Annie Soisson to become director of CELT

The Tufts Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching is pictured on April 8. (Christine Lee / The Tufts Daily)

Annie Soisson will step into the position of director at the Center for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT) beginning July 1, a promotion from her current role as senior associate director. The position has been held by Donna Qualters for the past seven and a half years.

Both Soisson and Qualters have been involved in the development of CELT since its inception in 2006. Soisson and Linda Jarvin, former director of CELT from 2008 to 2011, had already developed some programs when Qualters joined the team in 2012.

The Center offers services to Tufts faculty across all departments and experience levels. According to the program’s website, these services aim to help faculty integrate the latest research in learning into the classroom.

To Soisson, moving into the role of director means being able to continue the direction of growth she has developed with Qualters.

“Part of what we need to do is look not two years out, but probably 10 years or more so that we can understand what we think the classroom is going to look like,” Soisson said. “What do we think students coming in are going to need, what’s the workforce going to look like, how do we help faculty shape their teaching to this rapidly changing landscape?”

Qualters also reflected on the early parts of her tenure as director.

“I saw my mission as taking the teaching center from the margins and moving into the center of the university so that anything that had to do with teaching, learning, assessment — people would see CELT at the table,” she said.

Soisson is particularly proud of the Center’s focus on inclusive teaching. She said CELT hired Associate Director Ryan Rideau to help faculty understand what it means to teach a diverse group of students. Through the Inclusive Learning Institute, faculty explore how to “engage students from all different backgrounds and traditions and experiences in ways that are meaningful,” Soisson said.

In the past three years, CELT has developed a number of new institutes for faculty, including the Course Design Institute, the Institute for Learning Assessment and the Inclusive Learning Institute, according to Qualters.

Qualters pointed out that although they are highly educated, faculty sometimes lack the tools they need in the classroom.

“If you get a Ph.D., nobody teaches you about teaching,” she said.

The CELT website says programs like the Faculty Fellows Seminar help close the gap between being an accomplished Ph.D. and an effective teacher. According to Qualters, the Faculty Fellows Seminar welcomes 12 faculty members each semester to discuss and reflect on their teaching through discussion and community. The group meets for eight sessions over the course of a semester.

Soisson described CELT Faculty Fellows as “our signature and original program.”

Margaret (Peggy) Morris, a senior lecturer in the Department of Occupational Therapy, participated in the Faculty Fellows Seminar in the Spring 2014 cohort and reflected on her experience.

“My teaching style, course design and understanding of student learning improved immensely after my time with the CELT Fellow program,Morris said in an email to the Daily.

Through the community of faculty created by the program, Morris said she has been able to observe a wide range of teaching styles to which she was not previously exposed. She said these relationships have also evolved into collaborative projects across disciplines.

“One of the lovely and unexpected benefits of taking part in any CELT program is exposure to other faculty across the three campuses of the University,” Morris said.

Morris praised Qualters and Soisson for their commitment to faculty.

“They are both adept at individualizing CELT programming to suit a teacher’s need, are intensely patient, are fierce cheerleaders, and truly love supporting the faculty here at Tufts,” she said.

Soisson in turn expressed her appreciation for the Tufts faculty.

Tufts faculty are such amazing people to work with — really obviously very smart. They are really dedicated to teaching well,” Soisson said.

Soisson pointed to an upcoming collaboration with Tisch Library emphasizing the Center’s focus on research, which will explore how Google has changed the way students find information.


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