College initiates new regional consortium to enhance teaching expertise

College initiates new regional consortium to enhance teaching expertise

Dr. Juan Samper
Dr. Juan Samper

By Sarah Carey

An initiative spearheaded by the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine aims to advance teaching excellence in academic veterinary medicine through a new regional consortium.

“Many people might not know that when faculty come to a veterinary school, they’re teaching their trade, but may not be teachers at heart,” said Juan Samper, D.V.M., the college’s associate dean for academic and student affairs. “Our goal is to address this by combining the mindset of ‘professional veterinarians’ with ‘professional teachers’.

To that end, the college has formed the East Coast Regional Consortium for Teaching and Learning as a way to encourage collaborations among faculty with teaching duties at veterinary medical colleges located in the Eastern United States. Another similar consortium already serves veterinary colleges in the Western U.S., Samper said.

“We have excellent instructors, but the veterinary program has so many facets as to what is required of teachers,” Samper said. “It’s different to teach in the classroom than in clinics,  as it’s different to teach residents than it is to teach veterinary students. There are lots of levels of teaching and we need to address this and make sure we excel in all these facets.”

Joining UF as participants in the consortium will be North Carolina State University, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Lincoln Memorial University, University of Georgia and the University of Tennessee.

Members will collaborate “to develop, evaluate, implement and share best practices in veterinary medical education, and will help to promote the educational track as a valued path for promotion and tenure at their different institutions,” according to the group’s mission statement.

Samper came up with the idea during a professional meeting earlier this year at which many of his academic peers from other college were in attendance.

“I just started to think we need to enhance our existing teaching efforts at UF and really try to broaden these efforts to collaborate with our peer institutions on the East Coast,” he said.

He subsequently initiated communication with deans from other colleges, and saw there was mutual interest. UF pledged an initial $10,000 in seed money, which was supplemented by contributions from the other colleges who have commited to participate.

An initial meeting is in the planning for sometime in 2019, Samper said, adding that he envisions annual meetings would be held subsequently at different institutions, focusing on how to better support faculty in their educational academic initiatives.

“We veterinarians don’t get taught how to teach,” he said. “We come in trying to emulate the great teachers we had, but in these changing times, technology is affecting the way we do things. The newer generations have a different way of learning, and we need to think about we as educators adapt to  these different learning styles.”