A Year In Review by Dr. Walter Pearson

Aug 14th, 2012 | By | Category: FACULTY

A message from, Dr. Walt Pearson, Dean for the School for Professional and Continuing Education:

“I’ve just finished my first full academic year at Lewis University and I thought this would be a good time to reflect a bit on progress at work, and say “thank-you”.  The enrollment in our programs have been on a good upward trend.  Adult students care about four key things – academic quality, convenience, flexibility, and affordability. Our success is built on these.

Task force on adult student persistence
One of the major initiatives this year was a Task Force on adult student persistence.  This Task Force was composed of great leaders from across campus: Dr. Tennille Allen, Dr. Michael Cherry, Dr. Calvin Edwards, Linda Elsik, Dr. Ian Gladding, Dr. John Greenwood, Rita Herrick, Rachel Hudson, Dr. Ann Jordan, Bob Kempiak, Dr. Keith Lavine, Dr. Clare Lawlor, Dr. Laurette Liesen, Brother Lawrence Oelschlegel, Dr. Anne Rapp, Joni Bradley-Scott, Smret Smith, Sarah Wiegman, and Dr. Jion Yen.

Lewis has a good record on adult student persistence (much better than the national numbers) but we lose too many after the first term.  We want to improve persistence, so we’ve launched two initiatives.

1.       Enhance prior learning assessment
The first of these initiatives is a project to enhance participation in prior learning assessment (PLA).  We’ve expanded the PLA program to allow adult students to develop a portfolio that details the learning they have gained through work and other experiences and have that assessed for elective credit by a university-wide faculty committee.  This is in addition to the existing forms of PLA (course-specific tests and portfolios, licensure and certification, CLEP/DSST, and ACE evaluated credits).  The goal is to increase participation in PLA to about 25% so that we can help adult students persist.  I’m proud of the vital work that Dr. Anne Rapp has put into getting this part of the new program launched and I’m looking forward to the work of the new committee members: Dr. Tom Brignall, Dr. Safwan Omari, and Dr. Chris Palmi.

2.       Get them started right
The second is our new online student orientation.  This is a free no-credit course led by each of the SPCE advisors.  Our hope is that each new student will complete the orientation prior to the start of the semester and will have useful information to refer to throughout their career at Lewis University.  The orientation covers advising, student services, and tips for success.  This orientation project has been ably led by SPCE advisor Joanna Baumann and has benefited from the thoughtful feedback of her colleagues Bernie Valderrama and Maggi Pfrommer.

Honoring adult students
We’re proud of our new chapter of the adult honorary society Alpha Sigma Lambda.  We launched this chapter in April with an induction of 84 new members.  Bernie Valderrama brought diplomacy and attention to detail as she led the chapter formation.  We were delighted to have Provost Stephany Schlachter and Dr. Lesley Page among our speakers.  The ASL coordinating committee members Dr. Mike Cherry and Dr. Mary Fisher provided valuable contributions to the planning as well as to the induction ceremony.  SPCE staff members contributing to the induction ceremony were Sandy Schuh, Rhonda Richter, Fabiana Tkac, Sarah Wiegman, and Joanna Baumann.  Dr. David Anderson and Dr. Anne Rapp provided their support and encouragement to the students.

New major in Professional Studies
We’ve approved a new major to help us in our work with community colleges and their applied science programs and particularly in our work with the Community College of the Air Force in Albuquerque.  Those who graduate with the Bachelor of Arts degree in Professional Studies will have a concentration derived from their prior course work in an applied science program, a full general education program and the core in Professional Studies.  The new program is slated to go to the Board of Trustees this Fall after it has been reviewed by the Provost’s office.

