Foundation B: Be An Innovative Leader for Excellence in Teaching and Research

The measure of Trinity’s academic quality is largely determined by the productivity of our scholars and the effectiveness of classroom instruction. Since the 1980s, Trinity has certainly benefitted from a steady rise in the quality and productivity of our faculty. Active scholarship is the most powerful way that faculty members remain engaged with their fields, contribute new findings, inform their teaching, and gain professional recognition for themselves and the University. Excellence in research brings renown that can only strengthen Trinity’s international reputation and remains a valued pursuit that we must build upon and encourage. 

B1: Promote the creation and dissemination of new knowledge through faculty research

In order to ensure the continued productivity of our scholars, we must protect the allocation of targeted resources including summer research stipends, faculty travel funds for research and conferences, and paid academic leaves for tenured faculty. As we move forward, we must ensure that these support programs keep pace with the ever-increasing costs of conducting world-class scholarly work. Trinity will retain high expectations for research to be upheld through a rigorous promotion and tenure review process and annual performance reviews. Trinity will maintain state-of-the-art research facilities, including high-tech instrumentation and equipment, in the arts and sciences. In addition, we will develop objective measures to compare Trinity’s research expectations and faculty productivity with peer and aspirant schools.

cover shot of IMPACT magazine

Trinity launches IMPACT magazine

Publication promotes commitment to lifelong learning by faculty and staff

In November 2016, Trinity released IMPACT: Scholarship, Creativity, and Community Engagement at Trinity University. Published annually, the magazine features the scholarly and creative works of University faculty and staff, addressing the strategic plan’s call for showcasing active scholarship and research.

In addition to updates on grants and awards, IMPACT showcases a sampling of research and creative work done during the academic year by Tiger faculty and staff. The inaugural issue of IMPACT highlighted physics professor Dennis Ugolini’s work on the LIGO gravitational waves discovery, as well as stories about Trinity’s partnership with San Antonio’s Advanced Learning Academy and housing and urban development projects on the Alamo City’s East Side. More than 11,000 copies were distributed to alumni, donors, faculty and staff, parents of current students, and presidents and provosts of peer institutions; additional copies were made available for pickup or perusal in the library, the admissions lobby, and other areas on campus.

IMPACT is developed by the Office of University Marketing and Communications in partnership with Academic Affairs. An advisory board comprised of faculty and staff from a variety of departments across campus assist with evaluating submissions and contributing acceptance criteria.  

Read IMPACT online at

B2: Sustain Coates Library as a critical intellectual resource for the campus

As one of the leading private libraries in the Southwestern United States, Trinity’s Coates Library is a nationally-recognized leader in connecting students and faculty with traditional and contemporary information resources. The Vice President for Information Resources, Communications and Marketing will oversee efforts to maintain Coates Library as a forwardlooking Learning Commons – a vibrant, shared resource for all members of our academic community. Recognizing the speed at which information can be accessed online, Trinity will devote the necessary human and technological resources to ensure that faculty, students, and other users will find what they need quickly and easily using the Library’s web site and our physical collections. Trinity will continue to pioneer new forms of digital scholarship through the Digital Commons platform.

A Hub for Research and Teaching

A leading liberal arts and sciences university depends upon a vibrant and forward-looking library to achieve its academic mission, instructional, and research needs. While this work is never accomplished, the University has taken a number of steps to ensure that our collections, services, and spaces are positioned to meet the evolving needs of students and faculty. These steps include:

