2021 SoTLA Banner

Innovation for Remote Modalities of Teaching and Learning: Productive Responses to Critical Needs

  • 5th Annual SoTLA Conference
  • Thursday and Friday, January 14th and 15th, 2021
  • Virtual - Zoom

West Chester University's Fifth Annual Scholarship of Teaching, Learning, and Assessment (SoTLA) conference, hosted by the Academic Affairs Division, is focused on enhancing faculty members' scholarship related to assessment, classroom engagement, and online technology within the higher education community.  Organized by the Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Center and the Office of Digital Learning and Innovation, the conference promotes the dissemination of research into our craft of teaching in higher education, demonstrating ways in which our scholarship and instruction can inform one another and center on the needs and goals of our students.  

Thursday, January 14

9:00 AM to 10:15 AM Keynote

Keynote - Growing the Beard: FYE, its Spin-offs, and Meeting the Needs of Students and Faculty

FYE is a complex course; this 4-credit general education requirement is taught by multi-disciplinary teams of faculty from across the University. We enjoy enrollment of nearly 3,000 students who are guided by 70+ faculty on 19 teams. We hit every discipline, major, and minor. Then we hit remote learning. Lisa and Shannon will guide you through our FYE-building journey, its spin-offs, and our adapting to and supporting of the “new normal.” Remote learning didn’t make FYE jump the shark; instead, the program now more robustly integrates issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, more fully engages students and faculty, and more enthusiastically adopts new pedagogies and tools. Join us in our Happy Days-themed journey of teaching and learning with FYE.

Lisa Marano

Marano Headshot


Dr. Lisa Marano currently serves as co-director of the First Year Experience and taught in the program since its pilot in Fall 2018. She enjoys working with First Year students, this year more than ever as the students were able to use FYE to deepen their connection to the university and each other through engaging synchronous and asynchronous opportunities. As a professor of Mathematics, she mainly teaches Financial Mathematics and Statistics courses while serving as the Program director for the department’s Actuarial Science program. Dr. Marano has taught courses combining Mathematics and Social Justice that illustrate how mathematics can be used as a tool to empower. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Mathematical Association of America. On a personal note, during times when not faced with a global pandemic, she enjoys swimming and coaching the sport for a team of youngsters in New Jersey. She does have a favorite on the team – her son Kyle.


Shannon Mrkich

Mrkich Headshot


Dr. Shannon Mrkich is an Associate Professor of English and Co-Director of the First Year Experience program at WCU. Her passion for student success and engagement is highlighted by 20 years of teaching first-year writing, by her leadership in the FYE program, and by implementing online pedagogy to strengthen all her teaching. Dr. Mrkich also promotes and learns about digital technologies, accessibility, and innovative course design by serving as a Quality Matters peer reviewer. When she’s not html-ing, Dr. Mrkich is an avid consumer of post-apocalyptic literature, TV, and film, as well as a student of TikTok, aided by her middle- and high-school-aged daughters.


11:00 AM to 12:15 PM Strategies for Integrating Issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

This panel addresses the difficulties of teaching in a remote environment during one of the most challenging periods of recent history, in terms of racial unrest, protests and counterprotests, political division amid a tense election season, and a global pandemic unevenly experienced. How have you been able to address your students’ opinions, perspectives, anxieties, and identities in your teaching, while maintaining an atmosphere of respect and support? Panelists will share strategies for integrating issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion into their teaching in a diverse range of disciplines, within the modalities we must use in our present situations.


Angela Banks-Konate

Banks Headshot


Angela Banks is an Alumni of West Chester University and a Pennsylvania state licensed social worker. Her professional areas of interest include International Social Work, non-profit management and planning, and family services. Angela has had experience in Philadelphia and New Jersey Child Welfare settings, working with immigrant populations in Philadelphia, as well as non-profit training, agency development, funding proposals and evaluations. As a Adjunct faculty member of the BSW program and Howard University PhD Student, her research interests includes inclusion of Virtual and Augmented Reality in social work delivery of services and educational Instruction.


Stevie Grassetti

Grassetti Headshot


Dr. Grassetti is a licensed clinical psychologist and an Assistant Professor in Psychology. Her professional activities center around advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in teaching, research, and clinical work. She earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Delaware. Her research program aims to understand how factors across multiple layers of the social ecology (e.g., families, peer groups, schools, neighborhoods) contribute to adaptive (e.g., prevention of and recovery from mental health problems) and maladaptive outcomes (e.g., failure to respond to mental health interventions, aggression, traumatic stress, maladaptive grief, juvenile delinquency).

Erin Hipple

Hipple Headshot


Erin Hipple, MSW, MA, LCSW, Doctoral Candidate (they/them), is a professor, activist, and a LGBTQ+, polyam, and kink-affirming trauma therapist. Their therapy practice is informed by liberation-based therapeutic frameworks. Erin is an Assistant Professor for the Graduate Department of Social Work at West Chester University. Erin’s doctoral research explores how social workers in clinical settings experience and negotiate clinical and activist identities. Erin strives to invite difficult conversions and their teaching is informed by Critical pedagogy. They invite students to explore power dynamics and the role they play both within and outside the course content and classroom.


