A global pandemic hasn't stopped Seton Hall from recognizing and honoring faculty for their exceptional research and quality in teaching. In collaboration with the Teaching, Learning and Technology Center, the Provost has named Diplomacy Associate Professor Dr. Fredline M'Cormack-Hale the University's 2019 Online Teacher of the Year.
M'Cormack-Hale joined the School of Diplomacy in 2008, where she teaches courses on international economics, African affairs, and post-conflict state reconstruction. She also leads the School's efforts in maximizing the student experience in online learning as the Director of Online Programs. Outside of teaching, M'Cormack-Hale conducts research in areas such as gender, development, international aid, and reconstruction.
Her role as the Director of Online Programs is key in ensuring that students taking online classes, either as a complement to their in-person instruction, or exclusively through the Online Executive M.S. program, have an enriching and user-friendly experience.
"I used to worry, when I first started teaching online," reflects M'Cormack-Hale, "that I would miss the interaction with students. But I've found that teaching online can be just as rewarding as traditional classroom based teaching," She continues,
"At the same time, it is a different medium and requires a different approach in order to create learning outcomes and experiences that, while different, can be qualitatively as good as what can be had in the classroom. With the online classes, I actually feel like I interact more with my students, particularly one-on-one, which has really given me the chance to get to know them beyond the classroom setting."
M'Cormack-Hale's classes have been particularly popular, which doesn't surprise her former students. "The fact that her online classes are among the first to get filled up is further testimony of her prowess in the format," notes one recent alum. Outside of class, students universally agree that M'Cormack-Hale is approachable and accessible, at any time of the day.
"It can be too easy," says M'Cormack-Hale, "to just be nameless and faceless, particularly because we don't get to meet in person. To help counteract this, I try to be as accessible as I can be to my students." She elaborates,
"Even though we do not meet in class, I sometimes feel that I have more contact with students rather than less, because they can reach out to me at any time and I talk with many of them regularly. I try to make sure that students know that they can speak with me about anything at all; it can be course related, but we can also discuss professional goals, questions on continuing their education, internships, jobs or student life in general."
The impact of M'Cormack-Hale's work has extended well beyond graduation, leading former students to describe her as "a dynamic and innovative practitioner whose courses contributed positively to a knowledge of diplomacy and international relations as well as the overall experience at Seton Hall University." Another recent alum explains that, "Her thoughtful content and commentary made for interesting courses and readings that I continue to reference in my professional career in the nonprofit sector."
Both undergraduate and graduate students alike confirm that M'Cormack-Hale exceeds her goal of making the online learning experience personal and engaging, with continuous support available for both coursework and activities outside of class. An alumnus of the Executive M.S. program, exemplified this by sharing that because of M'Cormack-Hale's mentoring, he will not only be presenting a paper he completed for her class at the "Central Africa's Renaissance 1960-2020" international conference, but his paper will also be published. He summarizes by stating, "Dr. M'Cormack-Hale's teaching pedagogy and philosophy capture the spirit of excellence Seton Hall University seeks to promote."
But there's no higher compliment than this: "When I learned that Professor M'Cormack-Hale had been nominated as the Online Teacher of the Year," says a former student, "my heart filled with happiness. I cannot think of anyone else more deserving of this award besides her."
M'Cormack-Hale expressed deep gratitude and humility in learning that she had been named the award recipient, and extended her thanks to current and former online students. "I am really touched, flattered and humbled by the recognition," she reflects. "I am so proud of our students and the work they put in." She continues,
"Many of them are juggling families, careers, and life in general. Some are overseas in different time zones, while others are in active combat zones. Yet, each week, they will take time to work on assignments, to interact with and learn from each other and to reach out to me. Each cohort is different, shaped by the different personalities, experiences and skills that each group brings together. This award pushes me to work harder to create the kind of environment for them that is deserving of all this praise and recognition."
M'Cormack-Hale also highlighted the support she has received from colleagues at the School of Diplomacy and the Teaching, Learning and Technology Center (TLTC).
"Those of us who teach online generally have a whole semester to prep our online classes. But a few weeks ago, at the drop of a hat, everyone moved classes online, and from what the students have shared, my colleagues are doing an outstanding job. I have been speaking with them and learning tips from what they are doing that I would like to incorporate into my own classes as well. We are uncovering new best practices and are all growing from this experience. And we couldn't be more thankful to have a very supportive team within TLTC who go above and beyond to help faculty do a good job."
In addition to M'Cormack-Hale's University-level recognition, at the School level, Associate Professor Martin Edwards was named Researcher of the Year, Assistant Professor Zinaida Miller won Diplomacy Teacher of the Year, and Adjunct Professor, Amy Higer was named Adjunct Faculty Teacher of the Year.
Learn more about M'Cormack-Hale and her colleagues at the School of Diplomacy by visiting our faculty webpage.