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2017-2018 Cutting-Edge Curriculum Award Winners

Top 2 Cutting-Edge Curriculum Award Winners

Cutting-Edge Curriculum Award Winners

2018 Finalists 

  • Andrea Brenner, American University*
    • American University Experience Program
  • Karla Jensen, Nebraska Wesleyan University*
    • Be. Here. Now.: Mindfulness Theory and Practice
  • Sarah DeSmet, Wesleyan College
    • WISe 101: Wesleyan Integrative Seminar Experience
  • Jodi Goldberg, Hamline University
    • Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock: When Did Sheldon Cooper Know He Was a Scientist?
  • Nathan Hedman, High Point University
    • Grit: Explaining Survival
  • Jessica Hower, Southwestern University
    • A Pirate's Life for Me: Pirates, Piracy, & Southwestern U
  • Maggie McCampbell Lien, Shenandoah University
    • You Don't Have to Be Gandhi: Student Activism in a Global Perspective
  • Julie Rust, Millsaps College
    • Are Schools Really Broken?: Partnering to Creatively Improve Education
  • Nicolas Proctor, Simpson College
    • SC 101: Galactic Senate
  • Moriska Selby, Bennett College
    • SW 299: The Learning Lab: Bennett Belles Academy

*Top two award finalists and $4,000 recipients

Cutting-Edge Curriculum Award Finalists 

Andrea Brenner

Andrea Brenner, American University

Andrea Malkin Brenner, Ph.D., serves as the creator and director of the American University Experience (AUx), the designer of the curriculum, and as an assistant professor of Sociology at American University. Brenner has taught undergraduate classes in the Department of Sociology for the past 20 years. She has been honored to have served as the undergraduate advisor and the internship director for the Department of Sociology for many years and as the faculty director of University College, AU's oldest and largest living-learning community. Brenner has researched and written about the sociology of education, teaching introductory sociology, sociology of sport, and on the life course. Brenner serves on the editorial board of SOC (McGraw Hill) and has been published in The A-Z of Death and Dying, in Sex and Society, and in Sociology Through Active Learning. Brenner holds a Bachelors of Art in Sociology from Brandeis University and a Master of Art in Higher Education Administration from Boston College. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from American University, where her research focused on the complexities of white professors teaching about race and racism to students of color. She has received a number of teaching awards from American University, including Professor of the Year and the Ann S. Ferren Curriculum Design Award for her work with AUx. Brenner is also an adoption advocate and has served on the Board of Trustees of The Barker Adoption Foundation, Maryland's oldest non-profit adoption agency, since 2006. She has an upcoming book manuscript under revision titled, “The Almost-college Student’s Guide to Getting There and Getting It Right” (with colleague Lara Schwartz).

Course Syllabus: American University Experience Program
The American University Experience (AUx) will be a mandatory full year first-year course at American University beginning in the 2018-2019 academic year that serves as part of the core curriculum. AUx1 (fall): Drawing on many academic disciplines including student development theory, this course helps students navigate their academic, social, cultural, and psychological adjustment to university life. AUx1 helps students transition to their first year at AU. Themes covered in this standardized course include freedom of expression; campus resources; exploring and expressing identities; building academic success; budgeting time and money; health and wellness; finding community; rights and responsibilities; diversity, bias, and privilege; and setting goals for success. AUx2 (spring): Race and social identity, which include but are not limited to ethnicity, gender and sexual expression, class, disability, and religion, are often discussed in coded, contentious, or uncomfortable ways. AUx2 seeks to create a space for conversations and learning about these topics that push beyond the norm. The course builds upon concepts introduced in AUx1, blending personal exploration of social identity formation with a multidisciplinary approach to race and ethnicity. This course is a starting point for the academic study of the structures of culture and power as well as social movements that challenge those structures. It equips students to become part of a community of learners whose members come from a variety of backgrounds and bring with them a range of experiences.


