Author Archives: Megan Johnson Shen

About Megan Johnson Shen

I am a social psychologist graduating with my Ph.D. from Baylor University this May and moving to NYC this summer to start a new job as a postdoctoral researcher at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in the Cancer Prevention and Control Department. I love the brain, human behavior, and anything to do with understanding them better. I love research and a good dinner party. Fine wine and cheese - I'm there. Interesting experimental data? I'll probably show for that too.

Innovation: What our universities can learn from a medical research center

Well, I suddenly realized I have been off the blogging scene for quite some time. In many ways, my blog really does reflect my life. I got my Ph.D. and then everything went a little “offline” while I packed up my house, my life, my career, and moved it all to NYC. I have now been here for three weeks, and can I just say, “Hello, world.” This place is amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

After starting to settle in here, I have finally started my new job at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. In terms of this place as an organization, can I just say “Yes, yes, yes!” It is most everything I dreamed of in the university setting realized. For years now, I have dreamed of a place where research is driven by real-world problems and actually APPLIED to them. I have dreamed of a place that PRIZES innovation and change. I have dreamed of a place that promotes continuing education but also gets that learning happens outside of the four traditional walls of the classroom. I have dreamed of a place that realizes knowledge and brilliance was never meant to be locked up in an ivory tower. It was meant to be shared with the masses, distributed to the public. It was meant to change the world. Well, I have found these dreams realized at Mt. Sinai.

Certainly, I am sure I will find faults with the organization as any organization has them, but Mt. Sinai gets it. Ordinarily, I am bored by orientations to new organizations. Today, I was excited, even enthralled at some points. I will break down what is so groundbreaking about Mt. Sinai’s vision and policies. It is my hope that one day the university can be like this place. It ought to be like this place. In fact, I am saddened to realize how much innovation many universities lack when they should be the cultural center of innovation!

1. There is a symbiotic relationship between research and application. The Mt. Sinai Hospital/Medical Center’s lines are completely merged with the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. In short this means that research and clinical practice are ONE. In my research, I will be working with patients in clinical trials. I will be working alongside physicians, clinicians, nurses and staff. And they, in turn, will be applying the research done at the facility. It is this symbiotic relationship that makes Mt. Sinai a leader in its field. They get that the one can not exist without the other. Without the hospital, the researchers innovations would be pointless and impossible, but without the innovation and research, the hospital would not be as groundbreaking and highly rated as it is.

2. They encourage interdepartmental interactions. Here – they ENCOURAGE you to get outside of your department and interact with as many people as you can. Hello. Yes. Sign me up! So often, in the university, we are encouraged to stay in our department, but here they make it clear they want you interacting with as many people who are different than you as possible. Now that’s the way of the future.

3. They highly promote diversity. One of my favorite quotes from today’s orientation was “It takes diversity to promote innovation. If everyone is the same, nothing new is ever created or discovered.” Yes! Yes! Yes! This is the principle I have tried so hard to communicate to my students, and here it is preached at my orientation! Imagine how floored with excitement I was upon hearing this. Not only that, they highlighted that diversity is more than demographics. In addition to race, ethnicity, age, sex, etc., it is also about parental status, marital status, religious beliefs, income, SES, etc. I looked around the room, and I didn’t see a bunch of middle to upper middle class Caucasians (my usual world). I saw every race, nationality, multiple languages spoken, various SES backgrounds, etc. represented. And I thought to myself, “here innovation can happen.” And I have an organization that is PUSHING me to be innovative.

4. They promote all of their staff to be innovators. They offer tuition remission for continuing education, and they get that most of that can occur online or in a variety of ways. They provide countless free training and education classes. Their motto is that they want you to figure out what you do and learn how to do it better. THEN (get this because I’m excited!) CHANGE. Yes, they actually promote their employees to move around so that they do not become stagnant and instead continue to grow and change within the organization. They actually said, “We do NOT want you to be the same as you were when you started this job. We highly recommend our employees move around and learn new skills and new ways of thinking.” That’s right! What if the university was a place that challenged our students like this? You feel comfortable with English and Literature. Take an intro biology class. See what’s interesting and new about that. The world could change. People could be inspired and innovate.

