Conversations about Teaching Excellence

Get inspired by Laurier's instructional community through conversations about teaching excellence.

Teaching Excellence: A Laurier Conversation Series features discussion between Mary Wilson, Laurier’s vice-provost: Teaching and Learning, and recent teaching award winners. This pilot series includes critical conversations covering inclusive education, research mentorship, experiential and engaged teaching practices, and the future of higher education.

You can binge the entire series or start with the ones that interest you most. Part two of the series just launched – find features and video links below.

Professors in video series
Darren Thomas

Darren Thomas: Teaching through Stories

Darren Thomas is an associate professor in the Department of Indigenous Studies and the associate vice-president of Indigenous Initiatives at Laurier. Thomas was recognized in 2021 with the Early Career Excellence award for the way he ignites passion in his students to help them achieve their personal and academic goals. Thomas’s conversation explores the power of stories to learning across personal, academic and professional spaces. Hear how he embeds Indigeneity, reflection, and compassion into his teaching, leading to a positive – if not transformational – impact on the lives of his students.

Allison McDonald

Allison McDonald: Expanding Inclusivity in Science

An Associate Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator in the Department of Biology, Allison McDonald has shown a commitment to student learning across every aspect of her work, from innovative curriculum design to extensive graduate mentorship. Her use of universal design and innovative, flexible assessment strategies make McDonald’s classrooms more inclusive. The 2021 Hoffman-Little award winner joins Mary Wilson in conversation to discuss the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the sciences and how we can change lab culture in higher education for the better.

Meena Sharify-Funk

Meena Sharify-Funk: Mentoring with Grace

Meena Sharify-Funk has taught as an associate professor in the Department of Religion and Culture at Laurier since 2007, mentoring undergraduate and graduate students at different stages of their academic journeys along the way. Sharify-Funk, the 2021 recipient of the Faculty Mentoring award, is known for her empathetic and compassionate approach to mentorship that develops, recognizes and honours each individual student as they pursue academic and personal goals. She joins Mary Wilson in conversation to talk about grace in the academy, and the value of encouraging myriad perspectives in the classroom so cultures and knowledges can collide.

Lillian DeBruin

Lillian DeBruin: Inspiring a New Generation of Scientific Problem-Solvers

2021 Sustained Excellence award recipient Lillian DeBruin is associate professor and Graduate Coordinator in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. DeBruin contributes to academic excellence and professional development through her teaching practice which is rooted in perseverance, reflection and collaboration. DeBruin joins vice-provost of Teaching and Learning Mary Wilson in conversation to discuss how she creates exceptional active learning experiences for her students which guide them through the development of critical problem-solving skills.

Sunny Wang

Sunny Wang: Making Mathematics Education More Meaningful

Sunny Wang teaches as an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and serves as the co-program director for Shad Laurier. Wang has been integrating innovative approaches into her statistics and data science courses at Laurier for five years – leading to an Innovation in Teaching Award in 2021. During her conversation, Wang discusses the experiential ways she creates opportunities for students to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems through practical projects, field trips and guest lectures. Wang tells Wilson how approachability, representation and good humour can reduce barriers in math and stats education.

Crystal Shadwell

Crystal Shadwell: Empowering Student Success

2021 Staff Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning recipient Crystal Shadwell co-developed and managed the Strategies for Academic Success program, which equips students facing academic challenges stemming from diverse personal and societal factors with the tools to overcome these struggles and achieve renewed academic success. Shadwell joins vice-provost of Teaching and Learning Mary Wilson in conversation to discuss how the program helps Laurier students to develop resiliency and self-awareness through a reflective, experiential approach.

Jayne Kalmar

Jayne Kalmar: Cultivating a Culture of Research Mentorship

Jayne Kalmar is an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education. Kalmar was recognized with the Faculty Mentoring award in 2020 for her thoughtful and purposeful approach to student mentorship, as well as her experience offering directed studies courses, supervising student research in the field of exercise neuroscience, and service to student award committees. Kalmar's conversation explores what it takes to be an effective mentor and scientist with an emphasis on resiliency, problem-solving and reflection.

Meredith Woodwark

Meredith Woodwark: Diversifying Case-based Education

An Assistant Professor in the Department of Organizational Behaviour and Department of Human Resource Management, Meredith Woodwark is known for exceptional leadership in teaching and learning. She works on business case competitions with students and uses experiential and active learning approaches to deliver inspiring educational experiences. The 2020 Early Career Excellence award winner joins Mary Wilson in conversation to discuss case-based education, specifically the importance of making case literature in higher education more diverse and inclusive.

Andrew Robinson

Andrew M. Robinson: Creating Thriving Class Environments

Andrew Robinson brings internationalization into every aspect of his work at Laurier. The Associate Professor and Program Coordinator, Human Rights and Human Diversity, works with colleagues to create international internships in Ghana and host international events that bring people from around the world to Laurier’s Brantford campus. The 2021 Internationalization Excellence awardee joins Mary Wilson in conversation to share how he creates respectful classroom environments where students can engage openly with each other and recognize differences in a civil way.

Nathalie Friedel

Nathalie Freidel: Innovating Inclusive Language Education

Nathalie Freidel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Languages and Literatures who utilizes innovative approaches in courses and field experiences that deepen students’ awareness and understanding of contemporary issues, with a specific focus on francophone language and culture. She won the institutional award for Innovation in Teaching in 2020. Friedel’s conversation focuses on encouraging student learning through immersive, experiential projects that connect to popular culture and current events so they can find inspiration – and a love of language and literature – outside of traditional means.

Susan Neylan

Susan Neylan: Inspiring a More Inclusive History

Susan Neylan, an Associate Professor in the Department of History, was recognized for her commitment to integrating Indigenous content into teaching, engaging students in problem-based learning and engaging community members through public lectures through the Sustained Excellence award in 2020. Neylan joins Mary Wilson in conversation to discuss how she works to decolonialize her practice and reflect on the continuous journey to Indigenize her teaching to create a richer, more inclusive history for her students.

Ian Schwartz

Ian Schwartz: Guiding Powerful Co-op Experiences

Ian Schwartz works as a Co-operative Education Curriculum Coordinator in Laurier’s Experiential Learning and Career Development unit. Since 2013, he has focused his efforts on the professional and academic success of students by helping them build the skills and confidence needed to succeed in co-op and beyond. The 2020 Staff Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning awardee joins Mary Wilson to talk about approaching the student learning experience as an opportunity to build pathways for students to recognize, work towards and choose from as they refine their career aspirations.