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"Burning My Candle at Both Ends" by gfpeck is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Even in a typical academic year (which this one was not) we tend to burn our candle at both ends as we work our way from August toward graduation. I don’t know if you have felt it, but I have certainly felt the increased pressure of keeping up the past few weeks—letters of recommendation, student advising, and wrapping up goals for the academic year have all made demands on my time.

Adding this pressure to an already-stressful year can increase our risk for burnout. Burnout has become a popular term during COVID, especially for educators who have had to reimagine their teaching. In fact, NPR’s Life Kit podcast just did a timely episode on burnout, complete with tips to avoiding it.

Burnout, a concept studied psychologist Christina Maslach since the 1970s, doesn’t just mean we are overwhelmed and exhausted (though exhaustion is at the core). It also includes becoming cynical about our work, which in higher ed can lead to "phoning it in" to our classes, complaining about our students or colleagues, and disengaging from our institutional missions. (Salvagioni and colleagues provide a thorough, empirical review of the physical and psychological consequences of burnout.)

However, there is recent evidence that what we have called burnout might actually be a form of job-related depression. In a meta-analysis, Renzo Bianchi (University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland) and colleagues looked at evidence from from 12,417 participants in six countries and found that characteristics of burnout were more strongly associated with depression than they were with each other. The implications of this data? Burnout is something that both institutions and faculty should take seriously.

If you are feeling physical or emotional exhaustion or cynicism, I encourage you, in these last fews weeks of the semester, to engage in some of the following that work for you.

  • Adopt healthy eating, exercising, and sleeping habits.
    Give yourself permission to invest in you own good health. Yeah, you have a lot to do, but none of that work is going to get done if you are too ill to do it.
  • Balance work and play.
    Be sure you have downtime and take breaks to do things you find truly joyful. In the academy our work is never truly "done." It's up to us to set some boundaries.
  • Take a daily break from technology.
    Need I say more about this? Take some time each day to completely disconnect and perhaps even look at a tree.

Tentative Title: The Crucial Conversation: Teaching Race and Racism in the Postsecondary Context
Editors: Drs. William T. Hoston, Laurette B. Foster, and Fred A. Bonner II
Abstract Length: 300 to 500 words.
Abstract Proposal Deadline: No later than April 16, 2021.


This edited volume will explore the best practices for effective teaching and learning relevant to race and racism in the post-George Floyd era, where American universities and colleges are placing a greater emphasis on fostering educational contexts that address diversity, inclusion, belonging, and race relations. The emphasis on these constructs in our current societal climate, which has led institutions to pledge a commitment to addressing racial injustices, is the foundation for this book.

A lot of faculty at Xavier have found, when they are teaching multiple sections of the same class, that it is helpful to merge those sections on Brightspace. Janice recently posted about the process to get your courses merged, so I won't go into those details. Instead, this post is going to consider the rather unique challenge many of our faculty will face this fall: teaching one section online and one in person.

...continue reading "To Merge or Not to Merge"

Kim Vaz-DevilleToday's guest post is from Kim Vaz-Deville, Professor of Education and Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

  • First you can inquire how the student is doing/coping.
  • Ask if she or he understands the emails that have been coming out from the department/division/dean's office and academic affairs.
  • Many students do not know what to expect for finishing the courses for the end of the semester. Address concerns and if you don’t know that is okay you can follow up with the right sources.
  • Let them know what academic supports are in place. Students can create a virtual meeting space that their group can visit whenever they want to study and they may also join an existing study group. They can also contact the relevant Academic Resource Center Coordinators to request a tutor or SI to work with your newly created study group. For more information, students should check their emails from Dr. Holmes sent on March 27, 2020 titled “XULA Zoom Study Groups”. For assistance from the Academic Resource Centers see the email from Dr. Holmes sent on March 17, 2020 titled “Academic Resource Centers - Online Tutoring, Review Sessions, and Resources”.
  • You can assign pre-work for the meeting -- tell students what they will need to prepare for the advising session.
  • You can reassure them that they are working toward the goals they have set for themselves. No matter what they are hearing or feeling they are moving forward. Though they are learning remotely/online, they are still in a rich educational environment and will learn what is needed for their success. You can remind them how much the faculty care about them.
  • While summer classes will be "on-line", this might be a good time to clarify the difference between "remote learning" and "online learning". Currently, if their class was face to face, it is now being offered remotely it includes an expectation that the student will login during the time the course is offered so their professors know they are there.
  • In planning for the fall semester, take into account what the summer is going to look like for them. Help them have an academic plan because that will reinforce that there is an endpoint/target.
  • If you are using your personal phone and are concerned about maintaining your privacy, you can use Goggle Voice. If you get the app on your phone, you can make work calls from that number.


