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Conversation #83: Jeremy Tuman on Service Learning at Xavier

A conversation between Jeremy Tuman, Elizabeth Yost Hammer, and Jason Todd on service learning at Xavier.

Jeremy Tuman teaches composition and literature with an emphasis on bringing basic writers into the larger academic curriculum. His scholarship on the pedagogy of basic writing is influenced by Mike Rose and David Bartholomae, who argue that basic writers must fully engage in exercises of critical thought regardless of their grammatical or mechanical skill level. To this approach he incorporates the added charge of Xavier and other HBCUs and Catholic schools to teach a moral and social imperative for critical thought.

Jeremy is the school-wide Faculty-in-Residence for Service Learning. He has designed and led service-learning initiatives with community partners involved in literacy outreach and in post-Katrina rebuilding. Jeremy is a 2012-2013 Mellon FaCTS Fellow, a fellowship to promote social justice and civic engagement in the classroom.

Jay Todd studied writing with Frederick and Steven Barthelme and Mary Robison at the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. His fiction has appeared in journals such as Southern California Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Fiction Weekly, and 971 Magazine. Since 2007, he has been a member of Department of English at Xavier, where he teaches American Literature, Freshman Composition, Modern English Grammars, and The Graphic Novel and Social Justice. From 2007 to 2010, Dr. Todd served as Xavier's Writing Center Director. From 2010 until 2015, he served as QEP Director, managing Xavier's Read Today, Lead Tomorrow initiative. In 2015, he became the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development's first Associate Director for Programming. As Associate Director for Programming, Dr. Todd assists in providing high-quality, relevant, evidence-based programming in support of CAT+FD's mission to serve faculty across all career stages and areas of professional responsibility.

Dr. Todd is a member of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, the Association for Interdisciplinary Studies, the Popular Culture Association, and the Louisiana Association for College Composition.

Elizabeth Yost Hammer is the Director of the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and a Kellogg Professor in Teaching in the Psychology Department. She received her Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Tulane University. She regularly teaches Introductory Psychology, Research Methods, and Freshman Seminar. Her research interests focus on the scholarship of teaching and learning, and she has contributed chapters to several books intended to enhance teaching preparation including The Handbook of the Teaching of Psychology. She is a co-author of the textbook, Psychology Applied to Modern Life. Dr. Hammer is a past-president of Psi Chi (the International Honor Society in Psychology), and served as Chief Reader for Advanced Placement Psychology. Her work in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching includes organizing pedagogical workshops and faculty development initiatives. She is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, and the Professional and Organizational Developers Network.


EYH: Hello, my name is Elizabeth Yost Hammer and I am the director for the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty and Development at Xavier University of Louisiana  

Todd: And I’m Jay Todd, the associate director for the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty and Development here at Xavier as well.

EYH: And today we have with us, Jeremy Tuman, who has been our Faculty-In-Residence for Service Learning for the past five years. He is ending his time with us here in CAT, in this role, and so he’s also in the English department, I should add. He is ending his time with us in this role, and so we wanted to have a conversation with him about some of the lessons he’s learned in this time. We thought we would start with just now that all is said and done, Jeremy, what would you say for supporting faculty? What are some ideas for supporting faculty who want to do service learning? 

Tuman: Well, thank you. Supporting faculty, yeah, the key for a successful service learning culture is that it be faculty driven. That’s one thing that I’ve learned, and that it can’t be a top down culture, and that is something that the administration wants and the faculty is made to do, but when it is driven by faculty from the ground up, then that allows the culture to spread and thrive. I think that when we think about supporting faculty, we need to think about what motivates faculty and try to tap into that. We know that faculty look for avenues for research to further their own research goals. We know that faculty enjoy recognition of their work and that faculty look for opportunities to share their work with colleagues and with the school, larger school. So, I think we need to look at ways to tap into those sort of intrinsic motivations. And, a lot of that would involve providing forums; basically opportunities for faculty to share and promote their work. These could be hosted several different places within the school, obviously CAT is a good source of that. But, I think it would also be good to look at, since CAT operates sort of, independently from academic departments and divisions, to look at forums that exist already within departments and divisions. Things like faculty colloquiums, or divisional, you know, more regular opportunities where faculty engage with each other on a departmental level. And sharing and promoting their experience in service learning, or regular component of those sort of interactions. That would be one way to spread and strengthen a faculty-driven culture. 