5. They believe in their employees. Over and over again, they kept saying, “You are among the best of the best by being selected to be here. We want you to change the future of this institution.” What if we engaged our students that way? What if we reminded them that just by getting INTO college, they already have met a certain level of criteria. And what if we didn’t give our students a chance to “let us down” or be a “sub-par” student? What if instead, right from the beginning, we called them to a higher place? What if we got them excited about being innovators? I think more students would rise to the challenge.

So yes, I am excited to see how this all starts to pull together in the coming months. But let’s just say, I am excited to be HERE. And it is my hope that I learn some great techniques to perhaps bring to the university in the future.


And then there was…a completed dissertation!!

This past Monday marked a monumental moment in my life: I finally (and successfully) defended my dissertation, now officially making me Dr. Johnson. Well, I suppose I technically have to walk across the stage and get the actual Ph.D. come May, but for now I’m basking in the glory of finally making it so to speak.

As I sit here pondering this monumental moment, I am left amazed. Amazed I have come this far, amazed that after five years in graduate school I have finally come to this: the end. But really, it is just the beginning. As I wrap up my time here at Baylor in the small city (town?) of Waco, I am left amazed. I’m amazed at the love and support from countless friends and family members I’ve had along the way. I have spent many a disgruntled late night studying for an exam or trying to get a data set to work or just moaning on the floor while I thought about actually having to finish the dang document (i.e., the dreaded dissertation). And all along the way, I had fellow graduate students/ friends/ colleagues and loved ones who groaned right along side me, knowing how painful it could be at times. I’m amazed at the good friendships I have made in my time here and even more amazed at how much my life has changed over the course of graduate school.

At the start of year one in my graduate program, I didn’t even know if I wanted to be a social psychologist. I was just “trying it out.” Now, five years later, I am obsessed with my job – I LOVE it. And I’ve grabbed some amazing things along the way. Most notably my best friend and dear husband, Patrick, whom I married last May. And so I sit here, ready for the beginning, not the end. I thought getting my Ph.D. would feel so final, so “end of the road,” but really it just makes me feel like a million new exciting possibilities are opening up for me. It’s a hopeful feeling.

The next step for me is to wrap up my time and life here in Waco and head to the big city (quite literally – moving to NYC) for my new job at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine as a researcher in the Cancer Prevention and Control Department. It is so weird to think of moving forward, and yet I can feel that my time here is done. Like the end of a good chapter, so is my life here at Baylor. My time here is coming to a wonderful, beautiful close. I am ending on a happy note with the city of Waco. But I am excited to start the next chapter of my life, where the girl who’s spent far too much time in an office with no windows (this still kills me) gets to see even more of the world. It’s a new step in so many ways for me. Wait a second. Come to think of it, my new job doesn’t have a window either. But you get it – figuratively I’m seeing more as I move to NYC. And there everything will be new. A new city. A new line of research. A new job. A new way of living. But I am excited. With my Ph.D. in my hand (well, figuratively), I am joyously ready for the next step in the adventure. Thank you to all of you who have loved and supported me along the way. This has been an accomplishment that I truly could not have done without each of you.

Oh yeah, writing and creativity are social acts

In my mind, writing has always been this mysterious, God-inspired and God-given talent. I always imagined myself at a beautiful desk, overlooking a huge bay window out onto either: 1) a glorious mountain scene, 2) beautiful beach, or 3) the French countryside. I mean that’s how all of the great artists and writers of history have done it, right? There’s Van Gogh and Monet, who were both inspired by the brilliant and radiant light of the Provencal South of France. And I mean, come on – what about 1920s Paris with Ernest Hemingway and the gang? (Side note: I have to remember the fact that Van Gogh cut his own stinking ear off and Hemingway was one of the most depressed individuals alive. I’d say they didn’t have it so well and still managed to create brilliant works.) Clearly I need to be either in a thriving metropolitan city or, even more preferably, tucked away in the beauty of nature. It’s there, I’ve always imagined, that my brilliant ideas which are oh so, so, so hidden would poor forth. Birds would sing, I’d sip my warm comforting cup of tea, and then God would gently send down His angels, and they would all tell me exactly what to write. In fact, my work would finally be so brilliant I wouldn’t even recognize it as mine.

