Published: June 13, 2014

Vanessa SchatzVanessa Schatz strongly believes that college coursework should directly prepare students for the work place.  Schatz, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Communication at CU Boulder, recognizes how important it is for students to build transferable skills in college so that they will become competitive job applicants after graduation.  Last year, Schatz's students nominated her for an ASSETT Outstanding Teaching with Technology Award for her teaching of WRTG 3020, an upper division writing seminar with the theme of travel writing.  Students wrote in their nominations of Schatz about how she encouraged them to try new technologies in their final presentations of their writing portfolios: "As a final assignment, we were instructed to give a presentation of all the pieces we had written throughout the semester.  [Schatz] encouraged us to create a slideshow, video, or prezi presentation to show the rest of the class," one student wrote.  Schatz says she encourages her students to be creative in this endeavor, even uploading videos to Vimeo or YouTube.  Schatz points out, "It's good to be able to hyperlink," to video presentations created in college when applying for jobs.  She says that building connections between the classroom and the real world is most rewarding for her:

It's something I genuinely enjoy ... most about teaching.  You can inspire students.  It's important to remind them how these materials relate to life outside of the classroom and how it can help them professionally.  It makes my experience as a teacher more interesting, too.  It's reciprocal in nature.  It shows if you enjoy what you're doing.

Schatz is serious about students succeeding in their professional lives, and keeps in touch with former students:

A lot of [my former students] have pursued creative careers ... [and] professional careers as writers.  Some [of them] have jobs in journalism.  I think that's exactly what I was trying to do in the classroom--what can you do with your skills ... and your passions?

In students' nomination of Schatz's teaching for the ASSETT Outstanding Teaching with Technology Award, they also wrote that she would often begin class with projecting an image onto the board as a source of inspiration about a writing topic.  Schatz explains that she believes in offering students, "Different sources of stimulation to increase students' awareness about what we're doing in class."  Recently, Schatz has also collaborated with course director Jamie Skerski to teach a public speaking course that involves students creating 60 second public service announcements that would benefit area nonprofits and small businesses.  "... Technology is becoming a powerful vessel, a powerful tool in capturing the human experience," Schatz says.  "That is something I am passionate about ... That's why I think technology is useful--because it can facilitate our differences and commonalities.  Learning about people's lives and their stories can be inspiring."

When asked about students' attitudes about learning to use new technologies for class, Schatz said, "I found that most students were at least curious."  Her students were able to access professional video editing software at ATLAS and consult OIT staff for help for their final projects.  Schatz thoroughly understands the importance of explaining to students:

By exposing students to use or explore technologies, the biggest success you can have ... [is realizing that] this is something that's bigger than the classroom.  If you can create stimulating emotional multimedia video or presentation with visuals and storytelling, ... it can be used in your professional life.  [It's important to explain to students] why ... you [are proposing] these technologies and how ... they positively impact their learning styles.

Students' nomination of Schatz for the ASSETT Teaching with Technology Award has made her experience at CU come full circle in a way.  Schatz's 2008 master's research under the direction of Michele Jackson in the CU Department of Communication found opportunities for technology to improve teaching at CU.  That year, Jackson founded ASSETT, a new part of the College of Arts and Science to improve the use of technology in teaching.  Schatz went on to complete her masters, and she continues to teach at CU.  When she is not teaching, Schatz consults with Rosetta Stone in marketing their English Language business software.