Associate Dean Will Brooke-DeBock interviewed SNHU leaders recently about leadership. University President Dr. Paul LeBlanc, College of Online and Continuing Education Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Amelia Manning, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Gregory Fowler and Academic Resources and Communication Vice President Amy Stevens talked about looking for leaders, organizational culture, learning from failure, what they would tell students and more. Here are some of their thoughts, edited for space and clarity.
Dr. Paul LeBlanc: I think when hiring for key leadership roles, part of what I’m looking for is sheer emotional intelligence and empathy. Leaders, by the very nature of their jobs, are working with lots of people. They have to understand at a more humane level, not just a competency level, what drives people and motivates people, and how to bring them together.
Secondly would be communications. I think leaders, as we move up through organizations, are increasingly called upon to be the chief communicators of their units or their areas. People respond, obviously, to data and to statistics. But what moves people are actually narratives and stories.
And then finally, I think the thing you know you can’t teach — sheer work ethic. There are tons of talented people out there who have failed, because they don’t bring to it the work ethic, that kind of grit and determination. And the most successful people I know put in enormous amounts of effort and time. I say that with the caveat of people also need to be careful of taking care of everything else in their life, right? But work ethic is a critical piece.
Amelia Manning: First and foremost for me is culture — their cultural fit with the organization. And I’d almost put that as one, two and three, by the way. Here in COCE, for us, it’s really about: Do you have the ability to work effectively across the organization to get things done? Are you really aligned with our mission?
So if you believe that student success is an idea that is worth putting all of your energy and effort and passion into, this is a great place for you. If you think that’s only applicable to a certain group of our students, probably not.
Amy Stevens: I’m looking for someone who is probably going to be a little humble. We are an organization filled with rock stars, but we’ve figured out how to play together.
I’m looking to see you’re hungry. I’m looking to see someone who is willing to roll up their sleeves, dig in and get the work done.
And then the last thing is … that you are able to understand the people you’re talking to and regulate yourself to be able to bring out the best in them.
Dr. Gregory Fowler: I think that the vast majority of issues that you run into with people tends to be lack of communication skills. So that’s always going to be number one. How well do they deal with situations and work their way through talking to other people who may see the world a little differently?
Problem-solving abilities is probably number two, not simply someone who can identify a problem. I’m not interested so much in people who simply recognize a problem, but people who can … demonstrate a solution to it.
LeBlanc: If I were giving a new student one piece of advice, it would be connect. Connect, connect, connect. I think that especially as an adult learner who’s busy and juggling a lot of things, your learning time can feel very isolated. And in reality, you have a lot of people who are here to help you, to support you.
And we know peer-to-peer learning and support are critical. It makes you feel better. You’ll be more successful. You’ll help each other.
It means connecting to all of our support services. People are not in this alone. We’re a whole organization built to help people get across the finish line.
Stevens: Two things, and they’re really the kind of things you could needlepoint on a pillow. The first is, someone said to me: Always bring your best self. And I say that to my son every morning when he leaves the house. Even on your worst day, you’re responsible for bringing your best self to whatever that situation is. I have to be present and make sure that I’m positive for the people I’m around.
The second is that calm waters don’t make for strong sailors. And I don’t want to be a weak sailor. So when I enter stressful, turbulent times, I take a deep breath and I lean into the storm, as opposed to hiding from it, because each one of those stressful periods, each one of those storms, actually makes me stronger. And it makes the next one seem not as difficult. And I have the strategies, and I know that this too will pass. But it really is the grounding mantra for me to be able to get through whatever the turbulence is that’s causing chaos.
Manning: I think sometimes people come into this experience and they think that it should be easy. And when they hit that first roadblock, they’re like, “See? Can’t do it.” And in reality, that’s part of the process.
You’re not going to get it right every time. You will stumble. You will run into obstacles. It’s what you do to help move yourself past those things, what resources you draw upon, that really work. And so don’t be afraid to reach
out for help, to raise your hand and say that you need additional support.
You will find these moments where you have the ability to move past those types of challenges. And you will.
