Summer Institute for Teaching & Learning (SITL) 2023

Get ready for the Summer Institute for Teaching and Learning 2023! We are excited to invite you as we embark on this journey together to explore the Joy of Learning and Teaching (JOLT).

As educators, we know that teaching and learning are both complex and dynamic processes. They require not only knowledge and skills, but also passion, curiosity, and empathy. At times, however, we may find ourselves so caught up in the day-to-day demands of our jobs that we forget to take a step back and reflect on what truly brings us joy in our profession. This Summer Institute is designed to help us do just that.

On May 18th and 19th, we will have the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussions, attend thought-provoking workshops, and collaborate with colleagues from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. We aim to deepen our understanding of being an effective and joyful teacher and learner and explore strategies for creating positive and inclusive learning environments that foster engagement, curiosity, and growth.

One of the key themes of this Institute is the idea that joy is not just a byproduct of effective teaching and learning, but an essential ingredient. When we approach our work joyfully, we are more creative, resilient, and effective at inspiring our students to learn. Joyful teaching and learning also have a ripple effect, creating a positive culture of learning that extends beyond the classroom.

Our draft schedule meeting in Apodaca:

Thursday, May 18, 2023
TIME  Apodaca – Room 201  Apodaca – Room 207 
9:00 – 9:15 


Eli Collins-Brown, Coulter Faculty Commons 

9:15 – 10:15 

Opening Celebration: Cyndy Caravelis 

Criminology & Criminal Justice 

10:15 – 10:30  Break  



General Session 

The Joy of Engaging in the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning 

Lisa Bloom, School of Teaching & Learning; Candy Noltensmeyer, Communication; April C. Tallant, Coulter Faculty Commons 

11:30- 12:30  Lunch with table topics 
12:30 – 1:30 

The Joy of Writing: Crafting Writing Assignments that Writers Want to Write (and You Want to Read) 

Jonathan Bradshaw, English Studies 

Identifying and Responding to Microaggressions in the Learning Environment 

Mariana Da Costa, School of Nursing 

1:30 – 1:45  Break 
1:45 – 2:45  

Career Conversations: Sharing Your Joy with Your Students 

Carrie Hachadurian, Center for Career & Professional Development 

Walking the Line: Finding and Keeping your Joy in Politically Charged Institutional Climates 

Cyndy Caravelis,  

Criminology & Criminal Justice 

2:45 – 3:00  JOLT Jam (Wrap-Up)   


Friday, May 19, 2023
TIME  Apodaca – Room 201  Apodaca – Room 207 
9:00 – 9:15  WELCOME BACK   
9:15 – 10:15 

Developing the Leader Within: An Interactive Exploration of Self-Awareness and Reflection 

Brianne Hudak,  

School of Teaching & Learning 

Creative Joy: Creating Syllabus Infographics 

Stacey C. Zimmerman, Mathematics and Computer Science; and Alesia Jennings, Chemistry and Physics 

10:15 – 10:30  Break 
10:30 – 11:30 

General Session 

Generative AI and the Future of Education 

Ian Selig, Coulter Faculty Commons, Josh Rakower, Undergraduate Experience Librarian, Adam Chandler, Embedded IT Support for College of Arts and Science 

11:30 – 12:15  Lunch  
12:15 – 1:00  

Lightning Rounds (6 minutes) 


Imaginary Ball Game: Bringing Nonverbal Communication and Social Construction of Reality to Life 

Tonya Westbrook, Social Work 


Finding Joy in What Students Know: A Pedagogical Tool 

 Stacey C. Zimmerman, Mathematics & Computer Science  


The Scholarship of Teaching & Learning as Pedagogy 

Chad Hallyburton, Environmental Health Sciences  


Guided Discussions & Brain Boxes to Improve Discussions and Prepare for Exams 

Reggie Cline, Criminology and Criminal Justice 


Community & Engagement in Online Courses 

Larry Fisher, School of Teaching and Learning 

1:05-1:25  JOLT Jam    
1:30 – 3:00   

Reclaiming our Joy of Learning & Teaching  

Cynthia Alby, Georgia College & State University  


Meet the Speakers

Dr. Jonathan Bradshaw is a writing teacher at Western Carolina University. He is currently the Director of the Writing, Rhetoric, & Critical Studies program and will be the new Graduate Director in English Studies beginning Fall 2023. His work has appeared in Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Rhetoric Review, Present Tense, and enculturation. 



