teaching Practices. 

The program consists of three courses over three semesters (each approximately 10 weeks long), beginning with Active Learning, followed by Assessment of Teaching and Learning, and culminating with Effective Course Design.  Faculty fellows spend each of the terms (1) individually working through online interactive modules, (2) exploring at least one technique in a class during the week, and (3) joining together each Friday as a group for a facilitated discussion on that week's topic. At the end of every course, faculty fellows receive an ACUE/USM Certificate from the Office of the Provost as well as badges from ACUE, indicating their successful completion of that stage of training. 

Upon the successful completion of all three ACUE courses, faculty fellows earn the Certificate in Effective College Instruction,endorsed by the American Council on Education (ACE), and are conferred the USM designation of ACUE Distinguished Teaching Scholar.  

Meet our ACUE faculty fellows:  

Cindy Blackwell

Dr. Cindy Blackwell, Mass Communication and Journalism *

ACUE has offered me the opportunity to step back and examine my teaching methods and processes. It also taught me those things many teachers never contemplate, such as motivating your students by creating achievable challenge and properly balancing course objectives while at the same time connecting each objective thoughtfully and deliberately to each assignment and activity in the course. In addition to all of the personal and professional development I received through the collective ACUE modules, I met colleagues from across campus who are all deeply interested and invested in their teaching, joining me with an awesome community of learners. 

Hugh Broome 

Dr. Hugh Broome, Chemistry and Biochemistry *

ACUE has helped me break away from propagating the style of teaching in which I was trained. It has given me the ability and confidence to attempt new teaching techniques and activities. ACUE has also encouraged me to consider my teaching, classroom organization, and classroom management from a new perspective: the student’s perspective. I believe the new techniques and perspective have better equipped me to teach large enrollment courses.




Mary Bullock, Mathematics *

Mike Davis 

Dr. Michael Davis, Biological Sciences *

I have taught undergraduate and graduate courses for over 15 years, and my evaluations have always indicated that I am a pretty good teacher.  Unfortunately, teaching evaluations do not always reflect whether or not students are actually learning.  ACUE provided me with the tools to determine if my course outcomes were actually being met and I was surprised when I discovered that my students were doing well on exams but not retaining the course information in ways that would be useful for their careers.  My ACUE experience has allowed me to reevaluate my teaching methods.  I have retooled most of my courses in ways that allow me to transcend traditional delivery methods of course materials and to engage my students in a ways that are more conducive to learning actual skills rather than just test knowledge.  

In addition to improving my teaching skills, our format of delivering ACUE modules at Southern Miss allowed me to interact with colleagues from multiple disciplines.  This regular interaction has given me a greater appreciation of both the diversity and similarity of challenges that faculty face across campus and has fostered a greater camaraderie among my peers. 

Haley Dozier 

Haley Dozier, Mathematics *

Participating in ACUE has been an incredibly informative experience for me. Before ACUE, I was one of those instructors that believed that to be a good teacher I had to cover as much as possible in class because if I said it, the students would learn it. ACUE not only showed me how wrong I was, but, also gave me tools to promote learning and understanding in my classroom. ACUE has taught me how to properly structure my course, write my syllabus, and plan activities that will best help my students understand, and enjoy, the material. I have also learned how best to assess students and promote higher order thinking. Participating in ACUE has been an invaluable experience and I would recommend it to all other educators. 

Mary Funk

Dr. Mary Funk, Interdisciplinary Studies *

Attending the ACUE Effective Teaching Practices course has taught me so much about the most suitable approaches to structuring a course, writing a syllabus, the first day of class and active learning. The three-term course has given me the confidence to try out the new teaching techniques from activities to student learning outcomes to assessment. Working on solutions and the discussions with fellow ACUE members every week was invaluable. I highly recommend this program to improve and perfect teaching techniques. 

Max Grivno

Dr. Max Grivno, History *

Melissa Gutierrez 

Melissa Gutierrez, Biological Sciences *

While I have heard terms, attended workshops, read the research, and attempted to engage my students, I have never felt confident that what I was practicing was “right” or “correct.” Thankful for ACUE which has given me the self-confidence on how to properly design a course, connect the course to the course outcomes, provide students ways to improve their knowledge and skills, and to assess what students should learning by reflecting on the outcomes that have been set. It has given me a new set of tools for making sure my classroom is organized and goal oriented for students to feel accomplished as they meet these goals. While ACUE has been essential for building a foundation, the connections I have made with other faculty has been invaluable. It is wonderful to see so many faculty that are here to learn, to try new things, to talk about their experiences, and to transfer what we have learned into building effective learning environments for our students at USM.