Fowler: I think most leaders will tell you that it’s in some ways harder to learn from your successes than from your failures, because you make the assumption that you did something right, and that’s not always going to be true. In fact, a lot of people, when they succeed at things, don’t have a tendency to take the critical approach that they need to, to keep moving forward. So I think the first thing that you’ve got to be able to do is be honest with yourself. You’re not always going to get everything right.
Stevens: I need to have a couple of gutter balls every once in a while. Hopefully not too many, but enough to know that I’m pushing myself. And I really look at those failures as opportunities where I tried something new or I didn’t learn a lesson.
Manning: I always like to identify what I would consider to be short-term and then longer-term goals. And the short-term goals are really focused on, what are those skills and abilities that I feel like I need to be better at in order to get to that longer-term vision of where I want to be?
The longer term – I think that’s where you’ve got to be flexible because you will have opportunities that come left, right and center. And you’ve got to be willing to say, “That’s not what I thought I was going to be. But I’m going to go there, because that’s interesting,” and to take that risk. You’ll learn from it, even if it ends up being not the right move.
Stevens: I have never had long-term goals. I have ridden the wave of my short-term goals to their absolute capacity. And by the time I’ve gotten to the end of that, the whole world has shifted and new opportunities have appeared. But I’ve been able to use my short-term goals to leverage what I know I love to do and to find opportunities where I get to play. And that has kept me vibrant in my career.
Fowler: I think a good day is having a, first of all, what a sense of progress really is. Because sometimes progress isn’t the quantum leap to the next thing. Sometimes the progress really is the team needed to take a moment to pause and reflect and really situate themselves for what’s coming next.
One of the things that I try to focus on is, when I look back over the day, have I treated people the way I wanted to be treated? Because this is not simply about the strategy and the vision of the company. For most of us, this is a personal journey, and being able to say, “Am I progressing as a person and am I being the person that I wanted to be?”
Stevens: I’ve got a really lovely, beautiful, New Hampshire, bucolic view on the way home. And if I am replaying scenarios where it didn’t go right, if I’m in the past, it wasn’t a good day. If I’m in the future, if I’m problem-solving, if I’m excited about something, if I’m dreaming about something from a connection that I may have had at one point in the day and I’m trying to figure out how to maximize that, that’s a great day. That’s a day where I’m thinking about the fact that I’m constantly trying to move myself and my team forward, and I’m looking for opportunities. I’m looking to see where we could have our next win trying to help students be more successful.
And if I’m replaying days where I’m having difficult conversations or I’m replaying days where I filled out the form wrong or I didn’t get the pickle on my lunch, those are days where I’m like, OK, I get to start again tomorrow. I get to begin again.
Manning: One of the things that I think is critical to my role is really helping the organization have clarity around where we are, why we’re here, and what we are doing, in terms of moving forward. So when I’ve had my best days, that’s really how I’m measuring it.
And when I see our vision and our mission coming to life from the people that work with our students every day, that’s the stuff that makes me go, “Yep. We got this.”
By Krysten Godfrey Maddocks
Lisa Carr, a first-year College of Online and Continuing Education student with more than 30 years of experience in the health care supply chain industry, didn’t expect her first General Education course to spark an interest in history. A business studies major pursuing a concentration in computer information technology, Carr initially was not sure that a class unrelated to her major would change the way she thought about world events.
“In the history classes during the 1970s, it was about memorization. It wasn’t about your perspective and looking at issues in different ways. (HIS 100 History Perspectives) made me realize that it’s important to pay attention to the world around you as an adult learner,” she said. “I rarely have time to watch TV or read the paper – but I do need to pay attention to what’s going on. Current events become history.”
First-year COCE students this fall can look forward to a General Education curriculum that better considers their unique life experiences and professional needs. Instead of choosing introductory classes in specific disciplines such as history or sociology, students will now follow a core General Education framework in which courses build upon one another, allowing for a broader background in the disciplines and a focus on knowledge acquisition. Courses will also familiarize students with technology, research methodology and academic writing as they move from the 100-level courses through 400-level courses. The number of credits students are expected to take remains the same; however, the approach is slightly different.
