The Faculty Center for Teaching Excellence was established at Western Carolina University
in 1988 based on recommendations from the Chancellor's Task Force, commissioned by
Chancellor Myron L. Coulter in 1985, on Faculty Development and Evaluation. After
three years of researching teaching literature and sponsoring teaching events, the
Task Force submitted a 60-page summary report that recommended a structure for the
new center. Chancellor Coulter accepted this report in June 1988, and the Center opened
that August. The new center was located on the main floor of Hunter Library near the
University Media Center. The Task Force's Instructional Services Coordinator, Ben
Ward, became the Center's founding director. To staff the Center, the Chancellor provided
funds for three Faculty Fellows:
- Faculty Fellow for Publications
- Faculty Fellow for Programs
- Faculty Fellow for Internationalizing the Curriculum
The Myron L. Coulter Faculty Center
In 1994, after Chancellor Coulter announced his retirement, the WCU Board of Trustees
renamed the Center in his honor, designating it the Myron L. Coulter Faculty Center
for Teaching Excellence. Later that year, the University Media Center was phased out
and the Media Center's six full-time staff members merged with the Faculty Center
to provide increased support for faculty development in instructional technology.
At that time, the Center's staff affected a further name modification: The Myron L.
Coulter Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.
Until his retirement in December 2001, Dr. Ben Ward served as the Center's director
and ably guided it during years of contributing to the enhancement of the teaching
& learning experience at Western. Dr. Alan Altany, previously a professor of religious
studies at Marshall University, became the new director in December of 2001.
The Center designated the academic year 2003-2004 as the "Year of the Scholarship
of Teaching & Learning (SoTL)." Under Dr. Altany's direction, Western became recognized
nationally for its SoTL work, specifically the development of Mountain Rise, an international peer-reviewed journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
Faculty Learning Communities were established and the annual SoTL Faire grew and expanded
to a 2-day event.
The Reorganization of the Coulter Faculty Center
In 2005, Provost Kyle Carter called for a study to reorganize the Center to better
serve faculty efforts to enhance student learning. In response to faculty requests,
the Coulter Faculty Center combined its resources with Educational Technologies and
the Division of Educational Outreach. Center staff began to integrate professional
development activities, instructional design, and technology support into a single
point of service in Hunter Library.
Dr. Anna McFadden moved from her position as Chair of the Department of Educational
Leadership and Foundations to lead the effort as Director of the reorganized center.
McFadden, a faculty member for 10 years at WCU, spent three months studying in-depth
the needs of faculty. The faculty's desires were clear: they wanted a seamless solution
to enhancing both their pedagogical techniques and technical abilities. In response
to this need, the Center clarified its vision, mission, and strategic direction.
In the expanded Center, faculty find assistance in designing curricula, integrating
supported technology to augment student learning, using distance learning formats,
training to use technologies, and exploring the scholarship of teaching and learning.
In 2010, Dr. McFadden moved to a new position as Director of Academic Engagement and
Governance for the Division of IT. From 2010-2016, the Center was led by Dr. Laura
Cruz, an Associate Professor in the Department of History who also was instrumental
in changing the name from "Center" to "Commons" in recognition of the aspirational
goal to be a part of a connective matrix of faculty support and engagement rather
than simply a "place" for them to come.
In 2016, Dr. Martha Diede was appointed as the interim director and confirmed as the
Director after a national search in 2017. Her focus during her tenure was on improving
faculty outcomes while helping them clarify and improve student learning outcomes
and course alignment. Dr. Diede left WCU for a position at Syracuse University. Dr.
Jonathan Wade, the Senior Educational Technologist at WCU, served as the Acting Director
of the Center from June of 2018 to March of 2019.
In March of 2019, after a national search, Dr. Eli Collins-Brown took the reign as
the new Director of the Commons. Dr. Collins-Brown has been working in higher education
for 20+ years as a curriculum developer, instructional designer, technologist, instructor
and leader. Her focus has been on web-based, blended and online education but over
the years has branched into the improvement of teaching and learning environments
in all modalities and educational/faculty development. Her work centers on creating
effective and meaningful learning environments, with or without technology. Through
her research and practice, she has found that technology-supported instruction can
create significant learning experiences in different modalities that enhance engagement,
discussion, access to content and connectedness to students.
The mission of the Coulter Faculty Commons is to be WCU’s center for teaching and
learning excellence that supports sustainable activities, integrating pedagogical
best practices, teaching and learning technology, scholarly research, and effective
The Faculty Commons will foster a community of teacher-scholars promoting excellence
in teaching and learning and other forms of scholarship.