April 13, 2024

The Collegium Award for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching was presented at opening convocation to two faculty members this year: Rick Incorvati, Ph. D., of the English department, and Darlene Brooks Hedstrom, Ph. D., of the History department.
The Collegium Award is unique in that it is the only award given by faculty — the Faculty Development Board.
“There are few opportunities to hear from other teachers,” Incorvati said.
And he wasn’t alone. “It’s different because you’re being assessed by peers who recognize skills in one’s craft,” Brooks Hedstrom said.
As described by Harvard Magazine in an article titled “Advancing the Art and Science of Teaching,” now is a time of “turmoil and uncertainty in higher education.”
“Our system of higher education is out of whack with the future and with innovation,” Henry Doss said in his article “Our Universities Are Not Teaching Innovation.”
“Follow the money, and you’ll find the real priority is jobs, not innovation,” Doss said.
One of Incorvati’s most memorable assignments was pen-palling fifth grade students from Lincoln Elementary School. The letters were a part of a dialogue about story-telling, identity and entitlement. At the end of the project, the students shared their pen pals stories in Ness Auditorium.
“I tell the students to tell their stories as if the person they are talking about is in the room,” Incorvati said.
He says he is a big fan of service learning.
Likewise, Brooks Hedstrom discussed how she liked “to create a democratic space” where both she and the students feel free to take risks and “leave class a little confused because that’s where the learning happens.”
She stressed the importance of flexibility, whether that is toward the students’ needs or the times. After 9/11, she saw that it was fitting to present an alternative narrative about the Middle East through an Arabic film. Also, she noticed her students’ interests in military history and incorporated those interests into class material.
“Every classroom has a life of its own,” Brooks Hedstrom.
Within these classrooms, she not only digs into historical and archaeological subjects with her students, but also into the Wittenberg Mission Statement, to make it tangible and to see how compassion and service can realistically apply.
“Innovation and change seem risky and time consuming, but they are rewarding and necessary,” as is written in the Harvard Magazine.
The recipients of the Collegium Award might agree.

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