AccessRoo: Accessibility

A new column where we talk about disability and share our thoughts on what we need access to as professors, researchers and colleagues. If you have an idea or topic that you would like us to talk about, please send an email to 


Matthew Edwards

I am an Associate Professor of Spanish in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. I teach courses that primarily focus on Latin American literature and culture, as well as Spanish language classes in our introductory sequence. I am a non-native speaker, and I like to begin the first day of classes talking about how and why I am here—or there—in front of them, as their professor.  I always talk about the importance of Study Abroad, of learning how to feel different and why that is important, of wanting something else, and of Latin America being exactly that—something else: at least for me. I talk about the family I have today: the significance, for me, of living in a biracial, bilingual home and of how my now intentional, intimate ties with those countries that lie south of our borders have made me a staunch ally to all immigrants, and to struggles for social justice across the board.  I had always felt that my story needed to connect me to what I do—both in the classroom and beyond its doors. And my experiences in Latin America and my familial ties to the region are often considered, I think, as a rite of passage that allows me to connect with my colleagues and students in unique ways through a shared nostalgia and longing for something that is hard to put my finger on.

It wasn’t until two years ago that I started modifying my introductory blurb. I finally began to tell my students that I am blind.  Blind is a broad term that includes many ocular diseases and degenerative conditions. In many cases it does not mean complete lack of sight, or blackness. For me, it means an underdeveloped optic nerve, low vision, and adaptive technology.  My decision to tell my students—and colleagues for that matter— coincided with my promotion to tenure, and has produced a shift in my research agenda towards Critical Disability Studies and motivated the creation of the Disability Alliance group on campus.  I started to be more open about my disability largely because I was tired of trying to see, of faking it, and of feeling bad when I got everything wrong. In academia, and at UMKC, a lot of what we do, and are asked to do, as professors depends on our efficiency and effectiveness as creative, critical thinking able-bodied teachers and researchers. We must produce SCH and we must add lines to our CV: time is often of the essence and being disabled occupies your time in strange ways.  It is hard to be blind when there is no space for getting lost, for delays, for finding oneself—in the dark.

In class, I now spend quite a lot of time throughout the semester talking—in Spanish, of course— about what I don’t see.  I ask for help, I ask for patience, and students are very understanding and eager to offer a hand. If fact, they now share their stories of difference, of bodiedness, in class for all to hear. We do still follow my syllabi, but we also dedicate time to hearing about work, about life as a student-parent, about taking time away from class to travel South and to cross the borders that make some of their lives so difficult. Not everyone wishes to share. But, I remember many of their stories, and they influence how I structure my assessment strategies and guide my student learning outcomes.

This sequence of events has shown me that my students have always needed access to my story, and that they benefit from knowing who I really am. And although I do not have hard data to say that sharing my personal life with anyone actually helps me in any way, I can say that speaking openly about my disability has changed how I engage with people on campus. 

As a disabled person, I am constantly made aware of how I “access” and gather information, how I engage with people and pass through spaces.  And while accessibility for many is a wheelchair ramp, an email with embedded hyperlinks, or a Youtube video with captions, I would like to argue that it is also much more. By giving access to my story, I was able to create a space for others, and through it access essential information necessary for me to accommodate their differences. There is a reciprocal action here that interests me. Here, the give and take between differences can help us understand the benefits of accessibility, thought large. Making yourself—your class, your workspace—accessible is not easy. It definitely is not for me. But people notice accessibility: the documents, captioned videos and revealing stories say something about who you are, and that message helps others. It communicates a sensitivity to equity and inclusion, and an acceptance of the diverse peoples with whom we share space. This message motivates others to share, to open up and give us access.  The circle continues. But it is up to us to share.

FLC: Transition from High School to College

Facilitated by Arthur “Gus” Jacob

Want to connect with urban high school teachers to share insights and reflect on the transition from high school to college? This faculty learning community is for you.

UMKC faculty teach students who recently graduated from high school and it may have been a while since faculty were in a high school classroom. High school teachers prepare students for college, while the school guidance counselor typically interacts with the colleges. College faculty may know about high school – they went to high school – and yet many things have changed. Faculty from other countries may also be intrigued about U.S. high schools. Let’s talk about transition! 

A vertical team is a group of educators at various grade levels who work together to help more students acquire the academic skills necessary for success. Typically, vertical teams are comprised of educators in the same district to assist with the transition from middle school to high school. In vertical teams, teachers representing multiple grade levels across subject area expertise collaborate. For this vertical team, we will partner with urban high schools in the Kansas City Public School attendance boundary (both KCPS and charter schools). UMKC faculty who teach first-year students will benefit from learning more about urban high school experiences and high school teachers will benefit from learning more about the college classroom and faculty experiences with incoming first-time college students.

The FLC will meet on Zoom, likely at 3:00 pm, after “the last bell.” Hopefully, the last two meetings will be able to take place safely, in person.  

FLC: Improving Student Belonging

Underserved and marginalized students may face unique difficulties (isolation, marginalization, discrimination, racism, ableism) that cause them to change majors early in their time at UMKC, decide to transfer to another college or university or stop their postsecondary education altogether. This FLC will bring together faculty interested in exploring how to help students develop a sense of belonging in a class, major, and/or discipline. Academic disciplines are not value-neutral, cultural-free spaces. Faculty interested in connecting belonging and exploring the implications of structural racism for students, courses, and academic disciplines are welcome to select a diversity and inclusion focus. 

This FLC is also in search of a facilitator to help shape reading and the “give back” to the UMKC teaching community. If you would like to facilitate, logic in the application that will include two questions about being a facilitator.


Threshold Concepts for

Writing Intensive Faculty

This faculty learning community (FLC) will focus on (1) how and why faculty write differently in their disciplines and (2) how to articulate and apply threshold concepts in writing studies and one’s own discipline. Threshold concepts are “established and widely agreed-upon knowledge/ideas/orientations” that have come to be “foundational” for successfully entering a discipline, according to the editors of (Re)Considering What We Know: Learning Thresholds in Writing, Composition, Rhetoric, and Literacy (23). Modeled after the Howe Center for Writing Excellence’s Faculty Writing Fellows Program at Miami University, this FLC will bring together WI faculty from across the university to learn from the expertise about writing in one’s discipline that everyone brings with them to their classroom and scholarship. This FLC will not only facilitate individual learning about effective writing instruction and assignment design practices but also will make visible the knowledgeable, diverse, creative culture(s) of writing at UMKC.