Linda Hanson 

Linda Hanson, Chemistry and Biochemistry *

The ACUE training has allowed me to refocus my teaching methods to positively impact student learning.  It has also provided me with the opportunity to collaborate and brainstorm with colleagues who share a common goal - success for all students.  With 30+ years in the classroom, it is easy to grow complacent with lesson planning and content delivery.  This training has allowed me to remember the reasons I fell in love with career all those years ago.  


Dr. Briget Hayden, Anthropology and Sociology * 

Sabine Heinhorst

Dr. Sabine Heinhorst, Honors College /Chemistry and Biochemistry *

I had been interested in participating in the ACUE program from the start but had not committed to become a member of a cohort because of scheduling issues. Now, after completing all three courses as a veteran faculty member, I wish I had had this training when I began my teaching career in academia – my numerous pedagogical trials and errors throughout the years could have been avoided. The material covered in the three ACUE courses has been most helpful to me in redesigning assignment guides, aligning assignments with assessment goals, and improving student engagement and learning in the courses I teach. I particularly enjoyed the weekly discussions with fellow “ACUEers” of our successes and flops as we were implementing what we had learned in the ACUE modules.

Mark Huff

Dr. Mark Huff, Psychology *

Research overwhelmingly supports the student retention benefits of interactive learning over more passive learning techniques - a pattern known by educators and students alike. Despite these well-known benefits, educators are not always aware of what these different techniques are and how they can be integrated into the classroom. Fortunately, ACUE solves much of the mystery.  My participation in ACUE has taught me dozens of different interactive techniques and has also given me the confidence to try these techniques with my students. Some active learning techniques were immediate successes, while others required revision, but the knowledge gained through ACUE has allowed me to tailor my teaching techniques to be more student focused and improve learning outcomes.  The lessons learned in ACUE will pay dividends in years to come as I continue to refine and improve my teaching practices and see greater student successes.    

Holly Huye

Dr. Holly Huye, Nutrition and Food Systems *

ACUE has allowed me to broaden my teaching methods and really focus in on active learning. As my teaching career began in 2008, I always loved trying to think of new ways to reach today’s students. ACUE has given me a toolbox of great ideas to stimulate the learning process. In addition, the collaboration with faculty across the Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses has been a rewarding experience. Weekly meetings with ACUE fellows have created a sense of community for which I am deeply grateful. Knowing that faculty face the same challenges in the classroom as I, has been eye-opening and comforting. Lastly, the techniques learned in ACUE have been largely successful; not only have students embraced the new techniques implemented, but students have also shown an appreciation of my efforts to involve them in the learning process. This experience has truly been an inspiration and challenges me to continue learning new techniques! Thank you to all who have facilitated the ACUE process and have contributed to the development of the Southern Miss faculty!

Katie James

Dr. Katie James, Sociology and Interdisciplinary Studies *

ACUE inspired me to think about my class from a different perspective.  I found that with a few tweaks suggested by ACUE, my students and I had much better experiences.  I learned to pare down my content because coverage is not learning.  I realized the value of being transparent with my students about my rationale for our course's structure and assessment techniques.  I made assumptions that students either knew or did not care about these things, and I was wrong.  ACUE also gave me a network of teacher-scholars on this campus who have developed innovative insights into how to approach course design and management.  I'm fortunate to be part of this experience. 

Lucas Keefer

Dr. Lucas Keefer, Psychology *

It may sound strange, but one of the greatest benefits of the ACUE program has been just finding new ways of thinking about the best ways to use every assignment and class meeting. Even when I was doing something helpful in the classroom, I typically hadn't given too much thought to why some approaches were better than others. The semesters of ACUE provided fresh ideas and the chance to really reflect on what I could be doing better. 


Dr. Sungsoo Kim, Tourism *


Dr. Karen Kohl, Mathematics *

Kari Kozlowski

Dr. Karen Kozlowski, Sociology *

As a scholar of educational inequality, I take very seriously the call to create more equitable and engaging course experiences. ACUE has strengthened my toolbox of techniques to effectively scale the content that can be covered in a semester, communicate that content, involve students in their own learning, and assess their skills. I appreciate that ACUE requires active application of these techniques to the classroom, because just like our students, we cannot learn solely by hearing new information passively. ACUE has helped me become just as comfortable in a 100+ person lecture hall as I am in smaller, discussion-based courses, and this has translated to increases in student participation and even grades. Finally, I am so thankful for the opportunity to meaningfully connect and work with my ACUE colleagues. ACUE has been a great way to make new friends!

