students are gathered on this cold, rainy Tuesday in a classroom
in Pierce Hall at Oxford College. They break up into pairs to
discuss their writing projects, all thematically linked to the
concept of self.
could choose from several questions: Was there a point in your
life that changed your sense of self? How was your sense of
self formed? What was the role of your parents, family, and
friends in the construction of your sense of self?
Howard Candler Professor of English Lucas Carpenter is sitting
in a swivel chair turned backward at the front of the room,
arms crossed, as each student explains their partners
men, money is the ultimate power. For women, looks can get you
everywhere, says a male student, whose topic is advertising
and the medias image of an ideal self.
listens intently, sometimes interjecting comments, asking for
clarification, or praising a creative approach. After each team
has responded, he reads a short section from the course text,
then launches into a discussion of the collective self.
we, in fact, a country that has a collective identity?
Carpenter asks. What defines us as Americans?
the bell rings, several members of the class gather around his
desk to keep the discussion going. Such enthusiastic participation,
says Carpenter, is his ultimate goal in the classroom.
let the class get to the point where they can guess in advance
whats coming, he says. Know when to shift
nearly two decades at Oxford, Carpenter, a poet and widely published
author, has been honored with several teaching awards including
the Fleming Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Oxford
Professor of the Year. In 2003, he became the first Oxford professor
to be honored with the University Scholar/Teacher Award, Emorys
highest faculty honor.
faculty scholarship and research often grab the spotlight, in
recent years, Emory has made great strides in recognizing teaching
as an institutional value. Through the Center for Teaching and
Curriculum, the University Teaching Fund, the University Advisory
Council on Teaching, and mentor programs for new faculty, the
University is looking for ways to support and spread the best
practices for increasing student participation, engagement,
and knowledge retention.
may never be quantifiablebut something happens in the
classroom when its working, Carpenter says. You
sense that the students minds and intellects are actively
engaged with yours.
College, which has been selected as a national leader in the
scholarship of teaching and learning by the Carnegie Foundation
for the Advancement of Teaching and the American Association
for Higher Education, takes special pride in its innovative
methods of undergraduate instruction.
fifty faculty members continue a tradition of excellent teaching
that reaches back to the colleges earliest days,
says Oxford Dean Dana Greene 71G. Professors typically
abandon the standard classroom lecture for opportunities in
cooperative learning, where teams of students work together
on problems and projects that stress collaboration and individual
responsibility, and put concepts theyve learned in the
classroom to the test in the real world.
example is the class Social Change in Developing Societies,
which Carpenter has co-taught with Oxford sociology Professor
Mike McQuaide for the past six years. During spring break, Carpenter
and McQuaide annually chaperone students to Ecuador to study
shamanism. They spend ten days in the Amazon jungle and the
Andes Mountains, where they interview shamans and observe their
rituals and ceremonies.
of the students consider it a life-changing course, Carpenter
says. We really do go to the limits of civilizationwhere
the roads run out and the only access is by boat and trail.
payoff of teaching may be less tangible than inventing a new
medication or putting the final touches on a seven-volume series,
but as Carpenter admits in his poem, Commencement:
All these earnest, upturned faces/could support a jaded