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New Veterinary Medicine Teaching Academy director helps reinvigorate program

Closeup of Dr. Susan Matthew
Dr. Susan Matthew

The Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Teaching Academy was one of the main reasons Dr. Susan Matthew decided to leave her home behind in Australia and move across the Pacific Ocean.

“I was attracted by the fact that there was such a focus on high-quality teaching and learning,” Matthew said. “The college’s Teaching Academy is a really rare resource, and it seemed like a fantastic opportunity to continue my lifelong learning as an educator, as well as a chance to connect with other like-minded, passionate educators to make a positive impact on student learning.”

Now, nearly seven years since she accepted her faculty position at WSU, Matthew is leading the program. In the short time since she took over as the Teaching Academy’s director in November, she has helped to reinvigorate the program that had been relatively quiet since the early stages of the COVID‑19 pandemic.

During the spring semester, the Teaching Academy engaged educators nearly every week to improve teaching and promote career development. Seven brown bag sessions explored and disseminated best practices for helping educators teach students effectively and efficiently in both classroom and clinical environments. In addition, the academy hosted a discussion series focused on small teaching initiatives that can be implemented in the classroom in no more than 5 to 15 minutes. The series has been reprised this summer, with the final two sessions scheduled for July 7 and July 14.

Matthew has also made it a priority to expand the academy’s peer observation program, which provides educators with feedback on their teaching from colleagues. In the past six months, a new co‑lead has been named — Dr. Jeff Abbott, who will join Dr. Phil Mixter in shepherding the program — and three training workshops and two panel discussions have taken place. 

“This is incredibly valuable for educator development because it provides an educator with feedback on their teaching from the eyes of their colleagues,” Matthew said. “Their colleagues can give supportive and discerning feedback based on their experience and their knowledge that the educators can then weave into their practice and then get more feedback on it from their peers — it is an ongoing cycle of development.”

“This is incredibly valuable for educator development because it provides an educator with feedback on their teaching from the eyes of their colleagues.”

Dr. Susan Matthew
Director of the College of Veterinary Medicine Teaching Academy

Another priority for Matthew is educational research and scholarship. The Teaching Academy offers grants and encourages the college’s faculty to practice academic scholarship to explore how teaching methods improve learning and teaching in the college. 

“We want to help students be actively engaged in their learning because they learn and retain more when they are actively engaged rather than just passively receiving information,” she said.

Matthew also said the Teaching Academy helps to keep faculty excited about their work.

“Passion and enthusiasm make a huge difference, and being part of the Teaching Academy helps you maintain your enthusiasm for teaching when there are so  many other demands on your time and attention,” she said.

Matthew earned her veterinary degree, a Doctor of Philosophy in veterinary science and a graduate certificate in educational studies from the University of Sydney. She was appointed as the Berger Keatts Distinguished Professor in January, and she also serves as one of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Associate Chairs of Veterinary Medical Education with oversight of the veterinary degree program. She is a founding member of the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges Council on Outcomes-based Veterinary Education and an active member of the Teaching Academy of the Consortium of West Region Colleges of Veterinary Medicine. 

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