25th Annual Fall Conference on Teaching and Learning (Fall 2019)

Portrait of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

We are pleased to announce that the 25th Annual Fall Conference on Teaching and Learning will feature Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the author of the book, What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City. In her remarks, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha will deliver a personal account of her research and activism to expose and mitigate the effects of the Flint water crisis. Her story, from how she used science to prove that Flint children were affected by lead to the backlash she faced after going public with her findings, inspires us to speak out against injustice. Conference participants will receive a copy of her book.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s work serves as a timely and impactful example of the application of skills and knowledge associated with a liberal education. Having heard her speak at conference last year, we were struck by the ways in which her story exemplified each of the Grand Valley Student Learning Outcomes. Related questions arose while reading her book.

View a taped keynote address given by Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha

How can we help our students strengthen their understanding of the connections among their course work and the “real world” and provide encouragement and motivation for students to engage in their communities in an informed, actionable way?

How can we as faculty and staff explicate the value of a liberal education and engage with our students to address the issues in our own communities and beyond?

These types of questions certainly raise additional avenues of inquiry; we hope to continue the conversation during the coming academic year and invite you to participate.

In alignment with the Conference keynote focus, this year’s program will include contributions from the Making Waves Initiative. As the details unfold, we will update this webpage.

As the Fall Conference serves to bring us together to share our own teaching and learning accomplishments, we invite faculty to consider facilitating a concurrent session. We welcome proposals related either to the conference themes or to the outcomes of a recent innovative teaching project (for example, related to a Pew FTLC–sponsored Faculty Learning Community or Teaching Innovation Grant). Session proposals (see details below) are due Friday, June 14, 2019.

Registration is now closed.

Water Droplet Word Art

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha Headshot


Fall Conference Keynote Speaker 

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is a pediatrician, professor, and public health advocate who spearheaded efforts to reveal, publicize, and fix Flint, Michigan’s water crisis. In 2014, a change in the city’s water source resulted in astronomical amounts of lead leaching into the drinking water, causing irreversible damage to Flint’s residents. As a local pediatrician, the poisonous levels of lead in the water terrified Dr. Hanna-Attisha, and she was shocked that the government ignored complaints, protests, and reports from citizens, journalists, and experts. She knew that the only way to stop the lead poisoning would be to present undeniable proof on a national platform.

In a tremendous act of bravery, Dr. Hanna-Attisha held a press conference where she revealed her team’s findings before they were peer-reviewed, prioritizing the health of her community over the risk to her career. Dr. Hanna-Attisha faced a brutal backlash, but her persistence paid off:  the city switched the water back to its original source and President Barack Obama declared a federal emergency. She has since been called to testify twice before the United States Congress, was awarded the Freedom of Expression Courage Award by PEN America, and was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

A passionate activist, Dr. Hanna-Attisha created the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, a model program to mitigate the impact of the Flint water crisis. As founder and director of this organization, she combines community and clinical programs, childhood health policy and advocacy, and robust evaluation to give Flint children a better chance at future success.

Book Cover of What the Eyes Don't See

Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s powerful book, What the Eyes Don’t See, is a dramatic first-hand account of the signature environmental disaster of our time and a riveting narrative of personal advocacy. A medical and scientific thriller, the book grapples with our country’s history of environmental injustice while telling the inspiring personal story of Dr. Hanna-Attisha—an immigrant, a doctor, and a scientist—whose family roots in social justice activism helped her take on the Flint water crisis. In her popular talks, she explores the horrific reality of how misguided austerity policies and callous bureaucratic indifference placed an entire city at risk.

All Fall Conference attendees will receive a copy of the book, What the Eyes Don't See.


8 a.m.—1:15 p.m.
215 Eberhard Conference Center, Pew Grand Rapids Campus

Keynote presentation: Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, author of "What the Eyes Don't See

In her remarks, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha will deliver a personal account of her research and activism to expose and mitigate the effects of the Flint water crisis. Her story, from how she used science to prove that Flint children were affected by lead to the backlash she faced after going public with her findings, inspires us to speak out against injustice. Conference participants will receive a copy of her book, What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s work serves as a timely and impactful example of the application of skills and knowledge associated with a liberal education.

