When U.S. News & World Report asked top academic officers throughout the country last spring to name the schools whose faculty have an unusually strong commitment to undergraduate teaching, Bryant University came to mind time and time again.
What is it about Bryant that helped the University earn the No. 7 spot on the magazine’s “Best Undergraduate Teaching” rankings?
“It is in Bryant’s collective consciousness that teaching itself is a noble profession,” Bryant’s Chief Academic Officer, Provost Glenn M. Sulmasy, J.D., LL.M., says without hesitation. “It’s not just a job. Bryant faculty have a passion and love for teaching that’s evident in the classroom.”
"It is in Bryant’s collective consciousness that teaching itself is a noble profession."
But there’s something more, Sulmasy notes: “Our students’ experiences with faculty, I guarantee, are superior because our student-centered commitment to teaching exceeds what is normal.” Faculty are concerned about students and their well-being, he says. They mentor, coach, engage, and offer support beyond the classrooms – and, often, long after a student has graduated.
“It’s no surprise that we are one of the top teaching institutions,” says Madan Annavarjula, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Business. “The majority of our faculty are passionate about the opportunity to transform students’ lives.”
Teaching and mentoring are part of Bryant’s culture, says Bradford Martin, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Mentoring, to me, includes a willingness to have conversations outside the classroom, and there’s a high concentration of that spirit here,” he says.
Supporting the teacher-scholar model
The infusion of that spirit begins early. When a new faculty member is hired, “I always ask how their scholarly research will be used to inform their teaching,” Martin says. “Their scholarship and research are important, of course. But at Bryant, we have achieved a broad consensus on the definition of the teacher-scholar model. A faculty member must be active and conversant in the latest research in their field, but this must translate to what they do in the classroom.”
Annavarjula offers similar thoughts. "When we hire faculty, I tell them that the institution will resource, reward, and respect your research. But at the end of the day, your research should positively impact our students in the classroom and beyond, because we count our accolades by how many students we transform.”
"At the end of the day, your research should positively impact our students ... because we count our accolades by how many students we transform."
Bryant places a premium on innovative teaching and mentoring, and the University promotes a teacher-scholar culture on many fronts: granting of Academic Excellence Funds and teaching awards; through programs, workshops, and symposia offered by the Office of Faculty Development and Innovation and its director, Ed Kairiss, Ph.D.; and through facilities like the Quinlan/Brown Academic Innovation Center.
“The deans and the director have a love for teaching,” says Sulmasy. “If you have that from the leaders, it transcends throughout the institution. Teachers see teaching as their passion. It’s an art, and it’s something beautiful to see teaching done well.”