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UC San Diego Launches Teaching & Learning Commons

Photo: Gabriele Wienhausen

Gabriele Wienhausen. Photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

UC San Diego’s Gabriele Wienhausen has always enjoyed the challenge of a start-up. Since becoming a faculty member in 1987, she has provided leadership and innovation for a variety of new programs and initiatives, including serving as founding provost of Sixth College. Now, Wienhausen, associate dean for education, has accepted her latest entrepreneurial appointment: inaugural faculty director responsible for the launch of UC San Diego’s Teaching & Learning Commons. The initiative is expected to serve as a model for all research universities.

“It’s a pattern—I do seem to love the startups,” said Wienhausen, senior teaching professor of the cell and developmental biology section in the Division of Biological Sciences. “It’s entrepreneurial and that is actually how UC San Diego is, and that is why I like this place.”

Both a concept and soon a physical presence, the Teaching & Learning Commons (TLC) will continue the work of the Education Initiative, which was established to adapt the best global thinking about educational strategies. The TLC will include programs and services for undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and faculty housed in two units, a Center for Engaged Teaching and the Center for Engaged Learning. Working together, these centers will integrate existing activities, launch new programs and energize teaching and learning on campus.

“The TLC is being established with the aim to significantly enhance teaching and learning at UC San Diego, and will further our campus’s strategic goal to become a more student-centered university,” said Suresh Subramani, executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. “I am delighted that Professor Wienhausen has accepted this important and challenging leadership position as the TLC’s inaugural faculty director.”

Wienhausen noted that one of the reasons the campus is investing in the Teaching & Learning Commons is to better prepare students for the workplace. “The challenges for a university education are very different than they used to be 50 years ago,” she said. “We have to give students the skills to be successful when they graduate and enter a world we know is changing rapidly. Whether their next step is medical school, a job or other avenues, we need to graduate students who are critical thinkers, work well in a team, understand diversity and can communicate. Our most lasting and important impact is on the people we are shaping and growing here.”

Wienhausen said the top three efforts for the Teaching & Learning Commons will be changing the inside of the classroom, preparing the faculty and preparing the students. The academic and instructional staff will all be involved to ensure success for the program. The campus will conduct research on the efficacy of the TLC’s efforts, and communicate and disseminate the results.

“The Teaching & Learning Commons is a structure, a mindset, a network of people,” she added. “It is the visualization of the Chancellor’s and this campus’s commitment to excellence in teaching and learning. So, I’m really excited about this next step in my career.”

Wienhausen received her Ph.D. from Westfälische Wilhelms Universität in 1979 and joined the Division of Biological Sciences in 1987. As associate dean for education in the Division of Biological Sciences, she has provided leadership for the strategic and operational aspects of the Division's educational mission since 2007. Her broad portfolio as associate dean included increasing the effectiveness of the faculty’s teaching, promoting the needs of a diverse faculty and student body, improving the quality of the educational experience for the Division's undergraduate and graduate students, and facilitating the implementation of educational activities with other schools and other departments on campus, as well as with community and K-12 schools.

She brings to the faculty directorship of the Teaching & Learning Commons a track record of providing vision, coordinating diverse constituencies and working tirelessly in leadership roles that profoundly impact students. Wienhausen has served as founding Provost of UC San Diego’s Sixth College, founding faculty member and co-director of the UC San Diego/San Diego State University joint doctoral program in math and science education, principal investigator for the NSF-funded PRIME international summer research program, principal investigator for the Howard Hughes Science Enrichment Program, founding co-director of the COSMOS summer math and science initiative, and co-founder of the Global TIES multidisciplinary internship program.