Cyndy Caravelis is a Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Dr. Caravelis is a strong proponent of engaged teaching and experiential learning. She was awarded the Service Learning Outstanding Achievement in Teaching Award and she was a 2019 cohort member of the Faculty Institute on Community Engagement. Additionally, she was the 2021 recipient of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, a 2022 Finalist for the Board of Governor’s Excellence in Teaching Award, and was chosen to represent WCU on the 2022-2023 All So-Con Faculty and Staff Team. Her service to the community includes being a Board Member for the Center for Domestic Peace and as a trained victim advocate, she (along with therapy dog Atlas) escorts victims to court. She currently serves in the role of Principal Research and Policy Consultant for WCUPD.  


Chad Hallyburton is a Teaching Assistant Professor in the Environmental Health Sciences Program at WCU.  He has over 27 years teaching experience with students from Pre-K to university level.    



Dr. Stacey Zimmerman joined Western Carolina’s Mathematics and Computer Science Department in 2022. She has been involved in mathematics education for more than 25 years, spanning both the secondary and post-secondary levels. Recognizing that mathematics can be a gatekeeper to a college degree and/or a lucrative career, Dr. Zimmerman dedicates herself to ensuring that every student becomes a doer and consumer of mathematics. She held previous positions at Virginia Commonwealth University and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Her research focuses on mathematical knowledge for teaching (MKT) and equitable and inclusive mathematical practices. 



Dr. Da Costa started her career at Western Carolina University in 2014 as a mentor for the Nursing Network-Careers and Technology Mentoring Program and became full-time faculty in 2019. Dr. Da Costa is currently an Assistant Professor of Nursing and Program Director for the Traditional BSN program here at WCU. Dr. Da Costa also serves as faculty advisor for the Pathway to equity in Nursing Scholars Program, Association of Nursing Students, and Mujeres Con Proposito; leading efforts related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, as well as community engagement and leadership. Dr. Da Costa is a board member for Kids Advocacy Resource Efforts (KARE), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing evidence-based, community-coordinated response to child abuse, neglect and exploitation in Haywood County through outreach, advocacy, and specialized interventions. She received a Master of Science in Nursing Administration from East Tennessee State University in 2017 and has her Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Duke University. Dr. Da Costa resides in Haywood County with her two daughters, one of whom is a current Catamount. She enjoys yoga, reading, running, traveling, and hiking with her family. Dr. Da Costa strives to educate on how we all thrive when everyone has accessibility to equitable education and healthcare along with an environment that is welcoming and accepting of all. 


Dr. Tonya M. Westbrook has taught in WCU’s Department of Social Work since August 2007 and earned tenure in 2013. She received her BSW from Jacksonville State University, MSW from University of Cincinnati, and PhD in social work from the University of Georgia. She practiced public child welfare social work for over ten years before entering academia. Her areas of expertise include public child welfare professional development, trauma informed social work, and turnover and retention workforce issues in the social work profession. She teaches across the curriculum in both the BSW and MSW programs. She currently serves as the Associate Department Head in the Department of Social Work.  


