Simmons School’s Michael Harris named director of SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence

Michael Harris, Simmons School of Education and Human Development, SMUMichael Harris, associate professor in the Department of Education Policy and Leadership of SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, has been named director of the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence. He began his new duties on Friday, Aug. 1, 2014.

Harris worked with previous CTE director Beth Thornburg throughout the summer to become familiar with the CTE’s operations. Thornburg returns to full-time teaching in Dedman School of Law in Fall 2014.

“Professor Harris takes over a Center that has grown and thrived under the exceptional leadership of Professor Thornburg. During her time as Director, the CTE has sponsored Faculty Learning Communities, initiated the New Faculty Teaching Excellence (NFTE) workshop series, and spearheaded an effort to recognize the excellent teaching performed by our lecturers,” wrote Provost Paul Ludden in an e-mail message to the SMU community dated Friday, July 11, 2014.

“But more than developing programs and events, Professor Thornburg has underscored the importance of teaching to our academic mission. Please join me in extending our thanks and best wishes to Professor Thornburg and in welcoming Professor Harris to his new role.”

Harris came to SMU in August 2012 from the University of Alabama’s Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Technology Studies. He earned his B.A. degree in history from the University of North Carolina and his M.S.Ed and Ed.D in higher education administration from the University of Pennsylvania. He has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals on issues facing higher education and has made numerous presentations to academic groups on such subjects as “Balancing the Demands of a New Faculty Position” and “Why Businesses Should Work Like a University.”

Professor Harris is a Council Member-at-Large of the American Educational Research Association, Division J, and has consulted with universities on various subjects including program planning for undergraduate general education curriculum.

> Visit SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence online

Center for Teaching Excellence unveils new site, new programs

SMU CTE website artSMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence has entered its 20th year with a new director, new website, and new programs to help faculty members connect across campus.

The New Faculty Teaching Excellence Program, or NFTE (pronounced “Nifty”), is a year-long workshop series for new faculty members in their first 3 years of full-time teaching. The CTE plans to offer 3 or 4 NFTE programs per term, says Law Professor Beth Thornburg, who became CTE director in June.

The NFTE Program will also provide a support system for these new teachers, Thornburg says. “NFTE participants will network with their fellow faculty ‘class members’ across every school and field of study,” she says. “It will be a great way to help build community and enhance our interdisciplinary culture.” The next NFTE event, “How Can I Promote Active Learning?,” will take place Wednesday, Sept. 26.

Another new initiative, Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs), creates peer-led groups of 8 to 12 faculty members who take on one-year collaborations “structured to provide encouragement, support, and reflection” and to help faculty members make connections across campus. Each FLC focuses on a question, topic or set of problems with the goal of deepening faculty members’ knowledge through their interaction with each other.

“They’re called communities, not committees, and we did that on purpose,” Thornburg says. The FLCs are designed to create an environment that promotes innovation and ultimately helps to improve teaching and learning across campus, she adds.

The Center also boasts a redesigned website that makes it easier to find resources, register for events, and connect with other faculty members. A “What’s New” section on the top page will allow faculty members to share news, links and other useful information, says Barbara Whitehead, CTE assistant director, who helped steer the new design.

The CTE has its roots in a 1992 Faculty Senate committee’s work to create the University’s first Teaching Effectiveness Symposium, held before the beginning of fall classes in 1993. The enthusiasm of the response led to the 1994 appointment of SMU’s Commission on Teaching and Learning, which continued the Symposium and added several additional faculty development programs. The Center for Teaching Excellence was created in 1997 to provide structure and support for the Commission’s efforts.

> Visit SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence online

Research: Blue laws, green cards and other colorful legal terms

Elizabeth Thornburg, SMU professor of lawElizabeth Thornburg never imagined that she would be turning to Dr. Seuss, Shakespeare and vaudeville for legal research. But those sources proved invaluable when she joined forces with another law professor, a law librarian and a legal lexicographer for the book Lawtalk: The Unknown Stories Behind Familiar Legal Expressions (Yale University Press, 2011).

Written by Dedman School of Law professor Thornburg, along with James E. Clapp, Marc Galanter and Fred Shapiro, Lawtalk explores the origins and uses of 77 popular law-related expressions, including some of Thornburg’s favorites:

• Blue laws: Government regulation of behavior intended to enforce moral values. “The name was popularized by a Connecticut Anglican priest with an ax to grind,” Thornburg says.