Karla Jensen

Karla Jensen, Nebraska Wesleyan

Karla Jensen earned her master’s degree in Intercultural Communication and Doctor of Philosophy in Instructional Communication from the University of Kansas. She taught Instructional Communication and directed the public speaking program at Texas Tech University for five years before taking her current position at Nebraska Wesleyan University in 2000. Jensen teaches courses in the interpersonal realm such as Family, Health, and Intercultural Communication. She also teaches the Communication Research Methods course, as well as a Mindfulness Theory and Practice seminar for first-year students. Jensen’s teaching has been recognized by Texas Tech University, the Central and Southern Communication Association, and Nebraska Wesleyan University. Jensen leads weekly guided meditations and yoga classes for NWU students, faculty and staff. 

Course Syllabus: Be. Here. Now.: Mindfulness Theory and Practice
Mindfulness is simply paying attention, on purpose and without judgment, to the present moment. With practice, mindfulness cultivates open-minded curiosity, trains us to skillfully respond to our environment, and helps us develop compassion for ourselves and others. Practiced by philosophers and religious women and men for ages, mindfulness has endured across denominations and cultures because of its many physical, mental, spiritual, and social benefits. Students in the Be. Here. Now.: Mindfulness Theory and Practice seminar conduct an interdisciplinary investigation of current neuropsychological and social scientific mindfulness literature and synthesize and apply these findings via research projects and oral presentations. Throughout the seminar, both in and outside of the classroom, students engage in a host of exercises such as meditation, journaling, deep listening, and other contemplative practices. These practices, in tandem with class readings and research, foster a nuanced understanding and further application of course content while enhancing introspection, concentration, and perspective-taking – all skills needed to be a diligent student, considerate friend, and attentive, responsible member of any community


Sarah DeSmet, Wesleyan College

Winning Curriculum: WISe 101: Wesleyan Integrative Seminar Experience


Jodi Goldberg

Jodi Goldberg, Hamline University

Jodi Goldberg received her Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Macalester College and Doctor of Philosophy in Immunology from Stanford University. She has taught in the Biology Department at Hamline University since 2003. Hamline’s diverse student body and large proportion of first-generation college students make it an inspiring place to work. Throughout Jodi’s career, she has enjoyed teaching courses in cellular biology, immunology, and cancer biology, as well as offering multiple courses within our first-year seminar program. Beyond the classroom, Jodi had helped over 50 students from Hamline and local community colleges to begin forming their scientific identities through summer collaborative research. Many of those students have gone on to graduate programs in STEM fields. Her student researchers have studied questions within a wide range of scientific disciplines from effects of neurotransmitters on human immune cells to the genes that drive colon cancer in human cell lines. Currently, Jodi and her students are studying several genes associated with Tay-Sachs disease.

Course Syllabus: Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock: When did Sheldon Cooper know he was a scientist?

What makes a person a scientist? When do we begin to look at ourselves as scientists? In the Big Bang Theory many stereotypes about natural scientists are played out. In the original cast, the female character was a waitress and actor, while Sheldon Cooper and the three other male characters were physicists or engineers. The show reproduced certain stereotypes about scientists, perhaps affirming assumptions about who does, and who is capable of doing, scientific research. Unfortunately, these stereotypes are grounded in the reality of who obtains natural science degrees. This First-Year Seminar (FYSEM) considered what it means to be a scientist, the challenges inherent in natural science careers, and how those challenges can be exaggerated for both those students who are currently underrepresented in these careers and for those students who are among the first in their families to attend a four-year college. We examined the careers of some well-respected natural scientists from across disciplines who come from underrepresented groups. We explored the many hurdles these scientists faced as they developed their scientific identities. We discussed the types of challenges students may encounter as they pursue careers in the natural sciences. Finally, students also began to form their own scientific identities through practice analyzing data, undertaking critical thinking exercises, writing reflections, and, most importantly, performing scientific experiments.