This Faculty Learning Community will convene ten WI faculty to discuss threshold concepts in writing studies and in their individual disciplines. These discussions will address how and why we write differently in our disciplines. Based upon these conversations, faculty will choose to revise an assignment, unit, or the syllabus of their existing WI course with the intention to teach these revised courses/assignments in the next semester or within the next academic year. Faculty will be encouraged to apply for the FLC with colleagues from their department, and preference will be given to groups of 2-3 from the same department or academic unit. 

If I were a UMKC professor teaching online, I would….

by Teri Orr, UMKC Undergraduate in French and
Owner, Orr Marketing Consultant Services

  1. Create an on-line experience that is as good or better than an in-class experience.
  2. Communicate with students effectively to facilitate learning.3. 
  3. Facilitate student-to-student communication.
  4. Employ technical tips for making on-line presentations more effective.

1.  Create an on-line experience that is as good or better than an in-class experience.

  • Become extremely proficient with all of the features of Zoom® and Canvas® and use them effectively.
  • Explore Zoom® tutorials on their website and YouTube® videos with that are specific to teaching techniques.
  • Mimic in-person classes as much as possible using the Zoom® Chat function, break-out rooms, shared screens, White Board, etc.  A variety of screens will engage students and help prevent “Zoom fatigue”.
  • Practice teaching on line with someone who will give constructive feedback.
  • Devise a system that students can use to indicate they want to say something during class, such as waving a hand, typing something in the chat area, etc. since it may be difficult for the professor to see on screen who wants to speak.  Consistency and uniformity with this system will decrease interruptions and confusion.
  • Use Canvas® for assigning and receiving homework assignments and projects.

2.  Communicate with students effectively to facilitate learning.

  • Be available on Zoom® a few minutes before and after class.  This may replace those “I have a quick question” moments that often happen in person.
  • Answer student e-mails promptly.
  • If a student’s question is too cumbersome to answer via e-mail, set up a phone or Zoom conversation.  Don’t waste time e-mailing when the question involves a nuanced or detailed answer.  Speaking to someone is much more efficient and enhances learning.
  • Create virtual office hours for individuals and group tutoring sessions via Zoom® meetings that any of the students can join when they need help. 

3.  Facilitate student-to-student communication.

  • If students are attending the class remotely, at the beginning of the semester, allow them to “introduce” their pets, siblings, roommates or parents who live with them.  This is welcoming to the student and helps everyone get to know each other.
  • Ask individual students occasionally about what is happening in their location.  (What’s the weather like where there are? What’s happening there?)  This will make students feel more comfortable communicating with the professor and with each other.
  • Start the semester with a get-to-know-you exercise to foster camaraderie among students.  This may be necessary to replace casual conversations between students that would normally take place before or after class.
  • Allow students a few minutes before class starts to join the Zoom session so they can talk to each other. 

4.  Employ technical tips for making on-line presentations more effective.

  • Position the screen at eye level to avoid looking up or down.  This creates a better screen presence and prevents muscle fatigue and soreness.
  • Use lighting beside the screen, not above it.  Overhead lighting creates shadows that   make facial expressions harder to read.
  • Choose a setting with a carpet or upholstered furniture so sound will be absorbed.  This prevents echoes and a “tinny” sound.  The kitchen is the WORST place to be!
  • Practice the set-up with someone and make adjustments as necessary.  No one can know how they are heard by others.
  • Sit up straight in a chair with good back support.  This will open the diaphragm and help prevent fatigue, which will be communicated vocally whether one knows it or not!
  • Keep both feet on the floor.  Crossing the legs creates fatigue because with poor posture the body has to work harder to communicate.
  • Whenever possible, walk around or raise and lower the arms to increase circulation, prevent fatigue and stay healthy.
  • Stay indoors to avoid microphone interference by the wind.
  • Using headphones by the speaker and listener can help prevent extraneous noises.
  • Speak a little slower if one has accented English.
  • Use more voice inflection and facial animation on-line than would be used in person.
  • Avoid wearing a hat or clothing with writing on it.
  • Ask students to use the “mute” function to eliminate background noise during class.

Advice for Adding Active Zoom Sessions in Face-to-Face Classes

Last week we emailed and encouraged all of you who are scheduled to teach on campus this fall to confirm the equipment and capabilities of your assigned classrooms. We are hearing that some of you are asking for classrooms equipped to let you live-stream your class sessions so that students who are unable to attend in person can attend via zoom. In the ideal situation, classes like that would be designed and taught in “hy-flex classrooms” equipped with ceiling microphones, multiple large displays to show the faces of students attending remotely, and multiple cameras so that remote students can see the instructor and the students in the classroom. We have only a handful of true hy-flex classrooms available on campus. Other classrooms in HSB and the Conservatory have been modified for specific remote teaching purposes including placing limitations on Zoom and other features.

As an alternative to hy-flex teaching, several of you have proposed to live stream from a traditional ILE classroom using an active zoom session during your class session. We want to be sure you are aware that there are significant limitations to this approach and share some strategies to consider that could help address those limitations.

Limitations of using the camera on most classroom computers for zoom during class:

  • students attending by zoom will see and hear only you
  • you will need to stay close to the camera
  • students attending by zoom will not be able to hear questions or discussion from students in the classroom because the only microphone is at the podium or on you
  • students attending by zoom may not be able to ask questions, even via chat in zoom, unless you are able to consistently monitor the zoom window while teaching

Ways to mitigate the limitations:

  • If using only the classroom computer’s camera, turn the camera toward the class from time to time;
  • When students in the classroom ask questions or make comments, repeat the question or comment so that students attending by zoom can benefit;
  •  If you have a laptop or tablet, consider bringing it to the classroom, signing into the zoom session on the laptop or tablet, and leaving it turned toward the class for the full class session;
  • If students sitting in the classroom have their own laptops or tablets in class, consider inviting them to connect to the zoom session too, but keeping their speakers on mute or using earbuds to prevent audio interference in the room. Students in the classroom connected to the zoom session could help monitor the chat by letting you know if they see the chat light up on your laptop or theirs. Asking students to be part of the solution may increase their sense of being an active part the learning community.

