Cromwells Cut the Ribbon on New Center
CHESTERTOWN, MD—As the newly named director of the Barbara and George Cromwell Center for Teaching and Learning at Washington College, professor George Spilich looks forward to building on the Center’s strong foundation and guiding its growth. On Friday, February 28, he will participate in a ribbon cutting that will officially open Goldstein 218 as the Cromwell Center’s first dedicated office space, albeit a temporary one. Part of Spilich’s job will be to guide the design and construction of the Center’s permanent home as part of a new academic facility planned for the site now occupied by the former Board of Education building on Washington Avenue.
A recent gift from George ’53 and Barbara Townsend Cromwell ’55 is making the Center’s new home and expanded services possible. “It’s a wonderful thing that these two alums are doing for the school,” notes Spilich, John Toll Professor of Psychology.
The creation of the new Cromwell Center brings to full fruition work that began more than two decades ago when Professor Emeritus of Education Sean O Connor and colleagues began organizing presentations on innovative teaching. They eventually would label their committee the Teaching and Learning Center, or TLC, and supported professors who wanted to share talks and workshops on everything from designing an effective syllabus and using clickers in the classroom, to recognizing and helping students with troubling behavioral issues.
Spilich credits his predecessors, first O Connor and more recently history professor Janet Sorrentino, who took the reins after O Connor retired in 2008, with the Center’s success to date. “I inherited a project that two professors already put a lot of effort into,” he says. He plans to further develop the program side of the Cromwell Center, placing an emphasis on “active learning” that requires more participation and discussion from students. And he looks forward to creating an expanded Center in the new academic building, which will provide more experimental classrooms where faculty can test updated methods and technologies for teaching.
The Cromwell Center for Teaching and Learning plans to equip Goldstein 218, and eventually its permanent location, with high-end tablets to promote research and technological skills in the classroom. Spilich is also interested in developing “blended classes.” Unlike in an online course, students in a blended class meet face-to-face the same number of hours as in a regular one, but the professor adds videos and other online materials that, in addition to readings, enhance their understanding of the material. This style of teaching reduces the amount of direct lecture time and provides more time for discussion in class. Spilich believes it’s perfect for a liberal arts college because it encourages students to think independently and express their own ideas.
Spilich believes the work that he and his faculty colleagues conduct in the Cromwell CTL will help the College keep pace with a dynamic educational landscape and could serve as a model for other schools. “The Center is a testing ground where we can ensure our teaching methods are effective and up to date,” he says. “That will give our students an edge and assure donors and parents that their money is being well spent.”
Photos: Top, Barbara Cromwell cuts the ribbon while husband George, professor Spilich and President Reiss cheer her on. Bottom, Center director Spilich makes remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
— Kathryn Gilley ’14