Enter reality.

How my writing actually feels

How does my writing go in reality? I BARELY make it out the door with said warm cup of tea. In fact, getting the tea (and lunch) made in time to get out the door stresses me out. It has the exact opposite effect of what I want it to have. But I still want that dang cup of warm tea to so that it can freaking comfort me when I roll into my office.  I roll into my office, somewhere around 8:15-8:30am, although my intention is always to be there by 8:00am. This rarely happens, and when it does, I reward myself by not doing anything of substance for the first 15 minutes of work, thus completely nullifying any effects this earlier arrival time may have had. I keep going, reminding myself I’ve already gotten in an hour-long workout and shower in before this. That has to be an achievement, right? I make up achievements so that I can feel like I’m achieving. The denial and lying to myself already start. It’s only 8:30am.

I normally then have to go teach class. But I don’t want to. I’ve got to get my writing in so I don’t feel so horrible about myself all day. But alas, my students call and I go teach. I’m invigorated. This feels good. Wait. They’re not laughing at my jokes. They have blank stares. I’m not connecting with them. How do I connect? How can I be more interesting? Defeat sets in again. But sometimes, I have amazing days and my students and I create this exciting synergy. I love those days.

Enter back into office. STOP STARING AT ME COMPUTER. I know I need to write. But first I’ll grade. Yes – grading is important. Once grading is finished, I look at my white board with all of my “to do” tasks for the week. I start to take on as many small (and generally less important) tasks so that I can check things off. I’m obsessed with that; it’s the achiever in me. I often do this all day until in the last 30 minutes to hour of my workday, I finally get some writing in to get it out of the way and say I did it. But at this point in the day, it’s not very productive writing time.

But something has changed today, and I’m hoping that change will remain. After meeting and chatting with Paul Silvia, author of How to Write a Lot and visiting scholar on campus, I had a revelation. He said something that really stuck with me: “Creativity is a social act.” He talked about how almost all ideas and creativity are created outside of ourselves by interacting with other people. Through talking with people, meeting people at conferences, reading journal articles (interacting with our field), etc., we can begin to get “a-ha!” moments or moments of insight. And it suddenly hit me that I’ve been trying to write and be creative without making it a social act.

So today I tried something new. I tried reading several journal articles to get my juices flowing and get me excited about writing up this 8-study manuscript on which I am currently working. Some of the articles were directly related to my sub-field. Some were completely un-related. None were directly related to my research project. But it did something to me. It got me excited about getting my ideas out there to the world and to interact with my colleagues in this social world of learning. It reminded me what a great article looks like to model and base my own writing off of. And strangely, it gave me the energy and inspiration I needed to write.

So I’m trying something new the next couple of weeks to get me going during my writing time. I am going to ritualize my writing time by starting off reading 1-2 articles. This way, I’ll be tapping into the exciting field of research and getting pumped about my own research. Additionally, it’s less anxiety-provoking to “start” my writing time because I’m actually reading, which I can do anytime and not feel anxious about it (unless it’s advanced-level calculus-based derivative formulas for my Item Response Theory course, then I’m anxious). I’ll see if it works, but I’m hopeful. It’s been a long time since I felt this way about my writing. I actually wanted to write today as opposed to forcing myself to do it. Both are good and needed at different times, but I hope this pushes me toward enjoying the writing process a little more. And although I don’t have my scenery, I know I can still write in the ordinary places. I must choose to see the beauty and brilliance of the world around me. I must remember that writing is a social act. Our writing is nothing without the world and minds around us.