General strategies to keep in mind if using this zoom approach:

  • To make the session content available asynchronously, the instructor will need to record the zoom session.  If both Zoom and Panopto are enabled in your Canvas course site, then any Zoom meeting scheduled from within Canvas and recorded will automatically be saved in your course Panopto folder and will be available to all the students in your course. This is the simplest way to make Zoom class recordings available to all the students in your course for asynchronous consumption.
  • When you record the zoom session, select the option to record to the cloud. This generates better auto-captions than does Panopto and will automatically send your recordings into your course Panopto folder.
  • When setting up the zoom session for each class, consider using a recurring meeting so that students do not have to track down a unique zoom link for each session.

The 15-Minute Mentor

Do you have 15 minutes? Could you find 15 minutes a month to reach out to a student if you knew it meant the difference between them staying or leaving UMKC?

UMKC is committed to a Culture of Care and we need your help! In just 15 minutes you can make a difference.  We are looking for faculty who are committed to the success of our students.   As we assess our retention efforts we have identified a few small pockets of students we feel would benefit from having someone in their corner who can reach out to check-in and help them connect with additional support services as needed.

In the next two weeks, we will be reaching out to a select group of students to welcome them back and ask if they would be interested in having a faculty mentor.  We anticipate asking mentors to reach out to students once or twice a month to simply check-in and ask how things are going.  Mentors will be provided with additional information on key campus recourses and will have a point person they can contact with any questions or concerns that may arise.  If you have 15 minutes to make a difference for a UMKC student, please contact Dr. Tammy Welchert, Director for Academic Advising at

Read More

Read UMatters article: Biology Boot Camp Leads to Mentoring featuring Dr. Tammy Welchert and student Ethan Granger.

Read Three Things that Help from Faculty Affairs Newsletter

5 Effective, Efficient Ways to Help Your Students Succeed

As we finalize preparations for a semester unlike any we have ever experienced, we want to highlight five strategies to consider for your classes to help our students succeed. For some, these strategies may be approaches you have already been implementing. For others, these strategies may be a new way of thinking about how you interact with students. The strength of the strategies is their interdependent nature; together, they reinforce a Culture of Care that will help our students thrive and reduce some tensions with our students. The strategies reinforce that we are all in this together. We hope you find these suggestions helpful.

As a bit of background, last May, Faculty Senate surveyed students about their experiences as learners during the pandemic. Students’ experiences, both positive and negative, hinged on two primary things: communication and ability to focus. Most positive experiences related to faculty who frequently communicated, most negative experiences related to faculty who did not communicate regularly, did not answer questions or did not communicate timely feedback. Most barriers students reported related to their inability to focus, whether due to technology, their home environment, or lack of course structure that promoted engaged learning.

As we head into another semester of crisis-based teaching, we can assume that students will again be experiencing a variety of challenges with attention, focus, stress, and anxiety. As faculty and academic leaders, we will be experiencing many of the same challenges and uncertainties. The strategies we suggest below are a few steps we can take to support student success, manage student expectations, and help mitigate student and faculty frustration with this less-than-ideal learning context.

stick figure holding a box labeled covid chaos
  1. Be a role model. Students will be looking to others for cues to handle being a college student during a pandemic. Many will look to their classmates and to their professors to determine their behavior. Instead of the pandemic being the elephant in the room, go ahead and discuss it with your students. Have a conversation about norms that include things like masks, remaining flexible while upholding standards, managing stress, and tips for staying focused.
stick figures illustrating communication

2. Communicate with students regularly, precisely, and directly.

icon depicting a schedule

3. Set a schedule or a routine for teaching. Consistency helps students know what to expect – Monday morning announcements, assignments due a particular day and time, and grading and feedback completed by a certain number of days. Many students are goal-oriented. They enrolled in the course to attain a specific goal. Students appreciate organization and clearly defined assignments. Show them how your course will help them reach their goals – even the ones they do not know they have, yet.

icon depicting community

4. Build-in time for community. We will not be able to do some of the things we often do to build and sustain a sense of community. Be creative and find ways that suit you and your students. The most effective adult educators may be unwitting neuroscientists who use their interpersonal skills to tailor enriched learning environments. Our brains learn through shared experiences. Throughout the life span, we all need others who show interest in us, help us feel safe, and encourage our understanding of the world. Brains grow best in this context of interactive discovery and through co-creation of stories that shape and support memories of what we are learning.​ (Cozolino & Sprokay 2013)

icon depicting a teacher illustrating a strategy

5. Let students know your reasoning or strategy behind various aspects of the class. Students need to see a reason for learning something new. Helping students see how they can apply their learning to their lives, employment, and other courses, helps them see the relevance of what you are asking them to do. “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.” – Confucius, 450 B.C.

The Long Summer Issue

As I have been walking each morning, I sense changes in the air and light that ordinarily make me want new pencils or a new notebook. Late August is a time of transition – the new academic year – even though summer continues to blaze. Back to school is not a thing this year and I find myself searching for a more grounded symbol for the transition we are making. I am reminded of the Traditional Chinese Calendar (with 24 solar terms and one of the first elements identified UNESCO intangible cultural heritage). The weeks between mid-August and the end of September on the U.S. calendar correspond with Late Summer on the Chinese calendar. This is a time of transition when we return to the middle between the expansive growth of spring and summer and the more inward energy of fall and winter.  We are making a big transition from meeting outdoors and virtually to meeting indoors and socially distant for class. We are focusing on being safe and healthy as part of living our Culture of Care. 

This issue of the Faculty Affairs Newsletter features resources and information for you as you return to campus and begin fall semester.



Interested in data viz? Check out the UNESCO ICH constellation:

Student Success

by Kristi Holsinger, Ph.D., Interim Senior Vice Provost for Student Success

portrait of Kristi Holsinger

I joined the Criminal Justice & Criminology faculty in 1999 and over the last five years have gradually transitioned into administrative work. My research and teaching focus has been on interventions for at-risk and incarcerated youth (particularly girls), youth mentoring programs, and teaching innovations that prepare students to challenge and transform “justice” systems. This work provided a logical pathway to work in the realm of student success, as Associate Dean for undergraduate students and programs in the College of Arts & Sciences and now as Interim Senior Vice Provost for Student Success.

