Faculty-to-Faculty Spotlight - Dr. Carl Colavito

Faculty-to-Faculty Spotlight - Dr. Carl Colavito

As a way to continue the 2015-16 theme of “engagement,” Dr. Angela Browning has highlighted the extraordinary work of a faculty member each month to share his/her teaching and engagement techniques, professional development, community service and unique College contributions.

This month’s column highlights the work of Dr. Carl Colavito, professor of political science and philosophy at Kent Campus.

Engaging with and supporting students:

-- Dr. Colavito, while making certain to teach his subject, focuses on students and their development. He uses the material of his classes as a medium through which he can connect with students and help them recognize and then achieve their potential.

-- “Future You” – This is the message that Professor Colavito imparts to students at the beginning of his courses. He uses this concept to introduce his students to the idea that they are always changing – at any time in their life they are not the same person they were before that moment nor will they be the same person after that moment. School, then, is a perfect time for them to go work on the development of themselves. During college, they are training to be the best version of themselves and Profeesor Colavito tries through his lectures and coursework to help them gain internal discipline. Watch his TedTalk here. It contains portions of the material he stresses in his classes.

-- Using the principles of Socratic dialogue, Dr. Colavito endeavors to promote real, engaged discussions about difficult topics by helping his students disassociate their egos and selves from the ideas they say. For example, in one course he might ask students to pose their questions about race by asking them to write them on an index card. Those index cards are then taken to another class where students are asked to find answers to the questions posed. A discussion can ensue without any connection of the question with a specific classmate.

Reimagining how students interact with class concepts:

-- Active Learning - Professor Colavito creates an active learning environment that encourages students’ interaction with class material and ideas. For example, in a course he might have students prepare and present a court case. Students play the following roles:  lawyers, witnesses, jury members, judge, bailiff, court reporter, etc. This is an effort on Dr. Colavito’s part to put students in the active seats they will fill when they leave the classroom. While some students are not immediately open to and appreciative of this “out of the ordinary” classroom experience, Professor Colavito has noticed that they look back on the experience as one that becomes fun; one that helps them learn not just the material, but the importance of being well-prepared.

-- “What is Honor” – This event is an example of Dr. Colavito’s efforts and engagement. The event was supported by the Philosophy Club he sponsors and was billed as a “full-filled evening of food, art, and a Socratic dialogue on the theme of honor.”  The event included a buffet table and an opportunity for students to peruse the art gallery that had images of honor, definitions of honor, and questions about honor displayed. Performances that included a brief enactment of a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird (directed by Professor Harolyn Sharpe with FSCJ students as cast members) and a reading from Shakespeare’s King Henry V (performed by Professor Mark Creegan) followed. A member of UNF’s Philosophy Club gave a presentation entitled “Honor:  The Pragmatics of Bridging from Is to Ought” followed by a Socratic discussion about Honor moderated by Professor Colavito. 

-- Masquerade Ball and the 70s Dance - these events incorporated active learning, arts and crafts, dance, and socializing to demonstrate that learning takes different forms and can be fun. Student engagement and community building are priorities for Dr. Colavito since he sees them as integral to the cultivation and development of the student as a full human being.

-- Kent Talks – Kent Talks are events hosted by the two clubs that Professor Colavito sponsors, Politics and Rational Discourse Club (PARDI), and the Philosophy Club. They are designed to introduce contemporary social or political issues to an audience to stimulate active citizenship through rational discourse. For example, this spring there were three talks: “Clash of Civilizations,” “Reasons People Go to War or Commit Genocide,” and “Criteria for Intervening in War or Genocide.” A fourth talk combines the panelists from the three previous discussions as a way of concluding the discussion.

Engaging with the College:

-- FSCJ Ted Talks presenter

-- Sponsor, FSCJ Philosophy Club, (2008 – present); hosts movie nights and book clubs along with weekly meetings

-- Sponsor, FSCJ Politics and Rational Discourse Club, (2010 – present); hosts Kent Talks and other events like the “Gun Responsibility” discussion

-- Member, Honors “redesign” task force (2015 – 2016)

-- Co-Founder and mentor, Student Paper/Presentation Conference

As the 2015-16 academic year comes to an end, Dr. Angela Browning has a few words as she signs off on her role as Presidential Fellow.

In the year that I have served as Presidential Fellow, no activity has been more rewarding than working with and getting to know faculty from different campuses, disciplines, and divisions of the College. Undoubtedly, we have talented, engaged faculty who go above and beyond to deliver our students an incredible academic experience. I am proud to have such outstanding colleagues! I leave this column to our next Presidential Fellow, Dean Moore, who will choose his own focus and style of presentation.

- Dr. Angela Browning