Contact Info

Kate Elliott
Director, CELT
Associate Professor of Art History
Luther College
700 College Drive
Decorah, IA 52101

Phone: 563-387-1587

CELT Notes

CELT Notes is the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching's monthly newsletter to Luther faculty. Each issue includes teaching tips, programming info, and reminders about events and resources on campus.

Latest Issue of CELT Notes

February 23, 2023

Note from the Director

I hope your classes are going smoothly as we slide into the fourth week of the spring semester. It’s been a very busy couple of weeks in CELT. Our new website is launched, and our KATIE site with resources is coming along. 

Our first reading group is underway. We have 10 faculty members working through James Lang’s Distracted: Why Students Can’t Focus and What You Can Do About It. I had the pleasure of listening to Lang present on a similar topic earlier this month at the AAC&U meeting. Lang discussed creativity in teaching and he shared some creative and innovative strategies faculty can use to re-energize their teaching. I’ll share them later, but wanted to highlight Lang’s  admission that the strategies he shared were ones he discovered through peer observation of his Assumption University colleagues. 

Again and again he extolled the value of seeing the culture of others’ classrooms, and watching how colleagues pace their classroom sessions or refocus waning attention in an hour-long class. I left convinced of the value of seeing each other teach outside of the evaluative observations that accompany tenure and promotion. We often remark that we’ve lost a sense of community with the pressures of teaching during a pandemic. We also often talk about how siloed we’ve become. What better way to reconnect and maybe even recapture some of the fun of teaching?

So how might we do this? We could always just start asking people if we can come visit their classes, of course. That’s a great strategy. Or we could tap one of our trained ACM Teaching Fellows who stand ready to visit anyone’s class. Nancy Gates Madsen, Maryna Nading, Anna Peterson, Holly Moore and their St. Olaf and Carleton colleagues are humble, generous, reciprocal, collegial, and dialogical. And, importantly, they are cheerleaders and allies. Any of us would be happy to share our classrooms with you. Visit our website for more information and thank you for all that you do. 

Upcoming CELT Events

Micro-session to Re-energize your Teaching in an Age of Burn out.

Join CELT for a short, focused workshop designed to help stave off the burn-out that we’ve all felt since the COVID pivot of 2020.

  • 12–1 p.m. March 6 (CELT)
  • 2:45–3:45 p.m. March, 9 (ZOOM)

Part problem-solving tips, part reengagement, this workshop is devoted to help you reconnect to why we teach, offer you quick tips to energize your classrooms, and maybe even give you survival strategies as we move forward in this new normal.

Sign up for the workshop

Navigating Heated, Offensive, and Tense Moments in the Classroom

Regardless of course topic or content, HOT — heated, offensive, or sense — moments in the classroom are always a possibility. Although never fully avoidable or predictable, there are steps instructors can take to help mitigate the potential for these moments, and strategies to help better equip instructors for navigating HOT moments when they occur. This interactive workshop will allow instructors to identify and practice strategies to help navigate HOT moments.

  • 12–1 p.m. April 3 (CELT)
  • 2:45–3:45 p.m. April 6t (ZOOM)

Sign up for the workshop

Campus Workshops and National Opportunities

Clemson University and Humanities Hub “Civic Engagement & Voting Rights Teacher Scholars” Deadline March 15

Do you know faculty interested in infusing civic and voting education into their courses? We have a compensated professional development opportunity to create open source teaching materials! Call for cohort 1 of the Mellon Foundation grant “Civic Engagement & Voting Rights Teacher Scholars” with Clemson University & Humanities Hub. Please share with faculty of all ranks in humanities or humanities-allied disciplines, especially those at 2 year colleges and MSIs! Applications due March 15, 2023. Contact Dr. James Burns ( or Dr. Bridget Trogden ( with questions.

Safe Zone Training, sponsored by CIES

Safe Zone training are opportunities to learn about LGBTQ+ identities, gender and sexuality, and examine prejudice, assumptions, and privilege. If you are interested in participating in one of the upcoming training workshops sponsored by CIES, click the sign up below. 

  • 4–5 p.m. March 7

Sign up for the training  

Spring Semester Reading Groups

Our first reading group is underway, reading James Lane’s Distracted. There is still time to register for our second group.

Sign up for a reading group  

Equity by Design: Delivering on the Power and Promise of UDL by Mirko Chardin and Katie Novak

Equity by Design is intended to serve as a blueprint for teachers to alter the all-too-predictable outcomes for our historically under-served students. A first of its kind resource, the book makes the critical link between social justice and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) so that we can equip students (and teachers, too) with the will, skill, and collective capacity to enact positive change.

This reading group meets March 28, April 11, 25, and May 9. 

