Reflections | OPID Director

College professors often enter the classroom without any formal training in the theory and practice of teaching. If you are a content expert, then you are often considered qualified to teach.

I was one of these people.

Prior to studying for my PhD, I had 11 years’ experience marketing KPBS-FM (NPR) in San Diego, and two TV stations (CBS and PBS affiliates) in Honolulu, but had never designed a syllabus or taught a class on my own.

My first semester teaching Communication at UW-Parkside was a challenging one. I was not only teaching solo for the first time, but also solo-parenting our two-year-old daughter and 6-month-old son, while my professor-husband was teaching in Ohio. One of the classes I taught was Communication Theory which met three times a week at 9 a.m. Typically I over-prepared for the class, using the textbook as a rigid guide. I felt pressured to cover as many theories as possible, which was overwhelming for students – and me. One night our son had a teething episode which prevented me from preparing for class. The following morning I walked into the classroom without copious notes – and improvised. Rather than my usual stilted lecture, I engaged students, posed questions, and let their comments direct the 50-minute discussion. It was a lively, interactive class, and a turning point, teaching me to trust my students – and myself. It also taught me that my assumptions of what made an effective professor were misguided.

Three years later, I was named a Wisconsin Teaching Fellow and attended my first Faculty College at UW-Richland Center. Both programs were sponsored by UW System’s Office of Professional and Instructional Development (OPID) and provided the space and time to reflect on teaching and learning – and to imagine new approaches – with colleagues from around Wisconsin. Suddenly I was part of a vibrant community of learners.

Faculty development is one of the strengths of the UW System and I am honored to now continue the work of my mentors.

Fay Yokomizo Akindes, Ph.D. Director, Systemwide Professional and Instructional Development and Former Professor of Communication, UW-Parkside, 1997-2017