Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador 2016 – SUNY Poly: Kathryn R. Stam
Kathryn R. Stam, Ph.D., is an associate professor of anthropology at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute. Dr. Stam’s specialties are cross-cultural communication, Thai studies, refugee studies, and the cultural aspects of information technology. As an advisor for the regional student group “American and Refugee Students for Closer Connection,” she helps to organize activities for newly arrived refugees and local students to share their cultures and to ease the transition to American life for new arrivals. Her most recent project is “Refugees Starting Over in Utica, NY,” a SUNY Poly-based collaborative project that brings students and community members together through events, exhibits, film, social media, field trips, research, and volunteer work (www. startingoverutica.com). Dr. Stam is interested in supporting refugees in the arts and storytelling. She is the booking agent for the Refugee Artists of Utica (refugeeartistsutica.com).
Dr. Stam began teaching fully online in 2010 when a Fulbright scholarship brought her to Thailand and she continued to teach her online classes from there. She loved it so much that she has been teaching almost all of her classes online ever since. About half of her classes are in the online master’s program in Information Design and Technology, and the others are undergraduate anthropology classes. She used to think that teaching face-to-face in the classroom was more personal and creative, but now she finds teaching online allows her the time and flexibility to create meaningful experiences for students. She knows that her students appreciate online classes for their flexibility, the depth of the online interaction, and the opportunity to individualize their assignments. The timeline of the online teaching schedule suits her well. She prepares her courses ahead of time so once they open, she can focus on teaching them and giving thoughtful and detailed feedback rather than rushing to prepare the next module. She has taken all of the training courses offered through the SUNY Center for Professional Development and continues to learn how to improve the design and teaching of her courses any way she can. She encourages other faculty members to consider the benefits of online teaching, especially for the students. Teaching online does not mean that she doesn’t know her students. It just means that she knows them in a different way and gives them access to her classes regardless of their locations and schedules.