For most students in large in-person lecture classes, the first day of school is usually a routine. They choose their seats, the professor comes in, introduces themself and the syllabus is reviewed. The class ends and students go on to the rest of their day.
However, this is not the case for students in Susan Shadle’s class.
Shadle will take the time to walk around and introduce herself individually to every student, and ask them their name, no matter the class size, according to Grace Coughlin, a junior biology major and peer mentor for Shadle’s class.
“She introduced herself the first day of class,” said Coughlin. “And I know she does this [with] every class, but she goes all around her classroom [in] a lecture hall of 100 people, and shakes their hand, introduces herself and asks them their name. From then on, she would astound people because she would remember their name and know something about them.”
Coughlin attributes the amount of important information she took from being a peer mentor to Shadle’s teaching style and interpersonal relationships with her students.
Shadle has been the director of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) for the past 15 years, a chemistry professor for going on 25 years and has moved into a new role as the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies. As she made the transition, she reflected back on her time at the CTL.
“For me, moving into the Center for Teaching and Learning was just an extension of saying, ‘Teaching is the thing I want to really focus on,’ and thinking about what does really effective teaching and learning look like,” Shadle said.
Moving from being a chemistry professor to also being the director of the CTL came at a time when Shadle was looking for a change and a way to make a bigger impact at the university. According to Shadle, she had prior experience working with the CTL at the university where she did her graduate studies.
Tasha Souza, a professor and associate director of the CTL, has worked with Shadle for the past five years to foster learning opportunities for faculty and staff that come to the CTL.
“For faculty, it’s hard to think that you should maybe try something different, but it is our responsibility to always be trying to do things better and meet student’s needs,” Souza said. “And I think the way she has framed the CTL has helped it to be strong and to grow. She cares deeply about the work she does, and that will translate nicely into her new position because it is really about supporting students in undergraduate learning, which is what she has focused on.”
The Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies is responsible for thinking about the undergraduate experience and finding ways to meet the needs of every student on and off campus, according to Shadle.
In her new role that began July 1, Shadle hopes to maximize the learning experience for every student no matter their background and the barriers they face or the skills they bring to their undergraduate studies.
“Teaching is really hard because you’re dealing with people and if learning were simple, we wouldn’t need to get a degree. The degree is just a piece of paper that tells you something has happened, but learning is hard and the teaching is hard,” Shadle said. “I think what I have done in the CTL is tried to support individual faculty and groups of faculty, but also really thought about what is the role of teaching within an institution.”
The path from chemistry professor to Director of the CTL for Shadle came after 10 years of being at Boise State. Her prior experience helping at the CTL during her graduate studies prepared her for the role.
Shadle also hopes to continue the dialogue between different administrators and students on what students’ needs are and how to meet them. The position of Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies works to connect people throughout the university to improve the undergraduate studies program, something Shadle is focusing on.
“I think one of the most valuable things about being a faculty member is being able to think about the impact,” Shadle said. “Think about, plan for and then behave in a way that’s going to be impactful for students. That’s just so amazing.”