  • In 2015, Coates Library completed a self-study and underwent a formal external review to evaluate the Library’s operations, identify future opportunities, and benchmark the Library’s achievements relative to peer institutions. "The external review of the library was highly positive about our successes in information literacy programs and the provision of personalized assistance to faculty and students," said University Librarian Chris Nolan. "The review praised our commitment to using analytical and data-driven assessments to inform our decisions and encouraged us to expand our data collection to evaluate all content on cost effectiveness. The review also indicated that our demand-driven collection development model, our weeding program, and the attempts to free up shelving space to provide room for other learning opportunities were all highly appropriate and should be emphasized even further."
  • In January 2018, Dr. Deneese Jones, Vice President for Academic Affairs, appointed Chris Nolan, University Librarian, to chair a Library Renovation Task Force to evaluate the evolving needs of our students and faculty for library facilities and how these needs impact the building’s study, teaching and collaboration areas, technology, furnishings and materials storage. The report was completed on May 1, 2018.
  • In partnership with Jim Bradley, Trinity’s Chief Information Officer, the Library is investigating new platforms for faculty publication, including innovative digital platforms.
  • The Student Government Association has launched an effort to investigate the adoption of open-source educational material.
  • In 2018, Coates Library participated in the Measurement of Information Service Outcomes (MISO)—a national survey of college libraries—which allowed for student and faculty evaluation of library quality. Survey findings will inform Coates Library’s continual improvement efforts. "Students were largely satisfied with library spaces, indicating that comfort, quiet study, and group study spaces were very important to them. Satisfaction with our collections was quite high among students and faculty," Nolan said. "Some responses were of concern to our staff, however. In response to these concerns, the library has helped create a preliminary building renovation plan, and will also continue to emphasize teaching information literacy skills."

a student views Digital Commons on her computer

Common Knowledge

Open Access organizations provide research and teaching resources

Trinity University’s Coates Library currently directs more than $56,000 toward open access ventures to increase access to scholarly research. Through membership and subventions, Trinity supports 12 open access organizations that make it easier for students, faculty, and researchers to find the information they need.

Among other organizations, the University supports the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition, Lever Press, Biomed Central, MDPI, Open Book Publishers, the Open Library of Humanities (OLH), and Knowledge Unlatched. Coates Library joined Knowledge Unlatched, a London-based nonprofit, in 2016 to support monographs in the humanities and social sciences. Two books, authored by Trinity political science professor Peter O’Brien and sociology and anthropology professor David Spener, were published through Knowledge Unlatched.

Additionally, Trinity supports open access scholarly publishing by providing financial support to nonprofit publishers that make research freely available. The library also provides an online repository, the Digital Commons, where faculty and student scholarship is openly accessible and easy to find. Since 2010, there have been more than 2 million downloads across more than 4,000 works. The most downloaded document was created by a graduate of Trinity’s Master of Arts in Teaching program and has been viewed more than 45,000 times.

In addition to managing the Digital Commons, Trinity’s librarians educate faculty, administrators, and students about the economics of scholarly publishing, the impact on University budgets, and the bigger picture surrounding access to scholarly knowledge. The library even helps faculty and student authors amend their contracts with publishers so that the University can retain a copy of an article or book within the Digital Commons. The library also encourages faculty to submit their works to reputable open access publications. For more information about open access initiatives at Trinity, ask a librarian.

B3: Expand student involvement in faculty research

In recent years, there has been a rise in faculty scholarship that directly involves students. On the most recent faculty survey, 67% of faculty responded that they “worked with undergraduates on a research project.” Not only does this arrangement allow faculty to advance their research agendas, it provides Trinity students a distinctive advantage as they consider their post-graduate options. Much of this has occurred through a robust summer research program in the sciences, though a growing number of non-science majors have participated in the McNair Scholars program and the pilot phase of the Murchison Student Fellowships. In the coming years, we will continue to encourage faculty in the arts and humanities to involve their students in their scholarship and the active creation of new knowledge through activities enabled by a $600,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Our objective is to see a greater number of students from a greater number of academic programs participate in faculty research.

Faculty and Departmental Participation in Summer Undergraduate Research

two students working together in a classroom

Supporting Creative Inquiry

Mellon Initiative enhances arts and humanities education through undergraduate research

In Spring 2018, Trinity was awarded an additional $800,000 grant by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support initiatives aimed at improving access to and expanding opportunities for undergraduate research in the arts and humanities.

The new grant will assist Trinity’s plan to integrate undergraduate research in the arts and humanities more fully into its curriculum and at earlier stages in students’ academic careers. The program funding will also allow the University to expand the number and diversity of students participating in these high-impact experiences in the classroom and in the community. Previous Mellon Foundation funding allowed the University to take initial steps to develop undergraduate research in the arts and humanities and create the Trinity Mellon Initiative.

“The Mellon Initiative has transformed the arts and humanities at Trinity,” said Chad Spigel, associate professor and director for the Mellon Initiative for Undergraduate Research in the Arts and Humanities. With this new grant, an expansion of the Mellon Initiative at Trinity will help the University increase access for underrepresented students who may not be aware of the opportunities and benefits of such research. “Our goal is to create and sustain an inclusive and diverse culture of research in the arts and humanities at Trinity,” Spigel said.

