The UCBC academic year is coming to a close. Classes are ending. Reading and exam weeks begin next week, and students graduate July 30. There is truth in the cliché, “Time flies!”
This year has been busy with activity, especially for my team, the Office of Faculty Development and Bilingual Affairs (FDBA).
Perhaps the biggest undertaking of the newly-established FDBA office was the campus-wide assessment of English, conducted in January. The two months leading up to the assessment, were full of meetings, research, and preparations. UCBC’s Integrative Research Institute assisted our team by providing training for focus group facilitators and organizing content for computer-based testing. A stratified random sampling of students took a modified TOEFL test, and another group of 60 students and staff participated in focus groups. The TOEFL results did not surprise us, but confirmed the need for increased attention to English language development. We discovered that more than 75% of our students come to UCBC specifically because it is bilingual, and they will learn and use English. Students consistently confirmed their willingness to be challenged to develop English fluency. They will get their wish with the new academic year!
Another hefty task the FDBA team undertook was developing a 3-year strategic plan. Under the tutelage of UCBC’s Center for Development and Partnership, we learned to use problem-trees and log frames. Arduous, concentrated, and time-demanding describe the process. But given the complex nature of our mandate, the work was necessary. The objectives and activities we identified will direct our work and our budget these next three years.
Working in collaboration with other university services, our team developed a heft calendar of faculty development activities. Fewer than half of the 42 workshops occurred for reasons all-too-familiar in our context. UCBC was compelled to close when the entire city of Beni launched a 3-day shut-down to protest area violence. Three faculty development sessions were just one set of scheduling casualties. An all-staff and all-student work afternoon overrode another planned workshop. Collective response to deaths within our community upended other campus activities for several days.
Not to be deterred, we looked for other ways to engage faculty and staff in professional development, including Chakula Chat (chakula is Swahili for food). Food entices participation, as we all know! Chakula Chat provided a platform for lunchtime, informal sharing of experiences and opportunities across the university. If attendance is an indicator, this event was a great success!
Two large projects have dominated my time the last four months. One is a proposal to assist our permanent staff to earn advanced degrees (masters and doctorates). The other is planning for a weeklong faculty development event prior to the opening of the next academic year. UCBC4U: Excellent Academic Education in a Bilingual Setting will occur October 3-7.
As I look back over the year, I am reminded of God’s grace and mercy and grateful for many blessings: good health, a car, a safe and comfortable place to live with running water, good people with whom to work, financial support, family and friends who encourage me, meaningful work, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Skype, your prayers, a church family, travelling mercies, patient co-workers, and you.
Grace and peace,