Registration is now closed.



8—8:30 a.m.

Continental Breakfast

8:30—9:00 a.m.

Conference Welcome and Introductory Activity

9—11:00 a.m.

Keynote, Q & A, Book Signing: Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

11:15am—12:15 p.m.

Faculty-led Concurrent Sessions

12:15—1:15 p.m.


August 15, 2019 UPDATE

***We have increased the registrant limit for the Fall Conference from 250 to 300, creating a few more seats for those who are still interested in attending.  However, please be aware that only the first 250 registrants are guaranteed a free copy of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha's book, What the Eyes Don't See.  We look forward to seeing you next week!***

Concurrent Sessions

Nancy Levenburg and Marie McKendall, Management

As events surrounding the Flint water crisis began to unfold, Professors Levenburg and McKendall began to wonder, what had gone so wrong?  What dysfunctions and conditions in federal and state organizations led to flawed decision making with such catastrophic outcomes?  And how could this be transformed into a teachable moment for students?  This session traces our process of researching, writing and publishing “The Flint Water Crisis,” which is being distributed through Harvard Business Publishing, including case writing tips. 


Participant outcomes will include: understanding differences between teaching cases and research cases, selecting a good topic, establishing teaching and learning objectives, gathering information (primary and secondary sources), structuring the case, establishing a “hook,” writing, language and lay-out suggestions, creating challenging discussion questions (and sample answers), writing an epilogue (if applicable), test-teaching the case, and publishing outlets and suggestions for working with reviewers/editors.  Resources for faculty members who are interested in writing and publishing a teaching case will also be provided.

Jamie Langlois, Social Work

Graduate students want to engage in work that matters while being supported in their competency development. Faculty can support students by allowing them to identify community organizations or projects that fulfill course learning objectives. This workshop will briefly describe how a social work capstone course shifted toward student-lead community engaged work, the framework that informs the change, and the promising research results. Attendees will work together to consider how you can make your curriculum more engaging. Bring a syllabus.


After attending this session, participants will be able to: (a) identify how tapping into students’ intrinsic motivation encourages ownership of learning, (b) identify one way to transfer ownership of learning to students in their course, and (c) identify at least one community-engaged project/activity that can meet their course objective(s).

Kelly Margot, Mary Bair, David Bair, Rui Niu-Cooper, and Nagnon Diarrassouba, College of Education

In this session, we argue that the acts of crafting and telling a story have the potential to illuminate our lives and build relationships. We describe the storytelling cycle, consisting of the identification of a prompt, the crafting of a story, the telling of the story, the giving of feedback, and the reflection upon the experience. Finally, we will offer prompts and guidelines for storytelling, and invite the audience members to brainstorm ways storytelling can be used in their classrooms and workplace. This interactive, shared presentation format parallels our faculty learning community gatherings. This will create a more authentic setting for the topic under consideration, and serve to both inform about and exemplify storytelling as a tool for professional development.

Donald Zinman, Political Science

This simulation activity will explore how we address highly controversial issues that unpredictably surface in the news cycle. Controversial issues often surface spontaneously in the classroom. The news cycle and current events can make it impossible to ignore polarizing issues that are right in front of us. This session will provide participants with: (a) best practices for classroom conversation over controversial issues, (b) strategies for how to move conversation from an emotion-centered to an argument-centered approach, and (c) an appreciation for the various ways in which controversial issues are handled across different academic disciplines.

Paul Christensen and Martina Reinhold, Physician Assistant Studies

Training student providers in the art of communication is mostly passive and assumed to occur by observing mentors in clinical rotations. This learning can be highly variable depending on the skill and training of clinical mentors.  A more intentional approach to teaching these skills is needed. Simulation facilitates learning in a safe environment with observation and feedback. This session describes a new approach to instruct students in the art of high-stakes emotional conversations using simulation with trained actors.