Mellon-funded research opportunities have given students a chance to develop new skills by conducting archival research, reexamining ancient and modern texts, writing contributions to appear in academic populations, and conducting interviews in the field. This summer, the Mellon Initiative is poised to support more than a dozen undergraduate research opportunities, including topics such as fake news and media literacy, the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS, and racism in professional football recruitment.

B4: Encourage pedagogical innovation

In its first year of operation, the recently launched Collaborative for Learning and Teaching has already provided physical space and a context to promote pedagogical innovation among the Trinity faculty. The Collaborative is the primary site for faculty members to talk about their teaching and to engage in peer-to-peer professional development to support student learning. By hosting workshops, awarding course design grants, and promoting the cross-fertilization of ideas across the disciplines, the Collaborative is poised to significantly contribute to the quality of teaching and learning on campus in the years to come.

Academic Technology (AT) will support and integrate multimedia resources for the Trinity community. AT staff members will engage with faculty in various academic programs to understand pedagogical goals and the role that technology should play as campus facilities are continually upgraded and new spaces are designed. In collaboration with faculty librarians, AT staff will provide training and support to faculty who use smart classrooms and other forms of technology in their teaching. 

a professor tests VR goggles

Those who teach, also learn

Collaborative institutes faculty learning community with colleagues across disciplines

Since its launch in 2013, the Collaborative for Learning and Teaching has become a nexus for faculty development at Trinity University. Adding to a robust line-up of programs including interactive workshops, book clubs, writing groups, and course revision grants, during the 2018-19 academic year, the Collaborative sponsored its first Faculty Learning Community (FLC), a faculty-driven seminar with colleagues from across disciplines. 

Supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the inaugural FLC focused on digital literacy, one of the signature features of Trinity’s Pathways curriculum. “The group met regularly throughout the academic year with the goal of achieving a concrete ‘deliverable,’ which, for many faculty, took the form of an assignment that they could incorporate into one of their existing or future courses,” says Thomas E. Jenkins, professor of classical studies and director of the Collaborative. “In fact, some faculty participants have already begun to develop entire course revisions based on what they learned in the FLC,” added Jenkins. 

Focusing on digital literacy allowed faculty to consider the ethical and effective deployment of technology to further the acquisition of knowledge, in any discipline. The participants—more than 30 across the year—devised the group’s list of readings, invited speakers, and selected topics for workshops, including Graphical Information Systems (GIS), virtual reality (VR), digital text annotation, and more. The Collaborative provided a digital ‘toolbox’ for all readings, resources, and assignments.

Patrick Keating, professor of communication and a participant in the FLC praised the experience. “We got to experience several cutting edge digital technologies first hand, including virtual reality goggles that allowed us to step inside other worlds,” Keating says. “I imagined how to use this in my film studies courses and to hear how my colleagues were adapting the technology to their courses.” 

Based on the positive feedback from participants, the Collaborative is already planning future FLCs. In Fall 2019, the Collaborative will offer an FLC on oral and visual communication (OVC), another key element of Pathways. It will also expand its programming to include a new Collaborative Institute, on the technique of “gamification,” an innovative approach to student learning and assessment.

“Trinity’s faculty have demonstrated time and time again that they are willing to go the extra mile to serve students and adopt strategies and approaches,” Jenkins says. “It is especially exciting to see how many early-career faculty got involved.”

professor participates in collaborative activity

Improving the Classroom Experience

The Collaborative offers resources for pedagogical innovation

Trinity’s Collaborative for Learning and Teaching provides workshops and seminars to the Trinity faculty and staff that highlight recent advancements in pedagogical practices. These workshops are hosted by experts from both inside and outside of Trinity.

“Often the Collaborative is the first place that faculty hear about innovations outside of their field that also touch on all aspects of higher education,” says Tom Jenkins, director for the Collaborative for Learning and Teaching. High Noon lunches, hosted by the Collaborative, allow for quick exchanges of ideas between faculty throughout the academic year and are a staple of the program.