EYH: Have you found in your work with Xavier faculty, specifically, have you found — we’ve got a few who are really engaged in service learning, what’s their motivation, what have you found to be their main motivation?

J Tuman: Yeah, that’s been the case in my time in this position as a small faculty who are very into service learning as it were, and these faculty are civic-minded.These are faculty who have these pre-existing interests as it were in certain aspects of the city. They’re civically-engaged faculty. A lot of faculty are, but these particular faculty have found ways to integrate their sort of, personal existing interests in the city and projects they already have some interest in and passion for into their academic work.That’s been the driver of their success, I think. One strategy from Dr. Robert Bringle is to target — to think about faculty in different groups. We have the core group of faculty who are already engaged in service learning, and that’s really the group that needs the least attention, if you think about it like that, if you’re trying to spread interest in service learning. So, Dr. Bringle suggests two other ways to think about organizing faculty and to think about targeted outreach. One way is by the stage of their career. Let’s see, new faculty are maybe more receptive to service learning, but new faculty are often less willing to stray from what they see as their path to tenure. So that’s a more difficult sell. Newly-tenured faculty however, maybe are looking for ways to advance their teaching, and though professionally, that may be an easier group to reach, if you have them sort of organized that way already. Longer-tenured faculty, you may be dealing with faculty who have some teaching burnouts and maybe lecture-driven pedagogy is something that they’ve been doing for a while, so this may be a cohort that’s looking for a different pedagogy, and may be open to service learning as something different or new to try. And then faculty near the end of their careers may see service learning as a way to sort of a way to retap into civic engagement and the civic-mindedness they may have started their careers with you know, years before, that dissolves or changes over time, and service learning may be a way to re-ignite that.

Todd: What would you suggest, you’re talking about new faculty being a little more interested in kind of starting something like this? I think one of the challenges we have here with new faculty is, and at other schools as well is the concern that if they try something kind of new or a little bit risky, that’s going to hurt their attempts at tenure. So a lot of new faculty are kind of told don’t be too too innovative, because sometimes these things come back and show up kind of poorly in the student evaluation.

Tuman: Yeah, that’s a tricky situation. That’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, if the rank and tenure committee or the departmental committee is of the minds that already value service learning then they’re going to value attempts at service learning more, they’re going to value attempts at service learning even if it negatively affects student evaluations, but how do you sort of build that culture within people who are in charge of rank and tenure that’s a more difficult proposition. There are departmental ways, I think to mitigate some of that, if the department heads are recognized or value attempts at service learning even when potentially negative impacts on student evaluations, and that’s something that can reflect in faculty evaluations, that’s something that, you know, these are documents that rank and tenure will consider in rank and tenure tenure procedures, so if they see that the department values service learning, I think they are more naturally inclined to value that as well. It’s just a matter of how do you build this culture, how do you change people’s thinking to sort of reevaluate or to value service learning projects a little differently, in different ways, rather than just student evaluations or how students liked it? I think that the goal is to spread out wide in faculty, so that faculty who are engaged with service learning are represented in more positions, more committees, more positions in departmental and division leadership. But yeah, it’s just a matter of generating that cohort that does value it and does promote it. And once you grow that group a little bit, then it can spread.

EYH: What other advice do you have for supporting faculty?

