The Moon Room

A Community Forum on Guilford College Faculty Life

From Rob: Idea for moving forward

February 8th, 2018

Rob Whitnell sent the following to me and said I could post it here if I thought it would be helpful. I do, so I am.  The rest of this is Rob’s words.

Somewhere deep into the multi-year process that led to the 1998 curriculum, Jeff Jeske started leading the task force focused on curriculum revision. In that role, one of the first things he did was make appointments with every single faculty member for a one-on-one meeting. As I remember it, he simply wanted to hear what each of us had to say, what we were excited and concerned about, what we would hope happen. And Jeff just listened. It clearly didn’t eliminate the tensions of that process, as anyone who went through it can tell you. But I’d like to think that it put all of us on a more equal footing, that maybe someone really was hearing what we had to say.

In that spirit, and somewhat related to my comments at Wednesday’s forum, maybe it’s time to do something similar. Each and every faculty member should have the chance to say what they want to say, face-to-face to someone whose task is to listen and record and ask for clarification, not to argue or discuss or proselytize. These conversations shouldn’t happen at the departmental level, and not through surveys or making posts. Individuals need to be able to speak freely in a way that they can trust their words won’t be used against them.

I don’t know how to make the logistics of that work. But here are some questions (and I’m sure there are others). Answers to questions like these, from each faculty member, comfortable that they can speak freely, could help us make the case for what can and cannot work as we’re pushed toward a new curriculum in a 12/3 calendar.

  • What information do you need to make these changes happen?
  • What resources would you need? Time, money, course releases (with replacement faculty), staff support, other kinds of tangible or intangible support?
  • What must remain available for your current students so that they can finish under the catalog they came in under?
  • What important elements of your program (any program you participate in) would you no longer be available to do in the new curriculum under 12/3?
  • What new great things will you be able to do if you get the support you need?
  • What elements of Guilford College can we least afford to lose in going forward with a new curriculum under 12/3?

And these questions (or similar ones) should not be asked only of faculty, but of Suzanne, Melissa, Kelly, Todd, Krishauna, Craig, Alfred, Chuck, James, Daniel, and the director of every other program that interacts directly with students.

If we want to understand resources/budget are really needed, or learn what important elements of the Guilford College we would have to lose in order to do 12/3, or find links among faculty that we didn’t know were present, or have the ability to make a strong case against 12/3 if that’s what is indicated, then information from all of us is absolutely necessary.

And the sooner the better.

From Vance: Request for comments from those in support of calendar change

February 3rd, 2018

Vance Ricks sent me an e-mail looking for ways to provide a discussion space for those who support and are excited about the 12-3 change. We agreed that a Moon Room post might be a good place to help facilitate that discussion. He wrote up the following and asked me to post it for him. Please feel free to comment here.

“Dear colleagues,

There ARE some faculty (and staff) who want and like the adoption of a 12-3 calendar. I’m writing to ask and encourage them to speak up — not just to each other, but also in public venues such as this one. To me, the public conversations here and in many faculty gatherings have felt dominated by expressions of skepticism about (or at best lukewarm support for) that adoption. That isn’t a criticism! But it means that I think I’m getting a distorted picture of the landscape of campus opinions and of what it’ll take to discern or build some kind of consensus.

Just to be clear, I should explain that I’m asking specifically about support for the adoption of the calendar itself — not about support for the path that led us to this point, if we can (for the sake of discussion) pull those things apart. Why do you like it? What excites you about it? And by that, I’m asking: is it support specifically for the 12-3 calendar, or for a distinct alternative to our current one (such as the 8-8 that Thom proposed, or the Colorado College model, or…)? Is it support for the 12-3 calendar as a package? Is it support for what could occur during the “3” part of it, separable from liking the “12” part of it? Is it support for it on principle (e.g., even if it did nothing to attract or retain more students than we have now, we should still do it because of its other advantages over the status quo)?

From where I sit, the plan to adopt a 12-3 calendar seems to have the weight of presidential, administrative, and trustee support behind it. So (again from where I sit), I really don’t think that anyone ought to feel that they’re “unsafe” to express their own support for that plan. And I’m asking a genuine question, not trying to set anyone up for a fight.


The Next Equity Challenge

August 31st, 2016

Beth Rushing sent out a link to this article, and I thought I’d link to it here. Some interesting information on how faculty need to move towards consciousness of effective teaching methods and mentorship for diverse students and away from the “color blindness” model that many think is good enough.

The Next Equity Challenge

by Estela Mara Bensimon, Inside Higher Ed, August 26, 2016

Two examples of XD applications

April 25th, 2016

[From Mark Dixon]

Example #1: User Design in nonprofit (suggested by alumni Wendy Lam who works in UD for UNICEF):

Within experience design, there is a set of methodologies and research methods that focus on the needs of people. It’s commonly called human-centered design or ethnographic research. That research could be highly technical or ethnographic depending on the product/service and objectives at hand.  Creating services that respect people’s needs and context in particular ensure a higher rate of adoption and success.