Incubation Education

“Any opportunity you get to work with him, you should. Everything Gardner does is amazing!” exclaimed Hillary Blakeley, a dear friend and former graduate fellow at Baylor’s Academy for Teaching and Learning. At the time, I didn’t know how right Hillary was. It was somewhere around January 2010, just over two years ago, that the journey began for me. A journey began that brought me into a passionate world of ideas, excitement, awe, and learning. Wait. But I’ve been in school now for 22 consecutive years (don’t worry, this includes finishing up my Ph.D. this year). Shouldn’t I have already been learning? Well, yes, of course I was. But I’m referring to the kind of learning that doesn’t feel like work but rather like discovery. Discovery and learning – when did the two become so different? Why wasn’t my learning feeling like discovery? Well, lucky for you (and let’s be serious, definitely me) this story brings them back together.

As I was saying, the story of learning and discovery being reunited began in the spring of 2010, the spring I joined the New Media Seminar (NMS) at Baylor University. The NMS was a seminar composed of approximately 15 graduate students, staff, and faculty and was designed to help us learn and converse about the rise and progression of new media, especially as it pertains to education. Joining me in that adventure was fellow ATL graduate fellow, Addy Meira, whose recent post on her own journey through the NMS and beyond inspired me to write this blog post. And leading us bravely and brilliantly onward was our faithful seminar leader and visionary, Dr. Gardner Campbell, who was the director of Baylor’s ATL at the time. And here is where the crux of our story lies – in the passion and joy of our visionary leader.

Well, it didn’t stop there. I got to enjoy even more of the ATL and Gardner on a deeper level. The fortune I stumbled upon that year has now forever changed my life. And isn’t that the way life often goes? Seemingly random occurrences finally accumulate into a grand symphony of change and brilliance? Well, that is exactly what happened in this adventure with Gardner and my fellow graduate student fellows. The adventure continued after the NMS when I got the opportunity to become a graduate fellow working under the mentorship of Gardner. Wow. I did not realize what a glorious experience it would be or how much it would shape future me (which is actually now present me). I still remember our weekly ATL Wednesday night meetings. Myself and the other graduate fellows would gather around the table, led by our noble and inspiring leader, Gardner. It was the first time I’d ever viewed a committee meeting as fun, invigorating, inspiring. Yes inspiring. Gardner has a way to inspire people to live life fully, to be more than what they are, and to feel like their ideas are valued. It was in that incubator of love, passion, excitement, and awe that I really learned to love education and learning all over again. To be perfectly honest with you, this pivotal experience has largely helped define me as an educator today. It has made me hopeful for the future and excited to break the bounds of “ordinary” and “routine” ways of learning into which the academy can so often drift. Instead of being lulled into the sleep of the “norm” or “status quo,” I was reawakened to the joy that lies in education.

Perhaps not surprisingly, that experience of being a part of the ATL and Gardner’s vision only created a domino effect of other marvelous experiences for me to meet brilliant and amazing people who are also passionate about education. People like Michael Wesch, Alan Levine, Jim Groom, and others. I have found myself in this new world of radical system changers who want to redefine and reshape academia to be what it ought to be – a place where students are engaged and learn and PLAY. Yes, play with the information they are taking in. It is an army of educators devoted to the one thing that is most important but often forgotten, our students. In many ways, it’s all so new to me and I feel unqualified to be amongst these brilliant and passionate minds. But then, I’ve got Gardner to do what he does best – encourage me. Build me up. Remind me that I am just as capable and worthwhile. And it’s in that encouraging place that I am strengthened to take on this thing we call higher education.