Participants in this concurrent session can expect to learn about the teaching methods presented during an April, 2019 Vital Talk model (https://www.vitaltalk.org/) seminar.  The session format will include demonstration/video, role play, and review of data collected.  We will engage the audience in discussion of future plans to apply these methods in the healthcare professional curriculum.

Erik Kennedy, Marketing, Ellen Adams, Honors College, and Santos Ramos, Liberal Studies

Nine GVSU faculty members from Seidman and Brooks College participated in the 2019 Institute on Project-Based Learning at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Since 1970, WPI has featured project-based education that asks students to tackle authentic, open-ended projects under faculty guidance. In the process, they master critical thinking, sharpen research skills, fine-tune written and oral communication skills, and connect the curriculum to local and global issues. This session will report on the institute and suggest ways for PBL to be implemented here.


And because the nine GVSU participants represent seven academic units, the presenters will be able to report on what they learned and how they plan to integrate, or further integrate, PBL into a broad range of courses—in the major, in Honors, in General Education, and in both undergraduate and graduate courses—making this session applicable to just about any faculty member.

David Clark, John Golden, Jon Hasenbank, Taylor Short, and Robert Talbert, Mathematics

Mastery grading is an approach to assessment in which student work is graded directly on whether it meets a clear list of objectives. Rather than using points or partial credit, final grades are based on the level of mastery students demonstrate on each objective by the end of the course. Mastery grading emphasizes learning, provides clarity for students, and encourages perseverance and growth mindset. Come learn more about mastery grading and how to get started incorporating mastery grading principles in your classes.


In this session, participants will learn about the basics of mastery grading that apply across disciplines, including common features of all mastery grading systems. The session will consist mainly of an interactive discussion with ample time for questions and answers, with the goal of helping participants learn what they need to start incorporating mastery grading principles in their own classes. Attendees are encouraged to bring a device to access shared documents.

David Coffey, Mathematics, & Bart Merkle, Education Leadership & Counseling & Jody Vogelzang, Allied Health Science

Design Thinking is a problem-solving approach that can be used in its entirety, or broken into distinct sections to teach class content. This session will highlight tried and true teaching activities that situate, empathize, generate ideas, and prototype possible solutions while reinforcing learning objectives. Upon completion of this session, participants will be able to: (a) summarize the Design Thinking process, (b) apply session activities to their particular classes, and (c) predict the impact of these activities on student learning.

Kathryn Remlinger, English, Kirsten Strom, Visual and Media Arts, Hannah Seidel, Music, Theatre, and Dance, Mark Gleason, Hospitality and Tourism Management, and Azizur Molla, Public Health

In this interactive session, participants will learn how faculty from a range of disciplines are incorporating water in their courses. Following the presentation of activities and projects, participants will break into small groups and apply the Innovator’s Compass to draft their own water-themed activity or project. Participants will then share their drafts with all session participants. The Innovator’s Compass is a Design Thinking method for generating ideas and developing activities and projects.

This session is part of the Making Waves about Water Initiative (MWI) where students, faculty, and staff, across GVSU, will explore and investigate water in its many facets during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years.

Presenters: Peter Wampler, Geology, Travus Burton, Civic Learning and Community Engagement, Youssef Darwich, Sustainable Agriculture Project, and Paul Wittenbraker, VIsual & Media Arts

Students learn by doing and participating in projects that allow them to use their skills and energy to make a difference. In this interactive session, participants will learn how faculty and staff collaborate to create co-curricular, community engagement, and service learning activities and events. Following the presentation, participants will break into small groups to draft water-themed co-curricular ideas, projects, or activities (IPAs). Participants will share IPAs and talk about next steps for implementing the ideas.

This session is part of the Making Waves about Water Initiative (MWI) where students, faculty, and staff, across GVSU, will explore and investigate water in its many facets during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 academic years.

