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UST Freshman Symposium Planning Committee Wins Blackboard Catalyst Award

The coveted 2021 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Student Success goes to the 5 members of UST’s Freshman Symposium Planning Committee. They are Dr. Jo Anne Meier-Marquis, Dr. Catherine Barber, Dr. Ulyses Balderas, Dr. Nicole Walters and Shundeez Faridifar, recognized for their “outstanding contributions to education that have been accomplished with the innovative use of Blackboard solutions.”

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Award categories were Leading Change, Community Engagement, Teaching & Learning, Inclusive Education, Optimizing Student Experience, Training & Professional Development and Student Success.

UST Stands Shoulder-to-Shoulder With Impressive Competitors

Other select institutions winning alongside UST for excellence in the Student Success category were Johns Hopkins, Eastern Kentucky and Canada’s Nipissing University.

The Award-Winning Core Course

Freshman Symposium is a core course to help first-year students navigate that critical first semester in their college journey and teach them the value of a Catholic liberal arts education. The class fosters student skills and engagement and increases retention rates.

Jo Anne Meier-Marquis, director for Freshman Symposium, said, “Having to go virtual during the Covid-19 pandemic made it even more crucial for us to connect and engage the students — not only with the course content but with one another, their mentor teams and the broader UST community.”

The committee’s preparation timeline for going online was painfully brief, but they more than met the challenge.

“In two short months,” Meier Marquis said, “we turned an in-person class into an engaging, online experience and fully trained the mentors who lead the class to be proficient online instructors. In the end, we came out of this student-centered experience with a more engaging course overall—whether we offer the class online or in person again.”

Award Speaks to the Faculty and Staff at UST

Blackboard’s Chief Client Officer and President of Global Markets Lee Blakemore said, “This award … highlights the innovation taking place at [UST]” and “celebrates the team’s work and dedication to delivering outstanding educational experiences and best practices that are a reference for institutions across the globe.”

The complete list of winners and categories is here.

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