Just-In-Time Teaching Tips: Research and Writing in the Era of ChatGPT

If you follow Writing Director, Mike Garcia on facebook, you’ll know he recently had ChatGPT try to write a sonnet comparing a Deftones song and a yogurt ad. It was pretty hilarious and did point to the power, but also the limitations of the AI tool. 

ChatGPT remains in the headlines and now we are seeing more resources on how to change our assignments to make them less vulnerable to AI writing. This blog post from a George Washington professor is full of helpful advice. I also stumbled on I-Search Papers, often assigned as an alternative to research papers, where “the subject becomes the process of searching for information, what the student learned, and what questions arose from that.” Click on the hyper-link for more, but basically students offer a Search Story, where they describe the process of research including what they wanted to learn and how they conducted their research. Students then write their Research Results, where they describe the findings and support them with evidence from their sources, and finally write up their Search Reflections, where they describe what they have learned and how it has changed their viewpoint, understanding, or way of thinking. 

I love this assignment for many reasons – it builds information literacy skills, while also being student-driven. The Search Reflection allows the student space for metacognitive reflection, which increases the likelihood of transference of these skills onto new courses 

Want more resources or discussion opportunities on Chat GPT? Email us!

DOSS Corner

Introducing the Division of Student Services

Under the Direction of Camelia Rubalcada, Associate Dean for Student Success

This includes the departments of Catalyze, Center for Academic Enrichment (CAE), Disability Services, & TRIO.

Catalyze is located on the first floor in Centennial Union.  TRIO, CAE, & Disability Services are located on the lower level of Preus Library.

Meet the Staff:

  • Camelia Rubalcada:  Associate Dean for Student Success
  • Adam Lenehan:  Coordinator of Tutor and Academic Success
  • Cleo Garza:  Catalyze Coach
  • Rachel Clennon:  Catalyze Coach
  • Michelle Boike:  Director of TRIO
  • Heather Cote:  Student Achievement Specialist
  • Heidi Ludeking:  Student Achievement & Instructional Specialist
  • Sara Hallberg:  Accommodations Coordinator
  • Ann Smith:  Director of Disability Services

Tidbits to share:

Faculty Disability Services Online Testing Form:  

With the migration of the new website, Disability Services understands there may be difficulties in accessing the Faculty Disability Services Online Testing Form.  This form must be completed at least 24 business hours in advance of general assessments.  For Midterm and Finals: at least 72 business hours in advance is needed.  This is to ensure finding testing room locations.  If you are finding the rooms and already reserving them within the building you provide instruction, thank you.  This can be noted on this form.

Additionally, some of you are finding your own testing rooms (especially for Olin) and working with Campus Programming to reserve the rooms.  This system is working as well since Olin and Center for Academic Enrichment currently do not have administrative assistants.

  1. Go to
  2. Search Disability Services
  3. Once on the Disability Services Site, select: “Visit the Disability Services Website”.
  4. On the left side, you will find a tab named “Faculty”.
  5. Once you click on the tab, the second item is titled, “Disability Services Online Testing Form”.  Faculty Disability Services Online Testing Form
  6. You will find the instructions followed by the form.
  7. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Disability Services at or to Ann Smith, Director:

Thank you for supporting students and providing the accommodations when requested.

From Teacher To Teacher: Derek Sweet

Our second faculty profile is Derek Sweet, Communication Studies and Identity Studies. Derek and I have talked a lot about the challenge of getting students engaged in the classroom, specifically getting them to do the reading so they are prepared for engaged discussions that he expects each of them to do. Read on for some strategies. 

What classes do you teach at Luther College?

The core class I teach is Public Address, and many courses that are rhetoric related, which is the study of how we use communication to convey ideas that matter to us as a community. It’s things like political speech, it can be popular culture, but it’s all of those communication texts that actually help us have these conversations about ideas that matter to us as a people. My J term class, Kryptonites, Cowls, and Caped Crusaders, is essentially about the rhetoric of superheroes, how we think about the cultural significance of superheroes and how those superheroes invite us to think about issues that are important to us as a culture.

How did you get involved in this field? What was your path to get where you are now?

I was a communications major from day one of my academic career, and my intention was to be the next broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs. I was really fascinated with radio, and I was an avid Cubs fan. I would watch the games on TV and do play by plays in the basement of my house where nobody could hear me. About 2 or 3 years into my academic exploration at Colorado State University, I did an internship at a radio station and hated it. I thought it was just the worst profession ever. It can be cut throat and super competitive. That kind of competitiveness is not in my DNA.

Thankfully, I had taken a class called the Rhetoric of Western Thought, and I had fallen in love with the topic of rhetoric. The professor in that class wrote a note on one of my papers that said have you ever thought about grad school? He was like, ‘you’re a fantastic writer and I think you’re a prime candidate for that’. So I finished out my four year degree, I went and worked in the banking profession for a couple of years, with a communication studies degree. Do not ask me why, it’s just the job I landed. I did not like that either. I remembered that note that Dr. Irvine had written on my paper, so I actually called him. I said, ‘you know, what do you think about me doing grad school’ and he said, ‘I think that’s an excellent idea’, and the rest is history.