One of my goals has been to amplify student voices and be responsive by addressing barriers and sending emails of appreciation to faculty and staff. I have loved being part of the development of a new student newsletter, Roo Connection, designed to support and encourage students, tell their stories, and provide updates and access to needed resources. Our 100-plus volunteer staff, faculty, and alumni outreach Phone-A-Thon to more than 6,000 students with individualized follow-up was an important part of our response to COVID-19. Several outreach efforts to advisors, staff, and faculty have been useful in learning about current student experiences and guiding various action plans to both attract students and better support them. For example, we enacted policy changes (e.g., Credit/No Credit options, raising thresholds on cashier’s holds, re-evaluation, and changes to course fee structures, extending scholarship deadlines) and worked with various offices to develop a distribution plan for student CARES Act funds and UMKC-raised emergency funds for COVID-19 related expenses. We gained many insights from students who participated in our recent virtual open forum, Beyond the #Hashtags. They shared profound ideas on achieving greater racial equity at UMKC that have already motivated action.

Other work that I am excited about includes the expansion of the First Gen Roo CAS pilot program to the entire university and the development of a centralized advising model, which will add more frontend career guidance and faculty mentorship. Leading UMKC Forward’s Team B Subcommittee on Student Success was time-consuming yet productive in identifying new strategic plans for improving both student recruitment and retention. These new initiatives will serve to strengthen our RooSTRONG Student Success model and our Culture of Care.

Finally, I want to acknowledge that these accomplishments were only possible due to the commitment and dedication of the directors and staff in the Office of Student Success, the other Offices in the Provost’s Office, and collaborative work across many units and teams. It has been my privilege to be a part of the UMKC family these past 20 plus years, and it is my dream to serve in a leadership role that revolves around student success!

Creative Works by African-American Writers: A Reading List

covers of recommended books

Imaginative storytelling has the narrative power to build greater empathy within and among readers.  In support of the African-American community in Kansas City, nationwide, and all over the world, the UMKC English Department offers the following list of recommended creative works by African-American writers:

Hadara Bar-Nadav, Professor and Director of Creative Writing, recommends:  Gwendolyn Brooks’ Selected Poems

Virginia Blanton, Curators’ Distinguished Professor, recommends:  Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes were Watching God

Britta Bletscher, MA student and GTA, recommends:  Alice Walker’s The Color Purple

Crystal Doss, Associate Teaching Professor, recommends:  Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Madison Clay, MA student, recommends:  Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give 

Ande Davis, PhD candidate, recommends:  Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith, Jamal Igle, and Khary Randolph’s BLACK

Laurie Ellinghausen, Professor and Interim Chair, recommends:  Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man

Robert Farnsworth, emeritus faculty, recommends:  Richard Wright’s Native Son

Thomas Ferrel, instructor and director of the Writing Studio, recommends:  Alice Walker’s To Hell with Dying

Jane Greer, Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor, recommends:  Nella Larsen’s Quicksand

Emily Grover, Instructor, recommends:  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah

Christie Hodgen, Professor and Editor of New Letters, recommends:  James Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son”

Sheila Honig, Lecturer, recommends:  James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” 

Ben Jasnow, Instructor, recommends:  Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

Sarah Beth Mundy, Instructor:  recommends:  Chinua Achebe’s A Man of the People

Ashley Pendleton, MA student and GTA, recommends:  Nic Stone’s Dear Martin

Jennifer Phegley, Professor, recommends:  Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad

Robert Stewart, the former editor of New Letters, recommends:  Tim Seibles’ One Turn Around the Sun

Student Input on Spring Semester

The Teaching Evaluation and Teaching Enhancement Task Force asked students and they told us how faculty communicated, offered support, continued to provide the structure of courses amidst uncertainty. This qualitative survey has had over 500 responses where students told their stories. The survey closes at the end of the week. 


Representative quotes:

“3 of my professors were very successful in making transitions to online learning. They tried to find the best way to deliver lectures online and kept making positive changes. They bought or brought devices to their remote work location and used them efficiently. They were always open to questions and quick to respond to emails. Though it was hard for everyone to make such transition those professors didn’t complain about how hard it is on their end.” 

“A lot of my teachers have been very gracious and supportive during this time and as a student, I really needed that. My most positive experience has been seeing how much some professors truly care about their students and their well-being, rather than grades and success.”

“A lot of the lectures are being held on Zoom. This is very helpful for me because I have the confidence to speak up now that we have the option to post our comments, questions, and concerns in the chat bar rather than having to speak up in front of 100 students in a lecture room. Also, for one of my classes, the lectures are recorded which is so helpful in referring back to when completing assignments.”

Taking Active Learning Online

In higher education, our first responders are the faculty. With a day (and a weekend … and spring break) you moved courses completely online. Faculty figured out new technology, took apart courses, and put them back together in the best way possible for our current context. Daniel McIntosh, associate professor of Physics, shares how he redesign and rethought his Intro to Astronomy course. 

Last March, Daniel McIntosh, associate professor in the Department of Physics, moved his teaching online for the first time. Over Zoom, I interviewed Dan about what the move to online entailed, what he learned, and how he is planning to build on his experiences for fall.

AP: In general, broad terms, how did the shift to online teaching go for you? 

DM: It was a big challenge. I never taught online at all and was actually opposed to the practice in terms of the impact on the students’ experiences. I have taught and designed my classes to be highly interactive where students are spending on average 50% of the time in lectures doing higher-order thinking and collaborative learning problem-solving together. Faced with the facts – there was no choice, my students didn’t sign up for an online class, and we are all stuck at home – I felt super invested to make that experience as high-quality as possible.

cartoon of a brain running

The first couple weeks I felt pretty down about what was happening in the world. I paid close attention to the news and the projections and then I could see where the death rate was going was obvious. So I was feeling really bummed out. I basically just threw myself at it [online teaching]. ASTR 150, Introductory Astronomy – Motions of the Cosmos saw the biggest change. The class had over 70 students and among those students included eight high school students from A Bridge to the Stars and five Propel students.  I focused on how to make that class as active as possible – it consumed weeks. I was staying up until 2 o’clock 3 o’clock in the morning trying to finish things. [Through that process,] I completely rethought what I was doing.

