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Center for Faculty Development Readies University for New Academic Year

Thu, 08/04/2022 - 11:31am | By: David Tisdale

Save the DateWith just a few weeks until the beginning of the fall 2022 semester, The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Center for Faculty Development (CFD) is helping the school’s educators across all disciplines prepare to make the 2022-2023 academic year a successful one with programing underway this month beginning with Plan, Prepare, and Engage (PPE) to be immediately by Faculty First Week (FFW).

PPE is a pre-semester workshop series focused on effective course design strategies. Now in its second year, the series is hosted during the first two weeks of August (three and two weeks prior to the start of classes) to give USM faculty enough time to make course design decisions and any needed modifications in course structure. Held prior to FFW, PPE engages faculty as its presenters and provides the CFD an avenue to showcase the exemplary instructional strategies of those faculty presenters.

The highlight of this year’s Faculty First Week is University Convocation, with featured guest speaker Dr. Peter Felten, author of Relationship-Rich Education, to be held on the USM Hattiesburg campus Wednesday, August 17 from 1:15 – 2 p.m. Dr. Felton will focus on the power of connection in higher education to ignite learning and a sense of belonging within an academic community.

“At the core of the CFD mission is an intentional focus on building cross-disciplinary and cross-campus community,” said Dr. Kelly Ferris Lester, director of the CFD. “The sessions we provide respond to the needs of each academic year and requests from faculty, staff, and institutional partners, and this enhances our collaborations and view as a hub for development at USM.”

Additionally, the PPE series promotes multidisciplinary networking and collaboration because the workshop presenters actively engage the participants in discussions on course design strategies. This year’s PPE series will feature workshops on topics, such as inclusive course design, the science of learning, deterring academic misconduct, effective use of Canvas, student mental health, and engaging with course evaluations.

FFW began in 2018 to welcome faculty back for the fall semester and to share updates, new procedures, and faculty success in pedagogy, technology, and service. This year’s Faculty First Week’s theme is “Connect: Building Community at Southern Miss” and includes sessions supporting community in the classroom, among colleagues, and across units. The presenters represent faculty and staff from academic and student affairs, and the sessions highlight supporting mental health, creating inclusive learning environments, and considering learning inside and outside of the classroom, among other topics.

Dr. Hugh Broome, associate director for the CFD, said the Center’s hope each year is that these programs energize faculty and focus their minds on the upcoming term, further noting that they can “provide them [faculty] with innovative ideas to consider for their classrooms, networking opportunities with Southern Miss colleagues, and a mindset toward effective teaching and student success.”

FFW will conclude with a social event for faculty and staff at the Thirsty Hippo, located at 309 McLeod St., incorporating the theme “Taste of Downtown Hattiesburg.”

The CFD was formed in 2016 and primarily supported the ACUE (Association of College and University Educators) Faculty Development Institute and Teaching Forums at that time. Lester was named director for the Center in July 2018 and was charged to grow its services, including establishment of a Faculty Leadership Institute.

Since the Academic Year 2018-2019, the number of sessions and participation have blossomed. In 2018-2019, the CFD hosted 25 workshops outside of its signature programs, with approximately 350 attendees for the year. In 2021-2022, it hosted 97workshops outside of its signature programs, with more than 1,500 attendees.

“Much of our growth spawned from the pandemic and the more intense focus on teaching in multiple modes, however, the CFD has stayed steady in our offerings and attendance,” Lester said.

The CFD’s signature programs have also grown under Lester’s leadership, with the establishment of the Faculty Leadership Institute in 2019, which has a 50 percent acceptance rate. The ACUE programs have grown from one program - Effective Teaching Practices - to four programs that also include Effective Online Teaching Practices, an Advanced Certificate in Effective College Instruction, and an Inclusive Teaching for Equitable Learning Microcredential.

“We currently serve 75-90 ACUE fellows per year in our programing. In addition, the ACUE modules continue to be updated and we have nine USM faculty members featured in all three courses offered through the ACUE program,” Lester further noted. “This continues to elevate USM’s reputation for teaching and learning and builds the university’s national profile.”

The CFD also oversees New Faculty Orientation, which Lester says is essential to preparing and welcoming USM’s incoming faculty each year. “We embed this (New Faculty Orientation) into Faculty First Week and collaborate with the Graduate School to include the incoming Teaching Assistants (TAs) for one of the primary sessions,” Lester continued. “The orientation connects new faculty and TAs to the cultural values at USM and guides them to the services throughout the institution that serve our students, faculty, and staff.”

Emileigh McCardle, a lecturer in USM’s School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences who also serves as director of the university’s Math Zone and Mathematics Center, appreciates the CFD for bringing relevant topics to faculty during Faculty First Week that are centered on the needs and challenges they may face in the upcoming year.

“The Center's on-demand, forward-thinking approach allows us to gain valuable experience and training to adequately prepare for the fall semester,” said McCardle, who is also a ACUE Distinguished Teaching Fellow. “While I am learning information about how to become more efficient and effective in developing and delivering my courses, the CFD also offers training for situations I might encounter inside and outside the classroom, and methods to address those situations. I especially enjoy learning from a variety of faculty across campus so I can apply and implement those shared techniques in my own courses to increase student success and engagement.

“I really want to focus on building community in my classroom, and the CFD has many sessions on how to do that after the challenges of the past few years. I always look forward to Faculty First Week and talking to other faculty to get the semester started off successfully.” 

Schedules for Plan, Prepare, and Engage (PPE), as well as Faculty First Week (FFW), are as follow, respectively:



For more information about the Center for Faculty Development, visit

Plan. Prepare. Engage.