Jeffrey Kelly Lowenstein, Communications

I worked with GVSU undergraduates for 16 months on the most comprehensive journalistic investigation yet of reverse mortgage abuse. Aided by support from an internationally competitive fellowship, our team collaborated with USATODAY’s national investigative team to reveal reverse mortgages’ devastating impact in African-American communities across America and steep financial toll for the nation. The project ran on USATODAY’s homepage and in newspapers across the country.  The session will describe the project, discussing challenges, successes and lessons learned.  


After attending this session, participants will be able to: (a) understand how to enlist undergraduate students in national projects, (b) understand the challenges and benefits of working with students and an external partner on a long-term, evolving project, and (c) understand how to identify and successfully apply for resources to support the work. 

Meghan Cai, Majd Al-Mallah, and Elizabeth Gansen, Modern Languages, and Coeli Fitzpatrick, Honors College

This session distills the main concepts presented in Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do and What the Best College Students Do, and offers practical ways to integrate them into our teaching practice. Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do and What the Best College Students Do describe the traits of effective teachers and students, but how can we implement the “Best” in the classroom? This session summarizes the main concepts in Bain's books, and shares how they might be incorporated into our pedagogical practices. Participants will learn the main concepts presented in Ken Bain's books, access materials to incorporate into teaching, and engage in brainstorming about other ways to put these ideas into practice.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

  • 9:00 a.m. — noon
  • 215 EC (Eberhard Conference Center)
  • Pew Grand Rapids Campus

Workshop limited to 40 participants.  Lunch will be available following the workshop (at 12:15 p.m.).


Pre-Conference Workshop: Supporting First Year Students

Whether in the courses that you teach or as part of departmental initiatives and service activities, do you work with first year undergraduate students? If so, consider joining us for this interactive workshop. Faculty engaged in a number of campus projects focused on student success will share research findings, best practices, and facilitate application-based discussions. Over the past few years, these projects have coalesced around a greater awareness and utilization of existing campus-based student support resources, the cognitive science literature around studying and learning, and best practices for engaging students in the classroom. Representatives are eager to share what they have learned and have designed a workshop in which participants leave with resources and materials to be applied directly to their own work with students in the coming semester.  

During this workshop, participants will: 

  • Develop a greater understanding of the many ways to engage traditional-age (Generation Z) students
  • Gain familiarity with resources gathered by participants in the Student Success NetworkFirst-Year Learning Community program and Strong Start Initiative to support faculty teaching and working with first year students
  • Examine and discuss student-facing materials developed by the Metacognition Work Group around the topics: how to study effectively, how to read for understanding, how to get the most out of class, and how to get the most out of homework. 

The workshop will be facilitated by faculty representatives from the Strong Start Initiative, Student Success Network, First-Year Learning Community, and the Metacognition Work Group.

Limited to 40 participants.  An optional lunch will be offered following the workshop (from 12 p.m.-1 p.m.)



The following books are not only wonderful resources, but will also be raffled off during the 2019 Fall Conference on Teaching and Learning and added to the Pew FTLC Library (068 JHZ).

Book Title


A Concise Guide to Teaching with Desirable Difficulties (2018)

Diane Cummings Persellin & Mary Blythe Daniels

Connected Teaching: Relationships, Power, and Mattering in Higher Education (2019)

Harriet Schwartz

Course-based Undergraduate Research (2018)

Nancy Hensel

The Critical Thinking Initiative Faculty Handbook (2019)

Steven Pearlman & David Carillo

Downstream: Reimagining Water (2017)

Dorothy Christian & Rita Wong

Learning to Collaborate, Collaborating to Learn: Engaging Students in the Classroom and Online (2019)

Janet Salmons

Project-based Learning in the First Year (2019)

Kristin Wobbe & Elisabeth Stoddard

Small Teaching Online (2019)

Flower Darby & James Lang

SoTL in Action: Illuminating Critical Moments of Practice (2018)

Nancy Chick

Teaching as the Art of Staging (2018)

Anthony Weston

Transparent Design in Higher Education Teaching and Leadership (2019)

Mary-Ann Winkelmes, Allison Boye, Suzanne Tapp

Past Conferences on Teaching & Learning

Page last modified April 8, 2021