Well, as life would have it the wonderful season of being in the “Gardner incubator” of love, passion, brilliance, excitement, wonder, and awe came to end with Gardner moving on to the University of Virginia in February 2011. But I have remained with an army of graduate fellows at the ATL who carry the flame, the vision, Gardner left behind. It is alongside these comrades that I fight for radical change in higher education, work to invest in and inspire my students, and kindle the fire of interest and awe that Gardner so carefully tended to while he was here. You see, Gardner, that’s what happens with you. You’re always leaving behind visionaries to carry the vision on in your place.

Recently, I got to go with my fellow visionaries Ashley Palmer and Addy Meira to the annual EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) conference. Side note: these two colleagues and friends have been lifesavers in this season of life. It is so fun and fulfilling to work alongside people who have the vision and say, “YES! Let’s do it! Let’s change higher ed.” It was there at the ELI conference, where after nearly a year of absence, I got to once again meet with my friend, colleague, and mentor, Gardner, once more. I never forget my encounters with Gardner. I forgot how intense, how capable of feeling every emotion, Gardner is. He is constantly in awe, always discovering the world around him. Despite his brilliance (admittedly, the man is a genius), he is always so ready and genuinely waiting to learn something from me. I simultaneously don’t get it but love it. And then I realize this is why he is such a fantastic teacher, mentor, educator, and revolutionary! It’s because he has this unexplainable ability to inspire everyone all the time about everything. I’m still convinced Gardner could make salting my food inspiring! I’m sure he’d go on about the particles and the explosion of taste combinations as this simple element sodium hits my tongue in conjunction with the food. And I WOULD LOVE IT. I would suddenly want to grab all the information I could about sodium. What does the element look like under a microscope? Who first discovered that sodium tastes good on food? And on and on…and so it always has been with Gardner. His ability to ignite the spark of interest and as my friend Addy Meira so brilliantly put it to live in “wonder” about everything is what makes him such a joy to be around and such a fantastic educator. And that’s why people get excited about learning and inventing and doing around him. His utter being creates a force in the environment that is so explosively full of positive energy that you cannot help but be affected by it in return.

If you were to ask me, “How does it feel to engage in a conversation with Gardner?” I would reply with the following. I would say I feel invincible. I feel like all my dreams are possible. I finally feel like dreaming is a worthwhile endeavor, as opposed to something that “takes me away from my work.” NO! Dreaming IS my work. I am here on this earth to dream and to see dreams realized. I feel valued. FINALLY – my ideas are heard and exciting. And as he responds with more excitement, I gain even more confidence and energy to keep growing and changing and thinking and learning and dreaming. I feel like I can change education and the academy. I CAN make it something amazing. I feel loved, in that most genuine of ways. And I feel passionate. And in that passion, I care, which causes me to do things about what I care about. I feel things more deeply. Things are more real and raw to me. It’s like a drug. And that drug is optimism and joy and passion and wonder and it courses through his veins and begins to course through the veins of those around him. THAT is why being around Gardner Campbell is such an amazing experience that gets you to the very core and makes you feel good. Special. Loved. Worthwhile. Powerful enough to change things. And if you’ve ever been around him, you know what I mean.


It hits me. This has to be what my students want to feel like. Invincible. Worthwhile. Passionate. Brilliant. Invested in. Loved. Cheered on and supported. No. No. I stand corrected. This IS what my students are, but I have to help them realize it. As an educator, it is my fortunate pleasure and honor to believe in my students and help them express the true talent they have always had all along. It’s just that somewhere along the way, education started to bore them and no longer believe in them and I have to reignite the fire within them. And if it’s never burned before, well let’s get some flames and get to work!

And so I realized that’s exactly it, that is why Gardner’s students become brilliant and wonderful. It is because they were brilliant and wonderful the whole time, but Gardner cared enough to see it. To water it. To nurture it. I am convinced our world and educational systems are full of too much negativity. We complain about our students, students complain about assignments, and then we educators hate the system. And so it was refreshing at this ELI conference to just be resting in hope again. Hope that higher education can be something really cool.