AP: What changed for Introductory Astronomy?

DM: My class was highly active and I weighted participation, you know, it was worth 20% of the course grade. Most of the course grade consisted of several high risk exams. I was teaching in this active way to help students master the content and build their skills. Students love it –  the evaluations are always good. Many students have shared that they didn’t think they could understand science or do well in science before Intro Astronomy. I had positive remarks because the active learning helped students master the material.

In the last year, I’ve been going to conferences, meeting with different groups, and learning about equitable education. The shift to online gave me the opportunity to incorporate what I have been learning about equitable education and culturally responsive teaching. I realized that the Introductory Astronomy class had 60 percent of the grade based on high-risk tests. What I really care about is do students learn the material, how do they learn the material, and what should I grade students for effort. I decided to shift my focus from the high-risk tests to the effort students put into learning the material. I set up online learning with discussion sections. Students watched a video lecture – basically a narrated slideshow. Then students joined a discussion group for collaborative learning that they completed with their peers, online, asynchronously. This way I could see their effort and I could grade their effort. I then set up mastery quizzes that were worth a lesser fraction of the grade.

AP: Aside from shifting your focus, what else changed for you?

DM:  I had to stop worrying about things like do students cheat. That’s not what I care about.

We get indoctrinated into the system of caring about is it fair or not? Are they going to cheat or not? Rather than what I really care about is did they learn or not? I had to figure out how to teach online in a way that encourages effort and recognizes that students learn at different rates. Spring semester, some students got really bummed out, fell behind, and  then got completely discouraged. I’ve been doing all kinds of work and lots of communication to encourage them.

AP: How did you encourage students?

two lightbulbs connected by wire

DM: I sent announcements with encouraging language with messages like “I understand how you feel.” “I can understand how tough it is.” The students who really were struggling with engaging online, and had 0s, I let them know there was still an opportunity to get their work in. They can still pass or better in class. Students started responding. They popped up and started getting their assignments in. They always started with an apology for being behind. I  always responded that I was so happy to hear from them, no need to be sorry. They then were excited and happy that I gave them that opportunity and said they would try their best.

AP: Yeah, that’s great. How do you set up your quizzes?

DM: Students get multiple efforts and they get a big window. This worked better than setting up the exam from four o’clock to five o’clock and if students ran out of time, tough.  This is what I realized from looking at all online blogs and listening to people talking about their concerns about cheating…. I realized that there are issues with access.  Some students might not have the same access to computer at the same time, or maybe they’re sharing the computer. Maybe they have an old computer with discouraging technical problems.  I want the students to have a chance to show me what they learned.

I set up the quizzes so students get two chances to take them. So, a student takes the quiz the first time and then sees which questions were wrong. I encourage the student to go back and study and then take the quiz again. I give students a 12-hour window to take their two attempts. Sure, some students could figure out which ones they got wrong, call their friend, and look around for answers.  They’re basically spending the same amount of effort as they would to look at the slides, and most students figure that out. They go focus their study, look at discussion questions and comments.

AP: What does active learning look like in your class?

DM: I decided I would do a bunch of mini lectures with a lot of interactive content integrating all the lectures together. It created a lot of work for me. I could no longer keep my active learning format I had built over several years. Now I have to carry each topic through like a normal traditional lecture, giving them all the content very clearly explained. I was worried about what the student experience would be like, as well as worried about access.

It was clear that asynchronous was the way to go.  I broke my hour and fifteen-minute lecture into mini-lectures. I decided to focus on one key topic to make short little units. The units ideally would be 8 to 10 minute long videos. Basically students watch the video and they click that they’ve done that. The slides are posted from the video.  The next thing is they have to join a group. Step 3 is to participate in the discussion of the group they joined. That’s worth a huge amount of their grade –  40-50 percent.  The rule for full credit is that they enter their own response to the question. To get the full credit they have to give at least a one-sentence description of why they think what they think is the answer. When they hit submit, they see their group’s answers and their group can see their responses. Students then have to select another student who has fewer than two responses and respond. They have to say they agree or disagree and a one-sentence explanation of why. Now, of course, some students could game it. They could not watch the video. They can just say it’s done. They can go to the discussion section and you know to type in something and see other answers. But this is collaborative learning and it’s asynchronous collaborative learning.  

AP: Are you going to continue teaching online?

DM: Yeah, I’ve had a complete phase change in my thinking about it. A lot of students want it for increased access – but it also creates access issues. Clearly a lot of people want online learning to happen. I don’t know about entire online degrees I think students would lose a lot of experiences. At the same time I can see where a lot of content can be delivered in an active way.  I got excited thinking maybe there’s something here about this facilitating active online learning. Maybe that’s what online learning needs to be really good. I’m even thinking about blended courses.

AP: Has there been anything that you didn’t anticipate that has come out of your move online that’s been really positive?   

DM: Well, personally yes. I have experienced growth for myself. I was a little bit troubled with my complete opposition to online learning because I felt sort of like a Luddite I was missing something or being resistant to change.  My resistance all had to do with the student experience. But  you can still do active learning online.  It’s like I want to do whatever I can to make learning online a really positive experience for the students. It was worth all the effort.  

AP: What’s your favorite feature of Canvas?

image of keys on a keyring

DM: Oh, wow. There’s actually a lot of good features on campus. I like the modular feature where you can set up steps and make them connect to each other to force things to be done sequentially. I like the discussion feature that makes it so that students can’t see the other people’s responses until after they contribute. The gradebook – I like how I can select a certain assignment and can send announcements based on how the students performed. And the speed grader is cool.

AP: Anything else you want to add that we haven’t covered?

DM: My big advice is communicate with students – repeated, repeated communication. That was one of the most important piece of advice that I read repeatedly in the beginning before I even set up a single class. I always valued communication, but making sure to have plenty of encouraging communication is important.

