The Work of the MVPs

Tiera Coston, Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development, Xavier University of Louisiana

In the fall of 2014, the Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT) marked its 20th anniversary and undertook the task of expanding its mission to include faculty development for scholarship. One of CAT's values is "broad-based involvement of Xavier faculty and Center staff in our decision-making process," and it is well accepted that faculty-driven faculty development is most effective. Therefore, CAT solicited committee members from each academic division as well as a representative from the Center for Undergraduate Research. The members of the Mission, Values and Programming Review Committee became known as the MVPs. CAT staff then took the Academic Year 14-15 to work with the MVPs to explore a mission/values change that takes a holistic approach to developing the whole faculty member (as well as a potential name change for CAT). The MVP committee met throughout the fall of 2014 and drafted revised mission, values, and vision statements. Committee members sought feedback from their division colleagues throughout the process. CAT also solicited broad faculty participation by posting its meeting notes publicly and inviting faculty comment. At each committee meeting, faculty comments were taken into consideration and a final proposal was drafted and submitted to the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs for approval. Upon approval, all changes took place and faculty voted on a new name for CAT, which became CAT+ (Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development). At each step of the process, faculty were made aware of potential changes which were intended to directly benefit them, and subsequently, students. This approach was effective because all components of faculty responsibility – teaching, scholarship and service – are ultimately for the benefit of students' learning. Faculty were informed that the modified role of the Center was to provide support in all areas of faculty responsibility and work/life balance. Although students have always been viewed as stakeholders in CAT+, the changes in the Center's role were not communicated specifically to students. CAT+ operates under the premise that the potential positive effect that the work of the Center eventually has on students' learning experiences should be seamless to students. Students should see only that are having a good experience with the faculty and that they are learning. It is not necessary for students to understand or even know of the support provided to faculty by CAT+. Consequently, the message of CAT+ is conveyed consistently from one audience to another. Whether the Center is being described in a grant proposal to a funding agency or being discussed in an informal conversation with a new faculty member, the role that CAT+ plays in the Xavier community is unchanging. As mentioned above, the student's learning experience is the ultimate focus of the work of the Center. Although messages about CAT+ are not specifically directed to students, it is not hidden from them either. There are situations where the work of the Center comes into direct contact with students (e.g., mid-course reviews). In those situations, students are told that CAT+ is there because their professor wants to improve both his/her teaching and the student's learning by getting their input about the course, and CAT+ is there to facilitate the process.


Center Profile: Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development - Xavier University of Louisiana