endowed chair series

It started with a simple request to 2013-2014 endowed chair recipients, please provide further explanation of your endowed chair project. The response was amazing, growing to a series of articles over the next few months.

Valencia faculty is top notch and no question they always strive to provide the very best environment for our students. The role of faculty can be critical in a student’s educational journey. Inside Higher Ed featured an article in August 2013, “Majoring in a Professor,” that found a correlation between choosing majors and experience with faculty in that field. A good instructor can garner interest for a certain major and likewise, a negative faculty experience can cause a student to drop a field of study.

Valencia’s endowed chair program seeks to fund projects that enhance student learning. Understanding more about these projects offers a glimpse at what innovative things faculty are doing in and out of the classroom.

Dr. Debra Hollister, psychology professor, was awarded the Freeda Louise Foreman Chair in Collaborative and Creative Problem Solving. Dr. Hollister’s goal was to design a method to best help students choose a path to reach their personal, career and professional goals. Assessments that help students evaluate their personal goals and learning outcomes are available.

Dr. Hollister shares that often, a college student thinks that a career path or major will be immediately decided on the first visit to a classroom. She knows that is not always the case, and students may not understand what type of degree they need, the cost of that degree or even where the degree is offered.

She shares, “As an instructor, it is important to me that the students in my classes are well prepared to be successful in the next class they take. They may not understand how each discipline relates to other classes at the college or how important the information may be for them to learn. Enabling each student to explore career options may help them make better decisions regarding future plans of study and prepare them to make the transition from student to employee.”

Dr. Debra Hollister

Dr. Debra Hollister

Dr. Hollister notes that students who have a career plan tend to be more focused in their classes and understand the importance of learning, leading to less frustration and greater motivation. These students acknowledge that class selection and studying is part of the larger picture and will lead to long-term career success.

Students are offered many different assessments, the first being a career exploration inventory that enables the student to see where their interest might be. There are also assessments covering learning style and organizational abilities. These assessments are done largely on the student’s own time, completion and a positive outcome is dependent on a student’s drive and determination.

As a complement to these assessments, Dr. Hollister hosts a speaker series, featuring professionals whose careers span various fields. Speakers have included lawyers, engineering researchers, civil engineers, psychologists, higher education administrators, finance majors, business managers, doctors, professional sports athletes and entrepreneurs. She asks the following of all speakers: What did it take for you to get where you are?

On the subject of endowed chairs, Dr. Hollister says, “Endowed chairs are a great resource because they provide funding to enable an instructor to offer opportunities in a classroom that may not be offered any other way. The funds allow an individual instructor to go ‘above and beyond’ what can be provided ‘budget wise’ in the classroom.”

When you think about study abroad excursions, the mind might conjure up images of art and literature. For Melissa Schreiber, professor of biology, different ideas comes to mind, in the fields of health and biology. Professor Schreiber received the Chesley G. Magruder Foundation Chair in Nursing and Allied Health. The endowed chair gave her the chance to take students abroad to learn about infectious disease, public health and epidemiology in Panama.

The students and Professor Schreiber visited an indigenous tribe known as the Embera. They were able to meet with the tribe’s botanist and discuss treatment of chronic and infectious disease by using medicinal plants and herbs.

Jennifer Robertson, director of Valencia’s study abroad and global experiences (SAGE) program, told Professor Schreiber that the foundation offered endowed chair opportunities to help fund international trips. For more on the SAGE program, check out this November 2013 article.

Professor Schreiber explains why these offerings are so valuable. “Study abroad is important so students can experience foreign cultures, learn other language phrases and understand global issues. My students learned about the importance of surveillance, prevention and treatment of infectious disease in a tropical, developing country.”

Their studies took them to research centers, a hospice center, the Embera tribe, hospitals, the ministry of health, UNAIDS and a university in Panama. She feels that these endeavors gave students an understanding of microbiology and epidemiology that far outweighs what could be gleaned from a textbook.

Valencia students visit the Embera tribe

Valencia students visit the Embera tribe

Look for more updates next month.

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