Teaching and Learning Together (TaLT)


Eastern Michigan University has historically been known for its small class sizes and the close bonds that form between students and faculty.  Much like the rest of the world, the way in which we interact with one another has changed over the last 2+ years and, as a result, there is an increasing disconnect between students and faculty here at EMU. To counteract this disconnect, the FDC aims to "hit the reset button" and rebuild these connections through an ambitious initiative that will begin with a learning community, composed of students and faculty, that will work together through the 2022-23 academic year to identify ways to gain back what we have lost in terms of connection-building and mentorship. This work is part of Eastern Michigan University’s strategic commitment to prioritize student-centered learning and academic success.

To learn more about our mission to forge stronger connections between students and faculty and to further support student learning and success, please read our Director's Vision Statement. We welcome your support as we work to overcome this critical challenge at EMU. 

Stack of books with logo "Teaching and Learning Together" above them and the letters "TaLT" below

Building on the work of TaLT, the FDC, with the support of the College of Education (COE) and the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), will be hosting another learning community during the 2023-24 academic year, this one focused on clinical education. To learn more, visit our webpage.

Meet Our Members

  • Kristeana Banks Expand dropdown


    Kristeana Banks

    Hi, my name is Kristeana Banks. I am a political science major, and journalism minor, who is in her last year of study, here at Eastern Michigan University. As a student, my interest in fostering faculty student cooperation comes from my experience in problem solving in the public policy field; furthermore, as someone who has been a student for years, I know that the relationship is forever changing, and I would like to help in fostering some of that change through my work. I hope to make this experience worthwhile, not just for me, but for all students at Eastern.

  • Tamara Blair Expand dropdown


    Tamara Blair

    Tamara is currently in her third year at Eastern Michigan. She is double majoring in Marketing and Children’s and Young Adult Literature with a concentration in publishing. After graduation, she hopes to work in the publishing industry and become an author herself one day.


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    Omar Darwish

    Omar Darwish is an Assistant Professor in Information Security and Applied Computing department (GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology) at Eastern Michigan University. He received his PhD degree in computer science from Western Michigan University in USA, and the MS degree from Jordan University of Science and Technology in Jordan. He worked as Assistant Professor, Program Coordinator of Computer Information Systems, and Director of IoT and Cybersecurity Lab at Ferrum College, Visiting Assistant Professor at West Virginia University Institute of Technology, Software Engineer at MathWorks, and a programmer at Nuqul group. His research interests include: cyber security, IoT, machine learning, networks, big data analysis, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, data mining, and information retrieval.

  • Coreena Forstner Expand dropdown

    Coreena Forstner

    Coreena Forstner (she/they) is a senior undergraduate student studying Psychology, Sociology, and Criminology. She intends to graduate in Winter 2023 with Departmental Honors in Criminology, and Highest Honors from the Honors College. After graduation, Coreena plans to continue their education in Graduate School and pursue her doctorate. Coreena is also a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, SURF Fellow, volunteers for the SEED Lab, works as a Supplemental Instructor for PSY 101, and is the Website and Social Media Coordinator for the Southeast Michigan Criminal Justice Research Project (SMART). Coreena is also the former Vice President of Active Minds and served as an Honors Resident Advisor for 2 years.

  • Sarah Ginsberg Expand dropdown

    Sarah Ginsberg

    I have been on the faculty at Eastern Michigan University for over 20 years. My research has focused on the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), within my field and across higher education. I rely on collaborative approaches to education and it has become the focus of much of my work in both my teaching and my research. I have had the privilege of working with the FDC supporting faculty interested in engaging in evidence-based education as well as SoTL.

  • Ben Haddad Expand dropdown

    Ben Haddad

    Hi, my name is Benjamin Haddad. I am currently a sophomore here at EMU, and I am majoring in neuroscience. I currently work as a medical assistant, and assist in the conduction of biochemistry related research here at EMU. After graduation, I plan on attending medical school and pursuing a career in the field of medicine. Overall, I would like to advocate for meaningful change that will be beneficial to people of all different backgrounds, learning preferences, and personality types.

  • Mark Higbee Expand dropdown

    Mark Higbee

    Mark Higbee has been teaching American history at EMU since 1994.  He earned his PhD from Columbia University.  He is especially interested in the history of the African American freedom struggle, in the 19th and 20th century.  Mark lives in Ypsilanti with his wife Kate.  He practices engaged pedagogies in his classes, including "Reacting to the Past,"  a role-playing pedagogy he introduced to EMU.  He is the coauthor with Jim Stewart of "Frederick Douglass, Slavery, and the Constitution, 1845" (Norton, 2019), which quickly became the best-selling Reacting game.  Mark believes all college students,and all Americans, have a moral obligation to confront the central role that slavery and racism have had in this country's past and present. He hopes Eastern will one day soon commit to doing so. 

  • Kaycee Johnson Expand dropdown

    Kaycee Johnson

    My name is Kaycee Johnson. I’m from New Mexico, and I chose EMU because my mom went here! I am a junior, double majoring in Psychology and Creative Writing. I am on EMU’s Rowing team and in the Honors College. I like to write poetry, read, and paint!

  • John Koolage Expand dropdown

    John Koolage

    Professor Koolage’s research falls primarily in the areas General and Feminist Philosophy of Science, with a focus on psychology, broadly construed. His most recent papers tackle questions of epistemic extremism, expertise, and the relations among research programs. He has a passion for teaching and the study of teaching and learning.