“Best Practices for Serving Students Remotely” Sponsor: Thursday, March 26, 2020

“Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste: How the COVID-19 crisis is pushing liberal arts programs to cultural and institutional innovation.” Hosted by Christopher Malone, Founding Dean School of Arts and Sciences, Molloy College. Sponsor: Council of Colleges of Arts & Sciences. March 25, 2020

Reyna Romero, Director, Advising Services. College of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Houston and Crystal Guillory, Assistant Dean in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at UHD meeting with Kim Vaz-Deville, Associate Dean College of Arts and Sciences, Xavier University of Louisiana, March 31, 2020

Thanks to all who attended the recent Service Learning (SL)workshop. Your willingness to take the time out of your busy schedules to learn more about this important endeavor is greatly appreciated. The workshop was entitled Service Learning: A Renewalas we (CAT-FD and CSI [the Center for Student Involvement]) are focused on enhancing SL courses and the SL experience on Xavier’s campus. Along those lines, we have streamlined the process of SL course proposal submission, with proposals now submitted online. The advantage of submitting proposals is an “SL” designation for the respective course on Banner Web. Proposal submission also allows us to anticipate and provide appropriate logistical support for SL courses.

As the Faculty in Residence -SL, I will be working with faculty to ensure that SL courses are pedagogically sound and achieve course learning objectives. I will also focus on whether reflection is integral piece of SL and, with a great deal of help from Ms. Kendra Warren, provide logistical support. The overall goal of proposal submission is not to “accept” or “reject” any given proposal. Rather it is to work with faculty to ensure a sound, effective, and smooth (as possible) SL project.

At the Service Learning: A Renewalworkshop we discussed the importance of developing a SL project with a community partner in mind, as SL consists of collaboration with a community partner; a collaboration from which the community partner clearly benefits. We also focused on the importance of reflection in SL. This reflection can take many forms (e.g., a journal, class discussion, and/or paper assignment), should be a component of the course grade, and occur consistently throughout the semester. In essence SL should be an integral component of the course and course grade. However, that component should not merely consist of attendance at the SL site.

SL can take many forms, ranging from direct SL (e.g., tutoring middle school students) to research-based SL (e.g., writing a guide on available community resources). The form of SL is not necessarily important. Whether SL is consistent with the nature of the course and fosters achievement of learning outcomes is.

I look forward to hearing from and supporting faculty in their SL endeavors. If you have questions, are interested in submitting a SL proposal, or are curious about other upcoming SL activities, please let me know (

As I sit in my CAT-FD office I wonder what to focus on for my first blog. An idea finally comes to me – how did I “get here.” Not physically, but what stirred my interest in the Faculty in Residence – Service Learning position. What path did I take?

I start thinking back to how I first became involved in service learning. It was via a FaCTS (Faculty Community of Teaching Scholars) group, the focus of which was sustainability. To be quite honest I don’t know whether my interest in FaCTS stemmed from the stipend offered or an authentic interest in sustainability (or service learning for that matter). In any event I applied, taking what was perceived as a different approach to sustainability. I was teaching Positive Psychology at the time (I am also teaching Positive Psychology this semester) and wondered whether students might be considered a sustainable resource. One could argue that students endure a great deal throughout the semester. There are ups and downs, failures and triumphs, and certainly many challenges. To succeed students must persist, with what could be argued as, dwindling resources. How might students sustain their personal resources and psychological well-being?