“The average age in our adult student population is between 32 and 36 years old,” said Anthony Siciliano, executive director of General Education for COCE. “Our adult learners need more relevancy for their courses to make sense to their professional goals and aspirations. The previous model in which students could choose from a multitude of different course options did not demonstrate that relevancy or pathway that our new program does.”
In the new framework, students move from Foundation-level courses to Exploration and Integration. The Foundation-level courses aim to anchor students in writing, reading comprehension, quantitative literacy and introductory research skills before they move on to Exploration in four areas of study: Humanities; Social & Behavioral Science; History; and the Natural Sciences. The final tier, Integration, is where students would be expected to synthesize all their Foundation and Exploration skills within an interdisciplinary, seminar-style experience, according to Siciliano.
Julie Fischer, who has worked as a COCE new student academic advisor for three years, said that this approach will help students in all majors get the most out of their experience because assignments are applicable to everyday life.
“The types of assignments that students do in these classes focus on the subject at hand but are also designed to help students work on broader skill sets, such as analyzing primary and secondary sources or making social sciences-related observations about advertisements they see in their own lives every day,” she said.
The core comprises about a third of the credits required to complete a bachelor’s degree; therefore, it is important for students to be successful in these classes and understand how topics relate to their major, the workplace and the world around them. The rigor of the classes remains intense and requires intensive reading, reflection and writing throughout each learning block.
Student feedback from the pilot program was positive. Fischer said that students enjoy courses like HIS-100, which lets them study a broad period of history instead of just World War I, for example. They also enjoy the course format and the integration of course materials within the modules.
Changes to the General Education program have been in the works since 2014 and began with a survey that asked faculty to outline what was resonating with students and preparing them for higher-level coursework and careers — and what was not. Not only did academic leaders desire to bring relevancy to adult students, they also wanted a way to measure student learning.
“The guiding question we started with was “how would someone who comes to college with more life experience and is already invested in a professional occupation and looking to advance their career find value in this same type of undergraduate experience?’” said Siciliano.
The academic team answered this question by looking at faculty feedback, research and the frameworks around the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ (AACU) Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) Initiative. The team also talked to employers about skills gaps they were seeing in the workplace. Skills like writing proficiency, public speaking, data analysis and knowledge of industry-specific software topped the list of a recent PayScale report outlining the soft and hard skills recent graduates were missing.
Key issues with the previous General Education program:
Benefits of the new program:
Intentional relevance: The new General Education program promotes the achievement of transparent outcomes and professionally relevant career core skills, such as information literacy, quantitative reasoning and problem solving, fluency in multiple methods of communication, global learning and civic engagement, and lifelong learning.
Because more than 14,000 students would be affected by the change in the General Education curriculum, COCE piloted courses during the last academic year, enabling students like Carr to pick from the new courses as options. Students were required to give feedback so the academic team could incorporate it into courses before they fully launched. Also, faculty learned how to apply new pedagogy strategies specifically geared toward teaching these courses, and academic advisors were trained to talk to students about the new curriculum and the flow of the new courses.
Fischer said the new format may seem a little different at first, but advisors are ready to help new students embrace new technology, answer questions and guide them through their courses.
“I like to pair up a general education course with a major course whenever possible,” Fischer said. “Oftentimes they are surprised by how much they end up liking the general education classes that don’t relate as much to their majors.”
Carr said that she enjoyed progressing through the lessons, watching videos, and participating in Wednesday online webinars, in which instructors would highlight the lesson for the week and delve into what students should be contributing in their weekly assignments. Discussion boards in which students provided their reactions and posted their ideas also helped Carr examine history through different lenses.
“I found it helpful to put my thoughts up there and get other students’ comments,” she said. “Different people look at the same subject from completely different angles.”
By Deidre Ashe
No one likes to talk about personal finance. But that’s the problem.
“Personal finance is still a taboo topic. People are squeamish about it,” said Jeremy Brannan, assistant vice president of Student Financial Services at Southern New Hampshire University. “What has resulted in that squeamishness we have as a nation toward personal finance is a deficit of financial literacy.”
