University News

Sharon Swartz appointed interim director of Sheridan Center

Swartz to search for permanent director, help center oversee evolving Learning Commons

Contributing Writer
Friday, October 16, 2015

Sharon Swartz, professor of ecology, evolutionary biology and engineering, has been appointed interim director of the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning. The  previous director, Kathy Takayama, stepped down in July to join Columbia as associate provost, executive director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and adjunct professor of biological sciences.

As part of her new post, Swartz will participate in conducting a nationwide search for a permanent faculty director for the center, she said.

The Sheridan Center allows faculty members, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to explore the practices of teaching and learning in collaboration, according to its website. It also aims to prepare graduate students for careers on university faculties.

The Sheridan Center’s theme this year is “Re-envisioning Teaching and Learning at Brown.” Swartz said the theme suggests that the center and the University should recognize that “technology is playing a different role today in classrooms than it did in previous generations.” As such, the center and the University could increase the contact time between students and professors during class, such as through the flipped classroom approach, she said.

The theme of “Re-envisioning Teaching and Learning at Brown” will inform several aspects of the Sheridan Center’s undertakings this year, including its programming and partnerships with other centers and departments across campus. Last year, when the theme was “Communication,” the center held workshops on classroom communication and informal science communication.

Swartz also joins the center as the University prepares to create a Learning Commons housed in the Sciences Library. The Learning Commons will include the Laboratory for Educational Innovation — a part of the Sheridan Center — as well as the Instructional Technology Group, the Writing Center, the Language Resource Center and the Social Sciences Research Lab.

The University “will be evolving the Learning Commons” over the next five to 10 years, Swartz said. The Sheridan Center will help oversee some aspects of teacher training at the Learning Commons, she added.

The Sheridan Center is also looking to develop a better-structured program for Undergraduate Teaching Assistants to help them reflect on their teaching styles. Currently, the center offers five comprehensive certificate programs on teaching for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

Christopher Yates, a graduate teaching assistant in the English department, said he was “encouraged to take the well-structured certificate programs offered by the Sheridan Center and is looking forward to doing so.”