Your Name and Title:
Barbara c.g. Green, Academic Assistant Chair Composition Department
School or Organization Name:
Leslie Johnson, Academic Assistant Chair Math Department
Michelle Lis, Academic Assistant Chair Math Department
Kate Scarpena, Academic Assistant Chair Humanities & Social Sciences Departments
Maureen Foley, Academic Assistant Chair Science Department
Area of the World from Which You Will Present:
Language in Which You Will Present:
Higher Education Leadership
Short Session Description (one line):
Building online departmental community through leadership.
Full Session Description (as long as you would like):
In the online higher education environment, it is easy for faculty or staff to feel alone and not part of his or her department. Because of that, a key element to any positive, energized, and successful department is having a strong community. Building community in an online, academic environment is not an easy task due to the lack of face-to-face time as well as many adjunct faculty members working for various institutions to make ends meet making their time limited. Faculty engagement is critical to student success and the success of the university. Creating community among faculty members, both full time and adjunct, is key to developing a core group of faculty who are engaged and committed to student success. Bringing faculty members together, and letting them know they do matter, is an important part of creating a department, and ultimately a university, that is committed to improving the overall student experience (Umbach & Wawrzynski, 2005).
At Kaplan University, the leadership from the departments that make up the School of General Education (composition, math, humanities, social science, and science) make it a priority to work to build community within each department and the school overall. The following are some community building examples from each department.
The Composition Department works to build departmental community in a variety of ways. First, collaboration on conferences and academic papers is a key element that leadership works to foster amongst full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, and writing center personnel. In addition, the department runs a monthly Educators’ Exchange series in which faculty are invited to present on various topics and themes. Also, faculty and staff are featured and commemorated (birthdays and personal and professional accomplishments) in the quarterly department newsletter. Faculty and staff are also invited to write features and other short pieces for the newsletter.
The Mathematics Department hosts quarterly online Spark sessions. In these sessions, faculty give a quick presentation on something they would like to share with their colleagues (best practices, research, new technologies that can be used in the classroom, etc.). The purpose of these sessions is to spark interest, many faculty want to learn more afterwards and often incorporate what they've learned in their classes! Faculty are encouraged to present, and many are recruited based classroom observations made by the department chair or assistant chair. Spark sessions are a great way to increase faculty involvement and build more of a community within the department.
In the Department of Humanities, we encourage faculty to become more involved by engaging them in collaborative learning projects. Currently, we are incorporating faculty input on a key project; the in depth revision of one of our largest enrolling courses. Our goal as department leadership is twofold, increase faculty participation and foster a sense of value by demonstrating our commitment to faculty by implementing their suggestions. Our goal is to create faculty who are invested in and passionate about the courses they are teaching in order to increase their commitment to student success and retention.
The Science Department works to build community among the online faculty members in a variety of ways. Our biweekly “Faculty Spotlight” highlights one faculty member, who answers a variety of fun questions and shares a photo so colleagues can get to know each other on a personal level. We also highlight individual accomplishments, personal or work-related, and family news in this spotlight area. Birthdays and Kaplan work anniversaries are noted with special e-cards. We also have “Chat With the Chair” sessions, which are informal drop-in sessions, where faculty can drop in on a conference call or Adobe session for casual talk with the department chair. Finally, we are currently developing Science Journal clubs, which will be small groups of like-minded scientists who get together for discussions focused on their areas of interest.
In addition to all the departmental community building listed, the following are examples of school-wide community building, as they are open to all members of all departments:
Umbach, P. D., & Wawrzynski, M. R. (2005). Faculty Do Matter: The Role Of College Faculty In Student Learning And Engagement. Research in Higher Education, 46(2), 153-184.