Student borrowing has risen by 186 percent over the last 10 years (Nerd Wallet).
There’s $1.4 trillion outstanding in federal student loans (Federal Reserve).
And it’s why SNHU wants to start a conversation to stop the overborrowing.
If you’re not sure where the problem lies, here’s an example Brannan shared: If an online undergraduate student takes one to two classes per term, that’s an average of $1,344 in tuition. Subtract $594 for a Pell Grant, which is applied before loans are considered. Now, subtract another $1,621 for the average federal student loan. On average, that’s leaving students with $871 extra they’re borrowing. And in the past, many students weren’t aware they didn’t need to accept all of the aid offered.
“Our goal is to help students choose to decline that excess,” Brannan said, noting that the Department of Education determines the amount of aid students receive. “That’s what we call smart borrowing.”
“What we’re trying to do here is make sure that you know that you borrow only what you need,” echoed Tim Lehmann, vice president of Student Financial Services. “Because I think a lot of times you’re in that moment, and you don’t realize that the decision you make now is going to have some consequences when you get done. And I think about as I’m repaying if I hadn’t borrowed as much as I did, I know I would be able to make some different choices … in terms of being able to afford a home, a car, kids, vacations, all those things.”
Brannan, Lehmann and Carol Suter, director of Student Financial Services, all can relate to SNHU students who use financial aid to invest in their educations. They all did the same, with different experiences, and as they’ve witnessed financing options change over the years, they want to make sure students have all the information they need.
“There are options out there for students,” Suter said. “Our student finance counselors can help students get into a good position for when they graduate and go into repayment.”
Brannan recalled how the idea for a financial persistence plan came to be. He participated in a pilot tutoring program for a statistics course, and when his student found out he worked in Student Financial Services, he asked Brannan if he’d have a few moments to look over his award. “I could tell very quickly he was borrowing the maximum,” Brannan said, noting that the student was enrolled at half time.
Brannan had to tell his student that at the pace he was working toward his degree and with the amount he was borrowing, “mathematically speaking, you cannot complete your degree. You will run out of money.”
Brannan heard silence on the phone and decided to bring the student’s academic advisor into the conversation to lay out a plan. It meant helping the student toggle his enrollment status – going full time every other term.
“To this day, he’s still following that plan,” Brannan said. “He’s on his last couple of courses, and he is going to come in right under the limit. But if he had continued on the path before, he would not have finished his degree with us and wouldn’t have elsewhere, either.”
That was two and a half years ago.
During the first nine months of 2017, SNHU’s student finance counselors helped reduce excess borrowing by more than $13 million.
Student Financial Services and Advising are now rolling out a financial persistence plan, with a pilot program beginning this year.
The partnership enables student finance counselors and academic advisors to work together to present students in the pilot who want to decrease their borrowing with options: either increase your enrollment to match your borrowing, or decrease your borrowing to match your enrollment.
“We’re working very hard to one day scale financial persistence plans for every student,” Brannan said.
Until then, it’s important for SNHU to educate students about money management as it relates to their educations and beyond.
“We can play a significant role in getting students to graduation,” Suter said. “Because if their goal when they start is to complete their program and graduate, but they may not have enough financing to do so, we can help them create a strategy so that they can afford to get to graduation.”
Fall is always a busy time here at Southern New Hampshire University. We welcomed more than 13,000 new students into our online and competency-based programs in early September, our largest class in history. We have rolled out a new general education curriculum designed around the needs of our students (read more about it in this issue). Plus we are taking significant steps to modernize our student learning environment, all while ensuring that we continue to deliver an outstanding support and learning experience.
With all that under way, sometimes it is good to pause and reflect on where we are and where we are headed. We are now serving almost 90,000 students in our online and competency-based programs.
