The student-faculty relationship is a hallmark of the Valpo experience. Most graduates can recall a faculty member who inspired them and influenced their undergraduate career. They likely recall someone who extended their teaching past the lectures and exams and created a supportive and motivating learning environment that fostered their student-faculty relationship.
Intrinsic to the successful student-faculty connection is a shared commitment to excel at an institution where faith and learning thrive. To help new tenure track faculty members better understand what it means to teach, live, and mentor within the Valpo academic community, the University developed the Cambridge Seminar for New Faculty.
Since 2001, each new cohort of tenure track faculty is invited to participate in the Cambridge Seminar, a program that reflects Valpo’s commitment to its faculty and Lutheran character.
“For 10 days, seminar members and leaders travel to Cambridge, England, where they reside and hold sessions in Valpo’s study center,” says Fred Niedner, Th.D., senior research professor and seminar director. “Participants emerge from the seminar with a deeper understanding of their vocations and of the connections of that vocation to the mission and Lutheran ethos of Valparaiso University.”
In addition to learning about the University’s mission, they have the opportunity to develop relationships with faculty colleagues from other departments and disciplines. “The opportunity to discuss pedagogy, debate the value of a liberal arts education, and bond with members of my cohort was the best part of the seminar,” says Melanie Trexler, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology and member of the 2015 Cambridge Seminar cohort. “Now, when I walk across campus, I see their friendly faces and appreciate the sense of community that we developed.” For the past 15 years, the Cambridge Seminar program has effectively prepared new faculty members for a lifetime career of teaching and service at Valpo. Moving forward, it will help shape the faculty of the future, as nearly half of the Valpo faculty will reach retirement age within the next decade. The Cambridge Seminar for New Faculty provides a rich base for new tenure track faculty to discover what it means to teach at Valpo — a place where faith and learning thrive and student-faculty relationships are built for lifetimes.