CSI effect: The impact that the television show CSI: Crime Scene Investigation might have on real juries in real criminal cases. “CSI and similar shows depict trace evidence being analyzed by earnest, attractive, well-dressed technicians. The results are portrayed as fast, cheap, objective, and completely reliable. This incomplete fictional portrait worries both prosecution and defense lawyers….”

'Lawtalk' book cover Lawyers, guns & money: A catchphrase denoting the “incentive to fight with all the tools available” adopted from the Warren Zevon song by the same name.

Kangaroo court: Surprisingly, this phrase didn’t jump from Australia to the United States. It surfaced during the frontier days of Texas. At least three different kinds of “courts” went by this name: Those run by the ranchmen to enforce rules of the cattle business; those run by cowboys to enforce their own protocols (as in cleaning up the “smutty” language around the campfires); and those used to haze newcomers and everyone else.

Thin blue line: An image in which the “police, clad in blue, form a shield between the law-abiding populace and the criminal elements and forces of evil” is actually related to British army “red coats.”

Green card: The card — representing a noncitizen’s right to live and work in the United States indefinitely — isn’t actually green. (Well, not any more.) And it’s a great example of “Spanglish,” or the way words switch back and forth between languages, Thornburg says. “The earliest reference to ‘green card’ was in a 1962 story in The Los Angeles Times by reporter Ruben Salazar, who did a four-part series about Mexican seasonal farm workers.” In quoting the workers, Salazar used the Spanish term “tarjeta verde” and translated it as “green card” throughout the series and in many subsequent articles. It quickly spread, becoming common in English in 1964, “ironically, just as the card stopped being green,” Thornburg says.

But then, something even more interesting began to happen: The language swap went back the other way. Two years ago Thornburg noticed an immigration advice column in the Dallas-based Spanish-language newspaper Al Día. Instead of talking about a “tarjeta verde,” the newspaper referred to it as a “green card” ­— in English. As Al Día copy chief Jorge Chávez explained, “We believe at this point ‘green card’ is a term understood by all our readers. Most Spanish speakers use ‘green card’ in their everyday lingo, and not ‘tarjeta verde.’”

“I think people will enjoy this book,” she says. “While based on solid scholarship, it’s written to be fun to read. Linguists will love all the new discoveries about the origins of legal terms. Lawyers will love discovering the richness of our verbal universe. Historians will love observing the seamlessness of legal and non-legal history.”

Written by Denise Gee

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

Tune In: Listen live to learn your ‘Lawtalk’

Elizabeth Thornburg, SMU professor of lawWhere did our law-related words and phrases originate and how did they become a common part of our everyday language? Find out with Krys Boyd of KERA Radio’s “Think” program as she hosts Elizabeth Thornburg, professor in SMU’s Dedman School of Law, from 1-2 p.m Monday, Dec. 5.

Thornburg, who was named the next director of the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence in November, is co-author of the new book Lawtalk: The Unknown Stories Behind Familiar Legal Expressions, published by Yale University Press and now available for order.

> Listen live via streaming audio at Audio

Dedman Law’s Beth Thornburg named next CTE director

Elizabeth Thornburg, SMU professor of lawElizabeth Thornburg, professor in SMU’s Dedman School of Law, will serve as director of the University’s Center for Teaching Excellence effective June 1, 2012. During Spring Term 2012, she will begin work with current CTE Director Ron Wetherington to become familiar with the Center’s activities, according to an e-mail announcement from Provost Paul Ludden dated Nov. 17, 2011.

Wetherington, professor of anthropology in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, will return to full-time teaching.

“Professor Thornburg takes over a Center that for years has been ably managed by Professor Wetherington, and we thank him for his many years of service and leadership in promoting teaching excellence at SMU,” Ludden wrote. “Professor Wetherington has earned our thanks and applause, especially from those who have begun their teaching careers at SMU.”

Thornburg teaches and writes in the area of civil procedure and alternative dispute resolution. Her scholarship focuses on the procedural fairness of the litigation process, especially at the pleadings, discovery and jury charge stages. She has taught in the Law School since 1988 and served as its associate dean for academic affairs from 1996-98. She has received the Law School’s Don M. Smart Teaching Award and has served on the Provost’s Commission on Teaching & Learning. She also participated in a Common Law Countries Project on Teaching Civil Procedure.