Meet Martha Burtis

by Robin DeRosa, CoLab Director

The Open Learning & Teaching Collaborative at Plymouth State University is truly thrilled to announce that Martha Burtis will be joining our team as Learning & Teaching Developer. While all of us in the CoLab are overjoyed, I want to spend a moment talking more personally about what it means to me to be welcoming Martha to Plymouth State.

martha burtis photo
Martha Burtis

Since I started focusing more on the scholarship of teaching and learning; emerging models for education in a networked and connected world; and the challenges that higher education is facing in an increasingly austere and stratified landscape, I’ve looked for role models: people who seemed to be innovating and changing systems and structures while keeping students and learning at the center of their visions. When I learned of Martha’s work as one of the key developers of the Domain of One’s Own initiative and one of the early designers of the inspiring ds106 Digital Storytelling class, and when I heard her speak about the role of student agency in learning, the value of ecosystems built for sharing knowledge, and the importance of curiosity, critique, and questioning to the learning process, she gradually became one of the beacons I looked to when I wanted to find my bearings in the thicket of distraction that I felt like I was constantly being sold as I sought a hopeful path forward for higher education, especially public higher education.

That was a mouthful of a sentence, I realize. But forgive me, I can’t do this well without spilling over the edges a bit.

In her work in higher ed, Martha spills over the edges, colors outside the lines. She partners with her colleagues and students to imagine what is possible for learning if we respect our own needs and respect our own questions. It’s the kind of “innovation” and “disruption” that asks institutions to bend to meet the need of learning, not the other way around.

Martha Burtis comes to us from many years directing two heralded centers at the University of Mary Washington (a public university in Virginia that is not unlike PSU): most recently, the Digital Knowledge Center, and before that, the Division of Teaching & Learning Technologies. Martha has taught for diverse departments, from Computer Science to American Studies, developed peer-to-peer models for student academic and technology support, and developed and taught a First-Year Seminar in digital identity. She holds a master’s degree in instructional technology and media from Teacher’s College, Columbia University, and previously served as the director of web development at the University of Montana.

Despite her many leadership roles in higher education and her popularity as a keynoter on issues related to empowering students and faculty to create learning ecosystems that match their values and passions, Martha is probably most known for being a wonderful human being. She is kind, open, supportive, and curious. I don’t think I can fully express the personal gratitude I feel for the life path that brought me to a place where I can work in an institution that feels like home to me with a person who inspires in me this kind of excitement to engage. Plymouth State has always had students at the core of what makes us special. We’ve always cared not just about teaching, but about how we teach, and how we build a community around learning. I know Martha will be such an amazing part of that, and I hope you will join me in welcoming her to our work.

Martha will begin on June 10th with remote work, and will be on campus starting on August 1st. I, for one, just can’t wait for her– and for all of us together–to get started.

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