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Faculty center gets new name, sets new focus

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Monica Dien
Staff Writer

The Center for Teaching and Learning was recently renamed the Center for Advancement of Faculty Excellence, or CAFE, with new plans to reach out to faculty and provide training in integrating technology.

The impetus for this change has to do with the University’s strategic plan, said CAFE director Sammy Elzarka.

New goals for the center have to do with reaching more faculty and being more user-friendly.

“CAFE (hopes to) support instructional development, broaden the curriculum and organizational development,” he said.

The name change was a collective decision by University President Devorah Lieberman, Provost Gregory Dewey, Elzarka and the center’s staff.

Elzarka said he is also interested in refining the center’s mission statement and menu of services offered by the center.

“I’m really happy at the outcome,” said Rita Thakur, associate dean of the College of Business and Public Management, said.

“I’ve been at the University for 25 years and we worked on the development model before but we’ve never seen anything as good,” she said.

Christine Broussard, professor of biology, is among faculty that have used the center’s services in the past.

“(The change) is much more responsive to needs to improving the University’s pedagogy,” Broussard said. “(Elzarka) should get all the credit, he spent a whole semester and he was so eager and ready.”

The new focus will be on supporting teaching strategies such as teaching in groups, and focusing on critical thinking and analytical skills.

A group of faculty members have already begun using the new CAFE’s services.

“Previously the center focused on access and training, and now they’re focusing on updating the technology and using it as a tool,” Broussard said.

“One of the challenges we face is finding information and resource, and the center is a one stop shopping for access to resources,” she said.

“There has been some faculty members who have begun to ask, ‘How do you design an effective assessment and how do I use them to improve instruction?’” Elzarka said.

Elzarka also hopes that CAFE will begin to connect faculty, who can then help one-another.

“If a faculty member is struggling in a particular area and another faculty member happens to be really good in that area, it will be the CAFE’s goal to connect those two people,” Elzarka said.

Elzarka added that he is planning to offer workshops and video-based tutorials to further help faculty with their professional development.

Monica Dien can be reached at

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