Joliet, Ill. –University of St. Francis (USF) educators Joyce Kraus, DSW, and Karen Blaha, Ed.D., served as presenters at the annual Lilly Conference in San Diego, Cal., in early January. Kraus and Blaha’s presentation, “Creating a Classroom Culture: Engaging with the Diverse Learning Environment,” offered their perspectives on practices that support a diverse, engaging, and equitable environment that, in turn, supports the learning and social needs of higher education students.

Kraus and Blaha’s intended participant outcomes for their presentation included reflecting on how a cultural frame of reference might impact communication and interaction with students, identifying cultural and familial factors that contribute to one’s own intersectionality to enhance one’s understanding of students’ intersectionality, and exploring instructional practices that engage multiple perspectives and intersectionalities and support an equitable learning environment.

For Kraus, the director of field education and assistant professor for USF’s social work department, the opportunity to present with Blaha offered an opportunity to incorporate an interdisciplinary approach to higher education.

“Working with Karen using an interdisciplinary approach toward the common goal of introducing diversity and equity in the classroom has been very enriching. The opportunity to present to a multi-disciplinary audience at the Lilly Conference, San Diego left me believing our frameworks and approaches are indeed universally applicable to any classroom when faculty are supported and given effective tools to facilitate brave spaces in their classrooms,” Kraus said.

Blaha, a program coordinator and assistant professor in the USF College of Education, echoed her co-presenter’s remarks and added that opportunities such as the Lilly Conference offer important learning opportunities for higher education instructors.

“The opportunity to present with Joyce at the Lilly Conference to an audience of higher education instructors, of various contents, showed me that educators are interested in learning how to create an inclusive environment for their classrooms. The conference showed me that our frameworks can be applied to any classroom to create an optimal learning environment,” Blaha said.

Kraus and Blaha’s were also invited to write up their presentation into a manuscript format for publication consideration in The Scholarly Teacher.

About the Lilly Conference

For 40 years, Lilly Conferences have provided opportunities for the presentation of the scholarship of teaching and learning. Conference participants are made up of faculty and administrators at various stages in their academic careers that come from across the world representing nearly every discipline found in higher education. For more information, visit lillyconferences.com.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 53,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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