Nathan Hedman

Nathan Hedman

Nathan Hedman received an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Theatre and Drama from Northwestern University, in addition to a master’s degree in Theatre & Drama from Northwestern, a master’s degree in Religion and Art from Yale University, and a master’ degrees in Liberal Studies (“The Great Books”) from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His research focuses on the intersection of drama, philosophy, and religion, particularly Western modernity’s representations of the body, and he has written on Kant, Kierkegaard, T. S. Eliot and the eighteenth-century European Grand Tour. Hedman holds positions in two departments—English and Theatre—and have been integral in the development of High Point University’s new Honors Program.  

Course Syllabus: Grit: Explaining Survival

“Grit” has recently emerged as a distinguishing trait among high achievers, but has long been a favorite theme in stories of “deep survival.”  In this course students analyze first-person survival accounts (e.g. Tales from the Explorer’s Club, Into Thin Air), short and long-form fictional accounts of survival (The Sea-Wolf, The Road, Life of Pi), while comparing them with competing biological and sociological models of survival (Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” and its critics; Darwin’s “natural selection” and its critics), along with psychological and philosophical theories of “perseverance,” “fortitude,” “hardiness,” and “resilience,” in Cicero, Aquinas, James, amplified by several contemporary documentaries and films—The Endurance, Life of Pi,Wild, Revenant, 127 Hours, 33, and first person, narrative PC gaming in The Long Dark—to analyze what “grit" is, who has it, how it is strengthened, how it is narrated, and how it relates to a life well lived. 


Jessica Hower

Jessica Hower, Southwestern University

Jessica S. Hower is an assistant professor of History at Southwestern University, in Georgetown, Texas, where she teaches courses on Britain, Ireland, and the British Empire, the Early Modern Atlantic World, comparative colonialism, gender, and History & Memory. Located at the intersection of these fields, her research focuses on the significance of the Tudor century to the formation and development of Britain and its Empire. Her monograph, Tudor Empire: The Making of Britain and the British Atlantic World, 1485-1603, is forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan. Other projects have appeared or are forthcoming in Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice(Taylor & Francis), Cannibalism and the Early Modern Atlantic(University of Arkansas Press), andBritain and the World(Edinburgh University Press). After receiving her BA in History and Political Science at Union College, Hower earned her Master of Art and Doctor of Philosophy from Georgetown University. She began teaching at Southwestern in the Fall of 2013, building her course offerings, mentoring students, supervising honors projects, serving on the Feminist Studies, Campus Life, and Paideia (SU’s interdisciplinary curriculum) committees, and teaching in the university’s study abroad program in London.

Course Syllabus: A Pirate's Life for Me: Pirates, Piracy, & Southwestern U 
Captains Henry Morgan, William Kidd, and Blackbeard; seadogs Francis Drake and Richard Hawkins; Long John Silver, Captain Hook, and Jack Sparrow; Captain Phillip’s Somali foes, a major league baseball team from Pittsburg, the creators of Napster and Pirate Bay, and the Southwestern University mascot. Who or what constitutes a pirate and why do they capture our imaginations so? What is our traditional, if romanticized, image of the pirate and where does it come from? Who would choose to become a pirate, when, why, and how? What defines piracy and how has it changed over time and space? What causes piracy and how has it been challenged? Is there such a thing as a good, just, or necessary pirate or is all piracy illicit, brutal, terrorism? Are pirates a constant throughout history? And if so, why? This first-year seminar uses our own swashbuckling university figurehead as a lens through which to study history, literature, art, pop culture, politics, society, the media, law, business, the environment, and more. Using myriad approaches from many disciplines, we will explore the existence and changing definitions of piracy, from its classical roots to its Caribbean Golden Age to present-day piracy on the high seas and online. Our pirates are maritime and terrestrial, fictional and digital, regional and global, ancient and modern. Their motivations are vast and varied; their weapons are swords and sails, guns and motorboats, computers and the Internet; their booty is physical and intellectual. By exploring pirates, we will examine what it means to be one... in present-day Georgetown, Texas, of course!


