Tag Archive: professionalism

Innovation, Adaptation, and Change


Our students maneuver the world in ways that are astonishing.  Rapid innovation that allows them to access, share, store, and manipulate information with increasing speed has been almost dizzying for digital immigrants who must be intentional about adapting these changes to the learning environment.  Electronic modes of communication have evolved from the time of Samuel Morse and Alexander Graham Bell to now with individual and group texting for students who prefer to text rather than talk; Morse would probably be happier about this than Bell.  Further, increased bandwidth has allowed the evolution of video conversations to multiple people participating from a distance with near-in-person communication; imagine what Bell would have thought about this!

In education, we organize educational material in course management systems with increasing bells and whistles and even adapt the learning environment by engaging students in classes with thoughtful use of the technology they carry to access the world.  Increasing access to information and the cost of higher education have resulted in many of our students coming to SUNY Plattsburgh with a significant number of college credits they earned through dual enrollment programs; some of the courses were taken online.

We are challenged with the need to innovate, adapt, and change as many students come to us with increasing technological skills and with curricular needs that may fit into a three-year model rather than a four-year model.  We must remain intentional about adapting ways students access the world into our pedagogy.  We also must be aware of gaps that result from overuse of technology and help our students develop good interpersonal skills that occur face-to-face, especially when it comes to managing conflict.

All of this provides context for a few questions that can be framed in our shared values:

Excellence in Teaching

  • Given our commitment to academic quality, what ways must we innovate, adapt and change to meet the educational needs of our current students?
  • As more students come to college with greater numbers of general education credits, how do we adapt our traditional curricular models to ensure students leave with what we value in a college education given our commitment to liberal arts?
  • What are the best approaches for supporting students who have not had the privilege of AP courses, especially those who need some remedial support, graduate from college in four years?


  • How do we build stronger bridges between Academic Affairs and Student Affairs to collaborate in a whole-person approach to students’ development?
  • What are the best approaches to strengthening face-to-face communication skills across the curriculum?

Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • With increasing numbers of racially diverse students who enrich the academic learning environment, how do we as individuals and members of a complex system need to adapt to improve communication, pedagogy, and an overall supportive campus culture/climate/community?
  • With appreciation for cultural differences in family involvement, what are the best ways to improve communication with families of our students?

Our ability to innovate, adapt, and change will chart a successful course for our future and the future for our students.  Exploring creative approaches together is exciting and focuses our energies in the right places.



First image (September 27, 2016). Retrieved on April 23, 2017 from: https://m.yourstory.com/2016/09/book-review-innovation-is-a-state-of-mind-innovation-is-good-business-but-it-can-also-be-good-life-new-book-gives-creative-tips/

Second image (March 11, 2009). Retrieved on April 23, 2017 from: https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/hblowers/innovation-quotes

Our Shared Values


Shared Values

Fall 2010 was when the EHHS faculty developed categories for their first shared values document.  Spring 2011, faculty breathed life into the document by creating examples that represented how each category was demonstrated with colleagues and with students.  The Shared Values document was revised/updated by the faculty this semester at our Community Gathering.  It is an honor to serve as Dean for mindful professionals who aspire to create a work environment that honors our shared values.


Education, Health, and Human Services
Shared Values

Respect and Empathy

  • Seek to understand before being understood
  • Listening to each other
  • Communicate with the person, not about the person, when there is conflict
  • Enter into differences of opinion and conflict with respect
  • Demonstrate compassion to evoke potential in students and colleagues
  • Share our challenges as well as our successes
  • Trust
  • Open-mindedness,
  • Embrace diversity of opinions and perspectives

Excellence in Teaching

  • Clear expectations
  • Model passion and professionalism
  • Timely feedback
  • Effective assessment tools
  • Engage students
  • Recognize and respond to students’ needs

Lifelong Learning/Growth

  • Participate in professional development (inclusive of student participation)
  • Require applied assessment of student learning
  • Provide students exposure to professional experts within the community
  • Create an environment in which active engagement and learning are valued, respected, and expected.
  • Inspire critical thinking that challenges the way things have always been done


Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • Demonstrated awareness, knowledge, and skills
  • Culturally responsive teaching
  • Self-reflection
  • Caring attitude
  • Courage to discuss sensitive issues and “sit with discomfort”
  • Continued learning, challenging and changing of our attitudes


Social Justice

  • Recognize social justice issues
  • Advocate to enhance social change
  • Enhance community responsibility/social responsibility


Helping Students Achieve Goals

  • Reaching out to struggling students
  • Challenge students to create connections, follow passions, and think critically
  • Empower students to realize goals
  • Provide real-life professional experiences



  • Contact with the public – education and resources
  • Service learning
  • Help and support for local agencies
  • Model for students



