Conference gives Extension instructors a chance to connect and learn

By Eilene Zimmerman

“All work is learning,” said UC San Diego Extension’s Dean, Mary Walshok, when she took the stage at the Instructor Conference on Saturday, April 11, 2015. “We operate at the intersection of knowledge and practice and… it’s the knowledge and skills that you share with others that makes our community very competitive,” she said. The community Walshok referred to is a big one—over 30,000 students enroll annually in Extension programs, taught by 1,000 instructors.

In Walshok’s energizing address to more than 120 Extension instructors, she emphasized the university’s commitment to the greater San Diego community, which includes its campus-based, cross-disciplinary research and teaching programs. “That’s where Extension is, just look at our hundreds of certificate programs,” said Walshok. Those programs are at the heart of Extension’s mission, often helping professionals repurpose skills and retool so they remain relevant in a work world that is constantly changing.

Bernie Greenspan, an Extension instructor who teaches courses in intellectual property law, said his students are often in career transition. Some are in the paralegal certificate program and others are paralegals wanting to specialize in patent law. “I also get scientists who want to leave the bench and become patent agents,” he said. “Careers aren’t single-path anymore. We all have to think more broadly.” Greenspan is a patent agent at Prometheus Laboratories.

Instructor Parker Pike teaches an introductory marketing class and said a high percentage of his students have master's degrees and Ph.D.s, but “can’t run a meeting. They don’t understand the marketing component of their businesses,” he said. “They come to my class with the mindset of an academic and need to develop skills to think differently—to be able to listen to colleagues and the community, so they can do their job better.” Pike, who has been an Extension instructor for nearly 30 years, is both a serial entrepreneur and a seasoned marketing executive.

Instructors at the conference took advantage of a rare opportunity to connect with colleagues, something Bruce Dunn, the Extension’s associate dean and an instructor, suggests doesn’t happen often. “As an instructor you only really know the students in your classes,” said Dunn. “The conference is a chance for them to come together and know they are part of the larger community. And, it gives us a chance to update them on new university policies and procedures.” Instructors also mingled with Extension directors and attended workshops designed to enhance both their teaching and the classroom experience.

Workshop topics included: how to use discussion boards; data analytics and feedback tools to improve student success; and how to incorporate social media into teaching and learning. Vicki Krantz, director of business, science and technology programs for Extension, led a workshop that allowed instructors to share their teaching and classroom management strategies with one another. “Every person walked away from the workshop with something new to incorporate into their teaching,” said Krantz.

The conference was also a way for the Extension’s leadership to thank the instructors. “They are the heart of each student’s experience and our evaluations tell us that they are doing an extraordinary job,” said Krantz. “Ninety-four percent of students say their instructors exceeded their expectations.”

As a leading provider of professional education, UC San Diego Extension continually seeks highly qualified instructors with in-depth experience. If you believe you would be a good fit or have an idea for a new course, we encourage you to apply. Visit unex.applicantstack.com.



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