One of the things I find most unique and attractive about working for RTC as opposed to other colleges in our area is that it’s so friendly and personable. The buildings I teach in are home to classes and programs from multiple departments, the president knows everyone’s name, and people are willing to take a chance on new ideas. I’ve definitely taken advantage of the ability to have my voice heard at multiple levels and develop myself professionally. Here are some of the things I’ve been working on this year outside of my classroom.
Faculty Connections Lead –
- Faculty Connections is one of 3 projects funded by the “Engaging Adjunct Faculty” grant that I cowrote with Marta Burnet and Al Roth. This year, I worked with a small subteam to recruit adjunct faculty to facilitate small mentoring groups. The goal of these groups is to help faculty get to know college resources that could help their students, share ideas about teaching and learning, and problem solve together in a relaxed environment. After recruiting facilitators for the groups, I worked with Dr. Sally Fox to design a day-long training for the facilitators and a followup Canvas training where we made lesson plans that we can use in our group meetings. We’re planning to hold the first meetings by the beginning of February. Through this work, I’ve gained some unexpected skills such as how to write a contract for an outside training event and dealing with complicated purchasing requirements.
Council Service –
- The councils are the major shared governance bodies at RTC. At the end of Spring 2017, I completed my 3-year term on the College Council and switched places with my colleague Cheryl Stover to join the Learning Council. Currently one of the major projects of the Learning Council is the creation of a Faculty Senate. This work is being led by Eugene Chen, and we’ve been researching the roles of faculty senates at other colleges, writing founding documents, and planning for communication with the union and the faculty as a whole.
Hiring Committees –
- I served on 2 hiring committees this year – one for the cultural studies/social sciences faculty position and the other for the new director of institutional research. Hiring committees take a lot of time – for faculty positions with many applicants, it has sometimes required 30 hours of my time within the span of 2-3 weeks for a hiring committee! However, I definitely appreciate having a voice in the process and helping to ensure that RTC is home to great people who share our mission and values.
- This institute was held in Summer 2017 at the Evergreen State College, and I attended with 3 other faculty from RTC. It was absolutely the best professional development event I have attended that was not specifically focused on biology teaching. At the institute, we read scholarly work from bell hooks and H. Richard Milner on educational inequity. Then we met in small groups to design classroom research projects to address one of Milner’s equity mindsets. My small group became close and developed enough trust to dig deeply and challenge each other’s views. I gained insights about how my background affects my teaching and decided to begin reflecting regularly on the power dynamics in my classes, especially around who speaks and asks questions and how my behavior (or inaction) in the classroom can reinforce or challenge existing power structures.
- This is my absolute favorite conference, and I make a point to go every year. It’s local (this year it was in Tacoma), not expensive, and almost every session is directly relevant to my work. We are blessed in the Northwest to have an extensive network of college biology instructors who care about evidence-based teaching and have done research on specific methods to help students learn biology. In addition, the conference always brings in a few research biologists to inspire us with fascinating new discoveries. Some memorable sessions this year include:
- David Cook’s talk on simulating traumatic brain injury in mice to understand the underlying brain chemistry affecting soldiers exposed to repeated blasts
- Jenny Loertscher and Vicky Minderhout’s talk on threshold concepts in biochemistry and how they organized their department to reframe assessments to gauge students’ misconceptions about these concepts
- Heather Heinz’s workshop on how she engaged students in productive online discussions around ethical issues in biology
Lab Equipment Grant Application –
- I worked with Marta Burnet and Barcin Acar to write a grant application for some new micropipettes and a larger thermocycler for PCR. Unfortunately, I found out recently that we did not receive the grant. I plan to talk with Marta to see if there are other opportunities to fund this.
Guided Pathways Steering Committee –
- Since the completion of the strategic plan, the guided pathways steering committee has reconvened a couple of times. Unfortunately, I have been unable to attend some meetings due to conflicts with my class schedule. However, I provided input before we interviewed for the $1,000,000 College Spark grant that we ultimately received, and I sent in written comments prior to a recent planning meeting. I am excited for the possibilities opened up by the new grant funding, but somewhat concerned that the steering committee includes 3 of the 5 full time General Education faculty and no program faculty, when much of the resequencing and common first quarter redesign work is focused on programs.
Data Integrity Group –
- The Data Integrity Group has not met since Heather Knouss-Westfall left as our director of institutional research. However, future meetings are scheduled and I plan to continue my participation on this committee. The most recent meetings involved discussion about revising the college’s performance indicators, policies related to data, and how to ensure that faculty have training and access to relevant data but also that sensitive data was not disseminated freely. I imagine that future meetings will involve discussion of how data should be used to assess the strategic plan.