Tracy Seeley Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE)
Our mission at the Tracy Seeley Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of San Francisco is to celebrate, support and help develop excellent teaching across the university, at all stages of a faculty member's career.
We are guided by three purposes as we develop our activities and programs:
- Building a sense of community among teaching faculty
- Presenting opportunities for faculty to enhance and enrich their teaching practice
- Using technology to enhance student learning
When developing new activities, or resources, we always keep in mind the following principles:
- We foster conversation among faculty across disciplines, across schools, and at all stages of their careers.
- Participation is voluntary.
- Participation is confidential. We do not report faculty participation in CTE programs to any administrators. We will provide documentation to any faculty member who requests it.
- The Center does not evaluate teaching for the purposes of tenure and promotion.
- The Center evolves to meet real faculty needs.
Tracy Seeley, Professor of English, a truly outstanding teacher-scholar at USF from 1993 until her untimely death in 2016, had a vision. She imagined a university-wide resource and mentoring center with programs for professional teaching development. She advocated for such a center beginning in 2006, and it finally came to fruition in 2010 when, in response to Professor Seeley’s idea, the provost convened a task force of faculty, led by Professor Seeley and Professor of Education Mathew Mitchell, to establish the Center. Professors Seeley and Mitchell served as the Center's first co-directors when it launched in 2011.
Since its founding, the USF Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) has created numerous programs to assist and support new faculty, mid-career faculty, and senior faculty to be the very best teachers they can be. The University’s teaching environment has been transformed by the constant and dynamic conversations, workshops, and exchanges about pedagogy and curriculum. Most of all, the Center has encouraged faculty to be free to take risks in the classroom in order to create the best possible learning environment for students.
Professor Seeley’s legacy of great teaching, and her vision for inspiring and mentoring other great teachers, lives on through the USF Center for Teaching Excellence.
Jennifer Turpin, Provost Emeritus and Professor of Sociology
I’ve had many conversations with Tracy over the last five years about CTE, and she made two comments in an off hand manner that nonetheless have seemed like the pillars of what CTE is.
The first is she remarked that she saw CTE as a sort of “pirate ship” that floated all over campus and paid bidding to no particular master. This was central, because in order to be a respite, a safe space for community and exploration, CTE could not be serving administrative needs. It had to be available to serve faculty needs. Over time I have also come to see how though the business of administration of the university cannot be wished away, being ‘the pirate ship’ allows CTE to be a space apart, and to stand for the other aspects of the educational enterprise including the human connections that are at its heart. CTE can allow faculty to explore their role as teachers and all that implies as a spiritual vocation to create spaces for younger people to grow beyond their own expectations.
The second comment was when we were starting to look for Mathew’s replacement as co-director of CTE. (Tracy had chosen me as her replacement.) We were debating what made someone a good co-director, and she remarked, “It would have to be someone who checks their ego at the door.” This is central because being head of CTE is not being an expert in pedagogy, or telling other faculty how it is done. It is remarkable how frequently faculty request that we bring in experts to tell them what to do, but in a sense, we are forcing them to be free in Rousseau’s terms. As CTE co-directors, we model learning about teaching, continual curiosity, willingness to experiment, and most importantly, recognition of our failures. Tracy stood up and talked frequently about what went wrong with her classes, and how she decided to respond. Being a teacher isn’t in the end about showing how much you know, but about being excited to learn. That means admitting you don’t know everything---a problem for many faculty….. CTE’s own pedagogy must model what we want faculty to be able to do for their students. Teaching is about the journey; as soon as you think you have arrived at the end, all is lost.
Keally McBride, Professor and Former Co-Director of the CTE
The Center for Teaching Excellence opened its doors in fall of 2011 with two visionary co-directors: Mathew Mitchell (Learning & Instruction) and Tracy Seeley (English). Mathew and Tracy aimed to create dynamic programs and online resources to serve the 1200+ full and part-time faculty at all USF campuses. Out of this idea that originated in a small office in Kalmanovitz Hall, soon grew CTE's first enthusiastically received events, sought-out by faculty across disciplines wishing to gather for presentations and discussions about what makes teaching great.
To sustain a lineup of compelling programming and to bring emergent pedagogy to campus, the team behind CTE rotates. Today, with the support of a steering committee comprised of representatives from each school and the library, two co-directors continue to develop programming that seeks to address current issues in teaching.
These types of programs include the Teaching Retreat, workshops on Canvas, FLCs (Faculty Learning Communities), the ever popular Summer Book Club, and several teaching cafes, which bring faculty together for an hour in the afternoon for a focused presentation and dialogue.
In 2012, Rhonda Magee (Law) served as interim co-director for the CTE. In 2014, Susan Prion (Nursing and Health Professions) served as an associate director. Rhonda and Susan periodically return to work with the CTE, leading presentations and workshops.
Keally McBride (Politics) served as co-director from 2014 to 2017 and with the help of a sub-committee created the first annual CTE Teaching Retreat. Jonathan Hunt (Rhetoric & Language) served as co-director from 2016 to 2018 and introduced faculty salons and reading circles into the pool of CTE programming, as well as research-based programming on classroom observation. Sarah Capitelli (Teacher Education) joined the CTE in the fall of 2017 and introduced a number of new programs for faculty at USF, including the grading retreat, the Seeley Faculty Development Seminar series, and the Telling the Stories of Our Teaching end-of-year celebration. Sarah also spearheaded CTE’s partnership with CRASE to present USF’s eight-part series of Faculty Panel Discussions on COVID-19. Eugene Kim (Law) joined the CTE in the spring of 2019. As co-director, Eugene provided valuable leadership through the transition to remote teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was the driving force behind CTE Podcast, both at the mic and in the editing booth.
Marilyn DeLaure (Communication Studies) joined the CTE in summer of 2020, and is currently co-directing the Center with Aparna Venkatesan (Department of Physics and Astronomy), who joined in the spring of 2022.
In fall 2017, the CTE was renamed in memory of Tracy Seeley. We are grateful to remember Tracy in this way. The Tracy Seeley Center for Teaching Excellence takes its inspiration from a core principle of Ignatian Pedagogy, cura personalis (care of the whole person). Our programming and events are created and reconfigured each semester to meet the changing needs of faculty, with the understanding that teaching is a form of caring.
Our mission to celebrate, support, and help develop excellent teaching at all stages of a faculty member’s career emphasizes the centrality of community-minded learning in higher education.
The CTE is run by a small group of faculty and staff, currently composed of two co-directors and a program assistant. Critical to CTE's success is our Steering Committee, which provides feedback and helps initiate new programming.
Marilyn DeLaure, Co-Director
Department of Communication Studies
Aparna Venkatesan, Co-Director
Department of Physics and Astronomy
Nischa Jaster, CTE and CRASE Program Assistant
The CTE Steering Committee includes representatives from each school, the library, and adjunct faculty. Members currently serve three-year terms and are nominated by their respective Deans. Additionally, winners of the University Distinguished Teaching Award are invited to join the committee for one year following their award.
2022-2023 Committee Members
- Xornam Apedoe, Associate Professor, Learning and Instruction, School of Education
- Aysha Hidayatullah, Associate Professor, Theology and Religious Studies, College of Arts and Sciences
- Sara Horton-Deutsch, Professor, School of Nursing and Health Professions
- Keith Hunter, Associate Professor, School of Management
- Eugene Kim, Professor of Legal Writing, School of Law
- Dennie Marenco, Adjunct Professor, School of Education
- Marjolein Oele, Professor, Philosophy, College of Arts and Sciences
- Maria Ontiveros, Professor, School of Law