In the past few years, many faculty members in the California community colleges have seen their professional development programs cannibalized. While administrators and boards recognize that professional development is an essential part of faculty responsibilities, it is often one of the first things that is cut or eliminated whenever budget concerns arise. For evidence of this unfortunate tendency, one only needs to consider the lack of funding that accompanied the most recent attempt to bring Professional Development to the fore, AB 2558 (Williams, 2014), which was signed into law in September 2014 but received no specific funding in the governor’s January budget. This lack of funding is not new, however, and in fall 2012, recognizing the need for faculty professional development in areas relating to the 10 + 1, the ASCCC approved resolution 19.01 that called for the creation of a Professional Development College. Throughout the 2013-14 year, the ASCCC Professional Development College (PDC) Task Force met to create a program for faculty seeking professional development that was not available through their local structures. The task force worked to develop applications, specific criteria, and modules for faculty that would be useful and reasonably priced and that could potentially provide opportunities for continuing education units or other advancement possibilities. At the Executive Committee meeting prior to the 2014 Spring Plenary Session, the PDC Task Force presented its plans to the Executive Committee and received approval for the first module.
The Professional Development College launched its inaugural module at the 2014 Faculty Leadership Institute, with 12 faculty members registering to be part of the “Leadership” cohort. This module is designed for faculty who will be stepping into faculty leadership roles, specifically as a senate president or officer, in the next two years. In order to be considered for the cohort, faculty applicants must have the recommendation of their local senate president as well as their college president or vice president. Those applicants chosen to participate in 2014-15 represent the diversity of our faculty, both in terms of colleges—almost evenly split between north and south—and disciplines, including faculty whose primary assignments are in basic skills, transfer, and workforce. Several of the PDC Task Force members, as well as ASCCC Executive Committee members including the Executive Director, met with the participants prior to beginning of the institute to discuss expectations and to introduce the members of the cohort to each other.
In addition, during the Faculty Leadership Institute, participants were assigned to and met their personal mentors from the Executive Committee, who assisted in guiding them through the activities and events in which the participants were involved. The mentors had all served as a local college or district senate president and so were able to provide guidance to the participants. After meeting with their mentors, participants filled out a contract detailing their plans for the year and goals that they hoped to achieve through participation in the leadership module. The chair of the Professional Development College and the executive director were also available to provide guidance and assistance to the mentors and the participants throughout the year.
The leadership module is set up chronologically. All participants are expected to attend the major ASCCC events for faculty leaders: the pre-plenary Area meetings in October and March, the two plenary sessions in November and April, and the Faculty Leadership Institutes in June of the year of enrollment and the following year. In addition, participants are expected to attend at least one other ASCCC Institute, depending on interest (Accreditation, Vocational Faculty Leadership, the Academic Academy, or Curriculum) or another leadership conference that can assist in developing leadership skills, such as the RP Group’s Student Success Conference or the League for Innovation in the Community Colleges’ Innovation Conference. After each event, participants are expected to reflect on lessons learned, information gathered, or suggestions or ideas to bring back to their own campuses; reflections can take a variety of forms, including online. Participants have an opportunity to engage in discussions as well as meetings at the plenary sessions and the Leadership Institute, including being introduced at both plenary sessions to the attendees. Participants are also expected to report out at their local campuses, either at their academic senate meetings or at a Board of Trustees meeting, about the module and their participation in it.
In June 2015, the first cohort will graduate at the Faculty Leadership Institute in San Jose and will be recognized by their peers at that institute. One of the assignments that the graduates will be asked to complete is an evaluation of how the PDC format worked for them and areas that should be modified or added. Those suggestions will be incorporated into both the leadership module and others modules going forward. A second leadership cohort will begin at the 2015 Leadership Institute, again targeting incoming Senate leaders who would benefit from mentoring in leadership areas; applications are available on the Academic Senate Foundation Website under the PDC tab. A second module, this time based on Career Technical Education (CTE) curriculum, is being developed based on input gathered at the CTE Curriculum Regional meetings in January 2015, which demonstrated the clear need for support for CTE faculty. Additional modules, including programs that focus on part-time faculty and general curriculum, are also in progress and may be implemented during the next year.
The ASCCC Executive Committee and the Professional Development Committee will continue to seek new areas in which the Professional Development College can offer new learning and growth opportunities for all faculty in the system. The first module of the PDC has been a success but also a learning experience, and the Academic Senate will take into consideration both the positive experiences of participants and their suggestions for improvement in working to improve all PDC programs. In an environment in which professional development is both so badly needed and so grossly underfunded, the Professional Development College offers a venue through which the ASCCC can provide resources and training to faculty throughout the state.