Perhaps the most memorable moment for me was sitting at dinner with Gardner, hearing him tell the story of when he touched with his own hands (in gloves but still!) an original work by John Milton (for those of you who don’t know, Gardner is a major Milton scholar). And he started to tear up. As soft tears formed in his eyes, I could feel the joy of that moment. I felt like I was a Milton scholar holding an original work in my hands. And I loved it. I loved that he wasn’t afraid to feel those things. I loved that he brought me into his passion. In his vulnerability to really feel awe and joy and passion, he gave me courage to feel more deeply and live more passionately myself. I went on to tell him he had to see the documentary Being Elmo, which follows the life story of Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who invented the character Elmo on Sesame Street. It’s a moving story about his rise to fame. As I recalled the beauty of that film, which inspired me in much the same way that Gardner does, I started to tear up myself. Why? Because I allowed myself to feel that deeply about it. And it was Gardner and his endless positive energy that gave me that courage. All of sudden there I was again, standing as I was just as it began with him, in that incubator of love, passion, excitement, and awe. It is in within an incubator of love and passion and awe and wonder, which I had the pleasure of experiencing two years ago in that little ATL room, that I know my students’ inherent brilliance will shine forth. May we all carry the wonder and passion and optimism and believe in our students as much as my dear mentor Gardner has believed in me.

Crash of the education market

This recently I attended the Lilly Teaching conference in Oxford, OH at Miami University. While there, an interesting question was raised asking if the cost of education was too high for students? This question is again raised as I sit here in the airport on my way back to Texas. I am watching a CNN small story on the increasing levels of student debt in America. The national average is now up to $34,000+. The woman interviewed, who is now living her dream of working in NYC for J. Crew, had nearly a six-figure student debt. When asked to calculate how long it would take her to pay it back, she stated, “About 25 years or so.” So the question I am left with is when is the education bubble going to burst?

I, for one, am a huge proponent of higher education. I teach in higher education, and I am almost finished with my Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology. I think it is FABULOUS. However, I have seen several of my own friends and students be crushed beneath the burdensome weight of student debt, and I wonder if the costs outweigh the benefits. Some students who traditionally have the largest amount of debt, such as lawyers, are finding it near impossible to find a job in the current market. So they are left with loans they can’t afford due to an inability to find work. So why do we keep paying for this expensive education? Because it seems as if the only way to keep up with everyone else on the job market is to take out more student loans and get more higher education (Masters, Doctorates, etc.). But is this true, and where is the future of education heading?

I think in the future routes like community college for the first few years of school may become more commonplace. As students figure out what it is they actually want to do, they may take general education requirements at community college and then move on to the more expensive four-year schools. Additionally, more students may attend state schools in which they are residents so that the cost of tuition is cheaper. However, that still doesn’t answer the question of what to do with endless debt, especially when pursuing higher-level degrees such as Master’s and Doctorates.

I worry in many ways that this economic issue may further drive the very issue of class inequalities that the Occupy Wall Street movement is protesting against. As education gets more expensive, the only students who may be able to afford to attend such high-price and high-status institutions like the Harvards and Princetons will be the students from very wealthy backgrounds. As this trend continues, the economy may favor those “highly qualified” individuals and better jobs may go to them, creating an even further gap between classes within American society. Those who have more will continue to get more and those who have less will continue to get less.

However, clearly American society is fighting these trends. The only question is – what will the market do? Will this problem fix itself with the flux of supply and demand? Will these inequalities slowly dissipate over time? I am not certain of the outcome, nor am I entirely hopeful. But I do hope that qualifications for jobs are redefined in the future. I hope that getting an education at a community college is not viewed as second class. I hope that individuals will move forward based on their merit. However, I know that enriched environments provide more opportunities, which in turn creates better outcomes. The thing is, the economic market is not concerned with fairness or morality or judging individuals for their individual merit. We are an economy that thrives on statuses and reputations. So, these inequalities are likely to thrive in the current market rather than die, and all the while we are sitting on top of an education bubble that may soon burst. The question is, what will happen when it bursts? Will a burst help address the problem of social inequalities currently existing in American society, or will it just make them worse?