Maggie McCampbell Lien

Maggie McCampbell, Shenandoah University

Maggie McCampbell Lien, M.Ed., is currently the director of Inclusion and Diversity at Shenandoah University. She earned her bachelor's degree from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia in Communication Studies and Business. She then moved to Virginia to pursue a master's degree in Counseling Psychology with a focus in College Student Personnel Administration at James Madison University. McCampbell quickly developed a passion for working with underserved student populations and creating equitable experiences in higher education. McCampbell started Intercultural Programs five years ago when she came to Shenandoah as the first person in her position and has worked to create a campus of inclusion and respect for all students. In fall 2017, Maggie became the director of Inclusion and Diversity and opened the Mosaic Center for Diversity.  Maggie also teaches a first-year seminar course on student activism in a global perspective. 

Course Syllabus: You Don't Have to Be Gandhi: Student Activism in a Global Perspective
You Don’t Have to be Ghandi: Student Activism in a Global Perspective is a first-year seminar course structured around different topics that typically require change and therefore involve activism work. Each semester, topics are chosen based on student interest, current trends, and national climate. For fall 2017 for example, course units included immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, HIV/AIDS, sexual assault, mental health, racial justice, and addiction and drug law. Each unit is viewed from both a national and a global perspective. At the beginning of the semester, students engage in their first activism work through a trip to Washington, D.C. to march in the Unity Walk, an interfaith event started after 9/11 to bring people from different faith backgrounds together. During the class, guest speakers come to share their knowledge and life’s work in creating change around one of the topic areas of the class. Students develop empathy and trust through assignments that require them to share about their own background and learn about the passions of their classmates. At the end of the semester, students engage in four activism projects as a class centered around four topics chosen by the class.


Julie Rust

Julie Rust, Millsaps

After spending four years navigating the complex and energizing world of teaching middle and high school English, Julie Rust went on to pursue her Ph.D. at Indiana University Bloomington in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education.  While there, she became fascinated with research questions at the intersection of new media and secondary ELA classrooms, and she became convinced that the only way to conduct inquiry in such spaces involves true partnership with kids and practitioners in the field.  She then carried these sensibilities to her work as assistant professor of Education at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, where she especially enjoys co-constructing applied, community-engaged learning experiences for her freshmen classes and her preservice teachers.  Her current research revolves around dialogue across difference, digital pedagogy, and the role of reflection and practice-based approaches in becoming a teacher.  

Course Syllabus:Are Schools Really Broken?: Partnering to Creatively Improve Education

Chances are, if you regularly check your newsfeed, you have been inundated with a lot of opinions about "schools these days," "teachers these days," and the urgent need for education reform. But all of this begs the question ... are schools really broken?  Studies have shown that, while macro-discourses about "bad schools" are more prevalent than ever, when individuals in the U.S. are asked about the quality of their children's schools and teachers, they have overwhelmingly positive things to say.  In "Are Schools Really Broken: Partnering to Creatively Improve Education," freshmen in the first semester of college examine and critique the historical and contemporary swirl of rhetoric about schools and teaching, while observing alongside teachers and administrators in actual schools.  Rather than merely jumping in blindly to "problem-solve," they spend a portion of the semester in collaborative inquiry (utilizing critical ethnographic methods) at a school setting, making sure they first take time to make sense of the community.  Freshmen then work alongside your classmates and school partners to define a problem impacting K-12 education, work to deeply understand the problem through various perspectives, and then propose (and enact) a tenable solution.