I think it was well-timed to learn how to do online education with learning about the equity.  My tendency before was to have hard lines. I think that’s the indoctrination that we went through in education. It’s easy to get caught up in fairness and in exams or more judgment, right?  Since I’ve been learning about equity, what has helped me the most is being 100% empathetic and flexible with the students. Even a year ago I would be very empathetic but I wouldn’t be as flexible. It’s easy to be caught up in this cycle of fairness and judging. We are trying to assess students’ abilities. We think that with our standard exams with the set time limit, it’s not fair to give other people more time. That is missing the whole point of trying to help people learn and reach a goal of knowing something. One analogy might be apprenticeship. Let’s say someone wants to be a plumber and they apprentice with an expert plumber. Some of the apprentices pick up the skills fast and others take two, three times longer. But if they eventually master the skills, they still get to be a plumber. The goal is not to decide who’s the genius; the goal is to help people learn and grow.   

AP: Thank you so much.

DM: You’re welcome. I can talk about this stuff forever.

Daniel McIntosh, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Director, A Bridge to the Stars Pipeline Program
Provost Fellow (2018-2019)
Norman Royall Distinguished Professor (2017-2019)
UM President’s Award for Innovative Teaching (2016)

Office: Flarsheim Hall #250M
Ph: 816-235-5324
A Bridge to the Stars

Early Results of Undergrad You

With 25% of our hoped-for response rate, here are some preliminary results of Undergrad You.

48% identified as first generation

97% participated in extracurricular activities or programs

What was your major?

word cloud of major, word size shows frequency

64% participated in sports-related activities, mostly as a fan or through club/intramurals, one-third on college teams.

When you think about your experience as an undergraduate, what words come to mind?

word cloud of answers; word size shows frequency

Typewriters, posters, coffeemakers, and graphing calculators

What did you bring to college?

COVID 19 Impact: High School Students and Finance

The transition from high school to college during the COVID-19 crisis is bound to be rough. In thinking about teaching and learning for the incoming first-year, first-time college students, a study by Junior Achievement and Citizens Bank has useful information.

Junior Achievement and Citizens Bank funded a survey of 1,000 13-18 year-olds about their financial concerns due to COVID-19. The survey showed that 69% of respondents are concerned about the financial impact of COVID-19 on their families, and 72% said they have discussed finances with their parents/guardians.

“These survey findings show a disconcerting lack of confidence among teens when it comes to achieving financial goals,” said Jack Kosakowski, President and CEO of Junior Achievement USA. “With a strong economy, you would think teens would be more optimistic. It just demonstrates the importance of working with young people to help them better understand financial concepts and gain confidence in their ability to manage their financial futures.”

The survey revealed that 48% of the teens who work say their family depends on their income to meet expenses and many of the teens who work have lost their jobs, whether babysitting/pet-sitting (21%), lawn-mowing (25%), or outside employment (18%).

Nearly half (44%) of high school juniors and seniors said that COVID-19 has impacted their ability to pay for college and many will take out loans. Almost one-third (30%) said that COVID-19 will affect when they start college.

Beyond finances, the students who do start college, will likely be worried about their family members becoming ill (60%). Interestingly, they were less worried about becoming ill themselves.

Read the report

Methodology: The JA Teens & Personal Finance Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research ( among 1,000 nationally representative U.S. teens ages 13-18, who are not currently enrolled in college between, March 1st and March 8th, 2019, using an email invitation and an online survey.

Interview: Cognitive Bandwidth and Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning

An Interview with Dr. Erin Hambrick about her experience as a facilitator of a Faculty Learning Community.

The Office of the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, as part of RooSTRONG, funded faculty participation in learning communities to explore teaching practice. FLCs are cohorts of faculty members, across all ranks, including non-tenure track, from different disciplines or fields of study. The community provides a supportive environment where faculty can tune into a variety of activities and experiment with new approaches to teaching, share successes and challenges, launch scholarly work, and disseminate instructional practices and tools. 

Dr. Erin Hambrick

  • Assistant Professor
  • Department of Psychology
  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • Directory link

Alexis: Which Faculty Learning Community are you leading?

Erin: Cognitive Bandwidth and Trauma-Informed Teaching and Learning

Alexis: What is the focus?

Erin: This FLC was focused on people who have experienced trauma or other sorts of adversities that might influence the degree of cognitive bandwidth that they have available to them as learners on the UMKC campus.

Alexis: Spring 2020 was the first time UMKC formally offered FLCs through the Provost Office. How did it come together for your group?

Erin: From the beginning, one thing made me really motivated was noticing how hungry and excited faculty were to have a forum to discuss critical issues with one another, and also a forum in which they could advance their own learning. Faculty give so much time thinking about how we teach our students. But the faculty desire to continue to grow and learn is strong and there aren’t a lot of natural outlets available.

Alexis: What was the most challenging aspect of facilitating the FLC?

Erin: Scheduling was extremely tough because we purposefully pulled from a diverse pool of faculty from across campus and from across disciplines. Finding times that converge was absolutely hard. Getting interest and buy-in was not hard whatsoever.

Alexis: How did the COVID-19 crisis affect the FLC?

Erin: We spent some of the early meetings talking over things that faculty wanted to do this semester. Faculty began reading articles about the ways that trauma, adversity, and being of a particular race, ethnicity, or gender identity status can disadvantage the bandwidth available to students. We had meetings brainstorming and thinking about how to disseminate the information to other faculty members. We began discussing how to conduct the business of higher education through a trauma-informed lens. We had many big ideas …. And the COVID-19 crisis landed in the middle of them.

In some ways having our own bandwidth reduced helped us focus on what’s feasible within one semester. Because of time contraints, we all began to recognize that actually, a very important outcome of something like this is our ability to grow in our own learning, our own recognition of a problem, and our ability to brainstorm about the ways that we individually can contribute to tackling this problem on campus.

At the beginning everybody was thinking external, you know, how do we help others learn all the stuff that we’re learning? It’s so important and it’s so exciting. Then we shifted and began to consider what is our individual responsibility? I really saw faculty talking about and thinking through action steps for improving their own teaching. They also did that in ways that they can support others who are interested in down the road. It might be that other faculty could then utilize the tools and strategies members of this FLC developed in their own classes.

Alexis: In what ways, if any, did the FLC provide natural support for faculty?

Erin: We shifted focus and decided to use the time that we have together to talk about how the COVID-19 crisis could be affecting bandwidth in our students and what we might be able to do about it right now. We are currently going through something that could be reducing bandwidth, not only for students, but also for us as faculty. That led the group to value the time that we had together to be able to discuss, and ultimately better relate to, what it is that our students are experiencing. When we ourselves are part of a crisis and are noticing what it feels like to have bandwidth reduced … I think the material really came to life for faculty. I have a lot of hope for how faculty will very genuinely be able to take some of these principles and apply them in future semesters.

