A Day in the Life – the February Edition

February may be the shortest month, but February 20 was one of my longer days this month.

Woke up.

Got out of bed.

Dragged a comb across my head.

I got to work at my usual time – around 8:30AM.  Soon thereafter my office received a call from a student who believed that she had been erroneously charged over $500 for First Day Access books that she wasn’t using.  She had apparently been bounced around from office to office for more than a week (most recently the office of a Dean of Student Affairs had suggested she call my office), so Rhonda (my wonderful Executive Assistant) and I decided to see what we could figure out.

  • We pulled her course schedule, but that didn’t provide enough useful information.
  • We pulled her registration history, but that didn’t provide enough useful information.
  • We pulled the details of her registration activity (days, times she registered and/or dropped a class for Spring 2019), but that didn’t provide enough useful information.
  • We debated recommending that she connect with the relevant deans and/or department chairs for her four courses, but that would just send her out to additional folks for her to state the problem again (and again, and again).
  • We finally asked her if she would send us a pdf of her tuition and fees statement.  Aha!  That was the ticket.  She was reading the statement incorrectly, because it actually did show that she had been refunded several First Day Access charges when she made schedule changes prior to the start of the semester.  When Rhonda called her back to talk her through the tuition statement and the refunds, the student was relieved and grateful.  (And I think that Rhonda may be her new best friend!)
What Else Did the Day Entail?
  • Writing a blurb so that we could put our Department Chair Summer Institute in the workshops database.
  • Responding to an email from colleagues at Lamar University about setting up faculty-to-faculty meetings in support of new articulation agreements.  We have also visited recently with colleagues at Stephen F. Austin and WGU-Texas.  All three visits reflect a desire to strengthen partnerships and pathways for our students.  Lamar University, for instance, has a variety of online programs that could allow our students to complete a baccalaureate degree without leaving Austin.  We are continuing to explore what we can do to give our students transfer options that work for them.
  • Engaging in email conversation with Julie Wauchope, our INRW department chair, about changes to our approach to corequisite course pairs between the INRW department and the English Department (what we call “Comp 5.0”).  Our corequisite work is crucial to helping students gain the academic skills that they need to succeed in their college and career pursuits.  And – as with most things – there is no single perfect way to provide corequisite skills development for students who need that help.  We sometimes have to try a variety of models to see what works for students, for our available resources, and for the institution at large.
  • Spending an hour trying to chase down information about OER source material for our core curriculum courses that are taught with open educational resources.  A request for this information had been directed to Dr. Cook, who then directed it to me.  The legislature is in town (as you know) and some legislators are considering legislation to expand the use of OER for core curriculum courses.  This request came from an associate of OpenStax who was hoping to inform the legislative staff discussions about how colleges actually provide OER options to students.  It turns out we may be able to run reports on Z-classes (zero textbook costs), but we don’t have a centralized database that tells us what openly-licensed course materials are being used in those Z-classes.  So all I could do was go to the course schedule, sort by Z-classes, and sift through the syllabus links in Lighthouse.  It was actually informative – our faculty have found a variety of sources for their openly licensed and freely available course materials!
  • Drafting (in fits and starts throughout the day) my welcome remarks for the evening’s panel discussion at EVC (sponsored by Mercy Corps, the World Affairs Council of Austin, and ACC’s Peace & Conflict Studies Center).
  • Approving some fractional overloads for adjunct faculty.
  • Responding to some issues with our use of the Ad Astra “optimizer”, a tool that optimizes the assignment of course sections to classrooms to best utilize our space.  Turns out that we optimized some corequisite Math classes right out of their rooms!
  • Continuing to try to ensure that every single member of every single full-time faculty hiring committee has participated in our equity in faculty hiring training.  This training has been offered two dozen times (thanks to Dr. Chantae Recasner and Dr. Sam Echevarria-Cruz), but we still seem to have missed some folks.
  • Booking a meeting with a CoBd colleague to discuss fiscal issues related to our Texas Corequisite Project grant.
  • Sending out a reminder email about Fall schedule development timelines, including First Day Access/FacultyEnlight deadlines for Fall.
  • Engaging in both email and hallway discussions about data needs related to the Teagle Foundation grant that supports the continuing development of HUMA 1301:  Prehistory to Renaissance:  The Great Questions Seminar.  This iteration of HUMA 1301 (The Great Questions Seminar) is now an accepted Success course option in some degree plans (in addition to EDUC 1300/1200/1100, HPRS 1171, and POFT 1171).
Big Finish to the Day

I left the office a little after 6:00PM to head to our Eastview Campus for “Preventing Conflict:  The Role of Diplomacy and Development in Reducing Insecurity”, a panel discussion that included retired Admiral William McRaven and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Yes, sometimes this job comes with remarkable opportunities – and I got to meet and chat with two towering public servants.  I also had the privilege of sharing the stage with them (briefly) while welcoming everyone to this event.  Thanks to the hard work of Dr. Shirin Khosropour, Department Chair for Interdisciplinary Studies and Director of the Peace and Conflict Studies Center, ACC hosted a full house in the multipurpose room at EVC to hear from sage and seasoned foreign policy experts.  It was a great event, and illustrates the scope of the work that we do here at ACC to the benefit of our students and our community.

Coda

After the panel discussion (around 8:30PM) as I was chatting with folks, a student came up to me to say thank you.  Guess who?  Yes – the student who had called my office that morning because she was so stressed out at the thought that she had been overcharged several hundred dollars for First Day Access.  What a perfect end to a varied day – being reminded that we all do what we can to make a difference for every single student.