Meet the TC Team: Interview with Postdoctoral Visitor Dr. Andrew Molas
By Katharina Pabst
In our second instalment of the "Meet the TC Team" series, we talked to Postdoctoral Visitor Dr. Andrew Molas about the research project he is pursuing at the Teaching Commons and how he first became interested in educational development.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Dr. Andrew Molas and I am a post-doctoral visitor in educational development at the York University Teaching Commons. I hold an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Philosophy from the University of Toronto, a Master’s degree in Philosophy from York University, and a PhD in Philosophy from York University. In my dissertation, Minimizing Stigma, Improving Care: An Investigation into Empathy and Narrative for Understanding the Lived Experience of Schizophrenia (2022), I argued that contemporary understandings of the concept of empathy are problematic in therapeutic contexts and that a phenomenological account of empathy, as developed by Edith Stein, offers a more refined method of understanding the lived experiences of others which can be used to improve practices of care. The majority of my scholarly research has focused on mental health, and I am grateful to be able to continue that kind of research in my post-doctoral studies in educational development.
Tell us about one project you are working on at the moment.
My current research focuses on supporting faculty mental health in the context of post-secondary education. The motivation for this topic emerged after I attended an educational developer conference and many of the participants discussed their experiences of emotional burnout and were comparing their experience of supporting institutions of higher learning during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to the experiences of healthcare workers. Given my research in mental health, I did a preliminary review of the literature and was shocked at what I found. Despite hundreds of articles, books, and policy reports on the topic of student mental health in university (and rightfully so as it is an important topic), the topic of faculty mental health was shockingly lacking. With this in mind, I prepared my post-doctoral application with this topic as my proposal and I am excited to be apart of the Teaching Commons team as I undertake this important research.
How did you get into educational development?
When I began my doctoral studies in 2014, I attended several professional development workshops and courses that the Teaching Commons offered to support graduate students and TAs in their own educational development. In fact, I believe I hold the unofficial record for the most professional development workshops attended at the Teaching Commons with over 150 workshops and webinars over the course of my time as a graduate student. That is the thing about educational development: once you start, it’s hard to stop doing it! After recognizing the benefits that these workshops and courses had on my own teaching in the classroom, I wanted to support other graduate students in their own professional development by becoming a Teaching Commons Tutor (TCT). During that time, I got an opportunity to work one-on-one with graduate students in a mentorship role as they developed resources for their respective faculties, designed teaching workshops for other graduate students, and created their individual teaching dossiers. It was a rewarding experience to offer pedagogical support to other graduate students from across the university.
How do you understand educational development?
I tend to understand “educational development” as a critical, reflective process that never truly ends. I also think it has both an internal and external component; you have to want to improve your abilities to teach students well in the classroom and there also should be supports and resources available to help you be the best teacher you can be. And when educational development is understood as a process that develops over time, I think our role as educational developers is to provide teachers at York – whether they be graduate student TAs, contract faculty, or full-time professors – with the support they need to do the best job they can in the classroom.
What aspect(s) of educational development are you most passionate about?
As mentioned previously, one thing I enjoyed about my time as a TCT was the ability to encourage others to reflect on their own teaching practices and to support them as they undertook approaches to teaching which, ultimately, is to the benefit of students and student learning. That being said, one aspect of this work that I enjoy is connecting and learning from faculty across the university and brainstorming ideas and strategies that they can use in the classroom.
What accomplishment(s) at the Teaching Commons are you most proud of?
The accomplishment at the Teaching Commons I am most proud of is that the Teaching Commons team was the recipient of the 2021 Harriet Lewis Team Award for Service Excellence. One of my favourite parts of being involved with the Teaching Commons is that I get the opportunity and privilege to work side-by-side with some of the brightest minds and hardest working group of people at the university as they work tirelessly to put the needs of others ahead of their own needs. On a daily basis, I have seen the level of care, attention, and commitment that the Teaching Commons team has demonstrated to support the teaching and learning needs of the York University community and it is such a pleasure to be a part of that experience. More importantly, I am delighted that this close-knit group of educational developers are recognized for the work they do and I see this award as being even more motivation to continue working harder.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I enjoy playing video games, collecting and restoring cast iron cookware, and cooking.
About Dr. Molas
Dr. Andrew Molas is a Post-Doctoral Visitor at the York University Teaching Commons. His SSHRC-funded doctoral research focused on the role that empathy and narrative plays in our engagement with persons living with mental health challenges. More broadly, he is interested in raising awareness about the importance of mental health in hopes of fostering communities where stigma surrounding mental illness is minimized. Dr. Molas is the author of 11 scholarly articles, the recipient of over 30 scholarships and awards, and has presented his research at over 60 conferences across the globe. Dr. Molas previously served as the President of the Canadian Section of the International Association for Philosophy of Law & Social Philosophy (CS-IVR) and the President of York's Philosophy Graduate Student Association (PGSA). He has also served as an executive member of the Canadian Philosophical Association’s Equity Committee, the York Collegium for Practical Ethics (YCPE), and the Canadian Society for the Study of Practical Ethics (CSSPE).