  • Jessi Kwek Expand dropdown

    Jessi Kwek

    Hello! My name is Jessi, I'm a senior at EMU double majoring in Political Science and Sociology. I am excited to be one of the lead students for the FDC's TaLT Learning Community this year. I am also the Director of Student Services for EMU's Student Government and a Co-President of EMU's Model UN team. I have long been passionate about social justice issues - related to that, I am currently researching the connection between walkability and civic engagement as part of my honors thesis project, and I am interested in pursuing postgraduate education in Urban Planning. 

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    Courtney Lewis

    Dr. Courtney Lewis is an associate professor in the athletic training program.  Her research interests include bridging the gap between didactic and clinical education in athletic training programs. She is interested in learning how students integrate tacit and explicit knowledge, and how they experience their education.

  • Rebecca Louick

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    Rebecca Louick

    Dr. Rebecca Louick is an assistant professor of Special Education at EMU, teaching both introductory courses for a wide range of EMU students, and advanced courses for pre-service teachers preparing to work with students with learning disabilities. Her research focuses on academic motivation among adolescents with learning disabilities.

  • John Milkovich Expand dropdown

    John Milkovich

    I have recently graduated from EMU and I am now a master’s student studying philosophy. I hope to advocate for students’ creativity. Ideally, I would love for the faculty in the humanities and social sciences to value poetic and artistic expression as highly as essays.

  • Jaynila Morrison Expand dropdown

    Jaynila Morrison

    Hi, my name is Jaynila Morrison, I'm from Cleveland, Ohio. I’m a sophomore at Eastern Michigan as well as a first generation student. Currently I’m in six different clubs/ organizations: Honors College, BHSO, NAPS, Tri-O, PA Club, BSU. Some of my hobbies are hanging out with friends, going out to eat and just having fun.

  • Maisy Seale Expand dropdown

    Maisy Seale

    Maisy Seale is a senior majoring in psychology and political science. She is the president of Omega Phi Alpha, the national service sorority on campus. She also participates in the Youth and Adolescent Relationships lab in the psychology department.

  • Lauren Silvia Expand dropdown

    Lauren Silvia

    My name is Lauren Silvia and I am a senior, graduating in December 2022, majoring in Public and Nonprofit Management with a double minor in Social Work and Management. I have been working at the Faculty Development Center for the past 6 months and am also involved in Student Government, Collegiate DECA @EMU and Fraternity & Sorority Life. In the future I'd like to work in the nonprofit field or in corporate philanthropy and social responsibility. 

  • Ebrahim Soltani Expand dropdown

    Ebrahim Soltani

    Ebrahim Soltani is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Eastern Michigan University. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Syracuse University. He is also an M.D., having graduated from the Iran University of Medical Sciences. His research interests and publications are mainly focused on religion and politics in the Middle East, secularism, and immigration. He was Editor-in-Chief of Kiyan, a journal of religion and politics, for several years. Also, Ebrahim was a 2018 Applebaum Photography Fellow at the Darkroom Detroit.

  • Jamie Ward Expand dropdown

    Jamie Ward

    Jamie Ward has been a faculty member in the Public Relations Program at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) since 2015.  Currently, she teaches a variety of public relations and communication undergraduate and graduate courses. In addition, Dr. Ward serves as the faculty adviser of the EMU Public Relations Student Society of America Eleanor Wright Chapter. Prior to entering academia, Dr. Ward spent more than a decade in the nonprofit sector working to help nonprofit organizations advance their cause through strategic public relations. She is (co)author of the following books: Public Relations Principles: Current. Proven. Practical and A Practical Guide to Ethics in Public Relations.

  • Alexxus Watson Expand dropdown

    Alexxus Watson

    My name is Alexxus Watson, I am a junior at EMU and a double major in Political Science and Africology and African American Studies. 

  • Mark Whitters Expand dropdown

    Mark Whitters

    Mark Whitters is an instructor in the Dept of History & Philosophy and interested in education that connects with Gen Z. He also does neighborhood outreach and renewal work on Detroit's West side, where he has lived for 20+ years.

Student Perspective

The Faculty Development Center has been long interested in learning more about this disconnect from all angles - especially that of our students! In the fall semester of 2020, Kristin Common, a student worker at the FDC, conducted a campus-wide study to examine the needs for students at the beginning stages of COVID-19. More recently, Jessi Kwek and Hannah LaFleur, student workers here at the Faculty Development Center, have written a blog post which shines a light on EMU students feeling that they have missed opportunities and connections in recent years; the genesis for this blog post was a conversation between EMU students and Dr. Mays Imad, our keynote speaker at the 2022 CONNECT Teaching Conference.

We aim to bring students and faculty together and to rekindle these bonds through this partnership initiative. To begin, we have put our efforts towards learning more about what existing literature says about this disconnect in higher education and about the value of student-faculty partnerships overall. Please read our annotated bibliography to learn more about what we are learning (and continue to learn) through this deep dive into the literature. Based on this research, our students workers Jessi Kwek and Lauren Silvia have written an important essay, "The Importance of Student Voice," which aims to highlight the ways in which the students, faculty, and community as a whole can benefit from student-faculty partnerships.