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Lott Advocates for Story Over Genre

The author of Oprah Book Club selection, Jewel, Bret Lott visited Belmont on Wednesday for a Christian Faith Development convocation sponsored by the School of Religion, the English department and the Office of Spiritual Development.

Bret LottAfter noting “I only understand what I mean if I write it out,” Lott read to the audience his thoughts on the roles of story, genres and faith in a person’s life. “Why do people buy the same novel again and again and again” he asked, noting his belief that in those tales readers find a glimpse of the light and meaning they seek. Alluding to C.S. Lewis, he continued, “Those books have delivered a story that has brought them to the brink of their own far-off country.”

But Lott argued that genre is not the same as story; rather, genre is but a shadow of the real story everyone seeks, a story that is found in the person of Christ. “I ask you not ‘what is your story’ but who is your story?”

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Students, Alumni Get ‘Jumpstart’ for Poliana

Poliana began beta testing in November.

Poliana began beta testing in November.

A group of Belmont students and alumni are working to increase civic responsibility through a web application that explains United States government and politics. Funded through a $15,000 investment, the app, Poliana, aggregates millions of data points on a wide range of government activity, including voting records, financial contributions, lobbying, bills and industry influence.

Nashville business incubator Jumpstart Foundry awarded Poliana founders with the start-up cash during a 14-week process. Throughout the process the founders–Belmont students David Gilmore and Patrick Cason along with alumni Grayson Carroll, Kenny House and Seth Whiting– were guided and mentored by Nashville’s most influential business people, designers, developers, lawyers, marketers and entrepreneurs.  Their entrepreneurial jumpstart culminated with “investor day,” where Poliana presented a 10-minute business pitch to hundreds of potential investors from all over the country.

“I was pushed to learn and produce results at an extremely accelerated rate, and the progress I made was clear. Overall, the experience more than prepared me for the trials of running a successful business, and I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity to learn from the brightest minds of the Nashville business community,” said Carroll (’13), Poliana’s chief executive officer.

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Faculty Present at 2013 Lilly Conference

Faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Religion and associated with the Teaching Center and the Office of General Education recently contributed four presentations at the 33rd Annual International Lilly Conference on College Teaching.  Each of the four presentations is associated with research that flows from ongoing Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) projects and collaborations.

Computer Science Professor Joyce Crowell, Psychological Science Professor Pete Giordano and Religion Professor Steve Simpler presented “Taming the Professor: How Students Manage Professors.”  They are members of the Belmont Faculty Improvement Group (FIG) that has worked on a variety of SoTL projects for more than two decades and has presented at several other Lilly conferences. Their 2013 presentation focused on how students try to manipulate such things as course assignments, grading, or due dates. Participants discussed ways to create hospitable classrooms that diminish adversarial relationships while upholding academic standards.

In an interactive panel presentation entitled “Getting Students to Care in the Common Core Classroom: Service Learning as an Engagement Strategy,”  English Department faculty members Jason Lovvorn, Linda Holt and Charmion Gustke examined how service learning can be an effective student engagement strategy, particularly for core-curriculum classes. All three faculty members have multi-year scholarly research experiences with service learning pedagogy. As a conference panel, they each offered reflections on how service learning promotes student engagement in the classroom. The presentation provided conclusions and evidence regarding how service-learning outcomes square well with the goals of most core curricula.

Alison Moore and Rachel Rigsby, both chemistry faculty members and general education leaders, presented “How the BELL Core Does Multi-Disciplinary Learning Communities as the First Part of a Sophomore Year Experience.” Their presentation included recent observations from collaborative research that combined administrative and teaching experiences for both faculty members. In addition to laying out the basic framework and signature courses of the BELL Core at Belmont, they identified how learning communities have been incorporated as part of Belmont’s larger Sophomore Year Experience. This session explored both the logistical details of including learning communities in the core curriculum and the pedagogical pieces that make them successful academic experiences.

“Some Effective Activities and Strategies for Ending a Course,” presented by Mathematics and Teaching Center Professor Mike Pinter and Giordano, was designed so that participants would be able to implement ideas immediately as they conclude their fall semester courses. As output from their collaboration on SoTL topics that developed during service for each as Belmont’s Teaching Center director, they have presented regularly at the Lilly Conference over the last decade. To outline the significance of a good course ending, their 2013 presentation included pedagogical, cognitive, emotional and practical considerations for ending a course in ways that promote student learning. After hearing about approaches and activities used in some Belmont mathematics and psychology courses, participants had time to generate their specific course-ending ideas.

At the Lilly Conference, faculty scholars of teaching and learning from across the United States and several international educational institutions share innovative pedagogies and have vibrant discussions about questions and challenges associated with teaching and learning. The theme for the 2013 conference, held Nov. 21-24 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, was “Evidence-Based Teaching and Learning.”

Digital Citizenship Class Proposes Apps for Google Glass

google glass-231When Google selected Belmont media studies professor Dr. Sybril Bennett as one of its 8,000 Google Glass Explorers in June, the company likely didn’t expect that this single, beta sample of its new wearable computer would jump start the digital creativity of nearly 60 college students. But thanks to Bennett’s desire for her students to embrace and respect innovation, she set aside concerns for the risks (her glasses cost $1,500) and introduced both sections of her “Digital Citizenship & Society” class to the futuristic technology.

“It’s incredible, and it’s a beast,” said student Kristoff Hart. “Having this piece of technology sit right above your eyes is weird, but there are so many ways to use it.”

The students’ hands-on experience with Google Glass allowed them to better understand how the technology works. Students in each class were then split into five groups and asked to create a proposal for a new software application, or app, for the product. In presenting their ideas, each group had to examine the benefits, economics, marketing and potential competitors as well as weigh the pros and cons of their “creation.”

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Trailblazer of Southern Politics Gov. Winfield Dunn Speaks to Belmont Students

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Pictured left to right are Dr. Bryce Sullivan, Gov. Winfield Dunn and Dr. Richard Treadway.

Former Tennessee Gov. Winfield Dunn shared his experiences with Belmont students as part of a convocation lecture on Wednesday.  Students learned how throughout Dunn’s adult life his over-riding business and professional interests centered on healthcare. He was also very involved in the growth and development of the Tennessee Republican Party, first in Memphis and later throughout the state, and has remained active in the political life of Tennessee for more than 50 years.

Dunn was governor of Tennessee from 1971 to 1975 .He was the state’s first Republican chief executive in fifty years, and he was only one of six Republican governors since the Civil War.

His accomplishments as governor were numerous. In addition to his successful efforts in reorganizing Tennessee’s executive branch, Dunn created the Department of Economic and Community Development.  Also during his tenure, highway construction boomed and state employees received much needed pay raises.

Perhaps most noteworthy is that his accomplishments occurred in the context of a divided government.  Dunn worked productively with a Democratic-controlled General Assembly, and extended state appointments to members of both parties. Forty years later, his administration offers political observers a model of cooperation, moderation and legislative achievement.

The convocation was made possible through support of Richard Treadway, chairman of Polaris Hospital Company and co-founder of Psychiatric Solutions Inc. Treadway a graduate of Vanderbilt University and the Massey School of Business at Belmont University and is a distinguished member of Belmont’s McWhorter Society.

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