Dr. Larry B. Fisher is an Assistant Professor in the inclusive education/adaptive curriculum program at Western Carolina University. This is his first year at WCU and fifth year in higher education. He was a Nationally Board-Certified classroom teacher and taught special education in the elementary school setting for 13 years. Dr. Fisher received his undergraduate degree, master’s degree, and post-master’s certificate in school administration from WCU and received his Ph.D. in Special Education from UNC Charlotte. Dr. Fisher’s teaching focus has been on courses related to behavioral and academic interventions for students with extensive support needs. Dr. Fisher’s research interests include antecedent-based interventions based on the principles of applied behavior analysis, teaching communication skills to students with complex communication needs, and teacher evaluation tools for teachers of students with significant disabilities. He is also interested in single-case design methodology.  


Reggie Cline is a WCU alumni form the Criminology and Criminal Justice Department. She received my Master’s degree in Criminology and Public Sociology at UNCW. She served as a Probation/Parole Officer for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety for 6 years in Wilmington, NC. During that time, she specialized as a field training officer and drug court officer on the Community Recovery Court team. Then she transitioned to a new role as a Child Protective Services Investigator for the Department of Social Services. She has been back, teaching at WCU in the CJ department, since August 2022. She is excited to share her practical experience with students. Her research interests include restorative justice, human trafficking, queer criminology and criminal justice reform. She believes in an engaged teaching style and a balance of mixed pedagogical approaches to help meet students’ learning needs. 



Mrs. Brianne Hudak, M.Ed., is passionate about education, driven to help students succeed both academically and socio-emotionally, and enjoys serving her community. She has worked in many roles and sectors of education (public, private and charter) for the past fifteen years including as a certified gifted and talented educator, curriculum specialist, student activities director, theatre arts and STEM teacher, dean of students, assistant principal, educational consultant, adjunct professor and school leader of a K-12 charter school. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in educational leadership with an emphasis on combating underachievement in the gifted population. She is a member of the National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) serving on various committees, the North Carolina Association of the Gifted and Talented (NCAGT), the World Council of Gifted and Talented Children (WCGTC) and Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG) serving as the state liaison.  


Adam Chandler for the last eight-plus years at WCU has tried hard to bring an open and person-focused perspective to the adoption and use of technology in education. In his role as an AV technician and programmer, his goal was to make sure people using our systems did not feel overwhelmed by complexity during daily use while still being able to utilize all the capabilities of the systems when needed. In his current role as a Technical Support Specialist (embedded in the College of Arts and Science), he tries to bring the same approach to emerging technologies that could potentially change the way we work in the future.


Ian Selig is deeply passionate about high-quality education and the mountains of Western North Carolina. Coming from a long line of teachers and adventure seekers, he champions the impact of well-designed instruction and steeping the soul in the peaks, valleys, and rivers of the Appalachian Mountains. Ian works with faculty to design motivational instruction that empowers learners to grow beyond expectation. He engages learners with diversity, equity, and inclusion at the forefront of all his work. With a background in Instructional Technology, Curriculum Design, and Online Learning he partners with faculty to meet their needs and goals. 


Josh Rakower earned his BA in communication, Masters in education, and Masters in library science from the University at Buffalo. He has been a professional librarian for eight years. He has been at WCU since December 2019. Previously he worked as a librarian at Trocaire College and Buffalo State University, and also as a mall Easter Bunny. 



Dr. Lisa Bloom is the former Jay M. Robinson Professor of Instructional Technology at Western Carolina University.  A long-time member of the WCU faculty, she has been involved in teacher preparation and research in several areas, including the scholarship of teaching and learning, problem-based learning, and promoting creative and critical thinking.  She is the author of Classroom Management: Creating Positive Outcomes for All Learners as well as numerous journal articles.   


Dr. Candy NoltensmeyerDr. Candy Noltensmeyer is an Associate Professor of Communication at Western Carolina University.  Her research focuses on communicative dynamics in cultural competence, bias, DEI, pedagogy, feedback, social support, stigma, and sexuality.  Candy teaches a variety of courses in human communication focusing on theory, research methods, health, sexuality, interpersonal and small group concepts. She also conducts professional workshops for a wide range of organizations at varying levels to address communication challenges they may be facing.    