An example: U-report, an iteration of a mobile SMS technology that allows young people in low resource environments to interact with each other and governmental agencies. Some use cases include:

  • Asking sensitive questions about AIDS and sexuality
  • Determining if a clinic is open (so the family will not walk distance to another village only to find out otherwise)
  • Giving their governments feedback on unemployment, job applications requirements, etc., and therefore effect improvements

The same technology underlying U-report has also been used for

  • birth registrations (so new-borns and mothers could claim rights and benefits)
  • track school supplies and medical inventories
  • voter registrations

Example #2: User Design in Libraries (suggested by Guilford’s new UX Librarian Megan Hinson):

From College & Undergraduate Libraries Volume 22, Issue 3-4, 2015:

Walking in Your Users’ Shoes: An Introduction to User Experience Research as a Tool for Developing User-Centered Libraries

Abstract: In the past decade, User Experience research and design has gained significant traction in the business world. It also has much to offer to academic libraries. In this framework, the center of attention is always the users and their experience with an organization at all physical and digital touchpoints. User Experience research can be used to discover how patrons interact with the library as well as any potential trouble spots, where patrons become frustrated or even choose not to use the library at all. This research can then be used to inform user-centered design. User Experience research is an iterative process, and the work of discovering how patrons experience the library is never done.

What I learned about the new consulting project

February 5th, 2016

People invited to meet with Art & Science for first campus visit – not all could make it

I and other faculty members of SPOC (formerly SLRP) met with the consulting group from the Art and Science group (website here: ) yesterday. I learned about this initiative along with the rest of you in the last week, so it’s come on quickly. Because of that, I thought I’d take some time to report on the process as I’ve observed it so far.

It looks like we (SPOC faculty members) are going to serve as part of their on-campus steering committee. The one-hour meeting stretched to two and a half with people coming and going as schedules demanded, so we covered a lot of ground.

My understanding of the service they provide is that it comes in several steps:

  1. collect information from the community (focusing significantly on faculty) about strengths the college has and initiatives or focus areas it could adopt in the future
  2. interview students in two main groups – admitted students who didn’t decide on Guilford, and students who expressed an interest but did not apply
  3. from the interviews, build a statistical model of how students would view our potential focus areas or initiatives
  4. for each of our focus areas or initiatives, give us a sense of whether (and how much) those would drive students from these pools of students (who are interested but did not come) to decide to come to Guilford

The methodology is statistically complex, and seemed like a reasonable approach, although they didn’t get into complex details, nor is this kind of surveying my area of expertise. The potential students they talk with are paid to participate in an interview of about half an hour. This interview is not just an interest survey. Instead, it presents hypothetical institutions with different sets of parameters to choose between, and students express their choices for these hypothetical colleges.  Guilford is not named as the sponsor of the research during the interview.

Their plan is to do the community research work very soon, over the next couple of weeks, and then come up with possible initiatives or focus areas to include in the survey, which they’ll share with us (SPOC faculty) and with the rest of the community for commentary.  Then, they’ll do the research part over the rest of spring term in two phases and come up with results (based on what they call a simulated decision model) hopefully by Fall 2016.

One concern I had with this work, one that I expressed to the consultants, is that I don’t think the faculty would be happy changing who we were or what we do based on statistical modeling, however accurate or complex.  One of the consultants then pointed out that often this kind of work takes one of two approaches. I’m paraphrasing, but this mostly what he said: One approach is to just be who we are, and hope that is attractive enough to students. This often leads to losing money. The other extreme is to try to figure out what students want and become that, which leads to losing your soul.

I think we’ve followed both of those strategies half-heartedly, and neither has gotten us where we need to be, and we may have managed to lose both money and maybe parts of our soul at various points along the line. One thing the consultants stressed was that they would not test ideas for new initiatives or emphases that we were not already prepared and willing to do, that didn’t come from who we are. So I would expect that the kinds of areas they’ll model will be areas we already emphasize to differing degrees, or areas we’ve already discussed emphasizing in the future. Examples might be experiential learning, social justice, an international focus and study abroad, problem solving, interdisciplinary learning, practical liberal arts, community engagement, student research and creative opportunities, social activism, athletics engagement, and others. The idea will be to figure out which of those things we kind of already do and kind of already emphasize would be best to focus on in the future, with the goal of enticing students who are interested in Guilford but haven’t been coming here to choose us.

I asked if our cost of attendance would be included as a factor in the modeling, because that’s been an area of particular concern to me recently looking at our budgets and enrollments. The consultants said that it was one of the areas they often include in this work, and we could include it if we didn’t choose too many other topics in the survey. Jane indicated in our monthly meeting today that she would like to have that topic included in the survey too.

After meeting with us, some of the consultants toured campus, and they met with a number of faculty. I came out of our discussion optimistic about what we might learn from the process. I’ve listened to many, many faculty and administrators describe new ideas and then say, “that’s what students want,” or “that will help us in recruiting,” without much basis other than optimism or anecdote to support those assertions. I’ve made those statements myself. This project should provide an independent and hopefully more accurate picture of which of the directions we are willing to go will bring us more quickly to being the thriving institution we all want Guilford to be.

Of course, I know that we’ve had a lot of consultants on campus in recent years. One colleague today said, “How can we keep hiring consultants when we can’t even put staples in my copier?” I think we all want to be a college that changes lives rather than a college that hires consultants, but they’re not necessarily unrelated. We’ve committed to this project, so it’s happening, and so far, there has been a strong push to get faculty into the discussions, which I think is very positive. Please take advantage of these opportunities. Having faculty play an active role will help ensure that we get the most out of this project than we can, and also that the directions it suggests we might most profitably explore are ones that come naturally from our values, interests, and community.


The Moon Room

A Community Forum on Guilford College Faculty Life