Alexis: Why should we continue faculty learning communities?

Erin: For me the ability to connect with faculty about a topic that we all identified as important, and then to be able to have the space to learn and engage is great.  It is different from a workshop that meets once. We revisited our topic over time and got the benefit of developing relationships in a supportive setting. It also allowed me to create connections across campus that I will rely on and keep up with in the future. And so I just think that that outcome was really realized.

Teaching and Learning Continue

A Resource for UMKC Faculty

UMKC Faculty Affairs created a compilation of resources that have been appearing in our inboxes and that we have discovered online. This compilation may be useful to you as you continue to teach this semester and plan for summer and fall.

The resources are available through open access links on the FAN website. They are grouped by the following categories, with each category having several subcategories:

  • administration
  • community
  • coronavirus / COVID-19
  • faculty
  • health and wellness
  • scholarship and research
  • students
  • teaching and learning

On the webpage, view all resources, view by category and subcategory, or search. This is a curated list – to date there are 39 resources available. More are added each day.

excerpt of TLC

If you have a resource you would like to share, email Alexis Petri at

Zoom Virtual Backgrounds

Show your style

A few faculty are showing their style with Zoom virtual backgrounds. Roo Connection published a set of virtual backgrounds featuring UMKC landmarks. This gallery pulls together a few fun statement backgrounds from collections made freely available for personal use. If like one of them, click on the image to open it in a new window and then right-click or control-click to save the image.


Make your own virtual background

Canva has set up an online virtual background studio – you make your own background free of charge.


Three Things that Help

The Faculty Affairs Newsletter is sharing faculty members’ unique take on the question “what are three things that help?” The question is purposefully vague so that we have a range of perspectives.

Tammy Welchert

photo of tammy welchert
  • Associate Teaching Professor, Director of Student Affairs & Academic Advising
  • School of Biological and Chemical Sciences
  • Bio and contact info

Just as important as taking care of our students is taking care of our selves and our teams! The SBC Advisors set up a Group Me in anticipation of working at home. I have been sending cards through the mail and sharing pictures and updates of me walking with Mr. Diggity, funny memes, and Bitmoji’s. Sharing helps us stay in touch to support and encourage one another.

photo of dog

“Sharing helps us stay in touch to support and encourage one another.”

Pictured above: Mr. Diggity


I know, I know, what am I doing on TikTok at 50 years old. It’s my 15-minute laugh break every day — okay sometimes a couple of times a day. It’s good to see families coming together to make videos, to share stories of triumph, to hear funny antidotes, and to try some cool new science stuff. Did you know you can make slippers from balloons? I have laughed so hard I cried at some of these!

“It satisfies my soul and lets me recenter to keep going.”

Pictured above: My daughter Kristina when she and I hiked Half Dome in 2014.

There is no friend like an old book

I have always enjoyed reading but right now this is a perfect way to escape for an hour or two. Some of my favorite books are biographies of people who have hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. I picture myself out there, making it on my own out in the wild. It satisfies my soul and lets me recenter to keep going.

Thank you to Tammy Welchert for sharing her three things. This is set up with a readers write format. Want to share your three things? Fill out the entry form and they will be included in the next issue. Even if there are many responses – we will figure it out.

Resources Mentioned

TikTok videos – an example


What will Martha Stewart find to be dusty where you hang out? #science #fortyou #foryoupage

♬ Star Wars – Produced – Ettore Stratta

Group Me


Three Things that Help

The Faculty Affairs Newsletter is sharing faculty members’ unique take on the question “what are three things that help?” The question is purposefully vague so that we have a range of perspectives.

Julie Sutton

For me, personally, I find the following three things helpful in this season:

1. A sitter.

picture of Julie on webinar while daughter has tea party

One foot at home and one at work- I’m in a tea party and webinar at the same time!

I have hired someone to help engage my children when I need to buckle down for the sake of productivity. I’m helping a high school student who is also out of school earn some money, while helping keep the right relationship dynamic with my children. Expecting them to conduct themselves as adults while I’m teaching via zoom isn’t realistic, and neither is believing I can work well while playing with them. I’m able to prioritize my most essential tasks and schedule them during time when they are busy with the high schooler who is helping me. Setting designated productive times, and ensuring I’m not getting edgy with my kids or spouse has been invaluable and offered some much-needed balance for me. Things have fallen from my spinning plates, but not as many because of this intentional step.

2. An online community to continue normalcy.

I’m in a small group at church which is meeting online now, as well as our childrens’ church, daily devotions, and weekly services. They are streamed online and available on social media so that whether I’m using a computer or just my phone, I can access community when I need to. We have chats in all of them to remain close; we express and recognize needs and help to support each other. I would venture to suggest we might have grown closer as a community this way than we do chasing children and volunteering on face to face Sundays! Keeping a sense of normalcy and schedule has been helpful and reassuring to our family.

Julie and daughter

Me as a Mom

3. Encouragement and support from my colleagues.

It would be easy to feel distant from close friends we work with and isolated in what we’re doing, but luckily I don’t. I have lots of means to communicate with my work community, and we have! Most people who were teaching face2face three weeks ago don’t have the confidence and experience with teaching exclusively online now. I feel welcome to contact the two online program directors in my division for help and guidance, and they always have reassurance, resources, and patience for me. In this circumstance, like in other troubling times, a word of encouragement, and genuine concern go a long way.

picture of desk and chair

My home work space

Thank you to Julie Sutton who volunteered to go first. This is set up with a readers write format. Want to share your three things? Fill out the entry form and they will be included in the next issue. Even if there are many responses – we will figure it out.

Undergrad You

Tell us about you as an undergraduate student.

Did you live in a dorm?

Photo Credit: Saint Louis University Libraries Special Collections. Parks College students relax in their dorm room in Holloran Hall (c. 1980s).

Did you visit office hours?

Photo Credit: Ohio University Libraries – Mah

Did you play sports?

Photo Credit: University of Massachusetts Archives. Field Hockey 1992.

Did you use dummy terminals?

Photo Credit: Duke University Archives. Duke Online Catalog, 1980s.

