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2015 July 28 - 11:25 pm

Professional Development Central to Tri-C’s Mission

Cuyahoga Community College Ties Student Success to Faculty Training Activities

Cuyahoga Community College Ties Student Success to Faculty Training Activities

Professional development is important to furthering the mission of student success in community colleges, and this is the case at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C). A large, comprehensive community college, Tri-C serves 52,000 students a year at four campuses and several other locations in and around Cleveland, Ohio.

Faculty development is the driver of many of Tri-C’s important student success initiatives that have become important tools for orienting, retaining and graduating students. Tri-C President Alex Johnson has been a champion of personal and professional development for faculty. He created the President’s Council, which brings together faculty and administrative leaders to deliberate and make decisions to promote the college’s commitment to student success. Johnson has also actively sought to place faculty in leadership roles within the administrative ranks. Faculty have been entrusted with roles as significant as campus president as a result of the president’s staunch support and advocacy of faculty interested in pursuing leadership opportunities.

I have been among those to be given an opportunity to serve students in a different capacity than in the classroom, moving from an assistant professor of English to the district director of teaching, learning and academic professional development, which enables me to work directly with both full-time and part-time faculty. One of my first actions after transitioning from a faculty to an administrative role was to change the name of the department. After some deliberation during a summer retreat with staff, the title Leadership, Enrichment and Development (LEAD) was selected to emphasize a multi-faceted approach to ensuring that incoming and current faculty, both full- and part-time, are cognizant of the college’s focus on student success, the contributions faculty can make to its achievement and the leadership roles that might ensue for faculty.

Tri-C is an institution that greatly values personal, professional, and leadership development. My focus has been to enhance and update our already strong array of programs, add leadership development and introduce other innovative ways to enrich the faculty experience. These promising and productive activities include:

Onboarding of Full-Time Faculty. Newly employed tenure-track faculty members attend a year-long program of onboarding to teaching and learning. Faculty members participate in sessions including the history of community colleges; an overview of student demographics and perspectives; student success and completion; and other important topics. While faculty are compensated for participating, the true value of the program is learning and understanding the Tri-C mission, vision, values and commitment to student success. A cohort model creates a sense of community among faculty from various disciplines and campuses. Each onboarding group forms a special bond as members begin their career journeys toward tenure together. The onboarding program serves as an investment in the success of faculty and the College.

Celebrating and Developing Adjunct Faculty. Many of the full-time instructors at Tri-C began their careers as adjuncts, and the sacrifices that these stalwart academicians make on behalf of students and the institution is recognized and enriched. As part of a voluntary program to provide an incentive to professional development for all faculty, adjuncts are compensated for participating in five development opportunities — these offerings vary by semester. The rate will double to $500 next year for participating in five professional development sessions, and more opportunities to earn the stipend are being developed College-wide.

Additionally, adjuncts who have never taught in college are provided a mentor for one semester. Finally, up to four adjunct faculty members are recognized for their teaching excellence per year with an Excellence in Teaching Award announced at fall convocation. Our goal in faculty development has been to provide the same types of opportunities to both full-time and adjunct faculty, and we will continue to pursue more opportunities for adjuncts.

Promoting Collaboration and Development through Faculty Assemblies. Among the annual gatherings of the faculty are the Faculty Colloquium and the Spring Convocation. The Faculty Colloquium is a full-day event at which faculty can present, share ideas and best practices and learn from their colleagues, both full- and part-time. The 2015 edition emphasized creating a community of scholars. It featured 44 faculty presentations and roughly 70 presenters discussing student success, learning outcomes, technology, assessment and many other engaging topics related to teaching and learning excellence. The colloquium is an opportunity to experience what faculty are trying out in the classroom and to discover new techniques and ideas that can be implemented. The Spring Convocation is designed to showcase various initiatives implemented across the college, to get updated on various accomplishments for the year and to prepare for the continuation or introduction of other activities.

Faculty development should be fluid and evolve over time. It should also include a variety of perspectives. At Tri-C, we are fortunate to have the benefit of faculty development coordinators at each campus to help develop programs and initiatives that meet the diverse needs of faculty. The coordinators develop and schedule programming that faculty want and need. As the times change, so must the development opportunities.

Not all faculty development initiatives have to break the budget, either. Often, faculty just want the opportunity to be heard, or to get together to discuss pedagogy, plagiarism or any number of other topics, all of which have great value to faculty and the institution.

In summary, a strong personal and professional development program mirrors the message that community colleges send to our students — the importance of lifelong learning. Faculty members are extremely busy, and development opportunities must have high value to be effective and worthwhile. Adding leadership components to professional development reinforces the fact that faculty are leaders in their institutions.

While community colleges face both challenges and opportunities in the coming years regarding funding, access and student success, it is imperative that community colleges do not lose sight of the development of people. An investment in personal and professional development creates and empowers future leaders to champion the mission of student success and serve the community.

Andrew Pegman is the district director, Leadership, Enrichment and Development at Cuyahoga Community College.

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