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Catherine Monaghan: Distinguished Faculty Award Winner

Ask students in the Adult Learning and Development (ALD) program about Dr. Catherine Monaghan and watch a wave of appreciation and admiration warm their faces. With a teaching career that spans nine years at CSU and a dossier that includes titles such as associate director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and coordinator of the ALD program, Monaghan has played an influential role in the lives of both students and faculty.

Ask students in the Adult Learning and Development (ALD) program about Dr. Catherine Monaghan and watch a wave of appreciation and admiration warm their faces. With a teaching career that spans nine years at CSU and a dossier that includes titles such as associate director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and coordinator of the ALD program, Monaghan has played an influential role in the lives of both students and faculty.

It is this continued engagement with students, as well as her diversified teaching portfolio and dedication to research that has the university honoring Dr. Monaghan as the recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching.

Among her most noted accomplishments, Monaghan initiated ALDs first online course (ALD 605) and implemented a professional development series to provide continuing education to more than 600 graduates , all while consistently receiving outstanding student evaluations

Despite her many successes, Monaghan takes the most pride in receiving her Ph.D. in adult education from the University of Georgia , an achievement that occurred by happenstance. An accountant in the corporate world, Monaghan was teaching at Roberts Morris College in Chicago when she posed a research question: how could she help students become more effective critical thinkers?

Inspired by a passage from a teaching book, the professor emailed the authors and faculty at Cornell University with her research inquiry. When they advised her to use her question as the basis for research in a doctoral adult education program, the professor returned to the classroom, this time as a student.

It was just serendipitous, says Monaghan. I must have emailed five or six faculty members and only one emailed me back. The doors just opened because I decided to be bold enough to email the authors on from the back of a book.

Monaghans success as an educator and a valued colleague stems from her collaborative work ethic. During her time at the Center for Teaching Excellence, the adult educator coached faculty members from teaching disciplines like nursing, math and English to develop and refine their dossiers. .

I feel like I am the person throwing pebbles into a pond and it ripples out, says Monaghan. In faculty development, I work with instructors and professors and they, in turn, work with their students. The effect is much larger than if I am working with a class of students.

Monaghan developed the Community of Practice, a published learning strategy that enhances a students professional identity in a collaborative, self-directed classroom environment. Last fall, she applied the innovative instruction strategy to course ALD 802.

Doctoral students, including Coffman, were invited to co-create the course by contributing to its content and syllabus construction. When the students expressed a desire to explore the process of scholarly research and writing, Monaghan created a supportive environment for the Community of Practice to function like a writing group, says Coffman.

The group completed a research project and later presented results at a national conference in St. Louis. Student engagement lasted long after the course ended, as the community continues to meet with the goal of publishing a manuscript.

ALD 802 was the most beneficial course I have taken in my program, says Coffman. It challenged me yet also provided the appropriate scaffolding to fulfill the increased expectations. This would not have been possible without Dr. Monaghans innovative instructional approach and her ability to encourage and support students to reach their fullest potential.

Monaghans says her teaching philosophy involves creating a flexible, expansive class environment, while still challenging students to push boundaries of critical thinking and learning.

The thing about being a teacher is that you want to stretch students to the point where they are a little bit nervous, says Monaghan. But you are also there to catch them and help them see that they can make the leap. And that it is OK if they don’t always make it.

Under Monaghans leadership as the ALD and doctoral program coordinator, graduate student credit hours increased 14%, indicating a rise in student engagement. She hopes the trend will continue as she and her colleagues in the ALD program prepare for upcoming projects. A partnership with the Cleveland Clinic for a Masters of Education in Medical and Health Professions is currently in a pilot phase, while a specialty online version of the Masters ALD (similar in format to Monte Ahuja College of Business Executive MBA program), is in initial stages.

Even with a full schedule, Monaghan remains committed to providing support to students experiencing professional and personal challenges.

My philosophy in life is to pass on what I have learned to others, says Monaghan. If my way was hard and I can make someone elses way a little easier, then I do that. Once I have figured something out, I turn around and pass it on because I do not believe in reinventing the wheel.

We would like to congratulate Dr. Monaghan on her recent promotion to assistant director of the Center for Teaching Excellence!