The role of biology in morality

Ahh…it’s once again been so long since I blogged. The job application season has me scarce in the blogging world at best. However, I miss it. I miss writing down my thoughts about teaching and learning, so I’m back for a quick post.

I am insanely excited about an awesome class I have tomorrow. I’m teaching a large group lecture to my sophomore level interdisciplinary students on the interconnection between Machiavelli, psychopaths, empathy, and mirror neurons – woot! The underlying premise of the lecture is that empathy motivates prosociality (a la reviews from Daniel Batson ), but what happens when empathy is off the table (as in Machiavelli’s Mandragola and the Prince?). It’s going to be a delightful discussion.

I’m starting them off in a Prisoner’s Dilemma Game, and then we will dive into the question of whether human’s are always selfishly motivated. Then, we will discuss if they ought to pursue the good (as Plato and Aristotle might argue) or if they ought to pursue THEIR good (as Machiavelli would). More specifically, I want them to think about which philosopher was more accurate in his portrayal of humankind.

Then we will end on an interesting note – the role of biology in shaping morality. We will talk about how we are all designed naturally to feel empathy toward one another, as evidenced by studies on mirror neurons. However, what happens when their are biological deficits that prevent one from having empathy, such as psychopathic traits? What moral system are these individuals bound to? Your thoughts are welcomed.

Time for a mid-semester course makeover

Well, I am officially about half way through the semester. It’s crazy how the Fall semester just kills me in comparison to the Spring semester. I would swear that I have been going strong for at least 12 weeks now, but it’s been more like 9 weeks or so. I am finding that I, along with my students, am starting to become a little weary with the semester. Those staring off into a daze moments are coming with ever increasing frequency, so I decided it’s time for a little class makeover!

Makeovers make everyone feel better, including rusty mid-semester courses. So, I’m endeavoring to make some changes in the courses I’m teaching in order liven things up a bit. Hey – we have to have some highlights to carry us through until Thanksgiving break. 🙂 So here are some of the changes I’m going to make in my courses.

1. Statistics. Now, I love statistics. I could do them all day every day. Working with numbers fascinates me. However, my students do not always feel the same. To switch it up, I’m going to make learning t-tests interesting. For those of you who just fell asleep or laughed at that comment, read on! I’m going to make the students divide into two meaningful groups (such as males vs. females). Then, we are going to figure out what types of tasks they hypothesize men and women will perform differently (solving anagrams, knowing sports trivia, knowing pop culture trivia, discussing makeup application, balancing a spoon on your nose??). This will allow me to: 1) demonstrate which variables it’s appropriate to examine (ones we would hypothesize would be different across gender; thus, the spoon trick wouldn’t really make sense theoretically), 2) get them up and moving doing tasks, and 3) show them how to run a t-test with REAL data that they were a part of collecting!

2. Social World I. This is my philosophy and social science interdisciplinary course. Right now, we are covering Augustine’s theory on just war and punishment. I’m going to put together a couple of criminal cases and see how they would try a criminal. Then, we will compare that to how Augustine would try them given his views on punishment and forgiveness. We will play with severity of crime to see when their own views overlap with Augustine’s views and when they are wildly different (theft, rape, murder, etc.). They will have to make a convincing argument/defense for their decision, forcing them to utilize Augustine’s theories and arguments to justify forgiving those who commit crimes, even in the case of murder. I think it will help drive home the point a little.

3. Examined Life. This is my introductory course to college life. I’m having my students blog about how the course connects to their day-to-day lives, so I am going to start having “Featured Blogs.” Each class period, I’ll pick a student to write a “Featured Blog” and we will spend a few minutes of class discussing how it relates to the readings. I’m hoping *fingers crossed* they get excited about this idea!

So, let’s hope these little makeovers help put a little “umph” back into the semester.