From the Editor

In nature, unintentional alliances are often responsible for sustaining our world. Amit Ray, author of Mindfulness: Living in the Moment, observes, “Collaboration is the essence of life. The wind, bees, and flowers work together to spread the pollen.” On college campuses, partnerships also are necessary to create rich learning ecologies in which students can thrive. In response to this need, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), with support from Lumina Foundation, launched the Faculty Collaboratives project—a large-scale, sustainable network of resource and innovation hubs and a curriculum for faculty professional learning. Phase 1 (2014−16) of the project comprised five LEAP States—California, Indiana, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. In 2016, Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oregon, and Virginia joined Phase 2 of the project. In this issue of Peer Review, all ten teams share their experiences of establishing networks and state hubs—virtual centers with public URLs for communications and community organizing.

AAC&U Vice President Susan Albertine directed the Faculty Collaboratives project from its launch until her recent retirement. Under Susan’s leadership, the Faculty Collaboratives project developed and sustained connections among LEAP States faculty. Faculty Collaboratives teams used Twitter and other technologies to share expertise and best practices across institutions. To help state teams assess their progress, Susan and the project teams created a Faculty Collaboratives Rubric, modeled on the VALUE rubrics, which can be found at www.aacu.org/node/17663.

Now an AAC&U Senior Fellow, Susan has passed the Faculty Collaboratives baton to C. Edward Watson, AAC&U’s Associate Vice President for Quality, Advocacy, and LEAP Initiatives. Eddie, as he is known, has a long history of working with faculty, most notably as Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Georgia, where he led university efforts associated with faculty development, future faculty development, student learning outcomes assessment, learning technologies, learning spaces, and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

I asked Eddie to share his thoughts about the Faculty Collaboratives’s future, and he graciously provided the following remarks:

Many important strategies were developed and lessons learned as a result of the Faculty Collaboratives project, and this issue of Peer Review provides replicable highlights from the participating states. As AAC&U looks to the future to continue efforts to develop and facilitate sustainable practices supporting LEAP work, Lumina’s Degree Qualifications Profile, and other interrelated projects, it’s valuable to revisit the key mechanism of student learning and student success in higher education. Indeed, faculty and their activities are at the heart of this work. The Faculty Collaboratives project was built upon this recognition, and next steps involve the adoption of approaches that promise to further increase faculty engagement with LEAP-related best practices. Fortunately, there are some clear paths forward. For instance, most institutions already have change agents at work on their campus whose central mission is to foster institutional climates and cultures that reinforce excellence in teaching, learning, and assessment in the service of student success. These are Centers for Teaching and Learning (CTLs).

CTL professionals have well-established relationships with faculty and possess a practical and applied knowledge regarding how learning works. These are strategically key campus representatives to lead faculty engagement with institutional and state-level initiatives such as LEAP. Encouraging LEAP co-ownership by CTLs offers a highly efficacious and collaborative avenue for sustaining and promoting the new communication channels, resource hubs, and other state-level approaches that resulted from the Faculty Collaboratives project. By leveraging CTLs and more closely connecting their activities to central institutional projects, state-level initiatives can be locally customized and sustained over time. AAC&U will be promoting such strategies in the coming months to further the accomplishments of the Faculty Collaboratives project.

While project leadership and other key players may change, the overarching goals of the Faculty Collaboratives project remain the same—to help faculty and educators engage in high-quality teaching, learning, and assessment focused on achievement of essential college learning. Through networking, campuses can navigate their changing landscapes to create flourishing learning environments for all students.

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