Featured Faculty Stories

Intentional faculty. Authentic experiences. Engaged teaching.

Faculty at the College are exceptional scholars who bring a shared commitment to liberal arts teaching and a desire to work closely with undergraduate students. In our Faculty Stories video series, we invite you to meet some of the remarkable people who make up our faculty and to learn about the diverse paths that have led them to share their teaching and learning experiences designed to create intentional, authentic, and engaged learning experience.

Fotini Kondyli is Assistant Professor of Byzantine Art and Archaeology. Her research centers on Byzantine and Frankish material culture, the construction of Byzantine spaces, communal identity, household archaeology and Byzantine non-elites. As an active field archaeologist, Fotini has worked in numerous archaeological sites in Greece, Albania, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Germany. She is currently doing fieldwork at Athens and Thebes as part of her new research project on the negotiation of identities in Byzantine cities. Bringing together legacy data from old excavations and newly excavated sites, she works on reconstructing parts of Athens and Thebes' spatial layout and architecture in the Middle and Late Byzantine/Frankish periods. She particularly focuses on the study of neighborhoods, as key loci of social interaction and identity formation.

At UVA, Fotini teaches courses on Late Antique and Byzantine art and material culture, as well as on cross-cultural artistic and economic interaction in the Medieval Mediterranean.

In this conversation, Fotini shares her experience designing her course using different technologies in an active learning teaching group with A&S Learning Design & Technology at the Course Design Institute, where she shares how she designed her course where students learned how to create their own research.


The Forums are designed and are led by some of the University’s most committed scholar-teachers, each with years of expertise researching their Forum topic. In this video faculty and students reflect upon their teaching and learning experiences.

Ran Zhao is a Lecturer and Director of the Chinese Language Program in the Department of East Asian Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Virginia. She received her Ph.D. in Second Language Acquisition from Carnegie Mellon University in 2000. In the 12 years of her teaching at UVA, Ran Zhao has focused on creating an engaging and meaningful learning experience for her students. Ran Zhao received the Hybrid Challenge Award in 2013 to flip her courses. She also received the Learning Technology Incubator grants from Learning Design & Technology in 2014-2016. With these supports, Ran Zhao has developed various resources and tools to engage students in and out of the classroom. Here she explains how "Speak Good Chinese" can help her students improve their Mandarin pronunciation. 

Kelsey Johnson is an Associate Professor of Astronomy at the University of Virginia, adjunct faculty at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and the founder and director of the Dark Skies Bright Kids outreach program. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado in 2001, where she held a NASA Graduate Research Fellowship and was awarded the Dorothy Martin Woman Doctoral Student Award, awarded annually to top female graduate student in any discipline. After earning her doctorate, Johnson held a National Science Foundation Fellowship, followed by a Hubble Fellowship. She has received the National Science Foundation CAREER award, a Packard Foundation Fellowship, a Distinguished young investigator FEST award, and an Excellence in Diversity award. She is a member of the International ALMA Science Advisory Committee, for which she is both a former chair and current vice-chair. Her research is focused on star formation throughout the universe, and in particular the impact of different physical environments. Here, she shares her experiences teaching in an active learning space classroom for engaged, student-centered learning.

Archived Faculty Stories

Matthew Street, Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese

Faculty at the College are encouraged to transform their teaching and learning by engaging their students in active learning spaces. We are pleased to share faculty stories that illustrate the impact of their teaching. 

In this story, Matthew Street from Spanish from Italian & Portuguese discusses how he immerses his students in Spanish learning using authentic instruction and engaged teaching practices.  His attributes his success to using active learning spaces that aim to improve the student learning experience and deepen their experience in language acquisition.

Andreas Gahlmann, Department of Chemistry

Faculty at the College are encouraged to transform their teaching and learning by engaging their students in active learning spaces. We are pleased to share faculty stories that illustrate the impact of their teaching. 

In this story discusses how he creates a practical and tangible experience for students to re-design a telescope. He discusses how he uses active learning spaces create a more relevant student learning experience.

Department of Statistics Faculty

Statistics is like detective work: What does the data say? And how much confidence can you have in the inferences drawn from them? So, just like solving mysteries, statistics can be a lot of fun! Learning statistics, however, can be challenging – unless you have the technological tools that allow you to do the detective work. Our statistics courses have benefitted tremendously from the instructional strategies and technology support provided by the Learning Design & Technology team, engaging our students as active learners. The Statistics instructors featured here illustrate that good teachers can be even better ones, and that their efforts are rewarded through positively measured outcomes of student success. We look forward to our continued collaborations with Learning Design & Technology and to seeing more students actively engaged in our classes. – Karen Kafadar, Statistics Department Chair