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Ask The Faculty

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This Week's Question:

  • Marist faculty are continually innovating in the classroom and in their research, creative, and professional activities. We asked Marist faculty: Name a recent innovation you have pursued and how does this impact your work with students inside and outside of the classroom?

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Mark Gildard

Lecturer of Athletic Training

Innovation: Using students as teachers to bring together seemingly unrelated academic programs

This past fall, students from Malgorzta “Maggie” Oakes’ (Assistant Professor of Studio Art) section of Basic Drawing were invited to the Human Anatomy and Physiology lab to learn from their peers in the School of Science. The anatomy students had recently completed a section on the skeletal system. With a practical exam approaching, I put together some guidelines and had my students teach their peers in the arts about a few anatomical structures.  

Peer instruction, or “students-as-teachers”, has long been an effective method to help students retain information. Similarly, anatomy education has often tapped into students’ artistic sides with resources such as “The Anatomy Coloring Book” to reinforce content. Our approach combined these two practices in a new way that seemed to have a big payoff. In addition to bringing a new energy and a change of pace to the lab environment, my lab’s average exam score was the highest in several years! 

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Dr. Karen "Kat" Schrier

Associate Professor/Director of Games and Emerging Media

Innovation: Using video games to teach leadership, explore humanitarian issues and research

I'm a game professor, so it's no surprise that I use games in the classroom to teach. I use them to teach game design, but also leadership skills like perspective-taking, care, and compassion. In my courses, we also like to experiment with new technologies like generative AI. For instance, in our Ethics and Games course, we discussed ChatGPT and its implications for game artists and writers. In my Interactive Media II course, we are using a new software tool that is being used in interactive, game, and design studios.

Finally, I am working with undergraduate students and alums to do innovative research on video games. We are using a new methodology to investigate Islamophobia and antisemitism in three popular online multiplayer games, Valorant, Counterstrike 2, and Overwatch 2. We are working with an international humanitarian organization and we hope to publish our initial results. 

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Dr. Mohammadali Koorank Beheshti

Assistant Professor of Marketing

Innovation: Integrating extracurricular activities into classroom assignments

I integrate class assignments with extracurricular activities for mutual benefit. For instance, in my digital marketing class, students engage in the Mahsa Amini social media competition. This project challenges them to create innovative content for a social cause. 

Another strategy involves offering extra credit opportunities to better prepare students for the job market, such as asking students to review job ads for positions they aspire to after graduation. In this assignment, students summarize the most common requirements and skills from these opportunities. This enables them to focus their efforts on acquiring the most in-demand skills and certifications for their desired careers.

Thirdly, I use my research projects to promote state-of-the-art technology that will be handy for students’ careers. It helps students have a better understanding of new technologies available for marketing research.

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Dr. E. G. Fredrick 

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Innovation: Using social media to better understand current social issues

Social media can be a great tool for learning! There are a lot of negative views on social media, but it is a huge part of our current world. I've used TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit posts in class to show examples of how we see course topics playing out in the real world.

I have students search Instagram or TikTok to hear about people's firsthand experiences related to a course topic. For instance, when I teach about terminal illness, I have students look up death doulas and learn about what they do. Recently, I had groups in my Health Psychology course create their own TikTok videos using current trending sounds or video styles to explain how biological systems function. 

I also find that understanding and using social media helps me connect with the students interpersonally. I'll bring up viral videos or posts in class as a way of connecting with them. I also have a professional Instagram account (@dr.efredrick) that helps me be aware of events happening on campus and allows me to share the research my students are doing

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Dr. Michel Becuwe

Assistant Professor of Biology

Innovation: Creating an attachment course so students can personally experience the research topic they’re studying

This Spring semester I am debuting a newly created attachment course in France named “Power of Microscopy in Biology Research” that exposes students to research in an international context. This course stems from a collaboration with my colleague Dr. Ambroise Lambert at Cergy Paris University (France). 

During the semester, Marist students will learn the core concepts of microscopy (the use of microscopes to view objects and areas of objects that cannot be seen with the naked eye) in class and will be paired with Master students from Cergy. These working groups will meet on Zoom throughout the semester to develop innovative research projects involving the use of a cutting-edge microscope as a tool to tackle biological questions that are currently under investigation in my lab and in my colleagues’ lab.

Students will work together to execute their experimental plan using microscopes at the imaging core facility on the Cergy campus and will present their data in front of the academic community. Not only will the attending students get to explore a new city and a different culture, but they will also be empowered to work and solve complex problems collaboratively. 


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Dr. Sasha L. Biro

Lecturer, Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies
Coordinator of DEI Workshops in the First Year Seminar

Innovation: Exploring the intersection of inclusion, diversity, and interfaith initiatives for first-year students

My recent innovations focus on collaboration and inclusion. Having taught First Year Seminar for some years now, I was excited at the opportunity to design and deliver a diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) workshop for this group. This involved researching and designing content that resonates with first-year students and inspires them to learn more about the importance of DEI. The workshop focuses on inclusive community building. One wonderful aspect of this work has been the strong collaboration across campus, which has been deeply enriching. 

My work also focuses on the intersection of diversity and inclusion with our campus’ interfaith initiatives. As a member of the Interfaith Committee, I’ve played a role in organizing the “Making Spaces” speaker series  — a campus dialogue on the Israeli-Gaza war aimed at fostering meaningful conversations about our community’s intersectionalities. “Making Spaces” quite literally involves making space for the kinds of difficult conversations that are necessary to have in times of crisis – to hear and see one another, to reach across divides, and to be in community together. This interdisciplinary approach is so important right now. By intertwining theoretical knowledge with practical, real-world applications, students are better prepared to thrive in our diverse and interconnected global society.  