Brie Radis

Radis Headshot


Dr. Brie Radis is a graduate of the Doctorate of Social Work program at the University of Pennsylvania. Brie received her social work and law and social policy graduate training at Bryn Mawr’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. She completed her undergraduate work at Earlham College. She is currently an LGBT Penn Health Fellow. Brie has worked in the field of community mental health, homelessness, and housing first since 2004. She is a passionate advocate for integrated health care, trauma-informed care, harm reduction, and housing first philosophy. She is also an experienced trauma therapist and clinical supervisor for students and staff.


Elizabeth Urban

 Urban Headshot


Dr. Elizabeth Urban (Ph.D. The University of Chicago, 2012) is a specialist in medieval Islamic history. She teaches a wide variety of courses, ranging from a premodern world history survey to a graduate course on the modern Middle East. In her teaching, she seeks to adopt antiracist, anticolonialist, and intersectional feminist pedagogies.

2:00 PM to 3:15 PM Strategies for Engaging and Supporting Our Students

In addition to adapting pedagogies for remote teaching, higher education institutions also found new ways to attempt to support students, when it was no longer as easy to direct them to traditional support services including tutors, the writing center, or counseling services. How can crisis-altered campuses make sure that students have academic and social/emotional supports in place, when the stresses of a Covid semester have simultaneously increased student needs? In this panel, West Chester University staff and students will discuss the challenges of learning in the remote environment and ways universities can best adapt practices to meet student needs.


Tabetha Adkins

Adkins Headshot


Tabetha Adkins serves as Associate Provost for Student Success, Founding Dean of the University College, and Professor of English at West Chester University. Prior to arriving at WCU in 2018, Dr. Adkins served in various positions at Texas A&M University- Commerce including Director of First-Year Writing, Director of the Writing Center, Associate Professor of Literature and Languages, and finally as Dean of the University College. She holds a PhD from the University of Louisville in Rhetoric and Composition. Her research focuses on student success and literacy studies.


Rita Patel Eng

Patel Eng Headshot


Rita Patel Eng works as a Student Success Coordinator in University College. She oversees Success Coaches who provide individualized support to guide students toward academic and personal success at West Chester University. Rita joined WCU in 2016 and has worked in various student support roles on campus. She has been involved in K-16 education for over 30 years. Rita is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Policy, Planning, and Administration in Higher Education. Her passion is to assist students in higher education and help students achieve their goals.

Jocelyn Manigo

Manigo Headshot


Dr. Jocelyn Manigo serves as Director of the Learning Assistance and Resource Center at West Chester University. She earned a Doctorate of Education from Widener University in school administration with an emphasis on curriculum, instruction, and staff development. Her research interests include academic coaching, peer tutoring, critical thinking, and self-regulated learning.


Genevieve Cohen

Senior, Nutrition & Dietetics Major at West Chester University

Grace Gilmore

First year, Communications Major at West Chester University

Connor Goyne

Senior, Liberal Studies Major at West Chester University

Jasmine Howard

Graduate Student, Computer Science at West Chester University

Friday, January 15

9:00 AM to 10:15 AM Strategies for Engaging and Supporting Our Faculty

Undertaking pandemic induced change required the support of many members of our communities. Be it individuals, departments, institutions, or professional organizations, each sought to provide aid in a variety of ways, including health and safety, mental wellbeing, technological training, and provisions for teaching from home. Professional development has taken on a whole new necessity. What supports did you utilize and how effective were they at supporting you through the necessary transitions? Panelists will analyze the successes and challenges of these various efforts as they predict what supports they will continue to need and employ as they move past the pandemic.


B.G. Betz

Betz Headshot


Dr. B.G. Betz has taught as an adjunct professor in the English Department at West Chester University for 30 years. She loves to teach first-year students the magic of good writing: the ability to connect with readers and to express themselves authentically and professionally. Her background is in women's fiction and Victorian literature. She is a marathon walker who obsesses over artisanal sourdough breads.

Michelle Blake

Blake Headshot


Michelle Blake, an instructor in the English department, has been teaching First-year Writing courses at WCU for the past fifteen years, and more recently, she has enjoyed teaching the First-year Experience course as well. Her research interests include developmental writing and helping faculty become more comfortable and adept in their use of educational technology, both areas of which are related to helping individuals who may lack confidence learn to take chances, lean on others for support, and ultimately achieve competence in the subject area (writing or ed tech). She is eager to share her experiences with the SoTLA community this year.

