The Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence’s mission is to promote faculty vitality and vibrancy through learning opportunities that advance student engagement in and outside of the classroom by offering programming, mentoring and consultancy that enrich and sustain excellence in all facets of faculty life: learning and teaching, scholarship, leadership and service.
At Stetson University the core focus of the mission is liberal learning, which is operationalized through the strategic priorities illustrated in the Stetson University Strategic Map, notably to “establish Stetson as a university of choice for innovative approaches to tackling complex challenges” anchored by the aspiration to “be a diverse community of inclusive excellence.” The Center’s primary goal is to support these strategic priorities by offering programming and funding that facilitate the development of Stetson faculty as teacher-scholars. The teacher-scholar model emphasizes the integration of the faculty roles as educator, scholar and citizen of the university community – an expression of Boyer’s pivotal work, Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. This continuous engagement in scholarly and creative inquiry is an institutional priority that cultivates a culture of lifelong learning and demonstrates to external constituents (parents, funders) the value of a liberal education. Which, in turn, attracts students, faculty and staff that will sustain the University into the future and attract new opportunities and resources.
The journey of a teacher-scholar will be unique for each individual, a faculty member new to the university role will have different goals and needs than one with significant experience in higher education. This diversity presents an opportunity to leverage the knowledge and perspectives of individuals (newcomers and established members) to develop Communities of Practice – a term coined by Lave and Wenger to describe “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” This approach to building community and valuing lifelong learning is the core of the Brown Center’s philosophy of faculty development. Communities of Practice (CoP) may evolve organically or by design. In all cases there is an expectation of that individuals will develop as leaders and the work will be shared through dissemination beyond the communities of practice.
(for resource allocation and programming)
The work of the Brown Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence are mobilized in support this vision. Thus, the following criteria are employed in all decision making.
- boundary-spanning: relationships, interconnections and interdependencies that span departmental and disciplinary boundaries.
- innovative & high-impact: innovative strategies with the potential for high student impact are employed to engender learning.
- inclusive communities of practice: strategies that recognize and advance the social nature of learning through mindful inclusion of diverse peoples and their lived experiences in communities of learners committed to excellence in education.
- agency-transfer: leadership capacity in faculty to take action to advance the university’s mission and build equitable structures that serve the greater purposes of higher education.
The ways in which the Brown Center uses its human and financial resources to realize these priorities is varied and requires cooperation from both university and non-university entities. The examples illustrate how programming and projects supported by the Center support these funding priorities.
- A group of faculty and staff came together to offer an institute on intergroup dialogue that spawned a community of practice interested in using dialogue as an inclusive pedagogy.
- Diverse faculty proposed a forum, the Inclusive Teaching Symposium, to examine and share best practices in inclusive pedagogies across the university, including the college of law.
- The Brown Innovation Fellows program engages a cohort of faculty from diverse disciplines as designers of significant learning experiences, through a year-long program of study and fellowship.
- Several faculty from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, attend the CUR dialogues to interact with federal agency program officers and other grant funders.
- Through teaching circles, faculty engage with disciplinary and interdisciplinary professional networks, participate in the generative peer review process to expand their learning, scholarship, creative endeavors, and professional impact.
- Scholarly inquiry circles bring faculty and staff together to hold each other accountable, provide critical peer review and support in the service of obtaining scholarly and creative goals.
- In 2015, Stetson hosted the Council of Undergraduate Research Institute on the Celebration campus that brought together teams from campuses across the nation to develop transformative opportunities for undergraduate research in the social sciences at their institutions.
- Teams of faculty and staff attend institutes/seminars that investigate innovative pedagogies and other trends in higher education to inform initiatives that contribute to the health and vitality of the institution.
- Faculty receive scholarships (partial and full) to sponsor continuous development as teacher-scholars through conferences/symposia/seminars that manifest the Center’s funding priorities.
 Boyer, E. L., & Reconsidered, S. (1990). Priorities of the Professoriate. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Princeton, NJ.
 Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge university press.