iCons Announces Teaching Fellows for Spring 2023

Image of iCons Teaching Fellows

The UMass iCons Program is excited to announce the selection of Paul WolffShira Epstein, and Nicholas Tooker as the 2022-2023 iCons Teaching Fellows. The award provides funding for faculty to join the iCons teaching team while receiving professional development funds. Selected faculty learn to teach student-driven courses with inclusive values while bringing their own expertise and unique experiences to the iCons Program.

Dr. Paul Wolff will be a member of the teaching team for first-year iCons students. The class, ICONS 189H Global Challenges, Scientific Solutions, focuses on introducing students to the iCons principles and methods by giving them the opportunity to work on real-world problems. Dr. Wolff is a lecturer in the College of Natural Sciences in the Environmental Conservation department. His work focuses on sustainable development, education, and environmental conservation. His background in architecture, the environment, and student experiential learning will be a unique perspective to the iCons Program.

Shira Epstein and Dr. Nicholas Tooker are joining the fellowship to teach ICONS 389H Team-Oriented Lab Discovery in Renewable Energy, the iCons 3 lab for the Renewable Energy track. The class is a team-oriented, student-driven discovery laboratory in which students address real-world energy-related issues. The class will be built on “student-driven projects that draw on the students' own interests and passions” while exercising “skills including scientific thinking, literature review, project proposal, experimental design, data analysis, and scientific writing and presentation,” Shira Epstein said.

Together, Epstein and Tooker will provide crucial insight stemming from their roots in the College of Engineering while gaining valuable professional development from the iCons Program.

Nathaniel Whitaker, the Interim Dean of the College of Natural Sciences said, “The College of Natural Sciences encourages a spirit of collaboration and is a natural partner of the College of Engineering. This partnership comes alive through the iCons program and the iCons Faculty Fellowship.”

An image of all three iCons Teaching FellowsShira Epstein serves as Director of Campus Makerspaces where she led the creation of the UMass Amherst Makserspace, a campus-wide entity open to UMass and members of the Five Colleges, as an interdisciplinary hub for makers on campus, supervises staff, and aids students with their projects. Shira said, “My makerspace experience in mentoring and reviewing interdisciplinary projects allows me to follow along with and provide insights to student projects that draw from a very broad range of topics.” She has worked with iCons students in the past and is excited to work with them more actively.

Dr. Nicholas Tooker is a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The focus of his research lies in environmental and water resources engineering and this expertise will be a valuable asset to the Renewable Energy lab course.

Not only will the new Fellows add unique and diverse perspectives to the iCons Program, but they will also benefit from professional development and training in student-driven instructional methods. The iCons Program is centered around inclusive, interdisciplinary, student-driven learning. The Fellowship aims to bring talented instructors to the program while offering fellows the opportunity to develop their own professional skill sets.