In Positive Psychology service learning required students to select an area of themselves that they desired to strengthen, with inspiration coming from the twenty-four character strengths developed by Peterson and Seligman (2004). Students completed the Values in Action (VIA) survey to determine the relative ranking of their 24 strengths and selected a strength to focus on throughout the semester.

How did service learning come into play? Example strengths include optimism, forgiveness, and bravery. Qualities that many senior citizens display. Thus the idea was that senior citizens would serve as role models and mentors for change. The service learning project grew from there, with students visiting senior centers every week – interacting, sharing, and just hanging out with seniors. Reflection was an essential component of the project, with students submitting a weekly service-learning journal consisting of general reflections/observations and requiring students to apply specific course concepts to their experiences and interactions with seniors.

The course and associated service learning project was time consuming, challenging, and required a great deal of monitoring and organization. The results were incredibly rewarding. Meaningful connections were made, in depth discussions occurred, and greater understanding of course concepts facilitated. Thus, while I may not have been initially interested in service learning for service learning sake, through this and subsequent projects I have certainly come to understand the many benefits of service learning, how it enriches student experience, and the importance of creating a service-learning project that is pedagogically sound.

I look forward to serving as the CAT-FD Faculty in Residence – Service Learning. My initial goals include learning more about service learning (at XU, on other campuses, and empirical findings associated with service-learning), ensuring that service learning projects are pedagogically sound, streamlining the process of developing service learning courses and projects, and continued incorporation of service learning in my courses. I anticipate that my goals in this role will evolve, look forward to working with the XU and greater New Orleans community, and am excited to take this journey of discovery.


Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association; New York, NY, US: Oxford University Press.

The more I learn about eportfolios in theory, the more I think that's not the right attitude to take.

Having an integrated eportfolio platform has become a pretty standard option for learning management systems (LMS) in recent years. At Xavier, we adopted D2L's Brightspace last year, and with it, we gained D2L's rather blandly named ePortfolio system. So when we started discussing the use of eportfolios in the classroom and for other purposes, we focused much of our attention on the system we're already paying for. But the more I learn about eportfolios in theory, the more I think that's not the right attitude to take.

The main thing to realize is that an eportfolio is really just a focused and purposeful web site; therefore, in reality, any system you can use to create a web site, you can use to create an eportfolio. A system like Brightspace ePortfolio has some advantages because it's so integrated into the LMS, but as is so often the case, it also has plenty of disadvantages. In another blog post, we'll take a look at the pros and cons of Brightspace Portfolio.

The better practice I often hear from people who are heavily involved in eportfolios at their schools is that when requiring someone to create an eportfolio, you shouldn't require them to use a specific platform. It's sort of like word processing programs. We don't require student a to use Microsoft Word when writing a paper; rather, we give them the specific requirements they need to meet and tell them to use whatever tool they're moat comfortable with that can meet those requirements. Portfolios are even easier in this regard, as they don't require a specific program to access them -- any web browser should do the trick.

Here are a few of the many options available to someone wanting to create an eportfolio outside of their LMS. All offer free access, although most require a subscription for full features:

A surprising success story has emerged at Xavier this semester in a service-learning course, and this time it's my course! Both the surprise and the success have come on several levels. The successes have been not just the level of student engagement in the community work, but the degree of ownership the students have taken in the work and its real-life positive effects. And the surprise has been theirs and mine, in the life of its own the course has taken on, and the directions that life has led us.