James Lambers

Dr. James Lambers, Mathematics *

ACUE has provided the training that I wish I had been provided when my teaching career began 25 years ago.  Some of the techniques presented were ones that I had already been incorporating into my classes, but ACUE provided reinforcement for them by confirming their significance, thereby encouraging me to stick with them and apply them more consistently.  The many new techniques I’ve learned through ACUE have given me what I’ve been missing during all these years of teaching: concrete actions I can take to finally implement the philosophy and fulfill the teaching-related goals that I’ve always had.  There are so many instructors out there who, like myself, think that they’re an effective teacher just because their students seem to appreciate what they do and they earn positive teaching evaluations.  However, the truth is that there is always more that we as instructors can do to help students develop to the point where they realize achievements that they never thought possible, thereby opening their minds to academic and professional paths that they never imagined they could pursue.  ACUE provides just the resources we need to unlock our potential as teachers, so that our students can unlock their potential as well.

Kelly Lester

Kelly Ferris Lester, Dance *

ACUE has offered me a lens to analyze my pedagogical practices to see if what I think I am doing as a teacher is really happening in my classroom. It has given me tools and strategies to apply in the classroom, and mechanisms to be more transparent with my students. This transparency in learning outcomes, grading practices, connection to program curriculum, and real world experiences enlivens the collaborative nature of my classroom and the investment of students. I have observed my students digging deeper into course material and working more efficiently on outside work.  I feel creative and inspired to enter each classroom period and go on the journey of engaged learning with my students. 

Melanie Leuty

Dr. Melanie Leuty, Psychology * 

ACUE has re-energized my love for teaching! While I’ve been teaching in higher education for a number of years, figuring out what works and what doesn’t in my courses by trial and error, ACUE has provided me training and confidence to implement evidence-based learning and class management strategies that have brought me more enjoyment in my work and benefitted my students. My teaching evaluations after completing the active engagement modules were the highest they have ever been, with numerous students noting that they learned a lot and enjoyed my courses. As a faculty member, sometimes teaching takes a back seat to the many other responsibilities in higher education, but ACUE has provided me strategies to make my instruction more effective, with less course preparation, that leads to better learning outcomes for my students. It’s a win-win! 

Cynthia Littlejohn 

Cynthia Littlejohn, Biological Sciences *

Being involved in ACUE has had a significant impact on the way I design and teach my courses. When I began my teaching career, I was armed with content knowledge but had no training for how to be an effective educator. Throughout my experience with ACUE, I have been exposed to many innovative and evidence-based pedagogical techniques. I have employed many of these newly learned practices in my classes with measurable success. I have learned how to develop improved, measurable learning outcomes and various methods to ensure as many students as possible actually meet those outcomes. Additionally, I have developed my skills with regards to interacting with my students. I have accrued some best practices for acknowledging student success, for helping them effectively address any deficiencies and for helping students to establish learning relationships with their peers. My students have all responded very positively to the improvements I have made to my instructional methods. I have had many students contact me expressing appreciation for the various methods I use to try and reach all types of learners. I have also experienced a noticeable increase in the number of students who visit my office and/or solicit advice from me on how to be more successful in their academic endeavors.  

Mark Miller 

Dr. Mark Miller, Geography *

After 30 years of teaching at the university level, ACUE has changed the way I teach in a profound and positive way. Every class I teach currently -- undergraduate, graduate, online -- is informed and enhanced by tools I learned in my ACUE seminars.

Candice Mitchell

Candice Bardwell Mitchell, Mathematics *

Participating in ACUE during my first year of college instruction was an amazing experience.  Throughout the courses, I learned how to engage my students through effective lessons and collaborative learning activities.  The modules made me step back and think about each aspect of my courses, my students, and myself.  I believe that ACUE was an invaluable tool for me as a teacher.  The students who enter my classroom are now receiving instruction, assessments, and resources that I would not have been equipped to provide without this opportunity.  The best part of ACUE for me was our weekly meetings where I gained insight and knowledge that spanned disciplines and years of teaching experience.  This experience made me a better instructor so that now I can be a part of growing amazing students.