  • Demonstrate ethical decision making/behavior across all settings
  • Dependability
  • Positive attitude
  • Appropriate boundaries
  • Being present
  • Make time to share and collaborate
  • Exhibit a strong work ethic
  • Earn respect of students, colleagues, and area professionals



  • Take a creative perspective
  • Out-of-the box problem solving
  • Be non-dogmatic
  • Embrace multicultural perspectives
  • Evolve



  • Creativity
  • Team-teaching
  • Divergent thinking
  • Drawing on diverse perspectives



  • Transparency
  • Openness about our limitations
  • Following through with our campus commitments: students, colleagues, college



  • Announce achievements
  • Celebrate success
  • Make time to celebrate success in the School of EHHS

Continuous Improvement in Academia


There are many times each year when Giltz Auditorium is full of prospective students and their families with hopes and dreams for the future.  The prospective students are preparing to enter an environment of accelerated growth where personal comfort zones will be pushed and expanded to create a new self with additional knowledge, skills, and possibilities.  Our responsibility for creating the environment that makes this possible at the college requires daily mindfulness and a commitment to continuous improvement.  We must never lose sight of the moral and ethical responsibilities with which we are entrusted when families send their children to us.

In the business world, models of continuous improvement often include words like assessment, planning, implementation, budget management, etc.  These words are important to our thinking about continuous improvement for the college; however, there is a wider focus in the academic environment that takes a more holistic view of students and our learning community.  This wider focus is grounded in our shared values.  For example, continuous improvement in the areas of respect and empathy, while not easily measured, are seen and felt in daily actions of faculty and staff between each other and with students.  Our interactions and modeling provide an atmosphere of expectations and nurturing for achieving higher levels of these and other shared values.

Here are a few thoughts incorporating our shared values  and strategic priorities from our Campus Plan in a wider-focused view of continuous improvement:

  • Trust increases with open communication and an appreciation for others’ perspectives.  This works best by understanding that all voices will be heard, but no single voice will carry the day.  This also speaks to our shared value articulation that says we are committed to understanding before being understood.  The opposite of this can lead to fractured communication.  In our non-professional lives, we can chose to allow fractured communication to remain, but we cannot afford this in a professional community.  Healing and moving forward comes, in part, from focusing on issues and not personalities while seeking deeper understanding.
  • It is important to establish clear expectations with support for achieving individual and community goals.  Our professionalism, how we interact with each other to realize our goals, is just as important as achieving programmatic/divisional goals – one does not occur optimally without the other.  We value collaboration.
  • It is important to establish an atmosphere where risks are allowed, often involving belief systems in academia, and if failure occurs, judgment and blame should not the first reactions.  When something does not work as well as planned, we must be compassionate with ourselves and others.  Learning from mistakes is crucial in a model of continuous improvement and requires the ability to build wisdom through embracing lessons that may be challenging.  It is important to have an appreciation for the process of improvement rather than jumping to conclusions and retreating to what was comfortable.  We must always envision what is best for students and find a way to get there together, even if it gets uncomfortable.
  • Related to the previous point, continuous improvement does not always mean striving harder within current paradigms.  Ashkenas (2012) said, “Too many continuous improvement projects focus so much on gaining efficiencies that they don’t challenge the basic assumptions of what’s being done.”  Sometimes disruption of a current paradigm is needed to create opportunities for maximal student success.
  • Provost Liszka spoke at the Celebration of Scholarship last Friday and discussed the bidirectional relationship of teaching and scholarship.  Continuous improvement to achieve consistent teaching excellence, along with other activities that support this, is central to the College’s goal of student success.
  • Being disciplined and mindful about our own growth is imperative; we value life-long learning.  For example, it is important to expand comfort zones to meet current and future needs of our students.  This may be done by learning new technology that will benefit students’ learning or will improve communication with others in the community.  It may be work that is needed to improve inclusiveness through multicultural competencies.  Imaging the best self possible for students and the community and developing personal plans for achieving this is not easy work.  It is this moral and ethical journey that calls us to become our best selves.  Parents who entrust their children to us and the young adults who entrust themselves to us deserve no less.

There is a beautiful line in a book by Christina Feldman (2005) that says, “Wisdom and compassion are like the two wings of a bird: Both are necessary for the bird to soar, both are necessary for our hearts to open and heal.”

I wish you well on your journey of continuous improvement and look forward to the times we do this work together.

Image (2013). Retrieved November 16, 2013 from:


Ashkenas, R. (2012).  It’s Time to Rethink Continuous Improvement. Retrieved November 16, 2013, from http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/05/its-time-to-rethink-continuous/

Feldman, C. (2005). Compassion: Listening to the cries of the world. Berkeley, CA: Rodmell Press.

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