Christina Chiarelli-Helminiak

Chiarelli-Helminiak Headshot


Christina Chiarelli-Helminiak is an Associate Professor of Graduate Social Work at West Chester University. Her research focuses on the intersection of social justice and human rights especially within higher education. She is currently leading two studies researching the impacts of the pandemic on job satisfaction and burnout. Tina teaches courses related to social welfare policy and human rights. She previously worked with survivors of interpersonal violence and led the development of a community-based children's advocacy center. Tina completed her Ph.D. in social work at the University of Connecticut, where she was recognized as an Outstanding Woman Scholar.

Dana Kemery

Kemery Headshot

Dana Kemery, EdD is the Director of Innovative Course Design and Technological Infusion and an Associate Clinical Professor at Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions. Dana is a University Online Faculty Fellow, supporting teaching and learning in online and digitally enhanced educational environments across the university. Dana regularly presents at educational conferences focusing on novel technology use in synchronous and asynchronous environments as well as faculty development focusing on student centered experiences.

Lisa Lucas

 Lucas Headshot


Dr. Lisa J. Lucas is a professor in the education department at West Chester University (PA). She brings over thirty years of experience as a teacher, administrator, instructional coach, and consultant. She teaches Engaging Learners at the University and has had numerous roles in conjunction with the mentoring program at West Chester University. Lisa understands the rewards and challenges of being in the classroom, both for students and faculty, and her current focus is to introduce and incorporate evidence-based mindfulness practices to classrooms everywhere. Lisa’s recently published book, Practicing Presence; Simple Self-Care Strategies for Teachers, provides valuable insight and practical self-care strategies to cultivate well-being.


Joan Woolfrey

Woolfrey Headshot


After 20 years teaching philosophy and women's and gender studies, Joan Woolfrey has found newly enriching professional opportunities with her work as Faculty Ombuds, a confidential, independent, informal, neutral and free service to faculty, with opportunities for informal solutions or formal recommendations to make the most of our campus life together.


11:00 AM to 12:15 PM Strategies for Adopting New Pedagogies and Assessment Tools

For educators, the COVID-19 Pandemic has changed the playbook that guides our instruction. It presents a unique and perhaps paradigm-altering challenge to adapt and transform our teaching and assessment. What was your response and what lessons have you learned – and are still learning - in order to maintain the integrity and rigor we desire while still responding to and meeting the emerging educational needs of our students? Panelists will share innovative instructional design and activities; organization strategies for creating better learning experiences; and distinctive or new learning environments that address social and emotional challenges, cognitive development, and facilitation ease. Panelists will reflect on how responding to this crisis has enhanced teaching and changed one's worldview of teaching moving forward.


Constance Case

Case Headshot


Constance Case is an Associate Professor of Costume Design and Technology at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. She has designed costumes, hair and makeup for over 150 theatre and dance pieces in both professional and academic settings. Ms. Case’s love of teaching is evident in her student-centered pedagogy. Her current obsession is the Carnival of Ruin, a performative art piece using all post-consumer waste to make an artistic statement on sustainability. To see some gorgeous images and for information check out CarnivalofRuin.com and her personal website constancecase.com.

Anita Fennessey

Fennessey Headshot


Dr. Anita Fennessey is an assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson University College of Nursing. Dr. Fennessey has 35 years’ experience as an RN. Dr. Fennessey completed her initial nursing education at St. Agnes Medical Center School of Nursing in Philadelphia, Pa and received both her BSN and MSN from LaSalle University and her DrNP from Drexel University. She has almost 19 years' experience as a nurse educator. She has experience publishing manuscripts as well as presenting at the national level including the NLN Education Summit and Sigma Theta Tau. Dr. Fennessey also has research experience and has received a Stratton grant for research on the physical assessment skills of RNs.

Benjamin Nassau

Nassau Headshot


Dr. Nassau received his B.S. in Mathematics with a minor in Women's and Gender Studies from Muhlenberg College., and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Delaware. He believes that math and justice are inextricably linked, and aims to make all of his courses as inclusive and accessible as possible. When not working, he likes to tell stories, play games, and spend time with his wife Moriah and their rescue dog Saffron.

Eric Sweet

Sweet Headshot


Dr. Eric Sweet is an assistant professor in the Biology Department at WCU. He is a neuroscientist interested in the ways that disease and drug use change behavior. Currently his research focuses on Parkinson’s disease and cocaine use. In the classroom Dr. Sweet teaches Cell Physiology, a large lecture and lab combined course required for all Biology majors. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic he adopted technologies from YouTube and Twitch streaming to help facilitate a more interactive live experience for the students and reorganized the way the course was structured to better suite student needs and facilitate feedback from the students. He is excited to continue to expand and adapt these new methodologies after the pandemic has subsided and students return to the classroom.

Mike Rosario

Rosario Headshot

Dr. Michael Rosario is an Assistant Professor in Biology at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches Bio 259, a large lecture, non-majors course in Human Anatomy and physiology. He currently streams all his large lectures on YouTube live. He earned a PhD in Biology at Duke University. He also earned an MA in Organismal and Evolutionary Biology at Umass, Amherst and a BA in Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.


Back to top of page.