Marlene Naquin

Marlene Naquin, Mathematics *

The Effective Teaching Practices course in many ways is a hand-on-laboratory  since it allows the members of the cohort to not only read and study about good practices but to also try them out and implement them within the group setting with others other disciplines and experiences.  Taking the time to step back and look at teaching from various angles,  it reminds us that we should all be life long learners. It  causes one to  make time to dig deep and challenge one to  examine ways to engage our students and  even our colleagues in becoming a community of learners. 
Having taught for 30+ years  in either secondary or post-secondary education and working with future teachers, the course was a way to both rejuvenate and affirm my love for teaching.  I am thankful that I was afforded the opportunity to be a part of the first cohort here at Southern Miss. 


Becky Newton

Dr. Rebecca Newton, Nursing *

The ACUE experience has afforded me the opportunity to step back and reflect on my teaching practices and given me the tools to evaluate what is effective and where changes were needed, leading to greater success in preparing the next generation nurses. The opportunity to meet and engage with USM colleagues from departments across campus to discuss on a weekly basis our educational practices and share pearls of wisdom has created a sense of camaraderie and collegiality. It is enlightening to know that some of the same concerns I have about student success is shared by other faculty. All of this was made possible by the ACUE Fellowship. 

Jon Pluskota

Dr. Jonathan Pluskota, Mass Communication and Journalism *

ACUE has been a tremendous value to me. It was refreshing to revisit core concepts I learned and used many years ago, but became diluted and lost over years of teaching. As a Sound Engineer and faculty in Entertainment Industry studies, active learning is a benchmark for our programs. However, managing the environments can become challenging over time. Personally, one of the most revealing results from the ACUE series was that I was over-teaching, often measuring my semester success on quantity rather than quality. Another one was recognizing and communicating with my colleagues who teach in the same field, the importance of aligning course and program outcomes. I was able to take what I learned and use it to improve my classes as well as to help other faculty with their course design.

The cohort model at USM provided motivation and helped connect faculty across disciplines, adding even more realism and personality to the modules, Without the face-to-face meetings, I am not sure I would have finished the modules or learned as much. Following the program, I transitioned to teaching overseas as a Fulbright Scholar. I was able to take the lessons from ACUE and employ them internationally with minor adjustment. The issues and concerns we face in the United States are not ours alone, but are shared internationally as well. I plan to continue using ACUE in my course development, and am looking forward to a refresher every so often to keep the focus!

Jen Regan 

Dr. Jennifer Regan, Biological Sciences *

Before participating in ACUE, I thought I had a good understanding of what my students needed from me; however, working through the modules opened my eyes to issues that I had never considered. My focus in my classroom shifted from content delivery to development of strategic learners. ACUE and the discussions with fellow faculty have given me an important opportunity to assess what my roles are as an educator. ACUE provided me with the philosophical as well as pedagogical foundations for being an effective instructor. 


Renee Rupp

Dr. Renee Rupp, Nutrition and Food Systems *

As a new faculty member, ACUE has given me an excellent foundation in my teaching. I now have the tools I need to facilitate more dynamic classes and assess the students’ learning. Additionally, USM has given me the community environment necessary to discuss successes and challenges in the classroom. 


Michael Sellers, Biological Sciences *

Jae-Hwa Shin

Dr. Jae-Hwa Shin, Mass Communication and Journalism *

Teaching is an ongoing learning process. As an ACUE faculty fellow, I have reviewed a great range of effective teaching practices, active learning strategies and techniques, learning outcome assessment strategies and course designs, some of which I have learned through trial and error over a couple of decades of my teaching. Many of the effective teaching practices discussed through this program have reinvigorated my teaching practices for the best student learning outcomes. The idea is that students should be active players in their learning process. I have also enjoyed sharing different perspectives, approaches, challenges and resolutions in current teaching and learning practices with my fellows in this program, and wish to share them with other colleagues who are seeking more effective teaching practices. ACUE has benefited my teaching as a continuous endeavor to help students as end users. I believe that students will appreciate the impact much beyond my pleasure in being a part of this program.


Emileigh Sones, Mathematics * 

B. Katherine Smith

Dr. B. Katherine Smith, Anthropology and Sociology *

The ACUE experience has been transforming for me as an educator. Not only do I think that I have learned invaluable methods that have forever altered the way that I teach, but I have also benefited greatly from learning how to best connect with students. Additionally, the personal and professional support that I have experienced over the past year has been instrumental in my growth as an instructor and faculty member.

