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Faculty Members Look Forward to Fostering Even More Collaboration in New Roles at the University
Alvin Tran, Sc.D., MPH, and Jenna Sheffield, Ph.D., are taking on new roles as assistant provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and interim director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, respectively, at the University of New Haven. They are developing new initiatives that aim to bring students, faculty, and staff together in new and innovative ways that promote learning and inclusion.
September 29, 2020
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing & Communications
When Alvin Tran, Sc.D., MPH, was an undergraduate student at the University of Washington, he served as president of the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS). An advocate for institutional change, Dr. Tran’s important and challenging work made a difference. He was grateful that many of the school’s faculty and staff members supported him and his classmates, and the diversity and inclusion initiatives they developed.
Dr. Tran is now taking to the lead in supporting student diversity and inclusion initiatives at the University of New Haven in much the same way. As the University’s new assistant provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion, he is looking forward to working with Lorenzo Boyd, Ph.D., the University’s vice president for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, to ensure that students’ voices are heard. Drs. Tran and Boyd are collaborating to address concerns related to diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus, ensuring a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone.
“Now it’s my turn to step into that senior-level role and support students,” said Dr. Tran, an assistant professor of public health. “It’s a huge honor to be serving the University in this capacity.”
Dr. Tran has already established a new group for promoting diversity and inclusion among students, launching the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) student ambassadors program this semester. Students will provide peer support, serve as liaisons to their respective colleges and schools, and participate in anti-racism and anti-discrimination trainings, fostering an inclusive University community. They will establish supportive relationships with students, faculty, and staff, creating a sense of belonging and connectedness.
Committed to fostering inclusion among the LGBTQIA+ communities on campus, Dr. Tran is also in the process of creating a Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Taskforce.
‘I’m excited to serve in this role’
Dr. Tran’s appointment is one of several recently announced in the Office of the Provost at the University. Maria-Isabel Carnasciali, Ph.D., assistant provost for assessment and program effectiveness, is leading in the development of enhanced program assessment activities. Tiffany Hesser, Ph.D., assistant provost for advising and retention, will design and implement a coordinated integration of select academic affairs and student success activities in collaboration with Student Affairs.
Jenna Sheffield, Ph.D., assistant provost for curriculum innovation, has been named interim director of the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE). She hopes the CTE will become a go-to destination for faculty to share and innovate.
“I’m excited to serve in this role,” said Dr. Sheffield, an assistant professor of English. “This position is important to students’ success because there’s a direct link between faculty development and improved student learning outcomes. As faculty become better teachers, their students clearly benefit. Our faculty at the University are already amazing teachers, but I believe that the best teachers are those who want to keep learning and evolving.”
‘I hope that our excellent faculty members will get involved, too’
In her new role, Dr. Sheffield plans to offer programs, such as teaching observations, workshops, and course-design consultations, for her fellow faculty members. She’ll also create a website with resources for faculty.
Endeavoring to create opportunities for faculty to learn from each other and from their students, Dr. Sheffield envisions the CTE bringing faculty and students together. Dr. Sheffield plans to engage students as “learning consultants” and to host a Teaching Innovation Summit to enable faculty from across the University to share their classroom innovations.
“I hope faculty will feel open to sharing with me what role they think the CTE can play in their professional development, and I will do my best to make sure there are available resources and support for those issues,” said Dr. Sheffield, who will be running the University’s Open Pedagogy Fellowship with Mary Isbell, Ph.D., through the CTE. “I hope that our excellent faculty members will get involved, too, in designing workshops and resources for one another that we can all share and adapt.”
‘The support of the University community will be a key ingredient in our success’
Dr. Tran, too, is eager to foster collaboration and involvement in his new role. Active in the campus community, he leads the WeEmbody (WE) Lab on campus and has launched a new Health Equity and Advocacy Fellowship program. He and WE Lab fellows will be meeting with lawmakers virtually later this fall to discuss their concerns regarding climate change and its relationship to public health.
Before becoming an assistant professor of public health, Dr. Tran served as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health for five years, leading training programs to address microaggressions on campus. He believes this experience has helped prepare him for his current role at the University of New Haven.
“There were a lot of valuable lessons I learned from this position which I believe will ensure my success,” said Dr. Tran, who serves as co-chair for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for the Academy for Eating Disorders, the world's largest organization of researchers and clinicians focused on the prevention of eating disorders. “I am grateful to have so many faculty, staff, and students already reaching out asking how they can help. The support of the University community will be a key ingredient in our success.”