As the saying goes, the more things change, the more things stay the same.

We recognize that faculty are a significant resource for undergraduate students.

We thought it would be helpful to undergraduates to know a bit more about their faculty as undergraduates. Sometimes faculty-student mentorships happen naturally and sometimes they could use a boost. That is how Undergrad You began – where it goes from here is up to you.

Please take a few minutes, stroll down memory lane, and let students know what college was like for you. This fun survey can be completed in as little as 5 minutes, or, reasonably, about 15 minutes. 

TLC | Reimagining Strategy in Context of the COVID-19 Crisis: A Triage Tool

As faculty at UMKC, we are being asked to reexamine our processes in light of COVID-19 crisis. While this triage tool is designed for community leaders and nonprofits, it may be useful for department and initiative planning.

“The COVID-19 crisis and the accompanying social and economic changes that have emerged (and will continue to emerge) stand to reorder community priorities and fundamentally reshape the work of community institutions and initiatives. In this chaotic time, community leaders must begin to reorient themselves to the new reality and make choices about what’s needed and what’s possible going forward. Reorienting is not a simple matter; it’s an iterative process. In this post, I am sharing a tool I created to help leaders begin or refine that process.”

– Marian Urquilla, Center for Community Investment

Download triage tools

Does it Help?

As the coronavirus situation continues to evolve, UMKC administration continues to meet, assess, and plan. The UMKC coronavirus resources page asks us to each do our part to minimize risk and promote the UMKC Culture of Care. St Louis survived the 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic with far fewer deaths than other cities because city officials closed schools and limited public gatherings – early and at the same time [read more].

The 1918-1919 Influenza Pandemic affected more than 500 million people world wide and at least 50 million died (Bristow, 2016). While a global calamity, it also remains the largest recorded pandemic with data about non-pharmaceutical interventions. In 2007, a group of scholars analyzed data from U.S. cities and several different interventions using theoretical modeling.  

Through theoretical modeling, the researchers found that non-pharmaceutical interventions However, a growing body of theoretical modeling research suggests that non-pharmaceutical interventions boosted health and stretched out the timeframe of the influenza pandemic, and reduced the number of deaths. One of the reasons for these outcomes was the decreased strain on medical systems and critical infrastructure. One of the cities with the most benefits from non-pharmaceutical interventions was St. Louis, Missouri, which implemented interventions early and with layered strategies. St Louis closed school for 10 weeks and simultaneously cancelled public gatherings at each wave of the pandemic. This resulted in a reduction of approximately 50% of lives lost to the flu.  

Many things have changed over the past 100 years. Education and social gathering is still a big part of our lives. Studies such as this are not predictive, but, they do show us that these strategies have worked in the past at an equally large scale.

Faculty Make the Greatest Difference

As UMKC responds to the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 situation, and our campus community moves quickly online, faculty are going to test the limits of Canvas and Zoom. We will learn about how fortunate we are to have Canvas and Zoom. We will also learn about what technology cannot bridge. Some of the simple things such as the informal conversations that roll into the start of class are not the same online. We may miss the students whose facial expressions provide immediate non-verbal feedback. Faculty Affairs believes that you make the greatest difference in the college experience and recognizes that for some moving online will be a challenge. 

UMKC Online and Instructional Design and Technology have resources and expertise to help. Many organizations are offering tips and information to help faculty navigate this unprecedented time. 

The Association of College and University Educators called on three experts to provide tips for faculty in six areas. The topics provide advice on things like welcoming students to the online environment, managing your online presence, and how to engage students in readings and microlectures. 

Imagining America is crowdsourcing a list of small kindnesses. “In this time of uncertainty, we wanted to create a resource that would help connect and support to fight against isolation and despair.  There is no time more urgent than now to think about how we can nurture a spirit of shared responsibility, co-creation, and hope.”


As we pivot, juggle, and revise our semesters, sometimes a bit of humor or a puzzle can be diverting. To that end, each Faculty Affairs Newsletter will feature a puzzle and/or some light entertainment.

Do you have anything fun or funny that you would like to share? Please let Alexis Petri know your recommendations. Levity is important during times like these. 


Zotero is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share research. Top five good things about Zotero

  1. It is a nonprofit
  2. The free version doesn’t have ads and is reliable and usable
  3. It supports sharing articles and citations with colleagues without having to set up a Box folder
  4. It works online and can be installed on computers without Admin approval. References are where I need them when I need them. 
  5. It might be magic in its ability to detect metadata in pdf files. 

Faculty Writing Initiative

Facilitated by Dr. Jane Greer and Dr. Antonio Byrd, the Faculty Writing Initiative offers weekly structured writing time. The goal is for faculty to make substantial progress on writing projects – and ideally feel free of writing-guilt going into the weekend. 

Next for the Faculty Writing Initiative is the Summer Writing Bootcamp for Faculty. Faculty across all ranks are encouraged to apply. If you’re interested in participating in the Summer Writing Bootcamp for Faculty, complete an online application by April 10, 2020.  Applicants will be selected to ensure that the Bootcamp serves writers from all disciplines and across all ranks in university. [Read more]

Undergrad You

As the saying goes, the more things change, the more things stay the same. We thought it would be helpful to undergraduates to know a bit more about their faculty as undergraduates. We recognize that faculty are a significant resource for undergraduate students. Sometimes faculty-student mentorships happen naturally and sometimes they could use a boost. That is how Undergrad You began – where it goes from here is up to you. Please take a few minutes, stroll down memory lane, and let students know what college was like for you. This fun survey can be completed in as little as 5 minutes, or, reasonably, about 15 minutes. 


Welcome to the first issue of the Faculty Affairs Newsletter (working title), which we will send each mid-month. While we realize this is an unusual time to launch a newsletter, we have been planning to launch it since before the novel coronavirus situation. Instead of waiting to begin, the Faculty Affairs team thought now was a good time to launch because we could all use a bit of a break. We hope FAN is a place to celebrate UMKC’s faculty and share accomplishments, opportunities for engagement, and explore challenges. Please email Alexis Petri with feedback and ideas for future issues. 

Even if the newsletter is caught in your inbox until spring break, the news will still be timely and relevant. Take a break with us and enjoy FAN v.1.1

-The Faculty Affairs Team