Education in Literature and in Action, XCOR 1011, has its roots in a composition and literature course I taught in the English Department.  I noticed that several of the short stories I taught had education as a theme, stories such as Toni Cade Bambara's "The Lesson," Alice Walker's "Everyday Use," and more recent stories such as Leila Aboulelea's "The Museum." Although I had taught this course as a service-learning course in the past, I hadn't lately for several reasons, none of which were particularly valid, yet my reasons were indicative of the types of reasons why teachers choose not to teach service-learning: time, pedagogical inertia, and the pull of a culture that supports service-learning largely on a theoretical level.

This situation changed, slightly, perhaps, with the redesigning of the core curriculum, and the creation of a new category of courses that would be three-credit-hour courses, 1000 level, whose main purpose was to explore the meaning of Xavier's social justice mission. While service-learning would not be required, the nature of the courses lent itself to service-learning, and it was expected that several among the first batch of offerings would be service-learning, thus ensuring a cohort of teachers operating under at least the same course prefix, if not within a department or division.

Most appealingly, though, the XCOR courses would be under the direction of one faculty member, who actively encouraged service-learning. This small organizational difference illuminated a key point about institutional service-learning culture for me: while "faculty-driven" is an ideal, in practice the active encouragement of faculty members in leadership positions is crucial, if for no other reason than the dissolution of ambiguity in faculty's minds. How likely is a faculty member to engage in service-learning, when she or he isn't even sure if the faculty leader in their area knows what it is? And if faculty leaders mention it never, rarely, or in passing, then it follows for faculty to translate ambiguity as lack of support, or at least indifference. Once faculty leaders begin to repeat service-learning as a point of action, then the layers of institutional support begin to reenforce each other: student affairs, academic affairs, departments and divisions, in a virtuous cycle that faculty can sense, even in its infancy.

These changes led me to rethink my literature and composition course as an XCOR, service-learning course. The premise was fairly simple: to study short stories and essays dealing with experiences in education, to tutor in a local elementary school, and to reflect on what the texts and the work, along with their own experience, tell us about education as an aspect of social justice. As with many of our best laid plans, the simplicity of the premise quickly proved illusory once class began. From a theoretical standpoint, to maintain a cohesive purpose between the strands I'd laid out proved more rhetorically challenging than I'd anticipated. From a practical standpoint, as mainly a writing teacher, I was underprepared to deliver a lecture course whose content didn't consist largely of close attention to student writing. In comp, half my "lectures" are delivered with student writing displayed on a screen. What would take the place of that half that would be of equivalent value to the purpose of the course?

Although the course was a bumpy ride over the first few weeks, as new courses or first-time-taught courses often are, what put the course on track, and opened it up in ways I hadn't anticipated, wan't simply the passage of time, but rather the start of  the community work. After-school tutoring in a local middle school became a kind of meta-text, a lens through which to "read" not just the other texts, but the entire first-year-experience at an HBCU with a social-justice mission.

In my next post, I will detail the project and my students' experiences with it. This next post will be my last contribution to this blog as Faculty-in-Residence for Service-Learning here at CAT+FD, a position I've held for five years. I hope it will serve as a fitting cap to my rewarding and enlightening work here.

A recent article in the Journal of Service-Learning in Higher Education makes an interesting case about differences in efficacy between "traditional" and "critical" service learning courses. In the article, authors Debra A. Harkins, Kathryn Kozak, and Sukanya Ray, of Suffolk University, draw on past definitions to distinguish between the two models. Traditional service-learning would involve activities such as working in a soup kitchen and reflecting on the conditions of homelessness and food scarcity, while a critical approach would make its primary goal to work toward dismantling and reconfiguring the underlying structures that create the conditions of homelessness and food scarcity. The work involved with this approach could be with an advocacy group working toward policy changes.

The authors go on to argue that critical benefits are difficult to measure in part because many service-learning faculty mistakenly believe they are engaging in critical models, while their own discourse about their projects reveals that they are actually employing traditional models. The authors cite as evidence language that situates faculty as authorities and students and community members as beneficiaries. A critical approach would instead situate all participants as stakeholders who stand to benefit from a transformative experience.