Tuman: Well, we sort of hit on this already but another way to think about faculty, is their degree of involvement already with service learning as we said. We have this small cohort. And that cohort can be very useful and very valuable in reaching others. So tapping into the existing cohorts that we have that’s already doing, making sure that departments and centers like CAT are aware of that cohort and are supporting them. And, I think we do a pretty good job of that, but there’s this other group of faculty, much larger group, that is more or less indifferent to service learning. The indifferents are, which you identify a group that is more or less indifferent, then they’re going to be an easier sell and a group to reach, then a group that is hostile outright to service learning. Again, it’s a matter of organizing the faculty you have, understanding the faculty that we have that will facilitate more effective outreach, I think. Just understanding, you know, who’s doing what, what departments they are in the university and sort of tapping into them to help grow service learning, you know, sort of “each one reach one” type of approach.I think we did a good job of that, I feel like the cohort has grown somewhat in my years here, we have a smaller group that does service learning pretty much every semester, and now we have another group that does service learning sometimes, if not every semester. And one other huge avenues to think about is the new core curriculum and this has been an excellent opportunity, any change in any organization to sort of reprioritize and advance certain goals that you want to advance, and if service learning is one of them, and I think it is, then a new core curriculum is an excellent opportunity to do that, at least at the 1000 level of the XCORE classes are already drawing from departments all across the university, sort of faculty teaching them. That’s great, that’s an excellent opportunity then through the core to present successes with service learning projects, just to other teachers within that cohort, teachers that are teaching core curriculum classes in the XCORE category. And, then you sort of achieve that effect where faculty that’s teaching XCORE, a faculty member who hears about a successful project, and oftentimes, students will really respond well to these projects. The service learning can actually positively affect students’ response in student evaluations even with setbacks and even with isolated failures, things that don’t go well with the projects. Then you have that forum for faculty to talk about their experience and share their successes, then there may be that one or two faculty members who picks up on that for the next semester thinking again picking up an existing XCORE class and turning it into a service learning class, and I think that’s sort of...reach one, teach one approach from the faculty level, the ground up level is really the way to go, as far as building, you know slowly building a culture. 

EYH: If I might just chime in here just for the listeners who aren’t from Xavier, we just adopted a new core curriculum. And, some of these foundational classes are referred to as XCORE, so that’s what we’re talking about here. But, I do appreciate the point that anytime there’s some institutional change, whether it’s a new curriculum or a new you know, accreditation standards or whatever, finding a new opportunity to infuse service learning into that can really enhance I think social justice goals, civic engagement goals, of those sort of things, taking advantage of that I think can be really powerful. You were mentioning, you were talking about, I wonder if you want to comment on ways we can help reduce the negative examples of that when somebody hears, oh it was a disaster, I did service learning and it was really bad and then that trickles down and people don’t want to do it. Because, I know we had instances of that, as well.

Todd: And, if I could just tie these two topics together, I think that’s the challenge we were facing with the previous core, we had freshman seminar classes where it was required that service learning was a mandatory requirement for everybody teaching that class, and again with one of the big switches we had from the new core to these XCORE classes is that we strongly encourage it as one pedagogical approach, but we kind of taken that hands off you must do this and I think that’s where we seen, saw a lot of the bad experiences when it was, when service learning was opposed on someone.

Tuman: Yeah, I think that was a change for the better, to remove the required component, because it was the results and the implementation that was too varied. Yeah, with the support from student affairs, again, that’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Student affairs is very heavily involved in the community, their outreach through volunteerism, their outreach through student organizations and student government is very vibrant. And their work in service learning is strong as well, but service learning is just one small piece of what that office does overall. And, so when you talk about resources from the student affairs side, then you have to think about how their resources are already divided. A lot of the logistical problems, a lot of the things don’t work out in these types of projects is simply a matter of having the resources, resources weren’t there or the organization logistics weren’t in place, or there was a faulty link in the chain, and those can be disheartening, and it can be devastating. It can also be learning opportunities, learning moments as well. I try to use those little failures, but again if service learning is thought of differently, school-wide, then that would include being thought of sort of differently on the student affairs side. And they do recognize that service learning is a little different creature then volunteering, it’s not as if they’re unfamiliar with what service learning is, but again, it’s just one piece of what they do. But again student affairs is there to support students as well, but they respond to faculty needs as well. And, I think that if the service learning cohort grows, then student affairs will naturally respond to increased demand, increased requests that could occasion a little reevaluation of their resources. That might occasion acquisition of more resources. But, again, it’s a chicken and egg situation, if the faculty wants service learning, and the faculty, and that’s something that the faculty are trying to do, then I think student affairs and the office of student leadership will respond to that, it may not be immediate, but I think that you will see that given take, and I think that as they respond to increased faculty need, then you’ll see fewer of logistical glitches, you’ll see more of success, smoother running logistics and all that for  projects. It takes a while, you know, it takes a while, it’s really just one or two more service learning classes per semester, then that’s really I think significant growth for you know , for starting where we are. So, you have to think of it small, really, just really one class at a time, I think.

