Welcome to The International Sun Conference on Teaching and Learning

2016 Theme: Teaching and Learning Experientially

This year’s theme of “Teaching and Learning Experientially” focuses on how instructors can get students fully engaged in their discipline by doing active, hands-on learning in an authentic, professional context.  Such engagement may or may not happen within a for-credit class and can take many forms such as clinical experiences, student teaching, cooperative education, fieldwork, study abroad/away, fellowships, internships, apprenticeships, entrepreneurship, practicums, undergraduate research, service learning, and volunteering.  Research suggests these rich experiences help students succeed by increasing self-knowledge, commitment, and professional preparation.

Opening Keynote

Scott WurdingerSCOTT
Professor of Experiential Education and Leadership Studies
Minnesota State University, Mankato

"The Power of Experiential Learning: From Discussion to Field Experience"
Considering implementing (new approaches to) experiential learning in your courses? Through whole-room and small-group discussions, we explore its underlying theoretical constructs as well as various applied approaches such as collaborative learning, problem based learning, project based learning, service learning, and place-based education.

Click HERE to see the keynote luncheon!


Building on the overview in the opening keynote address, we explore the concrete trajectories of a distinguished and diverse panel of regional practitioners, each from a different college and each using a different modality.  

Kathy Staudt José Ablanedo Laura Rodriguez Lourdes Echegoyen
UTEP Political Science,
Founder of the Center for Civic Engagement

UTEP Marketing and Management,
Coordinator of the College of Business Administration program in China
 UTEP School of Nursing, 
which has the Sim Lab

UTEP Chemistry,
ounding director of COURI

Special Workshops

1) Layering Experiential Approaches to Learning: Benefits and Disadvantages

Thursday, March 17 / 10:00am-12:00pm / University Suite 312, Union East

Facilitator: Scott Wurdinger, Professor of Experiential Education and Leadership Studies at Minnesota State University, Mankato


There are similarities and subtle differences between various approaches to experiential learning.  Some may be richer in theory whereas others may be richer in practice.  Is there one approach that can be infused into others that will not only balance theory and practice, but promote greater problem solving?  This workshop will explore that question.  Participants will be exposed to several different approaches to experiential learning and discuss the benefits and disadvantages of these approaches. 

2) SCALE UP! Designing and Incorporating a Student Centered, Active Learning Curriculum for Technology Enhanced Spaces

Friday, March 18 / 9:00-11:00am / SCALE-UP Room, Chemistry & Computer Science Building, Room G.0706A

Facilitators:        Christine D’Arcy, Biological Sciences, UTEP
                               Trevor Duarte, Department of Chemistry, UTEP
                               Supriyo Ray, Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives, UTEP

Moderator:        Lourdes E. Echegoyen, Department of Chemistry and Campus Office of Undergraduate Research Initiatives, UTEP 


The University of Texas at El Paso, through the BUILDing SCHOLARS grant, has built a state-of-the art Student Centered Active Learning Environment for Upside-down Programs (SCALE-UP) in the basement of the Chemistry and Computer Science Building. This type of space is known to enhance student learning in large enrollment courses through collaborative group work. Instead of lecturing for an entire period, the instructor acts as a facilitator who engages students in hands-on activities and Socratic style dialogue. In this workshop, instructors from diverse disciplines will demonstrate practical approaches to integrate active learning in classes with up to 75 students.  Strategies for incorporating technology and group work to promote critical thinking will be reviewed.  Practical considerations and unique challenges that have been encountered will also be discussed during the interactive demonstrations. UTEP professors/instructors who participate in the full 2-hour workshop will be able to schedule a time to receive one-on-one instruction on the use of the room technology and subsequently reserve the room to conduct their own course in upcoming semesters.

3) Integrative and Applied Learning with Technology

Friday, March 18 / 9:00-11:00am / University Suite 312

Facilitators: Steve Varela and colleagues from Creative Studios


John Dewey noted, "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself."  Students want questions and challenges that facilitate active learning, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity.  Students also want a reason for learning content -- beyond earning credits and credentials -- to gain a deeper, real-world understanding of the subject.  This workshop explores integrative and applied teaching and learning with technology, using project and problem-based assignments to create authentic, multi-disciplinary learning experiences with 21st-century skills.

4) Undergraduate Research Mentoring: Cultivating Effective Relationships Mentor Training Core, National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN)

Friday, March 18 /  2:30 – 5:00pm /  Templeton Suite 313

Facilitator: Harlan Jones, Assistant Professor of Molecular and Medical Genetics at University of North Texas Health Science Center


Participants across diverse academic career stages and biomedicine disciplines will engage in a 3-hour mentoring seminar focused on culturally responsive mentoring principles. This evidence-based workshop provides a framework for discussing strategies for cultivating effective mentee-mentor relationships. Facilitators will introduce proven curricular activities with the goal of accelerating the process of becoming an effective mentor. Participants will have the opportunity to experiment with various mentoring methods in a forum in which they may reflect upon their mentoring experiences in a peer setting.

 Dr. Jones has a PhD in Biomedical Sciences and postdoctoral training in Neuroimmunology. He is an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Medical Genetics at University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC). In 2009, he was appointed as Assistant Dean of Recruitment and Outreach for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and now serves as the Director for the Center of Diversity and International Programs. Dr. Jones conducts funded research, trains doctoral students, and is an Associate Director of the Professional Development Core of the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN) of the NIH.


What is the Sun Conference?

The Sun Conference is dedicated to building a community of teachers primarily in higher education whose commitment to instructional excellence transcends disciplinary, cultural, and national barriers. The focus of the conference is on the scholarship of teaching and learning, as well as practical, applied strategies, tools, and techniques based on well-founded teaching and learning principles.

The Sun Conference aims to enhance teaching and learning, especially in the region and among minority serving institutions to help students become successful professionals and responsible citizens.

The conference includes scholarly presentations, round table discussions,  interactive workshops, and informal gatherings during breakfast and lunch, providing ample opportunity to explore questions, exchange ideas, and learn novel approaches to effective teaching and learning challenges in classroom, community/experience-based, or hybrid or online courses.

CLICK HERE  to hear recent testimonials from Sun Conference attendees!

Who Should Attend?

All university, community college and school district faculty, instructional staff, teaching assistants, instructional developers, and administrators with an interest in higher education teaching and learning are invited to share innovative teaching practices, and explore transformative college and university teaching methods and strategies. A special invitation is extended to those who serve these roles at institutions of higher education in New Mexico, Arizona, and West Texas, as well as minority serving institutions that support a 21st century student demographic.