Theresa White Leads Faculty Learning Community

November 14, 2012

Theresa White Leads Faculty Learning Community

This fall, Dr. Theresa White joined the Building Connections for Success team as the Faculty Development Facilitator for the FacultyLearning Community (FLC) in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (CSBS).

Before joining the Building Connections for success team, Dr. White worked with Program Director Dr. Rafi Efrat on a Cal State Northridge Service Learning Community Committee and discovered they were both passionate about understanding the cultural challenges of first generation, low-income freshmen and were both interested in developing strategies to improve their experiences in the classroom.

When the CSBS joined the Building Connections for Success Program this fall, Dr. White knew she wanted to take on a leadership role to bring faculty members in her College together. Under her guidance, Dr. White connected 10 faculty members, who were all eager to learn and share ways to meet the needs of the diverse Cal State Northridge population. Ten additional faculty members will join the committee in the spring.

The FLC meets four times in the fall and three times in the spring to discuss different topics relating to student diversity. At the first meeting in September, Dr. Juana Mora, Special Assistant to the Dean in the College of Humanities, conducted a presentation on “Reducing the Academic Gap: The Role of Hispanic Serving and Minority Serving Institutions.” Recent Cal State Northridge graduate students also conducted a panel, “Student Voices and Visions,” where the participants shared their unique experiences as first-generation, undocumented and LGBT students. The faculty members were able to listen directly to their challenges and successes and ask for suggestions to improve pedagogy and student learning.

“It was a really wonderful contribution to the program to have the students involved and share their perspective,” said Dr. White. “It’s important that we hear the voices of the students that we serve. I want to continually have students involved in the process. It’s very impactful.”

One tip that Dr. White implements in her courses to enhance student experience in the classroom is to know all of her students’ names.

“When they walk into the room they feel they feel more engaged when the professors know who they are. I make a point to learn their names so I’m not just pointing a finger to the back of the room. Students respond positively when they know the professor is taking an interest in them,” said Dr. White

“The diversity of our student body is incredibly rich,” said Dr. White. “It’s important that we have a keen awareness about the issues that our students face, because the dynamics of culture are crucial to advancing knowledge and enhancing student learning in the classroom.”

With faculty members engaged in the day-to-day process, Dr. White says it’s important for faculty to meet on a regular basis to talk about new teaching and learning strategies and to exchange ideas. The FLC provides an excellent opportunity to do so.

Dr. White has been instructing at Cal State Northridge for five years in the Department of Pan African Studies in the Cultural Studies option, teaching a variety of courses including Freshman Speech Communication and Black Images on the Silver Screen, where she guides her students through an in-depth exploration of the history of African American images in cinema.