Dynamic Duo: professors offer a double-dose of education

December 15, 2023
Cat Cutillo
Social Media and Community Content Specialist

Longtime Saint Michael’s professors Karen Popovich and John Devlin combined the forces of their different academic disciplines  to offer students a double-dose of education.

Popovich is a Professor of Business Administration and Accounting while Devlin is a Professor Fine Arts/Theatre, Resident Designer and Technical Director. The duo reimagined a required Business core course called BU 214 Management. Popovich helped students learn how to construct pragmatic business proposals while Devlin helped them develop the presentation skills to deliver those ideas on stage and convince others their ideas were viable.

“It was just awesome to see students apply all these management concepts and then develop their presentation skills” by working to cultivate their theater skills with Devlin, Popovich said.

She added, “John and I are getting to fall back on both of our fields, and we’re bringing our unique experiences into this classroom together. It’s just been an absolute blast.”

Members from “The Burlington Icebreakers” throwing out candy bars during their final presentation. (Photo by Cat Cutillo)

While team-teaching is not a new concept at Saint Michael’s College, this is the first time Saint Michael’s has offered this specific faculty combination with Devlin and Popovich. The duo will be team teaching the course again in the spring.

This fall, the class was held twice a week in McCarthy Arts Center, which allowed students to regularly use the stage to perfect their presentation skills. At the beginning of the semester, presentations were often made in a big circle on stage, or on the orchestra pit in front of the stage. Devlin said the first big public presentation was given in Cheray Science Hall on a Monday night, which put presenters in front of stadium-style seating in a smaller venue. The second big presentation was delivered from the stage in McCarthy Arts Center.

“There is a qualitative and quantifiable difference between presenting in front of a class in a traditional classroom setting and presenting from the stage of a theatre,” Devlin said. “These students got both this semester, and I think that flexibility will echo down their careers.”

The classes were held in McCarthy Arts Center. (Photo by Cat Cutillo)

For one project, students worked in groups and read the play scripts, Ruined by Lynn Nottage and Mother Courage and her Children by Bertolt Brecht. Each group broke the script down and pitched their own proposal describing how they would design the play through lighting, sound, stage, costumes, and characters, if they were the design company.

For another exercise, they challenged the class to a head-to-head competition where there were four subjects and two groups each, challenged to innovate on themes provided by Popovich and Devlin. The lesson that week was on team building. At the beginning of the week, students were split into teams alphabetically and started working. Two-thirds of the way through the class period, they selected one member from each team and transferred them to another team to work on a different prompt and manage that new team. All eight teams presented their finished pitches at the end of the week.

During final presentations, one group presented The Burlington Icebreakers. (Photo by Cat Cutillo)

The class’s final projects went even deeper and related to management concepts from their textbook. Students had to come up with a proposal for a new business. They worked in groups to present their ideas on stage for 19 to 23 minutes, which was followed by questions from the audience. A total of nine presentations extended over three days in McCarthy Arts Center.

The December 4th final presentations opened with five students who introduced their business proposal for a women’s ice hockey team in Burlington that they named “The Burlington Icebreakers.” The group was comprised of Jace Zapata ’24, Gaby Tribelli ’25, Audrey Scribner ’26, Emersynn McGillis ’26 and Ashley Boucher ’25, who are all athletes and all played ice hockey at Saint Michael’s except for Boucher who played field hockey.

The group began the presentation by playing the National Anthem. Then, they unveiled the blue and green uniform they had designed, and they outlined who they would hire to build their dream team. The group also discussed the pay division between men’s and women’s ice hockey.

Audience members catching candy during final presentations. (Photo by Cat Cutillo)

Throughout their presentation, the students asked the audience questions and threw out candy bars and prizes into the crowd to those who participated to keep everyone engaged. At one point, they invited volunteers to the stage to demonstrate a trust fall.

“There was a lot of growth in their confidence and ability to present publicly,” Devlin said, referring to the entire class. “They were on their feet in front of the class of 39 multiple times through the semester.”

Devlin said there was growth as educators too.

“I think both Karen and I learned a lot about ourselves and how to approach the class in this first iteration,” Devlin said. “This collaboration will make us both better teachers, and I would welcome other such collaborations across the curriculum.”

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