Meet our Featured Mindset in Motion Speakers – The Powerful Learning Group

At Orbis, we’re grateful to be surrounded by a higher learning community that inspires us to do more and innovate faster. Here are this week’s feature speakers (and inspiring ‘thinkers’) on our Mindset in Motion podcast, The Powerful Learning Group.


Dr. Seán McCarthy, Associate Professor in the School of Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication, James Madison University

Dr. Seán McCarthy is an associate professor in the  School of Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication  at James Madison University (JMU)Seán’s primary research and teaching interests are situated at the intersection of community engagement and digital literacies. He is also experienced in project-focused, interdisciplinary teaching and research, largely through his role as lead instructor and course designer at JMU X-Labs, an undergraduate-focused innovation program. Seán is currently a JMU Entrepreneurship Faculty Fellow sponsored by JMU’s College of Business, and for the past six years, he has taught a faculty seminar in digital humanities pedagogy for the College of Arts and Letters at JMU. 


Dr. Ellie Louson, Learning Experience Designer, Michigan State University, Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology 

Ellie is a Learning Experience Designer at the Hub, leading the Spartan Studios project where she works with faculty members to design interdisciplinary, experiential courses. She also provides research support to other learning design projects. She is a harmonizing leader who brings energy and interdisciplinary experience to her teams. 

Ellie completed a Ph.D. in Science & Technology Studies at York University, researching wildlife films’ representation of animal behavior. This work cemented for her the importance of engaged communication, storytelling, and the value of a big toolbox of methods. Before that, she earned a Master’s in the History and Philosophy of Biology at the University of Toronto, and an undergrad degree in both Philosophy and Biochemistry at Bishop’s University in Quebec. Nearly a decade as a camp counselor taught her the importance of community life at work. 

In her spare time, Ellie plays in a rock band, attempts to grow vegetables, and doesn’t understand her Instant Pot. She teaches at Lyman Briggs College, MSU. 


Dr. Nick Swayne is the Executive Director of 4-Virginia and the founder of JMU X-Labs.   

The 4-Virginia collaboration of eight Virginia public institutions works to leverage their combined strengths to improve higher education’s efficiency and economic impact across the Commonwealth.  He created JMU X-Labs to enable co-curricular course sharing and develop the campus’s innovation ecosystem.  JMU X-Labs has been recognized by the Governor for innovation in higher education and regularly holds classes that range in topics from unmanned systems to homelessness. Nick serves as faculty advisor for the Stanford University Innovation Fellows and is a founding member of the Stanford Faculty University Innovation Fellows. He serves as the Executive Director of Virginia-DC robotics, co-chairs the Veteran Scholar’s Task Force, and is the Harrisonburg Regional Veterans Collaborative founder. Nick’s Ph.D. is in Postsecondary Strategic Leadership, focusing on transdisciplinary education and innovation. He will begin serving his fourth term on the Harrisonburg City School Board in January 2021.   


Dr. Patrice Ludwig, Assistant Professor of Biology, James Madison University 

Patrice Ludwig is an Assistant Professor of Biology and Core Faculty Member of JMU X-Labs. Her passions in life change regularly but always center on learning, relationships, systems-thinking, and creativity. Understanding networks is a current area of interest in both her teaching, research, and conservation ecology work. Her favorite projects occur at the boundaries of disciples and led to her learning new things. In her spare time, she is a runner, an aspiring small-farmer, and loves taking adventures with her spouse and three daughters in the recreational vehicle (RV). 


Dr. Erica Lewis, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, James Madison University 

A registered nurse by discipline, with advanced training in research, Dr. Erica Lewis currently works in higher education where she can most often be found coaching nursing doctoral students. Dr. Lewis also partners with undergraduate students as they learn informatics and problem-solving. She finds joy working in the JMU X-Labs where she, colleagues, and students tackle wicked problems. Students are full partners who bring useful skills and the discipline-specific training needed to solve problems.


Thank you to Dr. Seán McCarthy, Dr. Ellie Louson, Dr. Nick Swayne, Dr. Patrice Ludwig, and Dr. Erica Lewis for joining us, for your insights, and all of the work that you’re doing for your students. We appreciate all of your efforts and time.