This year’s call asks for applications by faculty interested in redesigning their pedagogical approaches and/or course structure around the use of (1) Ed Discussion—a tool we spotlighted in the Haaaaave You Met Ed? blog post, or (2) the easy-to-use Knight Lab storytelling tools—great for providing students with creative options to demonstrate learning. We understand that technology tools alone do not transform the educational experience, which is why I’d like to call your attention (see what I did there?) to an underlying fundamental force behind the Hahn Grant Program: Collaboration.
A Collaborative Mission to Collaborate
We’ve all heard the clichés that collaboration and communication are key—to college functions and life in general. Yet, we also read all too often about universities and departments being siloed. And on more than one occasion, I’ve heard students lament not being able to work together in school even though collaboration skills are essential to their careers and lives. I bet you, like me, have seen how much group work makes a difference in students’ learning, even a simple think-pair-share activity. Through collective efforts, we learn more and do more.
For the last couple of years, RITG has been on a mission to storm the silos and, in place, build bridges. The Hahn Grant Program is an impressive example of that—of exceptional collaborations. Don’t think I’m tooting my own horn here. I’m not. I’ve only been around for the last three months. I can’t take credit. I say this as an outsider with over a decade of experience in various academic roles, trying to get projects half as collaborative off the ground at other institutions. In fact, the spirit of collaboration I saw RITG cultivating is what led me to apply for and accept the Pomona instructional technologist position.
Heeding the Call
I’m going to get personal for a moment. I had a good job in Iowa, where the cost of living is not even half as much as it is here. Over nine-and-a-half years, I worked for the same college as an academic advisor, faculty member, writing lab leader, and in my last role, instructional designer. I served on and collaborated with countless committees, boards, and advisory councils. I developed meaningful connections with staff, faculty, and students at my institution and others. When I decided to move halfway across the country—to a place where I knew no one (yes, everyone thought I was crazy)—I understood I would be leaving behind my beloved family until the end of this school year, wonderful friends and colleagues, and years-in-the-making projects. It was not a decision I took lightly. If I was going to leave all that behind, it would have to be for something good—really good.
I’m…uh…let’s say organized. According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I am an INTJer or INFJer if that means anything to you. So, this wasn’t a spontaneous, whimsical move. I’m a planner. I basically had a rubric when I was applying to and interviewing for jobs. I was interviewing candidates too, and Pomona ticked all the “exemplary” boxes. Do you want to know the hardest criterion for my candidates to fulfill? —Being invested in collaboration.
A Hard Call
Collaboration—why so elusive? Everyone knows its value, but like moving halfway across the country, it’s hard. It’s hard to sync up schedules to meet regularly even if over Zoom. It’s hard for some people to speak their minds and hard for some to let others have the floor. It’s hard to commit to shared goals and consistently keep those goals in mind or shift them when needed. It’s hard to get everyone on the same page without frustrations interfering, lack of questioning leading to groupthink, or perceived impasses causing members to leave. It’s hard to transform discourse into meaningful actions that effect real (and hopefully positive) change.
Collaboration takes time, commitment to inclusive practices, and mutual respect for everyone in the group. It values individual expertise and honors others’ contributions—no matter the role, no matter how big or how small. That’s what I saw RITG building, and I wanted to be a part of it. In working on the 2021-2022 Hahn Grant Recipient Project pages, I had the opportunity to learn about all of the collaborations and make my own small contribution, albeit at the very end. Reflecting on this and other experiences I’ve had in the last three months reaffirmed my decision to come to Pomona and join ITS-RITG.
Making the Right Call
Collaboration may be hard, but it also leads to unforeseen, exponential growth and infinite rewards. I’m privileged to unveil the Hahn Recipient Project pages, featuring the work RITG has put into fostering a spirit of collaboration across Pomona. I am proud of my new team! At the same time, I cannot underscore enough the time and effort of the faculty who applied, developed and redesigned courses, and implemented innovative technologies and pedagogies. As I worked on their project pages—reading their applications and reports, collecting images and other assets, editing videos and transcripts, scouring their and their students’ websites to understand the project scope, and corresponding with them about the accuracy of their page—I saw so much evidence of what I originally sought: collaboration.
Again, my decision was reaffirmed. I felt energized. I wished I’d been here from the beginning, to meet the recipients in person, help brainstorm ideas and develop lessons, share my expertise in teaching and LMS-enhanced universal design for learning, and observe a class or two and see firsthand students’ reactions to these innovative approaches. Heck, I wished I could have taken these courses! Working on the Hahn Recipient Project pages also reminded me why I switched from teaching to instructional design and technology—to collaborate more with educators invested in innovating and continuously improving their teaching and the student learning experience. And it reminded me why I made the move to Pomona.
A Call to Celebrate
Please join me in celebrating and reflecting on the work of last year’s Hahn Grant recipients by reading each one’s project page. At the same time, recognize that many ongoing collaborations made them possible. I want to acknowledge the contributions of the following:
- Former and current 5C students who served as TAs and RAs
- A special shoutout to our student worker, Emily Briones (Pomona ’24), whose initial blog post I co-opted for my vision of the project pages
- Students enrolled in the new or redesigned courses who served as test groups, providing feedback to measure success and tips for future improvement
- RITG staff and all of ITS who provided technical and pedagogical expertise
- The Dean’s Office who helped with selection and event planning
- Administrative assistants, the Student Payroll Office, and the Finance Office who worked on budgets and reconciled expenses
- Caterers who prepared meals for events
- Maintenance crews who installed equipment
- Vendors who answered countless questions
And let’s not forget the family and friends who gave up time with their loved ones as they worked tirelessly to complete the project. Many thanks to all!
Do You Hear the Call?
The Hahn Recipients and everyone involved in their projects embody collaboration. If that energizes you half as much as coming to Pomona did me, I hope you’ll consider applying for this year’s Hahn Grant. I look forward to collaborating with the new cohort from the beginning, and I know the rest of RITG does too.