Teaching Grants Bring Innovative New Courses to Students

lightbulb with mortarboard
  • Four Saint Joseph’s professors were the recipients of this year’s Teaching Innovation Grants.
  • The program, which is in its second year, provides funds for tenure-track faculty to develop a new or newly revised course using innovative teaching methods.
  • The recipients of this year’s grants will teach courses on Ignatian pedagogy and Daoism in China and Taiwan, moral development in early childhood, Irish literature, national identity and gender, and the role of economic policy in the upcoming presidential election.

This year, the Office of Teaching and Learning (OTL) has selected four Saint Joseph’s professors as recipients of its Teaching Innovation Grants program, now in its second year.

St. Joe’s prides itself on high-quality teaching, says Usha Rao, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry and director of the Office of Teaching and Learning, and has developed programs that recognize established teachers. The innovation grants program is aimed at adding resources for tenure-track faculty who have not yet achieved tenure.

“The selection committee gave grants to those that had the greatest potential to improve student experience,” Rao says. “The grants aim to develop research-supported teaching methods.”

How the Grants Will Be Used

Aaron Reich, Ph.D., assistant professor of religious studies, received one of this year’s grants and will use it to investigate the use of Ignatian pedagogy while teaching a course on Daoism in China and Taiwan. Also receiving a grant is Nate Bulthius, Ph.D., assistant professor of philosophy, who will offer a year-long service-learning course that will examine moral development in early childhood.

Kersti Powell, Ph.D., assistant professor of English, received a grant to create a new course on Irish literature, national identity and gender. The course will fall under the newly developed Irish studies minor, an interdisciplinary program that provides students with the opportunity to curate academic research to be displayed in the Francis A. Drexel Library. 

The selection committee gave grants to those that had the greatest potential to improve student experience. The grants aim to develop research-supported teaching methods.”

Usha Rao, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Office of Teaching and Learning

“I noticed that courses that have the word ‘Irish’ in their title tend to fill fast. Even after students have taken a course in Irish literature, they want to take more,” says Powell. “For the new course, students will explore how the concept of Irishness is constructed in literature. We’ll cover the period between 1800 and present day.”

Saint Joseph’s geographic location gives it an advantage in teaching Irish studies, Powell explains. With such a strong Irish-American presence in the greater Philadelphia area, students have ample opportunities to participate in community-based learning.   

As Powell seeks to take advantage of Hawk Hill’s location, Nancy Fox, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and the final recipient of this year’s grants, aims to take advantage of the upcoming presidential election. She is developing two courses, a first-year seminar as well as an upper-level class for majors. Both will examine the economic policies of the major political parties and their candidates. 

For Fox, developing similar courses geared towards different class years presented a welcome challenge. 

“The idea for this course came from a course I taught last fall, a first-year seminar where we pulled headlines from the news each week and then examined their economic impact,” says Fox. “At the end of the course, I received wonderful suggestions that the next time I teach the course, we discuss economic issues that are important in the election.”

The two courses Fox developed over the summer will use different teaching methods, she says. The first-year students will learn a foundation of basic economic principles in the first weeks of the course, while students in the upper-level course will be able to begin analyzing concepts quickly.