A “Future Proof” Campus Starts With Quality Teaching

Higher education is in a moment of immense change. Our partners know that in order to emerge stronger and ready for the future, faculty must be equipped with the evidence-based teaching practices proven to increase student engagement, achievement, and persistence to graduation.

Recently, ACUE hosted a discussion on how higher education institutions can become “future proof” by focusing on quality teaching. The panel featured higher education leaders from campuses across the country: Amy Chasteen, PhD, The University of Southern Mississippi; Farrah J. Ward, PhD, Elizabeth City State University; Madeline Pumariega, Miami Dade College; and John Gunkel, PhD, Rutgers University-Newark. It was moderated by Penny MacCormack, EdD, Chief Academic Officer, ACUE.

By embracing a holistic approach, each of our panelists are ensuring faculty are prepared to create inclusive learning environments, help students persist, and learn more. As a result, faculty are able to respond to the shifting demands on institutions and the needs of students, with proven impact: DFW rates are down, course completion is up, and grades have improved.

Key Takeaways from the Discussion:

Faculty are central to student success efforts — and they must be ready for anything.

“This past year, what’s been clear is that our faculty have been the unsung heroes,” President Pumariega said. “What a crucial role our faculty play in our institutions.”

At Miami Dade College (MDC), she explained, the faculty became the “conduit” of student support, both academically and socially. According to Pumariega, their long-standing partnership with ACUE — now in its sixth year and on track to credential 900 faculty — is making a big difference.

“If you’re all learning in the same area, you start thinking and innovating,” she explained.

Dr. Chasteen spoke about how the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) launched an “all-out effort” focused on student success back in 2015. The university invested in ACUE in 2016 and then went on to create the ACUE Faculty Development Institute, through which faculty can undertake the rigorous process of becoming ACUE Fellows. “It’s building a sense of faculty community.”

Meanwhile, Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) is engaged in a variety of student success initiatives. Many of our instructors were still focused on lecturing,” Dr. Ward said. “We realized we had to get inside the classroom.”

ECSU began working with ACUE in 2019 and “we really saw great success.”

Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N), too, revitalized and invested heavily in its student success efforts, with faculty at the center. “Initially, we focused more on the institution than the faculty,” Dr. Gunkel said. “Then, we started incorporating teaching more heavily.” 

He discussed the launch of the P3 Collaboratory — pedagogy, public scholarship, and professional development — in which the institution worked closely with faculty to equip them with pedagogical practices, partnering with ACUE. The Collaboratory has overseen nine ACUE cohorts and as well as seven microcredential cohorts.

Celebrate and lift up faculty.

The panelists underscored the importance of recognizing faculty for their efforts.

Dr. Chasteen noted that, as students performed better, faculty would be rewarded. Now, with one-sixth of faculty ACUE Certified at USM, “We’re having great success.”

“We know how important they are to our institution,” Pumariega said. She added that faculty who demonstrate a commitment to teaching, such as becoming ACUE Certified, are recognized through various means. For example, they can apply for grants to improve student success and enhance pedagogy.

Dr. Ward, too, spoke of rewarding faculty through measures like targeting mini-grants to ACUE Certified faculty. They are also recognized at ECSU’s Faculty Institute and receive pins and certificates. This past year, the institution had to adapt and celebrated faculty achievements virtually.

Listening to faculty is key to overcoming challenges.

“We found a lot of success in allowing faculty to be the experts for other faculty,” Dr. Ward said. She encouraged institutions to listen to faculty and what they need. At ECSU, she explained, faculty have “a lot of input” in workshops and programming. 

In fact, the pandemic “helped our institution accelerate” and “brought faculty together,” she said.

Dr. Gunkel explained that there’s a balance between engaging faculty and providing support, commenting that measures like the P3 Collaboratory have provided faculty with a place to problem-solve and come together.

“What you want to do is strategically engage people who won’t automatically jump at the chance,” Dr. Chasteen said. “Make them understand they’ll be rewarded.”

It’s important, she said, to find ways to make the importance of pedagogy resonate. 

“I’m hopeful that faculty learned things about themselves [during the pandemic] and developed a growth mindset,” she added. “There are silver linings to the pandemic.”

Pumariega encouraged institutions to ask faculty what they need, rather than making assumptions. “Provide them with the opportunity and space. Elevate and amplify the work within the institution.” This, the panelists agreed, is critical to “future-proofing” higher education and tackling the challenges to come.

We invite you to watch the recording of the conversation, which is also closed-captioned. 

The Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) is here to be your partner in ensuring every student can succeed through exceptional teaching, no matter what the future brings. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how to bring ACUE programs to your campus, please connect with us.

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