Faculty Spotlight: Lott Hill
By Stephanie Ewing (MA '12)
January 29, 2013
| Photo by Jacob Boll (BA '12)
Lott Hill's background is in creative writing, but while working toward his master's in fiction writing at Columbia College Chicago, he found his passion for teaching and learning and how to better understand the relationship between the two. Hill has been teaching at Columbia since 1997 as an instructor in the Fiction Writing Department and currently serves as the executive director for the Center for Innovation in Teaching Excellence (CITE), focusing on creating the best possible classroom environment for faculty and students alike.
: What do you do as director of CITE?
: Our office—the CITE—is based on the premise of collaboration. Our work is very much centered on support and development of faculty, in particular, instructional development: thinking about and reflecting upon teaching, trying different approaches, and always working toward the best teaching and learning environment possible at Columbia.
What we [at the CITE] found to be important was to provide various moments where faculty can come together to reflect on their teaching and have text to have as jumping off points to start their discussion. Teaching to Transgress
by bell hooks and What The Best College Teachers Do
by Ken Bain are a couple of examples] that tend to be provocative for conversations among faculty who can say, "Well, in my class, this is what happens, and these are the challenges I face." We ask ourselves: "How do we allow culture and issues of race or class or privilege to come into the classroom, no matter what subject we're teaching?" And at Columbia, that's critical because that's how we learn, through our own cultural perspectives and points of view.
: Is this initially what you thought you would be doing, and what was the turning point when you decided to study faculty development?
: The easy answer is "no," it's not what I thought I would be doing at this point. It's been a natural path, because, ultimately, I take that dynamic of teacher and student very seriously. I think that as a person who is always compelled by learning—I am excited by learning, I am inspired to learn more—that has been a guiding principle to my career in higher education.
Really, I have had the kind of mentors and opportunities that led me to really think deeply about the teaching and learning dynamic, and that has helped me establish my own theory of teaching. As I began to learn "how I learn," I really became invested in pursuing ways to explore that with other faculty members. That's partially how I ended up here, at this moment, by being aware that I have not felt successful as a student in classrooms that were very rigid and what others might consider more traditional. I became very curious about why that is, and how does one create an opportunity for students of all educational backgrounds to be able to engage and to learn.
: Is creating that opportunity a challenge for Columbia?
: It is very present here and in the classroom. We are very tangibly faced with diversity, of all kinds, and it's something that faculty talk a lot about because, at the end of the day, we are at our best when we are reaching that full range and faculty are in pursuit of that. They actively engage in solving that riddle. It's also the opportunity of Columbia to go into a classroom and be challenged to be the best you can be at communicating and learning, and that is where [faculty members] get the reward and the motivation. If it were easy every time, I think a lot of us would get bored.
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