Provost's Newsletter – November 2018

Focus on Faculty

Across Campus

In Case You Missed it: Navigating Career Success 

The Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence and the Office of the Provost hosted the Ninth Annual Conference for Pre-Tenure Women, “Navigating Early Careers for Academic Success,” on Sept. 6-7.

Teresa Sullivan, president emerita and professor of the University of Virginia, spoke about “Glassy Ceilings, Grassy Traps: 21st Century Higher Education Careers.” Her talk is available below.

Mia Tuan, professor and dean, College of Education, University of Washington, spoke about “Embracing Forks in the Road: One Woman’s Journey into Administration.” Her talk is available below.

For details about the center's programs, please see

WALC earning popularity, instructors' praise with versatile facilities

As the Purdue Bell Tower tolled 1:30 a.m. in the dead of night on an autumn Tuesday, it loomed over one spot on campus that was very much alive with activity. Almost 250 students were studying, writing papers and researching next to the tower at WALC, the Thomas S. and Harvey D. Wilmeth Active Learning Center.

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but only a year old, WALC has quickly become one of the most active hot spots on campus, each day attracting more than 5,000 faculty and students who work in, on and around 100 computers, eight small-group study rooms, a large quiet reading room, comfortable upholstered chairs, an Au Bon Pain café and bakery, three faculty lounges and the 28,000-volume Library of Engineering and Science. Many also have classes there in one of WALC’s 27 active learning classrooms.

Each active learning classroom features one of seven different configurations. All classrooms offer modular arrangements and varying levels of technology. Some have the highest level including multiple monitors, touch screens,  projectors and video cameras. Others are lower-key with whiteboards, projectors and markers. All of the classrooms encourage collaboration, teamwork, creativity and interaction.

The largest seats 180 students, six to a table. Others have segmented tables and chairs on wheels for quick rearranging. Whiteboards are ubiquitous. An 18-station computer lab — D-VELoP — lets faculty and students visualize and interpret data.  Some classrooms use the Solstice wireless presentation system, which can project faculty-curated screens from any student device whether it’s an iPhone or Android, tablet or computer. And strong Wi-Fi is a given.

Heather Vickers, a continuing lecturer in art education, says the digital monitors are one of her favorite features. "Those in Room 1121 are the best way to view artwork," Vickers said. "The image is a lot clearer and the color is better than overhead projectors. Having eight of them in a room allows the class to look at many images at one time."

Gloria Sachdev, a clinical assistant professor in pharmacy, said she used her classroom to do several activities that cannot be done as well in traditional classrooms, from group quizzes to live debates by teams. 

Albert Talbert, professor of agricultural sciences education and communication, said Solstice allowed students to look up information and documents and then share them with the entire class. The movable tables and chairs worked well as his 20 to 30 students formed into discussion and work groups.

"The size of the room also allowed the groups to have some distance between them so discussion from one group did not disturb another group," he said. "One of the courses was a teaching methods course, so the ability to rearrange the room into different configurations was essential.”

The active learning classrooms in WALC are workhorses, with little down time. Whenever a class isn't in session, faculty and students can use the rooms and the equipment. Sometimes they visualize data or work on group projects.

"Or, faculty can continue the learning after class by engaging students in the study spaces throughout the building," said Rhonda Phillips, interim dean of Purdue Libraries and dean of the Honors College. "In fact, some even hold office hours there."

The library and its open stacks surround the classrooms. ITaP staff members are available to assist and Library faculty can help with project data management and information literacy. Four 3-D printers and a speedy large-format poster printer are available.

While our peers are trying to emulate Purdue's active learning leadership, word is spreading among Purdue faculty about the potentials. When WALC opened last fall, 18,546 students had classes there; this fall, that number jumped to 29,253 — an increase of nearly 58 percent. At the same time, the number of faculty teaching there grew by nearly 30 percent to 391. The top 10 departments or areas taking advantage of WALC, based on the number of sections taught, are Nursing, Pharmacy, English, Communication, Chemistry, Computer Science, Nutrition Science, Entrepreneurship, Educational Psychology, and Building and Construction Management.

That mix of majors fosters interdisciplinary exchange, notes Nanette Andersson, director of Libraries facilities.

"We hope there will be a cross-pollination of ideas at WALC," Andersson said.

How does a Purdue faculty member or instructor land a class in WALC or one of the 40 other collaborative learning spaces on campus? Work with your department's schedule deputies. Explain why a specific classroom type is needed. Schedule deputies will pass the explanation on to the Registrar's Office, where room assignments are made. WALC classroom descriptions and floor plans are available online.

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