One reason the authors present for this lack of true critical models is an overall lack of institutional commitment to service-learning. Even within the relatively small number of schools committed to service-learning (Campus Compact, a leading service-learning advocacy group, reports around 1100 member schools, around 17% of higher learning institutions in the U.S.), service-learning offerings may be spotty, and many students complete their undergraduate education without taking service-learning courses. Many faculty, even those committed to the pedagogy, still cite concerns about time commitments and lack of recognition of service-learning toward tenure and promotion.

The authors then narrow their focus to an examination of one service-learning program at a mid-sized, urban university in New England. Their goal becomes to look at student outcomes and to "tease apart" those that promote improvement of student ability from those that promote transforming students' worldview and encourage participation in social change. Toward this they analyzed 487 student surveys collected over six semesters. (The review was of a program, and not of one particular course.) They conducted two phases of inquiry, the first being quantitative, which found a discrepancy between service-learning stated outcomes and actual impacts. The second, a qualitative study, sought evidence of transformative outcomes.

In the quantitative analysis, the authors found that while students indicated personal growth in responses to the Likert-type items, their narrative responses to the open-ended questions revealed the limited and specific nature of their individual experiences, without evidence connecting the experience to broader societal outcomes. As mitigating factors, the authors included service hours completed, professor, and service site. They found strong correlations between these factors and student responses to the Likert-type questions. But despite overall positive student outcomes, they found little evidence of change in world view or commitment to social change.

How do these conclusions relate to service-learning efforts here at Xavier? Our status as a school working to increase its service-learning efforts certainly results in some of the institutional challenges found by the study. A small percentage of faculty teach service-learning, although another segment also practices engaged pedagogy that includes work in the community, which is but one small step removed from formalized service-learning.

Yet Xavier has several factors working in its favor toward the desired, transformative model of service-learning - the major one being the school's historical mission of social justice, which situates the school squarely in the center of many past and present social justice movements within New Orleans, including the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The presence of Xavier graduates within many of the city's grassroots organizations, such as those working against mass incarceration and for neighborhood and cultural sustainability, not to mention the city's mayor, Latoya Cantrell, attests to the degree to which a Xavier education instills civic responsibility.

Also an exciting new core curriculum has opened the door for service-learning, already having produced new service-learning courses, which will grow in number. The move toward these courses, and student demand for them, which has been significant, will certainly contribute to a more rigorous culture of service-learning throughout the university going forward. And as we grow, it's important to remember studies such as this one from Suffolk, so that our efforts are toward the critical model, one in which students, faculty, and community members all benefit, and in which the students of today become the social change agents of tomorrow.



Every time you visit a website, information is flowing between your device and a server out there somewhere. In the early days of the internet, most all that information was transmitted "in the clear," also known as "cleartext," meaning unencrypted. Cleartext, if intercepted, can be easily read. That means a third party could monitor the content you're accessing. That's kind of like someone knowing what books you've checked out of the library, and even what chapters you've specifically looked at. Creepy! Ain't nobody's business but your own. If that doesn't concern you, consider what happens when the data transmitted includes sensitive information like usernames and passwords.

That's why, in recent years, we've seen more and more sites serving content over a secure connection. The mechanics of these transactions are quite fascinating, but the important point is that the information flowing between you and the server is encrypted. If it's intercepted, it's going to be difficult for that mysterious third party to figure out exactly what content was being transmitted. In short, encrypted sites are much more secure.

Encryption is so easy and so valuable, in fact, that it's becoming the rule rather than the exception. Google (the most popular search engine) gives preference in its search results to sites that serve their content securely. Chrome (the most popular web browser) flags insecure sites. The web is in transition. Truly pervasive encryption is not here yet, but it looks like the way of the future.

CAT+FD got with the program last year. With some help from our friends in ITC, we started encrypting all content from You probably never noticed, but that makes our site a little more secure than it was.

So how do you tell? How can the average user distinguish a site that's encrypted from one that isn't? ...continue reading "Just Encryption Part 1: Web Basics"