In November, our graduate students will begin to take courses in a new learning environment. By fall 2018, we will complete the transition for all students. This was a transition we didn’t take lightly. To in essence change out the engine of our student experience is a big deal. What mattered most to us, in the end, was our confidence that we selected a learning environment that was significantly more flexible in terms of supporting the types of learning we foresee for our students in the future. That said, it also gives our students an immediate lift on some of their key pain points:
We are excited about what students will get on day one, but it is important to note we aren’t done there. Student, staff and instructor feedback will help us chart the course toward further improvements.
It is an exciting time to be part of a university that is so highly focused on student success and optimizing the learner experience. I cannot wait to see how the experience evolves.
– Amelia Manning, Chief Operating Officer / Executive Vice President
By Lauren Keane, Communications Director
Southern New Hampshire University was once again named to Washington Monthly’s “Best Colleges for Adult Learners.” SNHU, a repeat top-50 school, ranked 22nd on the list of four-year colleges this year.
As part of the honor, the university has also been recognized as one of the nation’s top 12 “Most Innovative Colleges for Adult Learners,” for offering competency-based degree programs designed specifically to meet the unique needs of adult learners.
“This recognition from Washington Monthly reflects our commitment to serve students from all walks of life,” said Dr. Paul LeBlanc, president of SNHU. “We believe every student should have equal access to education, and we’ll continue to find new ways to adapt to the changing needs of today’s students.”
Nearly half of all college students in the United States are adult learners, yet no national publication had previously rated schools that serve working adults. To recognize the nation’s colleges and universities that are meeting the needs of the fastest-growing demographic in higher education, Washington Monthly inaugurated the “Best Colleges for Adult Learners” rankings in 2016. SNHU has been named to the list since its inception.
The rankings were determined based on data from the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, the department’s College Scorecard database and the College Board’s Annual Survey of Colleges.
More than 2,400 two- and four-year institutions were recognized this year, and the following criteria were used to rate each school:
In addition, for the third consecutive year the university has been named the “Most Innovative University” in the north by U.S. News & World Report. SNHU, the only institution on the list from the state of New Hampshire, has earned this distinction every year since the award’s inception.
“SNHU has a long history of rethinking higher education to meet the changing needs of students, and we are honored to once again be recognized as one of the Most Innovative Universities in the country.” LeBlanc said. “We take great pride in helping students transform their lives through the power of education, and will continue to find new ways to better serve students on their path to a degree.”
By Deidre Ashe
This year’s COCE Excellence in Teaching Award for Faculty winners understand the needs of Southern New Hampshire University’s adult student population. Very well.
Ellen Bluestone was in graduate school at a time, she says, when it wasn’t common for women to be studying and raising a family.
“I felt that there was a total absence of support,” she said. “I remember I was the only person I knew who had a family. And I really wished that somebody would understand that I lived a life and that I needed a little bit of support. So instead of dwelling on that in my own particular case, it made me feel wonderful to be able to do this for students because I know how difficult it is to combine your real life with academics.”
And Clare Greenlaw put off grad school to be a legal guardian for his mom, who had become ill. He continues to understand students’ needs to find a work-life balance, even as an instructor.
“To me, it’s incredibly important not to forget that and to realize that I want them to know I do have two teenagers at home,” he said. “I do struggle to meet deadlines and get that extra reading in. But if we stick together, and we work as a collaborative, which I think SNHU, and COCE in particular, is better at than a lot of environments I’ve seen … (our students will) feel that somebody is trying to understand them.”
Risk has a history of weaving its way through Greenlaw’s career.
His experiences as a grad student later in life, learning from adjunct instructors who taught for passion over paycheck, led him to his calling. About 10 years ago, when he wanted to leave business for higher education, he said to his wife, “I want to sell everything, and I want to teach.”
Now, as one of Southern New Hampshire University’s 2017 Excellence in Teaching Award recipients, he sees the risks his students take every day.
“My teaching philosophy involves an acknowledgement that learning is inherently risky,” said Greenlaw, a lead faculty member for SNHU’s undergraduate international business program.
He stressed the role of making mistakes and acknowledging them: Do it now, in the classroom, so you’re not costing your employer later. With risk may come some failure, but the resulting lessons may be even more beneficial.
