Celia Popovic, an educational developer in the Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost, has been appointed the interim director of York University’s new Teaching Commons. The appointment, which is effective July 1, will be for a two-year term.
“We are very fortunate that Dr. Celia Popovic has chosen to join our team,” says Susan Vail, associate vice-president teaching & learning. “She brings a wealth of experience to York University and passion for enhancing student learning.”
The Teaching Commons, as its name implies, will provide a supportive, responsive and collegial environment to encourage the engagement of faculty, staff and students in all aspects of teaching and learning. It will be a place where those interested in providing quality learning environments for York University students may come to learn, teach or reflect. The year ahead will be a building year with continued consultation and the piloting of a number of program initiatives.
Popovic describes her interim role as being one of a facilitator – someone who will work with the University’s faculties to enhance the student experience. She has more than 20 years of experience as an educational developer in a similar capacity with universities in Great Britain. Most recently, Popovic was an educational developer and ran a centre at Birmingham City University, which she says was similar to the University’s new Teaching Commons.
“Prior to coming to York in November, I worked with Birmingham City University, where I consulted with faculty to identify what could be improved in the classroom,” says Popovic. “This involved the way we equipped rooms, how programs were structured, the teaching methods used in the classroom and more.”
She has great plans for York’s Teaching Commons. “What I don’t want it to be is a central office where people think they should go only if they need remedial help,” she says. “That is the complete antithesis of what it should be.
“We’ve called it the ‘Teaching Commons’ to convey this notion of a shared community of practice. My office is just one element of the Teaching Commons,” she explains. “The Teaching Commons should be something that involves everyone engaged in teaching and learning – and that includes students – we are all part of it. To that end I see this as the start of a highly collaborative, consultative and inclusive journey.
“I envision it as a place where best practices within the existing community are shared but also a place where we can build networks and connections with people provincially, nationally and internationally about what is going on in teaching and learning,” says Popovic. “What are the best ideas? What is new and interesting? What I don’t mean is the flashiest or most headline-grabbing new trend, although they might be of interest. It won’t be about the most popular and passing whims. What it will be about is what really makes the difference in teaching and learning for York students.
“We have a wide and diverse group of students and within that group, there are some pretty unique needs,” says Popovic. “All students have specific demands on their time; many face a route through life that is very different from those of previous generations. That is why it is important to have the Teaching Commons to make sure we are aware of what is working within and beyond our own institution, what our students need to succeed and what can we do to support teachers in addressing these needs.”
She sees a future where faculty, contract instructors, teaching assistants and students come to the Teaching Commons because it would be impossible not to. Everyone would see it as a positive aspect of their careers and central to ensuring student success.
The Teaching Commons will be opening its doors in September and will be located in the TEL Building. To contact Celia Popovic, drop by her office located at 1046 TEL. She is also available at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 416-736-2100, ext. 55922.