Dr. Noltensmeyer is a big believer in applied learning, especially when it comes to communication. People need spaces to learn, talk through their ideas, then try them out. To foster engaged learning-centered spaces, she uses a variety of activities and focused discussions to engage participants with the material while making space for differences across contexts. Much of Dr. Noltensmeyer’s teaching success can be attributed to engaging in SoTL research, where she is able to experiment with teaching activities and learning strategies.   

April Tallant is a Western Carolina University alumna and native of Cherokee County, North Carolina. She has almost 20 years of higher education experience at WCU as a liberal studies visiting instructor and assistant professor, and a tenure-track assistant professor in the Nutrition and Dietetics Program in the School of Health Sciences. Dr. Tallant earned tenure and Associate Professor status in 2019 in the School of Health Sciences. She served eight years as Associate Dean of Brinson Honors College where she was an administrative leader, established and grew student-centered leadership programs aimed at engagement and retention, served as the curriculum designer and coordinator for USI 101 Honors Forum transition courses, and advised College of Health & Human Sciences Honors students.   

Dr. Tallant enjoys using her higher education experience and leadership skills to support faculty and student success through engaged teaching and learning at Coulter Faculty Commons. She takes a asset-based approach to educational and professional development and uses the principles of evidence-based self-care in her work with faculty and instructional staff. She  strives to bridge faculty and staff partners from across campus, collaborating to develop relevant teaching and learning programs that highlight faculty who use best practices in teaching and learning and high impact educational practices at WCU.    

Dr. Tallant has been recognized with university and college level awards including the Board of Governor’s College of Health and Human Sciences (CHHS), Innovative Teaching Award (two time winner); CHHS Faculty Scholar Award; WCU’s Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning’s Outstanding Achievement for Service Award; WCU’s Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award ; and WCU’s Excellence in Teaching Liberal Studies Award.  

In addition to her excellent teaching and learning record, Dr. Tallant is passionate about supporting and advancing women in higher education. Dr. Tallant is a 2015 graduate of BRIDGES, Academic Leadership for Women, administered by the Friday Center at UNC Chapel Hill. She also serves one of two of the North Carolina American Council on Education (NC ACE) Women’s Network institutional representatives at WCU, appointed by Chancellor Kelli R. Brown in 2019 and was elected to the NC ACE executive board in December 2021. The NC ACE Network seeks to develop programs that identify, develop, encourage, advance, link and support women in higher education careers in NC. Dr. Tallant is first vice-president of the NC Alpha Iota Chapter (includes six western-most counties) Delta Kappa Gamma that promotes professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education.   

Dr. Tallant champions support and advocates for her native western North Carolina contemporaries.  She combines her passion for access to healthy foods and service to the region through research and community engagement.  She is a member of the Board of Directors for Community Table in Sylva, NC, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide nutritious meals to our neighbors in need in a welcoming environment. Her research includes the scholarship of teaching and learning and student engagement. She enjoys designing a learning environment where her students can engage in experiential learning, gain food and nutrition literacy skills, and actively participate in common intellectual experiences.   

Throughout the Institute, we will explore the many dimensions of joyful teaching and learning, from cultivating a growth mindset and creating a sense of belonging for all students, to leveraging technology and using storytelling to make learning more engaging and impactful. We will also have the opportunity to share our own experiences and insights, and to learn from one another.

SITL Registration

As we embark on this journey, we encourage you to approach it with an open mind and a sense of curiosity. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn and connect with your colleagues, and don’t be afraid to share your own perspectives and ideas. Remember that the joy of teaching and learning is not something that can be measured by test scores or evaluations, but rather something that we experience every day in our interactions with our students and with one another.

We hope that this Summer Institute will be an enriching and inspiring experience for all of us, and that it will help us deepen our commitment to creating joyful and effective learning experiences for our students. Welcome, and let’s embrace the Joy of teaching and learning!

Written in conjunction with ChatGPT