Beth Richards
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Beth Richards

Beth Richards

Assistant Professor of English
Director of First- and Second-Year Writing

Beth Richards, assistant professor in the Department of English and Modern Languages, knows that effective writing is the foundation of any degree program, not just those in the liberal arts. So it is not surprising that as the University’s director of First- and Second-Year Writing, she has worked extensively with the faculty in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA), for example, to improve writing in their programs. This work led to Richards traveling halfway around the world to Afghanistan to train university faculty in effective teaching and active learning techniques.

Richards partnered with CETA Professor M. Saleh Keshawarz on a two-year grant through the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Keshawarz’s contacts within Afghanistan and Richards’ experience developing English and writing curricula, meant that the University of Hartford was well-suited to make
a difference in that country’s educational community. While Afghanistan has state universities such as Herat University in the western part of the country, limited space and funding mean not every
»qualified student can attend a state college. This dilemma has led to the establishment of private universities that need to ensure the quality of their programs. Richards helped members of the Private Universities Union of Northern Afghanistan (PUUNA) develop their new curricula.

Beth Richards and CETA Professor M. Saleh Keshawarz (center) with the English workshop participants.

“We spent the first year just gathering data and making assessments,” Richards recalls. “We needed to know what we were starting with.” It became clear that an English language curriculum was only one area of need. These new universities needed assistance with administrative structures and performing financial functions as well.

Another hurdle was travel. Many countries restrict visas for Afghan nationals, so the workshops had to be held in other countries. In March 2016, Richards conducted training for English-language teachers in Delhi, India. Topics included active learning, student-centered teaching, and classroom management. Member institutions of PUUNA hope to eventually be recognized by Afghanistan’s Ministry of Higher Education, so their programs need to be prepared to align with national, as well as local standards. In October, a second workshop was held in Dubai for senior administrators (chancellors and vice-chancellors). In addition to addressing fundamental structures of the institutions, the project hoped to foster partnerships within the region so that the community of institutions could share best practices.