Faculty Development Day Promotes Community Building

Rifat A. Salam, Social Sciences

BMCC’s Faculty Development Day attracted seventy nine faculty members to ponder, discuss, and exchange ideas concerning the theme, “Building Community: Enhancing Teaching and Scholarship,” on November 30, 2011.   


Prof. Francesco Crocco (chair of the Faculty Development Committee), Dean Michael Gillespie, and Dr. Victoria Mondelli (director of CETLS) delivered opening remarks. “This is a timeless topic,” according to Dean Gillespie. “Scholarship enhances our teaching, and teaching enhances our scholarship,” Dean Gillespie stated.


Presentations on the theme of building community to enhance teaching and scholarship followed.


Enhancing Communication Among Part-Time and Full-Time Faculty

Prof. Jacqueline Nichols, Chair of the Nursing Department, and Prof. Gem Chema, Nursing, discussed the Nursing Department’s initiatives to increase communication and collaboration between full-time and adjunct faculty. Prof. Nichols described how the initiatives began as a way of connecting faculty who teach in the college and in the clinical setting. The clinical component of the Nursing program is largely taught by adjunct faculty, so communication is critical to the success of students. The Nursing Department wanted to create a “big forum” to share knowledge.


Prof. Chema’s presentation focused on collaboration as one of the standard core principles of nursing practice and emphasized the importance of open communication. She also highlighted the differences between classroom and clinical instruction to emphasize the need for collaboration across full- and part-time faculty to give students what they need to become nurses.  


Using Technology to Build Community Inside and Outside the Classroom

How can faculty build community in their courses through the use of technology? This was the focus of the collaborative presentation by Prof. Zhanna Yablokova, English, and Janey Flanagan, Director of the E-Learning Center. Prof. Yablokova spoke about “meeting students where they are.” According to a BMCC study, close to 80% of students have laptops, over 30% have iPhones or Android phones. “Students are where technology is,” Prof. Yablokova stated. Students’ preferred means of communication with professors is email and they communicate with each other via text messaging. More than 60% of students use social networking sites daily, while almost 50% of instructors never use social networking devices. 


Learning can happen faster when students learn from each other, according to Ms. Flanagan. “When students help each other, they can learn the information better,” she noted.  Prof. Yablokova and Ms. Flanagan introduced faculty to tools for creating community in the classroom. They described Blackboard as a simulation of what happens in the classroom in a virtual environment and promoted moving beyond simulation by using Wikis, blogs and social media such as Twitter. Ms. Flanagan recommended Wikispaces where instructors can keep track of group projects and students have accountability of group work. Ms. Flanagan described the growing area of online educational gaming, for example, the College Quest. She also suggested that students can use Twitter to connect with professors that tweet about their research. 


Building Community by Sharing Scholarship

In their separate presentations, Prof. Robin Isserles, Social Sciences, and Prof. Kanu Nagra, Library, spoke about how faculty can share their scholarship with the BMCC community.


Prof. Isserles described going to a Faculty Forum presented by the English department and learning that it was a mainstay of their department. She was impressed by the English Department faculty’s commitment to sharing their scholarship and wanted to create the same kind of space for the Social Sciences Department. The Faculty Salon, in which both full and part time faculty present on their scholarship, was an outgrowth of this.


Prof. Isserles noted that rising institutional expectations of scholarship, particularly for junior faculty, create a need for initiatives like the Faculty Salon. As a former adjunct instructor and a coordinator of adjunct faculty in her department, she imagined the salon as an important way for them to feel more integrated into the department.  Faculty who participated in the Salon described the Salon as an inviting, challenging and supportive environment where they can discuss research interests and hear the cross-disciplinary perspectives of their colleagues. 


Prof. Kanu Nagra discussed the BMCC Institutional Repository, a new project, in which professors can upload their scholarly work in order to make it more accessible to the BMCC community and the world. She noted that creative works, published articles, conference papers, dissertations and theses, as well as institutional reports can be housed in the Institutional Repository. Prof. Nagru emphasized the ways in which the repository can raise the profile of faculty and the institution and increase communication and collaboration within and outside the institution.


After the presentations, the audience broke up into roundtables discussions. A representative speaker from each table then made a brief report to the whole body. The reports focused on faculty interest in making use of each other and BMCC as valuable resources for enhancing our teaching and our scholarly pursuits.


Faculty Development Day was organized by the Faculty Development Committee: Francesco Crocco, English; Kanu Nagra, Library; Jacqueline Nichols, Nursing; Mahatapa Palit, Business Management; Rifat Salam, Social Sciences; Jocelyn Samuel, Business Management; Mike Vozick, Science; Claire Wladis, Mathematics.