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CETLS Promotes Faculty Development: An Interview with Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Michael Gillespie

Jan Stahl, English

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In honor of the 20th Anniversary of TLC/CETLS, Prof. Jan Stahl, English, interviewed Dr. Michael Gillespie, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and advisor for CETLS. Dean Gillespie reflected on the importance of the Center in fostering, encouraging, and promoting faculty development.    

FACULTY FOCUS: What are some of the most important things CETLS (formerly TLC) has done in recent years to promote faculty development?

DEAN GILLESPIE: CETLS fosters interdisciplinary interaction among faculty. When I began teaching at a different CUNY school that had no CETLS venue, I noticed that faculty tended to remain in their own departments. CETLS offers a rich opportunity to meet with people from various departments, to listen to their viewpoints, and to gain and share pedagogical advice from faculty who are not in your discipline.

I remember a science professor [who is no longer at BMCC] came to the TLC and said, “If I could just find out how to help my students read and understand the textbook.” An instructor from Developmental Skills suggested the Readability Formula, a method of analyzing the grade level readability of a text. The science professor learned to use the Readability Formula to his benefit to assign textbooks at a level his students could read.

CETLS also provides a place to learn from others and to debate a common issue. I can recall rich debates among instructors from various departments on how to approach grammar.

Currently, the FIGs (Faculty/Staff Interest Groups) offer a rich and liberating opportunity for likeminded persons across the disciplines to freely discuss topics of common interest. CETLS is a safe place to share craft knowledge of teaching and pedagogy. I believe strongly in ongoing professional development. At CETLS we maintain an emphasis on learning from our colleagues.

One of the reasons I was extremely attracted to the position of Associate Dean was that I knew I would be overseeing the TLC, and I have never been disappointed.

FACULTY FOCUS: How do you see CETLS supporting faculty development in the future?

DEAN GILLESPIE: CETLS can help us stay current with the growing use of and trends in technology. CETLS is a vehicle for exploring the research on technology, and bringing in speakers to discuss technology. If you hear a word like “Wikis,” for example, and you do not know what it means, you can go to CETLS and ask a colleague what that means and how to use Wikis.

I consider CETLS a “consultative arm.” Faculty and staff go there to ask the hard questions, the easy questions, and the applied questions. CETLS will continue to support faculty development in the future by providing a venue to help maintain an objective perspective on what we are doing as educators.

FACULTY FOCUS:  What do you see as some of our most important challenges at BMCC? How is CETLS helping faculty meet those challenges?

DEAN GILLESPIE: An important challenge is to find common ground among faculty. At the TLC/CETLS discussions, instructors and staff from different departments have found common ground. The Book Club is a perfect example. A book is chosen based on the Heritage months. People read the book in advance and then meet at CETLS to discuss it. At the Book Club instructors from various departments discuss, among other things, how to use the book or excerpts from the book in their courses. 

FACULTY FOCUS: What else would you like to talk about?

DEAN GILLESPIE: I am so pleased that BMCC’s TLC/CETLS has been a forerunner for CUNY. The structure we have used from the beginning has been effective. CETLS needs to continue to help all of us understand that at BMCC we have a diversity of students with different learning styles. At CETLS we should continue to discuss various learning styles and the legitimacy of using a variety of styles to help our students learn.