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Dear UIC Community,

Happy new year! I’m delighted to kick off 2021 with a few key announcements as we welcome the start of the spring semester next week.

First, the Center for Teaching Excellence has amended its name and will hereafter be referred to as the Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence (or CATE for short). The new name better communicates the Center’s mission, which is to develop a culture of effective teaching practices and inclusive education supporting the success of all UIC students. Aligned with this mission, our immediate goal at CATE, beginning this spring, is to generate resources and deploy professional learning experiences to help UIC instructors successfully implement new teaching methods or incrementally improve their teaching. Please check out the CATE website, teaching.uic.edu, which underwent a major reorganization over the holiday break, to learn more about upcoming teaching and learning events and to access resources to support your teaching online this spring. 

Upcoming Events

Listed here are brief descriptions and a few quick links to upcoming events either hosted by UIC colleagues or available as free webinars or online courses through outside organizations:

  • UIC Webinar: Ten Simple Rules for Building an Antiracist Research Group (based on a recently published paper: Chaudhary & Berhe 2020, PLOS Computational Biology, 16(10): e1008210)
    Presenter: Dr. Bala Chaudhary, Assistant Professor in Environmental Science & Studies, DePaul University |

    When: January 22, 2021 | 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
    RSVP | diversity.uic.edu/10rules
  • Every Learner Everywhere Monthly Webinar Series (Part 1 of 4):

Teaching in the Time of COVID – What Makes a Difference
When: January 15, 2021 | 2:00 – 3:00 pm

Transforming Engagement – Interaction and Online Course Design
When: January 22, 2021 | 2:00 – 3:00 pm

Live Q&A Panel – What Faculty Need to Know About Engaging Students Online
When: January 29, 2021 | 2:00 – 3:00 pm

Registration link for Part 1 of the monthly series | go.uic.edu/webinar-registration

  • EdX Online Course: Inclusive Teaching – Supporting All Students in the College Classroom
    When: Self-paced on your time this spring semester
    Enrollment: Starts January 7, 2021
    More information & access to registration link | go.uic.edu/EdX-supporting-students
  • EdX Online Course: Teaching & Learning in the Diverse Classroom
    When: Self-paced on your time this spring semester
    Enrollment: Starts January 7, 2021
    More information & access to registration link | go.uic.edu/EdX-diverse-classroom


Additional Updates

Another exciting development that began this fall was the merging into CATE of the Learning Technology Solutions (LTS)  team, go.uic.edu/LTS-support-team, which offers support to UIC instructors teaching with educational technology such as Blackboard as well as providing other services such as lecture capture, classroom audio visual equipment, and more. This transition brings technology and pedagogy expertise together enabling CATE to support UIC instructors in any modality of instruction, including online, face-to-face, and hybrid formats. Instructors may now access support services for the systems and tools for teaching with technology directly through the CATE website on the Ed Tech page: teaching.uic.edu/ed-tech.

Also available on the CATE website is a special feature developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that showcases UIC instructors who have confronted challenges to effective online delivery of the curriculum in creative and inspiring ways. Please visit the Innovations in Online Teaching at UIC webpage, go.uic.edu/innovations, to learn more about the teaching tips, tools and strategies, and lessons learned that helped UIC instructors teaching online and interact with students more effectively in synchronous and asynchronous classrooms. Additional contributions are welcome! Please email teaching@uic.edu for more information.

In addition, I’d like to draw your attention to a new professional learning program, CIRTL@UIC, which specifically targets UIC graduate students and postdocs. UIC’s Graduate College has partnered with CATE to establish UIC as a member of a national consortium of research universities called the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), cirtl.net, which provides online resources and professional development programming for graduate students (including teaching assistants) and postdocs considering careers in academia. Please check out the CIRTL@UIC website, cirtl.uic.edu, and share with graduate students and postdocs in your departments interested in improving their teaching skills and employing evidence-based, equity-minded teaching practices in their current and future classrooms.

Acknowledging National Events

Finally, I want to acknowledge the disruptive events that transpired at our nation’s capital this week in which we witnessed an attack on the people and the process governing the historically peaceful transfer of power in the U.S. It is unfortunate that this does not represent an isolated case as we have been plagued by traumatic events affecting teaching and learning for nearly a year now. It is important that we acknowledge what has happened with our students, demonstrate concern and empathy for those in distress by the destructive violence observed, and commit to modeling a classroom environment in which we treat each other with respect, especially when we disagree in our political ideology. Before the November 2020 election, CATE collaborated with the Office of Diversity, diversity.uic.edu, and the Office of the Dean of Students, dos.uic.edu, to create an online resource with tips and tools to help UIC instructors consider contingencies in curriculum planning and maintain academic continuity through a challenging period of time in the fall semester. Please check out this election-related resource, go.uic.edu/election-resources, which provides strategies for prioritizing student well-being during times of trauma, and may be useful to you now as you are planning for the spring semester.

Looking Ahead

In closing, I’d like to thank you all for my warm and enthusiastic welcome to the University this past fall. Starting up the Center remotely in the midst of a global pandemic, a historical movement for racial justice, and a highly polarized and contentious national election has been challenging. But I’ve been truly inspired by the resilience and creativity of our instructors to teach and mentor students online through what I can only describe as the least ideal and most demanding of circumstances. Your perseverance and concern for student success are truly appreciated by me, our institutional leaders, and most importantly, our amazing undergraduates and graduate students across the campus.

I look forward to continuing to meet more members of the community here at UIC. And on behalf of the CATE team, we excitedly anticipate engaging with you in conversations on teaching and educational technology as well as finding ways to support your efforts to advance student learning and sense of belonging in our classrooms.

Sincerely yours,

Erin O’Leary

Executive Director, Center for the Advancement of Teaching Excellence (CATE)



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