Regional Faculty Symposium offers interactive sessions for exchange of ideas


People from colleges and universities throughout the Mid-Atlantic region will be spending spring break at Pitt.

The Regional Faculty Symposium on March 11 has attracted faculty from all over Pennsylvania, as well as from Ohio, West Virginia, New York, Kentucky and even Ontario, said Erik Arroyo, director of academic support services in the Center for Teaching and Learning and one of the organizers of the event.

This is the second year for the symposium. Last year’s event was hosted by Duquesne University. There are close to 200 people signed up so far, including 65 from Pitt. The symposium will be spread out across Lawrence and Posvar Halls, which will be vacant because of spring break. There is a $25 fee for the symposium, and the registration deadline is Feb. 25. Register here.

“The purpose is to really to bring together folks for a day of professional development — faculty, faculty support specialist and graduate students — from areas that don’t normally get together and don’t have the opportunity to network,” Arroyo says. “So its roots are collaboration, networking opportunity, and really just seeing what’s happening in other parts of the city, state and region, and in the teaching, learning and educational technology areas.”

The 35 interactive sessions — group activities, workshops, lightning rounds and poster sessions — will have speakers from 16 different schools, he said. The keynote speaker is Sarah Rose Cavanagh, a psychologist, professor and associate director of the D’Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College in Worchester, Mass. Many of the sessions are linked to the ideas in Cavanagh’s book, “The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion.”

“I think she brings a very interesting angle to the whole concept of teaching and learning and emotional intelligence, emotional control,” Arroyo says.

After the inaugural symposium last year, Arroyo said, “One thing we heard loud and clear was to create more opportunities for people to simply talk to one another and get away from the sit down and listen style of a symposium. So that played directly into the tightness of the agenda. There’s not a lot of idle time, there’s only one concurrent workshop session in the morning, and the rest of the activities are really rooted in creating dialogue among the attendees.”

Arroyo encourages Pitt faculty to attend, even though it’s on the first day of spring break.

“It’s an extremely rare professional development opportunity, because it’s … the first of its kind here on campus and is such an incredible mixture of talent and expertise,” he says. “It’s an opportunity for faculty to showcase some of the things that are happening here on campus, but also see what other educators are doing across the country and how they’re raising the bar and teaching and learning themselves.”

Arroyo is excited about the impact the symposium could have. He gives an example of 150 faculty members attending the conference, who are each teaching 20 students this term.

“Our hope is that by the end of this symposium, each of those faculty members discovers just one new idea, or one new approach or new strategy that they can take home with them and immediately deploy into their classroom practice. And if that happens, then collectively, this symposium has the potential to positively impact 3,000 students enrolled in college right now.”

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.