New communication tool
Our online newsletter School News is designed to give adult students and faculty members current information and provide a flexible way to communicate for our program directors, advisors, and support departments.  Our efforts have been guided by the marketing department (Mona LaMontagne, Jimmy Cowan and Syl Goyette), CATS videographer Graesen Arnoff, and excellent work from Sandy Schuh, Rhonda Richter, and our graduate assistant Everett Reed.  Dr. Mike Cherry has been our most active contributor – many thanks! We’ve all learned a lot in our first year with this blog tool!  Check it out!

Yes, even Walter can blog
I’ve been experimenting with ways of reaching alumni by building a more active presence on LinkedIn and helping build a more active LinkedIn group for the Organizational Leadership program.  I’m hoping to share some of the lessons from that project this Fall with our other programs.  I’ve occasionally contributed to the discussions on LinkedIn about quality and costs and the growth of the for-profits.  Recently, I was asked to contribute to Evolllution, a forum for discussion of issues in lifelong learning and I’ve contributed two posts so far – What Are the Most Important Elements of a Successful Adult Higher Education Program? and Supporting College Completion for Adult Students.  Take a look and tell me what you think.

I am honored
I’ve been active in the Association for Continuing Higher Education for a number of years and this year I was elected to the board of trustees.  I will assume this new role at the November meeting in Austin, Texas. Katherine and I are looking forward to visiting with our friends in Austin in November.  I am honored to be trusted by the members and hope I can prove helpful.  I enjoyed my work at the Fall 2011 ACHE conference on a workshop on best practices in advising with my Simpson College colleagues Dr. Rosemary Link, Andrea Biklen, Craig Peck, and Liz Glodek as well as a workshop on getting volunteers for the regional chairs.  These presentations are available on my Google drive.  I’m pleased that Dr. Mike Cherry will present at this ACHE Fall conference his excellent work in support of academic quality with our faculty in the College of Business.

Staff and Leadership changes
The delightful group of staff members was augmented this year as Sarah Wiegman joined our staff as Director of Administrative Services.  She has done a great job streamlining processes.  Many thanks to Dr. Cal Edwards for his support for Sarah’s transition to our staff.  We’re pleased for Sandy Schuh and sad for us that she has moved to a new role in the office of the Provost.  Dean Khasawneh and Dr. Faisal Abdullah are shifting the role of program director for our Information Technology Management program to Dr. Safwan Omari and we look forward to Safwan’s guidance.

SPCE Fall Kick-off event scheduled for Aug. 20
We’ve got our SPCE Fall Kick-off event scheduled for Aug. 20.  Last August we had over 80 faculty members in attendance as we explored attendance policies, academic support, influencing perceptions of fairness in grading, effectively using small groups, enhancing writing, and effective uses of Blackboard.  We’re looking forward to the event this year as our planning committee (Dr. Joyce Hayward, Sarah Wiegman, Dr. Anne Rapp, Dr. John Greenwood, Dr. Keith Lavine, Dr. Faisal Abdullah, Dr. Safwan Omari, Dr. Tennille Allen, Dr. Mike Cherry, Linda Elsik) is conducting a survey and will be finalizing the agenda soon.

Personal note
It’s been a good first year.  Many thanks to our President, Brother James Gaffney for dedicated leadership (and quick wit), Provost Stephany Schlachter for her guidance, and to my colleagues on the Dean’s council (Dr. Bonnie Bondavalli, Dr. Rami Khasawneh, Dr. Nan Yancey, Dr. Michele Young, Dr. Julie Krahl, Dr. Jan Mines, and Dr. Peggy Rice) for their good ideas. I’ve been blessed this year to get to know our thoughtful and dedicated Graduate and Adult Admission staff (Angie Bizzotti, Carmen Green, and Nina Nowaczyk) led by Rita Herrick and Leslie Jacobson.  Thanks to everyone who has shared their ideas and opened doors!

Poet Mary Oliver asks: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” My life has been greatly enriched this year due to the birth of Reese Mae, our wonderful grand-daughter.  This has provided several trips to LA to visit with my son and his wonderful bride.  May you have as many reasons to smile as I have been blessed with this year!”

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