I had the opportunity to attend three sessions and listen to a keynote speaker during the first day of the TLC 2017 here at Ashford University, and I was delightfully impressed. All of the sessions were well planned, solid in expertise, rooted in resources, reached outside of the box of the status quo, and most of all, they screamed with ideology of how to help students succeed and grow as human beings as a result of their experiences here at Ashford University. I am amazed by the level passion each presenter exhibited as they shared their work and fielded questions from the viewers in their sessions.
Not to slight any of the amazing presenters today, but I was particularly impressed by Debby Hailwood’s courageous delivery of “What are you?: The marginalizing impact of microaggressions.” In 30 minutes, she broke down several categories of microaggressions based on the work of more than one researcher. She masterfully provided thought provoking examples of the action such that I was instinctively evaluating myself as she presented. My favorite part of her presentation was the discussion around “Intent vs. Impact”. She dove into ways to skillfully and productively handle microaggressions whether you are the target or the aggressor. I anxiously await the recording of this session, it is a must hear for everyone.
Drs. Christopher Sorenson, Lisa-Marie Johnson, and Thomas Atkinson unpacked what I believe is the next wave of course design here at Ashford, in their presentation, “Competency-Based Programs: Navigating the issues and challenges.” Not only did they seamlessly navigate a very meaty presentation between three tremendously powerful experts in only 30 minutes without bumping into each other, they successfully simplified some of the biggest questions I have pondered concerning the competency-based design here at Ashford. They did a great job illuminating challenges, both internal and external, that anyone wanting to adopt this model will encounter. They shared their solutions to those challenges and even more impressively, they let us in on their thought processes behind arriving at those solutions. As they explained the different options embedded into the design of the model which best support the life-demands of students in their program, and the real-world project and problem-based (PBL) curriculum, it was apparent this was an endeavor driven by values that put students first. To cap things off, they had time to answer some very robust questions from viewers. What can I say, well designed, well prepared, well delivered, I was enlightened, and I am sure our students will be a step ahead of the game when they enter the work-force after completing this program.
I would remiss if I did not mention Elizabeth Grossman’s presentation, “Best Practices for Achieving a Diverse Workforce – A Look at Outside Perspectives”. This was another courageous dive into how Ashford University can be a leader that serves as an example of a pillar of peace, inclusion and equity in today’s volatile social climate. Elizabeth unpacked how we can create a more diverse workforce to align with the demographics of the student body served here at Ashford University. She showed research to support the positive returns such an adjustment could make, supplied data to reveal the imbalance of our present faculty to student comparison, and presented the internal challenges we would encounter as a university by walking down such a courageous road. Elizabeth spent some time uncovering implicit biases common to workforce diversity and once again, I found myself evaluating my own belief system and customs during her presentation. I am anxious to see where this conversation goes.
I enjoyed the TLC conference today, and I am excited about participating tomorrow. The information was great, and the access is fascinating, especially to an old-timer like me. The thing that impressed me the most is that every presentation I attended, and I do mean every presentation was all about the student. It is refreshing to hear colleagues ponder ways to create better experiences for our students which enhance them academically, socially, and culturally. I’m proud to be a part of the team here at Ashford University. Thank you TLC for showing everyone just how great we are!
Dr. Newton Miller Director of Teacher Education, College of Education Ashford University