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Dr. Matthew Glomski

Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics

Innovation: Faculty serving as mentors to help students succeed with research

It’s not easy for an undergraduate to make the leap from learning in the classroom to conducting original research.  In the math department, all the full-time faculty work with students outside of the classroom, often as collaborators on our own research projects.  This early exposure helps students gain confidence and they begin to see themselves as practicing mathematicians.  There’s one additional benefit: students can draw on their research experiences in applications for opportunities in the larger mathematics community. 

Our students have had tremendous success in securing National Science Foundation REU (research experiences for undergraduates) funding for summer research programs at colleges and universities throughout the country.  Over the course of eight or ten weeks, students are paid to work on open problems in mathematics – research they’ll ultimately showcase in published papers and presentations at national conferences.  We’ve had students take part in more than three dozen REUs across 19 different US states, and I have been fortunate to visit with them at many of these programs.  What a thrill! 


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Kate Chaterdon, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of English
English Department, School of Liberal Arts

As with any new writing technology—and this includes now old technologies like the pencil, the typewriter, spell-checkers, and citation generators—all brand-new writing technologies are first met with suspicion and skepticism (especially on behalf of educators). Although Generative AI creates some obstacles to writing instruction (e.g., forces instructors to re-think writing activities, assignments, and assessments). I’m really excited about its potential to innovate writing instruction too! I look forward to hearing how other instructors have designed assignments that encourage students to work with Generative AI to brainstorm, draft, and revise text. I see this newest technology as an opportunity for all of us who teach writing to revise old (perhaps tired?) assignments and create updated assignments that encourage students to think critically about Generative AI and the implications of its ethical use. 

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Brian Gormanly

Senior Professional Lecturer of Computer Science
Computing Technology Department, School of Computer Science and Mathematics

In our capping courses students are investigating using AI models to aid in the discovery of supporting literature for academic and scientific research. Our system aims to not only recommend suitable literature but also evaluate its relevance to the existing work, providing the user with clear reasoning behind the suggestion. If viable, we intend to integrate this technology as a real-time literature recommendation system for our open-source editor called Agora. In this work, we focus on overcoming hallucinations and ensuring suggestions are not misleading or fabricated. While initial findings using zero-shot prompting techniques yielded very little, we found using few-shot prompt engineering we could achieve truthful and useful inference from the system.

In other classes, we explore the limitations and benefits of using generative AI for increasing productivity while programming. We highlight how beneficial the tool is for debugging assistance and generating “boiler-plate” portions of code, and how effective it can be at suggesting particular algorithms to solve use-case requirements. We also reinforce the dangers of relying on the tool too early in students' development through example and experimentation.

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Anna Cairney, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of English/Interim Writing Center Director
English Deparment, School of Liberal Arts

From the perspective of someone in writing studies, easily accessible text-generative tools are just another collaborative way to engage in “dialogue” while writing. Writing critically is about collaborative conversations that occur during text formation. When writing is viewed as a way to gain knowledge, not just measure it, then AI tools are just another source that contributes to a writer determining their own position. I think writing norms will shift to embrace the developmental editorial support that has been a part of professional writing practices. Teaching writing will expand to teach developmental editing – working with draft text to determine what advances. With increased accessibility to effective prose, I also think there will be shifting norms of what is “authentic” writing. One pitfall will be for people who rely on predictive-text tools to create in a subject where they have little expertise. If I asked ChatGPT to analyze something I didn’t know about, wheat crops, perhaps. Then I may be inclined to take the generated text as truth because I lack the knowledge to assess the accuracy of the data. It will be vital for users to understand how the tools work, where the tools fall short, and engage with writing as a process, not a product.

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Zion Klos, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Environmental Science
Department of Environmental Science and Policy, School of Science

For my upper-level courses in the natural sciences, I teach students to use AI for both predictive data analysis and for more efficiently finding and synthesizing published scientific information. The way AI models help us find patterns in datasets is useful for predicting how outcomes may occur in similar systems, and how systems are functioning generally. Online, AI provides a whole new way to use and find information. Interfaces like Chat-GPT help my students more efficiently find relevant information and journal articles related to specific niche areas of science they are investigating for project work in courses and their independent research. Unfortunately, current forms of Chat-GPT are still advancing, and at the moment they still provide some falsified citations in the mix of useful ones, so teaching students how to ask the AI in their prompts to reply back with fully cited information that can be followed up citation by citation to verify its accuracy is crucially important.  Despite these falsifications, the process is still a much more efficient way for students to find relevant information related to their niche topics, as opposed to general searches in Google Scholar and elsewhere that require reading through many non-relevant sources of information, before a relevant one is found.

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Katharine Dill, Dr.

Assistant Professor of Social Work/Coordinator of Field Education
Social Work Department, School of Social and Behavioral Sciences

I am someone who I consider to be balanced and excited about the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence in social work education, practice, and research. Here are my beginning thoughts about the pros and cons of this innovation:
Among the positives could be using the technology for enhanced learning resources, such as case studies, generating active learning opportunities and developing ideas and training resources for social work practitioners and organizations. Among the negatives would be risk of plagiarism, overreliance on a tool for creativity and diminished critical thinking.

Overall, I am remaining open to the idea of using AI in my work and my teaching. I am excited about its potential but mindful of its ethical challenges and impact on student learning and skill development. I continue to seek information and resources from others in higher education through peer-reviewed publications, and podcast series to better understand the tool and its implications for me as an educator at Marist College.