The Faculty Center for Teaching Excellence was established at Western Carolina University in 1988 based on recommendations from the Chancellor's Task Force, commissioned by Chancellor Myron L. Coulter in 1985, on Faculty Development and Evaluation. After three years of researching teaching literature and sponsoring teaching events, the Task Force submitted a 60-page summary report that recommended a structure for the new center. Chancellor Coulter accepted this report in June 1988, and the Center opened that August. The Task Force's Instructional Services Coordinator, Ben Ward (photo, right), became the Center's founding director. To staff the Center, the Chancellor provided funds for three Faculty Fellows:
1. Faculty Fellow for Publications
2. Faculty Fellow for Programs
3. Faculty Fellow for Internationalizing the Curriculum
The new center was located on the main floor of Hunter Library near the University Media Center.
In 1994, after Chancellor Coulter announced his retirement, the WCU Board of Trustees renamed the Center in his honor, designating it the Myron L. Coulter Faculty Center for Teaching Excellence. Later that year, the University Media Center was phased out and the Media Center's six full-time staff members merged with the Faculty Center to provide increased support for faculty development in instructional technology. At that time, the Center's staff affected a further name modification: The Myron L. Coulter Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.
Until his retirement in December 2001, Dr. Ben Ward served as the Center's director and ably guided it during years of contributing to the enhancement of the teaching & learning experience at Western. Dr. Alan Altany, previously a professor of religious studies at Marshall University, became the new director in December, 2001.
The Center designated the academic year 2003-2004 as the "Year of the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning (SoTL)." Under Dr. Altany's direction, Western became recognized nationally for its SoTL work, specifically the development of Mountain Rise, an international peer-reviewed journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Faculty Learning Communities were established and the annual SoTL Faire grew and expanded to a 2-day national event.
The Reorganization of the Coulter Faculty Center
In 2005, Provost Kyle Carter called for a study to reorganize the Center to better serve faculty efforts to enhance student learning. In response to faculty requests, the Coulter Faculty Center combined its resources with Educational Technologies and the Division of Educational Outreach. Center staff began to integrate professional development activities, instructional design, and technology support into a single point of service in Hunter Library.
Dr. Anna McFadden moved from her position as Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations to lead the effort as Director of the reorganized center. McFadden, a faculty member for 10 years at WCU, spent three months studying in-depth the needs of faculty. The faculty's desires were clear: they wanted a seamless solution to enhancing both their pedagogical techniques and technical abilities. In response to this need, the Center clarified its vision, mission, and strategic direction.
In the expanded Center, faculty will find assistance in designing curricula, integrating technology to augment student learning, using distance learning formats, training to use technologies, and exploring the scholarship of teaching and learning. Faculty wanting to incorporate geographic information systems, audio or video integration, or research functions such as SPSS or SAS into their courses will find assistance for those efforts as well.
In 2010, Dr. McFadden moved to a new position as Director of Academic Engagement and Governance for the Division of IT. Since that time, the Coulter Faculty Commons has been led by Dr. Laura Cruz, also an Associate Professor in the Department of History. Under her leadership, the newly-renamed Coulter Faculty Commons has enjoyed a national reputation for productivity, innovation, and integration.