“Almost half of our students coming in have participated in higher education, but not completed their goal,” Greenlaw said. “And I think if you understand what motivates the student, why they’re there, and how they perceive risk of learning and becoming an independent learner, that is a lifelong goal. But once they have it, it allows them to tackle almost any profession, any family situation.”
And Greenlaw – who completed both his MBA and ABD with SNHU – finds the ultimate satisfaction in seeing students’ risks pay off, even long after they’ve graduated.
“There’s nothing more exciting than having a student contact you years later either with a question or just to check in and tell you where they’ve been and what they’ve accomplished, because in some cases, it’s been things we talked about five or six years ago,” he said. “But they’re finally there, and it was important enough to them to let somebody know that they did make it. Somebody who was with them along the way.”
In an online environment, some college instructors may struggle when it comes to making the learning experience personal. Not Bluestone. Her level of emotional engagement with students exceeds what’s expected – making her an ideal choice to be recognized as one of Southern New Hampshire University’s 2017 Excellence in Teaching Award recipients.
“I try to individualize things as much as I can,” said the M.A. in English and Creative Writing instructor. In reviewing her students’ weekly discussion board posts, “I go through what they’ve written, and I find those points where I think they can go further with their reasoning, and I ask them a series of questions. … I think that those questions create a level of excitement.”
The challenges she offers her students aren’t only meant to have them think more about that week’s topic, either.
“I think just knowing that you’re an individual and that you’ve been noticed in the class makes a huge difference in an online environment,” Bluestone said. She takes great effort to create a “spirit of community.”
And just as her students evolve during their time at SNHU, so, too, has Bluestone. Her educational mantra of “emotional engagement” meant one thing in a brick-and-mortar classroom, more focused on her literature expertise. With online, however, “it seemed to apply to every aspect of the online classroom – to the nurturing of students’ relationships with each other, students’ relationships with the online platform and students’ relationships with me.”
So while Bluestone is creating a positive, supportive community for her English and creative writing students, she says SNHU is doing the same for her.
“I think that’s one of those things that’s made it so pleasant,” she said. “And I don’t think I would have been teaching here … if I didn’t feel that there was something special about working for this school.”
By Sonja Moffett, SNHU Career Advisor
Whether favorable or unfavorable, emotions resonate when you hear brand names such as Nike, Chanel, TMZ, Outback, Kardashian and Disney, to name a few. This is similar to your professional brand identity at work. The mention of your name can be viewed favorably or not, contingent on the impact you have on those you work with and for.
Your name is synonymous with your professional brand or reputation. Here are three things you can do to build or restore your professional brand in the workplace.
Do what you’re supposed to do and do it well. Our performance is typically evaluated on measurable factors tied to desired results. No matter what position you currently hold in your organization, it would benefit you to exceed the expectations outlined in your current job description.
A track record of success will enable you to establish a professional brand that demonstrates that you are a top performer. The premise is that if you are successful in the role that you currently hold, then those success factors will translate well into a position you will hold in the future. Even if you are not doing what you want to do long-term, strive to be the best. It will pay off in the long run. You may be promoted, and if you have been on a promotional track in your current organization, this looks very good on your resume for internal and external job opportunities. In addition, when it is time to request a referral or letter of recommendation for a new job, you will have raving fans going to bat for you! Establish a track record of success and strive to make your name synonymous with core values like effectiveness, accuracy, consistency and trust.
If you are not already, strive to become the go-to person that others can rely on. This will require you to ditch the idea that “it’s not my job.” Go above and beyond assigned duties as long as doing so doesn’t impeded your ability to successfully perform in your assigned role. Your ability to problem solve and improve business outcomes is coveted by organizations. So be willing to collaborate with other team members or departments to meet goals. This increases your visibility amongst key stakeholders in the organization and helps you to establish trustworthiness and a strong professional brand. Collaboration also helps you overcome any doubts or misconceptions others may have about you. Teaming up with others will help you build a reputation as a hard worker and someone who is competent and capable of producing results.
If you hear about new projects or opportunities, step up to the plate and don’t be afraid to get involved. Be creative and voice ideas even if they are not accepted, because it shows that you are vested and thinking strategically about a particular project and its outcomes. You may be credited for saving or making the company money. Talk about creating value.
