Kathleen McKinney, Illinois State University
Dr. K. Patricia Cross, a well-known scholar in the field of higher education, has generously endowed the Cross Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) at Illinois State University. Dr. Cross and her sister are Illinois State alums, and their father is a former Illinois State University professor. As far as we can ascertain, this is the first and only university-wide, endowed chair in the SoTL in higher education in the nation. This is a tremendous opportunity for Illinois State University. The scholarship of teaching and learning is a key area in the higher education national scene and Illinois State is making a name for itself in this area. More importantly, the SoTL is valuable work. Its strength is that we will routinely use and apply what we find in our SoTL work to pedagogical, curricular, and institutional reform in our institution, and to share what we learn with others. SoTL work is implicitly part of, and can help us implement, our strategic plan, Educating Illinois. The heart of SoTL is its public and applied nature. The Cross Chair is a five-year term and the incumbent is selected via a national search. The Chair is housed at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching but reports to the Office of the Provost.
The position of Cross Chair involves four categories of responsibilities. First, the Chair teaches as well as engages in his/her own SoTL scholarship in his/her discipline and in higher education, more generally. For example, I am currently working on a paper about a questionnaire study of Sociology seniors about out-of-class learning opportunities in Sociology. I am designing a study to find out how Sociology students learn Sociology, from their own point of view. I am also involved in the various campus research projects on student engagement. Finally, I am working with colleague, Bill Rau, on a study of university award recipients' beliefs about teaching
Second, the Chair facilitates working with faculty, graduate students, and staff to do their own SoTL work. For example, I will have funds to support about four SoTL small grants (each up to $5,000) this new fiscal year. We will have three SoTL Teaching-Learning Communities such as SoTL writing circles. I have created an electronic community of ISU SoTL scholars (there are over 100 of us so far!). We hope to network, start a brownbag series, etc. Finally, I am planning a 2-3 day SoTL Institute for the summer of 2003.
The third role of the Cross Chair is that of a social change agent, working to promote, share, reward, and use SoTL work on campus. For example, I hope to serve on some relevant committees, advise department chairs and personnel committees, assist faculty in documenting their SoTL work, and promote new outlets for such work.
Finally, the Cross Chair serves as a representative on the SoTL from Illinois State University to the higher education national scene working with organizations such as the American Association of Higher Education (AAHE) and the Carnegie Foundation, and with his/her own disciplinary society. For example, this summer I led a fantastic team from Illinois State to the AAHE Summer Academy. Our project is "Enhancing Student Learning and Intellectual Community by Promoting the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning." I will also continue to serve as the Illinois State University Coordinator of our involvement in the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) Program. Finally, I will continue to be active in the American Sociological Association (ASA). I am currently on an ASA task force writing a report on best practices for the major and organizing sessions on SoTL at various conferences.