Briefly describe your favorite in-class activity.

I’ve been playing around with trying to get students to engage in some texts that are maybe a little bit different from what they’ve typically engaged in. We read a graphic novel called Superman Smashes the Klan. It was published in 2018, but it was based off of an old 1940s radio program that featured Superman taking on the Ku Klux Klan. The author based it loosely on that story, but tried to integrate in some more contemporary experiences. It tells the story about an immigrant family from China who moved to Metropolis and who are experiencing tensions between assimilation and pluralism, asking themselves “should we try to fit in and be the average American, or should we try to retain and celebrate our Chinese identity?” It’s a really relevant text, particularly considering the rise in anti-Asian violence that we’ve seen since about 2016, coinciding with the Trump presidency, which was no friend to immigrants, to migrants, and to people of color.

So we read this book for homework, and then to get them to think about it a little further, I gave them 45 minutes in class to answer some additional questions by referring to the text and pulling out examples from the graphic novel to support their answers. Then we reconvened and had these great conversations. I thought it worked really well because it gave students the chance to not only read a graphic novel in a leisurely fashion, but also it encouraged them to read it as a serious text too. This gave us an opportunity to really treat graphic novels as serious literature and actually talk about how it intersected with contemporary American politics.

How do you bring the things you are passionate about into your work?

When I was in Denver doing my doctorate, I was working on the rhetoric of spectacular subcultures, so I was doing work with punks, goths, ravers, people that dress differently. I was really fascinated with how people communicate that identity and how that identity then intersects with our public conversations about ideas that matter.

When I came back to small town Iowa, I didn’t really think a lot about how difficult it would be to continue that line of research that I was doing with spectacular subcultures of the type that I wanted to investigate. So I had to figure out a way to take that energy and that fun that I was having doing that type of research and convert it to something else.

I’m a huge science fiction comic book nerd. So I wondered if I could do that kind of work, and turn that passion I have for science fiction and fantasy into academic work. I’m a pretty classic example of a fan scholar. I write and teach about the stuff that I love, and I think you can see that. If you are working on the stuff that you really love, you’re going to be really energetic about it in the classroom, you’re not going to be so weighed down when you have to sit and write.

And I’m painfully aware of the fact that not everybody’s going to be into the same stuff that I am. So the real trick there is to figure out how to take my enthusiasm for science fiction, my enthusiasm for a certain style of music, or a certain genre of film or television, and get students to examine the genres and texts that they’re excited by. We use my stuff as examples on how we might analyze texts, but then I encourage my students to do that exact same type of work with the stuff that they love.

What is a teaching tactic that you have implemented recently that you feel has been working really well? OR What is your favorite teaching and learning strategy?

One of my professors in graduate school required us to bring in two discussion questions on an index card every day. Those questions were supposed to be related to the reading. It could be something you were confused about, or a concept you found really engaging that you thought would be fun to talk about. I’ve kind of revived this strategy, because I’ve been teaching my material for so long that it’s super easy for me to get up and just give a lecture.

But if we let the students guide the conversation, they feel more invested in the class. We end up talking about the stuff that they need to talk about, not the stuff that I think we ought to talk about, and those are different sometimes. Of course, there are always core ideas that we need to get through and understand in a journal article or a particular theory. But sometimes students will take us in a really unusual side conversation that I would have never thought to have in class that ends up being really fruitful and exciting and deeply thoughtful.

You can just flip through notecards and pull one out. This doesn’t put anyone on the spot and it is great for starting conversations and getting the ball rolling. And I know that students complain about doing the questions, but at the same time, I think they feel a little more invested in the class. It’s also my way of double checking to make sure they’re actually doing the reading, because I can tell by what kind of questions they’ve asked if it was actually a thoughtful question based on the actual reading.

What’s one thing your colleagues might be surprised to learn about you?

I am an avid fan of female-fronted punk rock. I don’t know, maybe that’s not obvious from my appearance. I still go to shows. Right before COVID hit, a few weeks before, if you had been in Des Moines, Iowa, you would have seen me in the mosh pit during a Distillers show. We took our son to his first show, and I think he was 14 at the time. It kind of freaked him out to see his 50 year old dad go diving into a mosh pit. I still love to go to those shows, and yeah, if there’s a mosh pit, you’re going to see me in it. There is something about that that is so freeing and exhilarating.

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Contact Info

Kate Elliott
Director, CELT
Associate Professor of Art History
Luther College
700 College Drive
Decorah, IA 52101

Phone: 563-387-1587