By Haley Hadge
May Hara, professor of education and social and behavioral sciences, was appointed the new director of the Center for Excellence in Learning, Teaching, Scholarship and Service (CELTSS) for this academic year.
Hara was appointed by Ellen Zimmerman, provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Lina Rincón, professor of education and social and behavioral sciences, was scheduled to assume the role this fall, but she has since accepted a new position as the director of faculty diversity and inclusion at Sacramento State University.
Rincón said, “Leaving Framingham was one of the hardest decisions of my life.”
This job opportunity arrived from collegiate connections and a shared passion to “change the picture of higher education” by developing diversity, inclusion, and equity education programs for faculty, she said.
She added the support and encouragement she received throughout her six years at the University led her to realize her own potential and actualize her long-term goal to work in higher education administration.
Though CELTSS has transitioned in leadership, the continuity of its services will remain, said Rincón.
Hara said, “There’s a learning curve every time you come into a new position, but I feel lucky to have benefited from my past experience.”
Rincón said she worked closely with Lissa Bollettino, CELTSS assistant director, to map out their goals for the program. They identified the importance to “continue to have a team as strong as us,” she said.
She added she is “more than confident” in this new team’s leadership.
“They are going to be stellar,” said Rincón.
In spring 2020, she and Hara worked together as interim director and interim assistant director, respectively, she said.
“We were brainstorming on how to create spaces for faculty to learn about inclusivity” as well as “to mentor and support faculty,” Rincón said.
Bollettino said Hara is “extremely organized, extremely competent, and has a vision that will bring CELTSS into the future.
“She came on board late, but she came on board running,” she added.
Zimmerman said CELTSS “helps faculty stay current with up-to-date teaching strategies and best practices.”
She added CELTSS provides funding for faculty research, workshops, and the current best practices.
According to Zimmerman, funding for CELTSS is provided by Academic ADairs and the University. However, faculty make all the decisions.
“CELTSS does a very good job of identifying the needs for professional development,” she said.
She added the CELTSS steering committee has “broad representation” from every academic department on campus.
Bollettino said she and Hara have had multiple conversations on their “strategic priorities” as a team and have experience collaborating.
Hara said they have “always worked well together.”
They co-facilitated the Teaching Pairs Program in which faculty can observe and learn from each other’s practices, according to Bollettino.
She added, “Dr. Hara brought a new theoretical framework to that program” in which faculty meet ahead of time to share their goals, take notes throughout each other’s lessons, and rejoin to share their observations, advise, and ask questions.
The combination of Hara’s experience in this work and the team assembled is a recipe for success, she said.
“A real perk of just being at Framingham State is that people are really collegial and always willing to help,” said Hara. “It has been a collaborative effort.”
The CELTSS team wants to continue to increase their understanding of anti-racist work and equity within the Framingham State community and beyond, she said.
Furthermore, Hara said the team wants to “continue to build faculty, staff, and student community, making sure that we’re thinking about everybody’s health and well-being and how that interplays with teaching and learning on our campus.”
She added they aim to be “flexible” and adaptable in their training to reach this goal. This will be accomplished through a hybrid approach to their training and outreach events – offering Zoom and in-person accessibility.
Biology Professor Amy Knapp, director of mentoring, said they are “prepared to roll with the punches.”
She explained the option of virtual training has been beneficial outside the context of COVID-19. Seminars can be recorded for people who could not attend, therefore increasing their accessibility.
Knapp added, “Faculty really need mentoring throughout their careers.”
Hara said CELTSS leaders want to “engage more deeply with students” so faculty and students have an environment in which they can “come together around research endeavors.”
According to Hara, they have sent out a “needs assessment survey to all the faculty and staff” asking a range of questions.
Two questions they asked were, “What sorts of professional development initiatives would be most useful to you right now?” and “What are you hoping that CELTSS can offer you to help you Zourish as a scholar/professor/staff member?” she said.
This data informs the decisions CELTSS leadership makes and tunes them into what is happening in people’s lives, said Hara.
She added, “CELTSS has long been a linchpin of faculty, staD, and professional development” and the CELTSS team is “committed to continuing that legacy in a way that’s responsive to the needs of the moment.”