The Collaborative is evolving, constanting looking for new innovation. “This year we are starting an FLC (faculty learning community) that focuses on digital literacy, with breakfast meetings throughout the year. The goal is to foster assignments that dovetail with Trinity’s new Pathways curriculum,” Jenkins says. Other new programs within the Collaborative are Polyglot Poetry Reading, Tigers as Partners, and ¡Hola San, Antonio!, which all aim to improve the classroom experience for Trinity students.

“I am been most excited by the real engagement of Trinity faculty with the programs of the Collaborative: Far from ‘coasting,’ Trinity faculty continue to burnish their skills as teachers and mentors,” Jenkins says. “This is especially essential as higher education — and higher learning — continues to incorporate new technologies, and we in the Collaborative look forward to being the first point of contact for those new fields.”

B5: Enhance program assessment for all University divisions and academic and co-curricular programs

Periodic program reviews are a helpful mechanism to ensure the health of all academic and cocurricular programs. Such reviews require programs to define their goals and provide evidence of their success. The involvement of an independent reviewer, whether from outside or inside the University, will provide a broader context for the self-review as well as support for resources needed by a disciplinary or interdisciplinary program. In addition to the written reports submitted annually, we will allocate additional resources to conduct periodic in-depth reviews on an appropriate cycle to ensure that all programs are evaluated regularly under these enhanced guidelines. Our intention is to incorporate the results from such reviews in future decision making.

Since the adoption of the Trinity Tomorrow Strategic Plan, the University has taken steps to enhance program assessment and review. The following steps were taken during the 2017 – 2018 academic year:

  • All of Trinity’s academic programs underwent a concerted effort to identify student learning outcomes as part of the University’s ten-year reaffirmation of accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). As a result, the University’s program goals have never been more robust and we are well positioned to collect, review, and incorporate data into future decision-making toward our goal of continual improvement.
  • In January 2018, Dr. Deneese Jones, Vice President for Academic Affairs, presented a proposal for program reviews to Department Chairs for their consideration and feedback. She is currently working with Chairs to formalize this process and develop a program review calendar.
  • The Vice President for Academic Affairs and Vice President for Student Life devised and carried out an internal process to review the Center for Experiential Learning and Career Success, the Center for International Engagement, and the Student Success Center. As part of this process, Trinity engaged external consultants from the Stamats Group to help Center Directors develop Business Plans to guide the future planning and resource requests. Lessons from this pilot process will inform future program reviews for academic departments and programs.
  • The University has appointed Kara Larkan-Skinner, Ed.D., to the new role of Executive Director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness. This redefined position will help the university develop a process for conducting program reviews.

AVP Mike Soto speaks with faculty

Program Review Launches in Fall 2019

Academic Affairs prepares departments and programs for data-driven self-study, external reviews

Periodic academic program review provides several benefits to a University: By taking stock of a program and planning for the future, departments and interdisciplinary programs are better positioned to set collective priorities and develop action plans that ensure student success. So, in spring 2019, Academic Affairs appointed a task force to develop guidelines for departments and interdisciplinary program assessment. 

Working with the support of the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, the University will implement a program review cycle in Fall 2019. The task force determined that program reviews will:

  • include a data-driven self-study, including information about departmental personnel, curriculum, students, facilities, budget and equipment; 
  • incorporate the perspectives of two external reviews from a comparable institution; and
  • enable a department or program to summarize the results of the review and action steps for the future.

By implementing this important process and ensuring that all academic departments and interdisciplinary majors are reviewed once every five years, Trinity University stands to benefit considerably. “By welcoming the fresh perspectives of external reviewers, Trinity’s excellent academic programs will be better able to identify their strengths and to remain ready to face future challenges,” says Deneese L. Jones, vice president for Academic Affairs. “We only stand to get better.”

B6: Expand support for faculty to pursue external funding for teaching and research

External awards are a prestigious and valuable acknowledgement of a faculty member’s intellectual achievements and promise. Trinity will establish a culture in which faculty members from all disciplines take the initiative to compete for funding from institutions, foundations, consortia, and governmental agencies. To this end, in the form of workshops and customized consultations, Trinity will provide guidance, information, and technical assistance to all members of our community interested in seeking external funding. Trinity will assist in identifying and cultivating sources for external funding, preparing and submitting effective proposals, and ensuring that all external grant applications are submitted in accordance with the guidelines, policies, and procedures established by both the University and the funding source.