While completing your degree, build your professional network in your field of interest. This can be in or outside of your current organization. It may require you to join a professional association related to your future career. People who belong to these associations typically work in key roles in their respective organizations and contribute to establishing professional standards for their fields. Students can benefit from joining professional associations because doing so is helpful in establishing relationships with these professionals who can serve as mentors, prospective employers, or professional references once they get to know you. By becoming actively involved with committees and events held by the association, you can increase your visibility to the membership. This opens up conversations and interactions that build your brand recognition among key personnel. Remember that old adage “it’s all about who you know”? I would go so far as to say it’s all about who knows you! You can create value as a member and strive for the same collaboration and comradery with other members as you would at work. Because you are a student, the cost of student membership is typically a fraction of a full professional membership. The key in expanding your professional network is you must take an active role in branding yourself to your new network.
When others hear your name, their opinions will resonate from their experiences with you. Your work ethic, actions and results will define you as a professional. Therefore, getting to know others and positioning your skills and competency in front of those who may need someone with your talent is a smart way to create a demand for your professional brand.
Last spring SNHU established the COCE Award for Outstanding Instruction to recognize the exceptional efforts of our adjunct faculty as they work to create the best learning experience for our students. One instructor was honored with this achievement from each of the seven curricular units out of the more than 4,700 faculty teaching online with us this year.
“I was very honored,” said education instructor Andrea White. “My number one goal is always my students and making sure they understand the material in an engaging and supportive way, and I am so glad that SNHU recognizes that this is what they want to see displayed in their instructors. When you have a place where everyone has the same goal, amazing things happen, and that is evident here at SNHU!”
The 2017 recipients were:
Award recipients joined the Academics team in Manchester, New Hampshire, from June 19 to June 21 for an awards luncheon, tours of campus and the College of Online and Continuing Education, and events with COCE leadership, including a New Hampshire Fisher Cats game.
By Susan DiPietro, Communications & Training Coordinator
Five Questions is a regular feature in which we interview a College of Online and Continuing Education staff member. In this issue we talked with Online Accessibility Center Accommodations Specialist Seth Matthews.
(The Online Accessibility Center also assists non-disabled students, such as active-duty military, who need assistance with accessing resources.)
I love the students that we work with in the Online Accessibility Center. Every one of these students is dealing with an additional challenge on top of the daily challenges all of our students face. They are thriving and doing a great job. They are motivated and dedicated, and at the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s actually very inspirational.
The most challenging part of my job is working with students who have had success in the past and have acquired an illness or a disability that makes it difficult for them to be successful in their education. It’s very difficult, for instance, to listen to a student who is an Iraqi war veteran who has acquired a traumatic brain injury and was a 4.0 student in the past, and now struggles. Again, it’s inspirational because they are still doing it, but they struggle and your heart goes out to them.
The best days are the ones where we are presented with a challenge and at the end of the day we are able to say we found a way for this student to continue their education. We have a great collaborative team, and we are able to bring in everyone from deans to advisors to a specific technology team, and it’s very rare that we walk out of the room without a solution.
I think I would like readers to know that we are here. When advisors, instructors or admissions personnel are engaging with a student that’s presenting them with an issue related to an illness or disability, even if it’s short-term, we don’t always get brought in. We want to, and we need to be included.
Many people still think about disability as the symbol of the person in the wheelchair on the outside of a restroom, whereas what we do goes so far beyond that. The highest percentage of the students that we work with are students with mental illness and learning differences. Not everyone thinks about an anxiety disorder, or a learning disorder as something that would be referred to us.
It is highly individualized and we want the input of the student. We want them to tell us what’s worked for them in the past, and what challenges they are running into. We offer deadline extensions for students with certain profiles, or if a student is not able to access an online book, we may buy them a print copy.
We also have a resource that is available to all students, which is called Read and Write. It has a read aloud function so students that are blind, or just cannot sit in front a computer monitor for a long period of time, can listen to their course material.