Nick Proctor

Nick Proctor, Simpson College

Nicolas W. Proctor received his Ph.D. from Emory University and is a professor of History at Simpson College, where he has served as department chair and director of the first-year program. After completing a traditional work, Bathed in Blood: Hunting and Mastery in the Old South, he focused on writing historical role-playing games for the Reacting to the Past series, including Kentucky, 1861: Loyalty, State, and Nation, with Margaret Storey, Traditionalism versus Modernism: Art in Paris 1888-89, with Gretchen McKay and Michael Marlais, and Forest Diplomacy: Cultures in Conflict on the Pennsylvania Frontier, 1757. He is currently working on Yalta, 1945, with John Moser, andChicago, 1968.In addition to Star Wars, he occasionally writes and teaches classes about zombies. Most recently, this yielded an article, “Other Apocalypses: Historical Perspectives on Mass Destruction,” which was published in the anthology But If a Zombie Apocalypse Did Occur.  

Course Syllabus: The Galactic Senate

In the Outer Rim, allies of Leia Organa’s Resistance are gathering. After the death of Supreme Leader Snoke, and the growing schism between Kylo Ren and Armitage Hux, many see an opportunity. Several dozen systems are sending representatives to a reconstituted senate, which must face a number of complex issues, including:

  • Trying stormtroopers for war crimes.
  • Addressing issues of gender among alien species and cultures.
  • Condemning the terroristic tactics of the Resistance.
  • Managing relations with the Jedi.
  • Constructing a “Peace Star” to defeat the First Order.
  • Emancipating droids.
  • Dealing with crime syndicates.
  • Designing a permanent new government.

This course will involve role-playing as representatives from systems around the galaxy. We will begin the semester by reading Bloodline, which describes Leia’s experiences with galactic politics before Episode VII. As the semester progresses, we will read a number of other texts, which should allow us to draw parallels between the issues we face in the Star Wars universe and the contemporary world. 


Moriska Selby

Moriska Selby, Bennett College

Moriska V. Selby, Ed.L.D., has over 20 years of experience developing and managing programs for youth in underachieving schools. She also has a background in facilitating workshops for school faculty and administrators as well as community members. Selby’s current work as the founder and principle education consultant at MVS Consultants centers on increasing the visibility and success of organizations with a commitment to reimagining the life and success of girls and women across the African Diaspora – people of African descent who migrated within and outside of the African continent. Through collaboration, project management, forecasting and strategizing, Selby helps organizations turn possibilities into reality. Projects include working within the for-profit and non-profit sector in strategic growth planning, civic engagement and universal design. Selby is a visiting faculty consultant in the social work department at Bennett College, a historically black college for women in Greensboro, North Carolina. She also serves as the co-founder and chief executive officer of Adventure Girlz, a non-profit, sports-based leadership program for girls from the African Diaspora who are disproportionately at risk of school push out from underperforming schools into the juvenile justice system. Selby is a graduate of Tufts University, completed her master's degree in Education at Lesley University, and was selected as one of 25 national leaders to receive a full scholarship for the Doctorate in Education Leadership at Harvard University, a groundbreaking interdisciplinary degree program that allowed her to lead with and learn from business, education, and policy leaders across the country. She also holds a certificate in Culinary Arts from Guilford Technical Community College.

Course Syllabus: SW 299: The Learning Lab: Bennett Belles Academy
The Learning Lab is an innovation course that will serve as the first iteration of an on-campus innovation center at Bennett College. The Learning Lab is meant to activate the leadership of Bennett College students around a problem of practice: the design and launch of an on-campus boarding school for girls in foster care. The course engaged Bennett College students across disciplines and majors as co-architects of the boarding school and leveraged campus faculty, industry and community partners as speakers and guides through design-thinking, entrepreneurial and innovative processes. While the course offered concrete work products such as a research paper and public presentation, the students who enrolled in The Learning Lab developed self-agency -- the ability to recognize obstacles that are in place to make one believe they have no power, skills, and/or resources to affect change and then one having the “know-how” on how to leverage said power, skills, and/or resources for their individual and collective benefit. The Learning Lab provides a space for students to increase their sense of self-agency to feel empowered to advocate for their personal needs as well as growing their ability and capacity to serve their communities to affect change.