Corwin Stanford

Corwin Stanford, Mathematics *

The ACUE Effective Teaching Practices course was everything that faculty development should be.  Like most faculty, my training in college-level instruction was limited to a single graduate course, and whatever I gleaned from the occasional article on teaching.  ACUE on the other hand provided a weekly selection of related readings, videos, and examples of how emerging practices are being implemented, from which it was fairly easy to develop an actionable plan for making changes in my teaching.  Having that structure, along with feedback from the ACUE readers and fellow USM faculty members was invaluable.

Alan Thompson

Dr. Alan Thompson, Criminal Justice *

As a mid-career faculty member I was motivated to apply for the ACUE program as a means to reinvent my pedagogy, which was very “traditional” insofar as I have always taught in the same manner that I myself was taught. Over the past two semesters my understanding of effective instructional techniques has greatly expanded. I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the ACUE program and firmly believe that it has improved the quality of my instruction and, most importantly, directly benefited our students. I highly encourage others to also apply and participate in the program. 

Joe Weinberg 

Dr. Joe Weinberg, Political Science *

I have been teaching for around 10 years and must admit that I was skeptical about ACUE at first. However, it turned out to be a great chance to reflect on my teaching and learn new techniques to make my life easier and my students’ experience better. The best part was definitely the interaction with the group and our facilitators. We had such great conversations each week and I always looked forward to our discussions(even though they were on Friday afternoons). You may not be able to teach an old dog entirely new tricks, but you can definitely get more out of your old tricks through an experience like this. 

Lindsay Wright 

Dr. Lindsay Wright, Child and Family Studies *

Participating in ACUE has changed who I am as a teacher and how students engage in my class. More often than not, the changes I made were seemingly small, but had a significant impact. For example, I used to give students a discussion prompt at the beginning of class, have them write their response, collect them, and then we’d talk about it at some point during class that day. In ACUE I learned about a “think-pair-share” and realized I was having them do the “thinking” and “sharing” part already, but had never considered having them pair up to discuss with a classmate before sharing with the entire class. Adding this one piece increased both individual participation and large group participation. They still had to think for themselves, but then they had a safe space to test their response before sharing in front of 80 classmates. They were also no longer just speaking for themselves, but for their pair, which further decreased the fear of being “wrong.” This enhanced course content and also gave students the opportunity to meet their classmates, which isn’t always the case in an 80+ person class. ACUE has challenged me to reevaluate everything about how I teach, from creating the syllabus and assignments, to grading, to how I conduct each class period. I am grateful for all I have learned so far and am excited to complete the remaining modules in the spring.

Gallayanee Yaoyuneyong 

Dr. Gallayanee Yaoyuneyong, Marketing and Merchandising *

Participating in ACUE was like attending a teaching boot camp that took my mind and my emotions on a roller coaster ride. At times I felt encouraged, discouraged, confident, confused, knowledgeable, perplexed… and eventually, amazed. When I applied ACUE tools and strategies in my classrooms, I felt like a mad scientist experimenting with new chemicals and compounds, trying to create a new formula. Success came whenever I saw my students have an ‘Ah-ha!” moment, or when I witnessed a change in my students’ behaviors. I found that I began to look forward to sharing what happened in my classrooms and hearing about the experiences, and experiments, of my fellow ACUE explorers. As a result of my ACUE experience I have changed who I am as a teacher, how I view my role as an educator, how I approach my students and classrooms (especially the first day of class), how I design or redesign my courses, and how I assist my fellow educators. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this journey of teaching and learning with my colleagues from all across campus. 

Melissa Ziegler 

Dr. Melissa Ziegler, Kinesiology * 

My experiences with ACUE were invaluable and offered many opportunities to improve craft as a college instructor.  My teaching philosophy revolves around my goal to prepare students to become confident, well prepared, logical clinicians and ACUE provided additional techniques that I can add to my toolbox to help students do just that.   One of the major changes to my classroom from ACUE is incorporating daily informal discussions and/or peer-peer groupings.  This inclusion has created a cooperative learning environment, one where students respect me and each other.   They feel comfortable asking questions and enjoy participating, my hope is that this opportunity will instill a love of learning in my students so that they can share their own passion for learning with others one day.   

* * *indicates completion of all three levels of ACUE’s comprehensive Course in Effective Teaching Practices and earning the Certificate in Effective College Instruction endorsed by the American Council on Education (ACE) and the USM Designation "ACUE Distinguished Teaching Scholar." 


First cohort of USM's ACUE Distinguished Teaching Scholars with Dr. Bennett 

ACUE faculty group Spring 2017 

ACUE faculty cohort Spring 2017 










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