EYH: That’s a nice way to lead into the question I wanted to ask, which is dreaming big and being ideal. What’s the dream for service learning? And we’re going to speak specifically of Xavier here. But, other schools can adapt it for themselves.

Tuman: Yeah, I think if you look at a school like IUPUI that has a really healthy, vibrant culture of service learning, then you look at, you know a reflection of that culture is the website. And there’s opportunities straight from their websites for students to find service learning opportunities and service learning classes. It doesn’t take too many clicks at a school like that. Because the mindset is this is something that students want, it’s something that faculty wanted which generated that culture, but the end result of that culture is a student facing website that acknowledges that students want these experiences. And, typically when students are seeing that, it’s already going to internalize the idea that this is a school, this is an institution that values that, and desires that. I think that Xavier had a way for students to see service learning offerings that was highly visible from the website, I think that it would be a huge recruitment tool.  I mean I think that really students do want that types of experiences, they’re open to... Students don’t seem particularly bothered by you know, the extra hours, the extra work. A lot of them are really looking for opportunities like that, Xavier, you know, the physical location of Xavier being where it is and the student life on campus at Xavier sort of facilitates in a way for students to look for opportunities like these that are off campus and that are afterhours, sometimes after class hours. Yeah, so I would love to see service learning promoted early in the website. You know, maybe not from the homepage, but divisional pages, academic affairs page, if you look at a school like IUPUI, these opportunities are readily available. Opportunities to get involved. Xavier and schools more in our position tend to promote completed engagements, things that already happened that are more “news” — this is what we did. But if you look at a school’s website with a more vibrant culture, then they’re going to highlight opportunities for upcoming things more. It’s, you know, it’s  presented more as an ongoing culture that students can dive into instead of just you know, kind of hidden, how do you get into that, how did that happen kind of approach

Todd: I think that’s a great way to think about it, service learning as an opportunity as opposed as one other thing that has to be done

Tuman: It absolutely is, and when you think of the mission, Xavier has a historic mission, a social justice mission, and when you have global leadership and positions of leadership and service built right into your mission, as we do, then it’s only natural to see social learning as a unique way to achieve that. Not the only way, but it’s a very effective way, and so again, it’s just a matter of what your outward facing look, what’s your appearance to students and to the outside world that’s looking at Xavier? How do you present yourself? Xavier has an opportunity to have a fully integrated approach to where the mission is accomplished, service learning is one big way that Xavier accomplishes its mission. That’s a huge opportunity that we have, but again, how to get there? I think it has to start from the faculty and then works its way to the frontpage of the website. You can’t just throw it up on the website and then, you know say it’s done.

Todd: Absolutely

EYH: Jeremy thank you so much, first of all, thank you so much for your five years of service with this. It’s been such a treat working with you. I think I speak for all, well everybody in the center, we really have appreciated all that you’ve done to move this effort forward. Thanks for speaking to us today.

Tuman: Absolutely, it’s been a wonderful five years, and working with CAT has been a great experience. I’ve really learned a lot, I’ve enjoyed my time here as well, so thank you.

EYH: Our guest today was Jeremy Tuman, who’s been the Faculty-in-Residence for Service Learning in the Center for Advancement of Teaching and Faculty and Development in Xavier University of Louisiana. If you like what you’ve heard today, and want to hear more, subscribe to our podcast. Also, feel free to rate and review us on iTunes, Google Play--

Todd: or your podcast platform of choice.

EYH: Thank you.

Transcribed by Rebecca Kebbeh

About Bart Everson

Creative Generalist in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development at Xavier University of Louisiana

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