2020 – 2021

Innovation Fellows for 2020 – 2021

Natalie Beck, Assistant Professor of Social Work, the course does not exist yet: The School-to-Prison Pipeline

A course on the School-to-Prison Pipeline would educate students about this current social justice issue that affects a multitude of youth and their families, especially those from systematically oppressed groups. In addition to providing knowledge about this social phenomenon, students will learn what they can do to engage with and dismantle it. Drawing on my experience as a social worker who has worked in schools, alternative schools, juvenile probation and detention, treatment centers for justice-involved people, and who will soon volunteer in prisons, I hope to educate and empower future social workers, psychologists, sociologists, probation and police officers, educators, policy makers, and citizens to understand and get involved with this issue. I plan to use a variety of teaching methods, including field trips, guest speakers, and advocacy projects to expose students to different views of this system and help them come to their own understandings about it.


Beth Eakman, Visiting Instructor of English Writing, WRIT 3329: Technical Writing

As organizations are increasingly aware of the benefits of inclusion, access, and diversity, the principles of Universal Design (UD) and User Experience (UX) are increasingly relevant to employers. Courses that teach writing, designing, and editing both print and virtual texts offer a relevant space for introducing and applying these concepts. While my current technical writing class includes units on user testing and basic UD principles, I would like to weave these topic more consistently through the course, introduce it in the gateway courses, and eventually add a dedicated class that emphasizes the ethical considerations inherent in designing information for inclusion.


Daniel Gold, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, BIOL 2113: Biologic

Biologic (BIOL 2113) is a new course for Biology majors designed to promote students’ scientific literacy and strengthen their problem-solving skills. Biologic has been recently approved by the Academic Council as part of a larger Department of Biological Sciences curriculum redesign and will be a requirement for all majors in the Biological Sciences, with increasing enrollment over time as more students adopt the new curriculum. The genesis for this course is the assessment that many Biological Science majors have not developed the critical thinking skills and scientific literacy necessary to flourish in upper-level Biology and other science classes. These skills are explicit student learning outcomes (SLOs) for most of the classes in the STEM curricula but they are not typically the main focus of these courses. We expect that by introducing a course whose major SLO is critical thinking development, we will produce better learning outcomes for the upper-level courses in the Biological and related sciences. We believe that this course may also improve student retention as it has the potential to create community among students with shared interests, to increase their sense of belonging to an academic program, and to better prepare our majors for the rigor of upper level BIOL and other science courses. Even though Biologic is focused on Biological Science majors, it may still have broad applicability as a test model in instilling the critical thinking and problem solving skills required across many University programs and is highly aligned to the Holy Cross mission.


Rachael Neal,  Associate Professor of Sociology, SOCI 2349/4349: Childhood Inequality

In the fall of 2020, I will be teaching a special topics course, Childhood Inequality, for the first time since 2014. The Innovation Fellowship would support the wholesale redevelopment of this course; in order to prepare for the Fall semester, I will be reassessing the assigned readings, activities, etc. that I used in the past. I also plan to redesign the structure of the course in order to allow students to engage in experiential learning and/or application exercises off-campus in the city of Austin. In addition, the original version of the course devoted several weeks to exploring school inequality. I plan to revise this section to allow students to examine implications of the recent decision to close several schools in the Austin Independent School District. Finally, I intend to revise a portion of the course exploring the impact of parental involvement in creating/reproducing educational inequality. The Innovation Fellowship would assist my efforts to find new ways to help students identify and analyze real examples of parental involvement while applying the theoretical approaches that they are learning in class.


Philippe Seminet, Associate Professor of French, French 101: Intensive French

Revised project: Working on culminating experience for French majors for Spring 2021

I want to create a one-week intensive French language course (at 3 levels) for students going to Angers in the summer. My idea is to take existing online materials (plus my own) and organize them into a Canvas course that can be used for 1st/2nd/3rd semester levels. That way, students won’t be required to purchase a textbook or anything. Students would be responsible for completing the intensive module with me (or Florina) in a 2 to 3 hr/day format for 5 days the first week they are in Angers. Kate Osmond (Assistant Director of Study Abroad) has requested that we offer this opportunity to students each summer. It will be funded through Caroline Morris’ office (Associate Vice President, Social Impact and Global Initiatives).


Matt Steffenson, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, BIOL 1307: General Biology: Cells, Genetics & Organ Systems

Active learning has been shown to enhance student learning in a variety of ways, ultimately facilitating students to better succeed in the classroom.  The goal of this innovation fellowship is to use preexisting magnetic cellular models as a foundation to create several active learning activities that will each help students utilize the same base model in a different way.  Each kit will focus on supporting students in conceptualizing a different major topic in General Biology: Cells, Genetics & Organ Systems (BIOL 1307).  This fellowship will build upon the existing infrastructure facilitated by the Office of Instructional Technology, in which the primary teaching room for this course was furnished with magnetic dry erase boards and moveable active learning furniture.  The significance of this project is that it will ultimately help a large number of introductory science students better understand concepts covered in BIOL 1307 that have been identified by instructors as challenging to students.  Many of these concepts are foundational in that additional core biology courses require that students have a strong understanding of said concepts in order to advance in the biological sciences.


Jenny Veninga, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, RELS 1304:  Introduction to Religions of the World

Revised project: Also planning to teach fully online

For the Innovation Fellowship, I will focus on a “refresh and redesign” of my “bread-and-butter” course, RELS 1304: Introduction to Religions of the World. I have been teaching this course since I arrived in 2010, and will continue to teach it in the future. Over the last ten years, I have made small adjustments to the course in terms of assignments and readings, but it would greatly benefit from space and time for more comprehensive modifications. With an examination of five major world religions in one semester, this course is notoriously difficult to teach because there is so little time to delve into the intricacies of each tradition. In this project, I will take time to first ask larger conceptual questions about the significance of the course at St. Edward’s and beyond: What exactly is the goal of this survey course? What is my desired goal for the course? How does the course fit into the mission of my department and the University? I will then reflect on practical questions regarding how to align course assignments, structure, and materials to meet this goal. In engaging in this redesign, I will consider ways to make my assignments and grading appropriate for my regular 4-4 teaching load.


Curt Yowell, Visiting Instructor of Writing & Rhetoric, JOUR 2321: Introduction to Journalism and Digital Media

The course development project is primarily aimed at refreshing and redesigning Introduction to Journalism and Digital Media (JOUR 2321), a mission marker course for experiential learning for social justice as well as a writing rich course. The refresh is needed to meet the demands of our students and a changing industry. Financial struggles of local news organizations across the nation are leading to concerns and calls for renewed focus on the value and importance of local reporting. JOUR 2321 will be refreshed to build more digital skill development and vigorous reporting skills into the course and align it with JOUR 3314 and JOUR 3322. In addition to the refresh and redesign, this course development project will focus on integrative learning and open educational resources such as free tutorials, readings on journalism and media, and digital storytelling and publishing tools. The course will seek to connect student reporters with their campus community. Incorporating open education resources into this course is essential as the journalism field continues to incorporate new digital technologies and forms of storytelling.