Tony Filpovitch -- Portfolio

Rooms with a View

What Do I Teach?

I am sort of a utility outfielder. I teach the courses no one else in the department wants to teach. Or, what amounts to the same thing, the courses that only I could want to teach. Specifically,

Before I was elected Department Chair, I also commonly taught

In Summer Session, I have generally taught 2-week Selected Topics courses, including:

I have also commonly taught an Honors course (I have taught the year-long seminars on the Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Periods; and the Topics Seminar, based on the Worlds of Thought speakers).

In addition, I since 1990 I have taught the annual quantitative methods study section for the Minnesota Chapter of the American Institute of Certified Planners for the Planning Certification Exam.

In summary, I seem to focus on skills (research & applied analysis--and, really, Planning Process) and community development (CD & Nonprofits--and, really, Introduction to the City). As an occasional reward, I get to teach "liberal arts" (Honors courses) which refreshes my soul.

How Much Do I Teach?

I do not mind multiple preparations. In fact, I wish I could teach more courses each year--there is so much I'd like to study (Aha! I teach so I can learn!). The only duplicate preparation I have is Introduction to the City, but I find that course so challenging and each class so different that I come at it new every term.

If URSI & Public Administration agree to public cooperation, I may be teaching multiple sections of Analytical Methods and Planning Process. I do not particularly welcome that prospect, since it means I would have to cut back on the other courses I get to teach. I will probably try to train others to teach those courses, so i can go back to being a butterfly. I know my interests range very broadly for the type of people we have at MSU (faculty as well as students), and in many ways I might be more "in context" at a liberal arts institution. I intend to return to this issue in the next section, on my "Philosophy of Education."

To Whom Do I Teach?

Class Size

The Intro class generally has around 70 students. This is a challenge to teach well, but I think I'm getting good at it. I have developed an extensive kit bag of simulations, projects, and activities which turn a "mass gas" class into a participatory event. I suppose I could teach even larger sections, provided the room had flexible seating (I wouldn't be happy in an auditorium format--I've tried it).

Most of the rest of my courses run around 15-20 students. Because of the funding formula, I feel uncomfortable teaching classes of 10 or fewer (although some of my colleagues in the Honors program consider that a perq of the program). As the URSI program has grown, I have increasingly been teaching classes (especially graduate classes) with 20-30 students.

For upper division and graduate work, a class of about 15 seems a good compromise between the dynamics of groups (the larger the group, the easier it is for individuals to "free ride") and the demands of funding (an average of 22 students per class, according to the funding formula). but the tight economic times have made even that a luxury.

Class Composition

I teach the full range--from First-Year General Education through upper division majors to advanced graduate students. Except for Intro and the Honors classes, I mostly teach to majors in my program; we draw few from other programs.

URSI students tend to be more "applied" and profession-oriented than students in the traditional disciplines (and this at an institution that already draws a more "appplied" student than, say, a Research I or a Liberal Arts institution). The appeal of urban studies (for me as well as for the students) is that it is first about experience; theory is in service to practice. On the other hand, some of my students are so "applied" in their focus that they wouldn't recognize a theory if it bit them on the ankle! They do not often contemplate; their first instinct is to solve the problem.

URSI students also tend to come with at least some "non-traditional" experience. We rarely get the 18-year-old (or the 21-year-old) who knows the world from books. Our students tend to have been there and done that; and next time they'd like to do it a bit better than they did last time. They tend to be kinesthetic or visual learners. Our classes tend to be diverse in gender and ethnicity (as much as MSU can attract and retain), and even in politics. I have to keep my liberal presuppositions under control--not because I might be challenged, but because I might come on too strong and suppress the challenge that I want to evoke.

How Much Effort Do I Put into This?

I always run out of week before I run out of work. But then again, I have my duties as Program Chair, I have an active research program, and I am heavily involved in service (to the University and the Community).

I don't know how much time I put into my teaching. Much of that time is scholarship--I read broadly and voraciously, usually getting in a few hours every evening at a minimum. I have written two textbooks and probably several hundred pages of simulations and class exercises. I have attended a number of teaching seminars and written several papers on teaching. And I generally reconstruct the course syllabus every time I teach a class. But I don't track how much that adds up to.

The same goes for advising. I have an open door policy (that's a joke--my office has only three walls, so there is no door!). I post 10 office hours a week, and I try to make them (but other events often interfere--a conference presentation here, and guest lecture off-campus there, etc.). But I am generally around much more than that (I arrive about 9:30, eat lunch at my desk, and leave between 4 and 6) and whenever I am around I am available for students. Ialso donot distinguish between advisees, students in my course, and others. If a student wants to talk, I'll talk; we'll figure out later who needs to sign off on what (and it may not be me). A big part of teaching is mentoring--modelling the life of the mind. And that happens at odd hours and in odd places, but always in a personal relationship. "Outside" the classroom is an essential extension ofwhat goes on in the classroom, and given the choice I'd surrender the classroom before the office (I love Independent Studies!).