Islander Faculty Earn Association of College and University Educators Certificate

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas ‒ One of the largest cohorts of faculty members participating in a new Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) initiative at four leading higher education systems in the nation, including The Texas A&M System, received its credentials at a pinning ceremony for Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi faculty participants on May 18.

The ceremony, which was held at the TAMU-CC Performing Arts Center, featured remarks from Dr. Shonda Gibson, TAMUS associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs; Dr. Cindy Blackwell, academic director at ACUE; Dr. Kelly M. Miller, president and CEO of TAMU-CC; and Dr. Clarenda Phillips, TAMU-CC provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

As part of a TAMUS initiative to support student success, more than 50 faculty at the Island University completed ACUE’s 25-module online course titled Effective Teaching Practices/Career Guidance and Readiness/Effective Online Teaching Practices/Guided Pathways Implementation to learn evidence-based teaching practices shown to improve student achievement and close equity gaps. Faculty were awarded a nationally recognized Certificate in Effective College Instruction that is co-endorsed by ACUE and the American Council on Education (ACE).

In her remarks, Miller praised the cohort for continuing the Island University’s dedication to teaching excellence.

“You took the time, and it is a huge amount of time, to dedicate to this effort, and you really are role models and inspirations to the rest of this campus,” Miller said.

At the Island University, the ACUE course was facilitated by Drs. Pamela Greene, TAMU-CC assistant professor of Nursing, and Kellie Smith, TAMU-CC assistant professor of Communication. Greene said the course consisted of 25 individual modules within five specific areas that ran throughout the entire academic year – a year complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Kellie and I frequently were struck by the competing demands and extraordinary challenges faculty experienced above and beyond usual workload,” Greene said. “For some faculty, the ACUE course was a reminder of what our students experience, especially when a crisis occurs, and an extension is needed.”

At the pinning ceremony, Phillips said the effective teaching practices presented in the ACUE program will help the Island University improve the six-year graduation rate and close the six-year graduation gap, which is 10% for low-income students and 8% for Hispanic students.

“A&M-Corpus Christi is a Hispanic-Serving Institution with an undergraduate population that is 48% Hispanic, 40% low-income, and 30% first-generation,” Phillips said. “Through the strong support from TAMUS, the practical strategies learned in the ACUE program, and the hard work and tenacity of our faculty, over 50 A&M-Corpus Christi professors now have the tools to directly impact success outcomes for our students.”

David Hill, TAMU-CC professional assistant professor of Art and Galleries Manager, said he enjoyed the opportunity to focus on the practice of teaching during the course.

“Some specific examples from the ACUE course that I plan to implement are learning to break lectures down, supplementing lectures with skeletal outlines, and asking students to reflect on their experience,” Hill said. “Even more radical is the realization that I don't need to ‘tell’ students things. Instead, I want to work with them to figure things out. In this way, students learn ideas from within their base knowledge, and learn to cross the threshold of their own limitations, real or imagined.”

Hill said the course encourages faculty to reach students where they are to address equity gaps.

“Equity is not about making exceptions or altering standards. It is a commitment to each student in our classes to join them where they are and walk with them on a transformational journey,” he said.

Hill also said the concepts presented in ACUE dovetail well with student success systems already implemented at the Island University, such as the Center for Academic Student Achievement (CASA), counseling services, the I-CARE behavioral intervention team, and the Starfish undergraduate student case management system.

“The ACUE program transforms professors, which ultimately benefits students,” Hill said.

More than 1,500 faculty from TAMUS, The California State University System, City University of New York, and the University of Missouri System were enrolled in ACUE’s faculty development programs. The initiative is supported with $2.4 million from the Charles Koch Foundation.