Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Center for Teaching Excellence's Distinctive Culture

At the beginning of each academic term, the Center for Teaching Excellence publishes its newsletter, Arete (which is the Greek word for ‘excellence’). Much of the front page is devoted to my column, ‘...From the Director’. Over the years I have written about CTE graduate fellows and the role they play, about CTE as a ‘democratic organization’ about the potential of American University’s recently inaugurated President to lead our institution ‘from good to great’ and much more. CTE has experienced remarkable growth since I became Director in January, 2002. In my column I described what i believe has been a critical success ingredient contributing to that growth. Here is what I wrote:


CTE will celebrate its 10th Anniversary during the 2008-2009 academic year. Landmark anniversaries are times for celebration and stock-taking. In the past ten years, CTE has evolved and changed unimaginably. But a theme that emerges from pages of founding Director Jack Child’s very first Annual Report remains: CTE’s mission is to facilitate mutually affirming, empowering relationships between learning, teaching and technology at American University.

CTE has evolved and grown by providing value-added to our clients - faculty and students primarily but also other AU Community Members. I believe a critical success ingredient is what we call, “the CTE culture.” It has enabled us to respond to new challenges, undertake new functions and build strong, collegial relationships throughout the AU community. It will be a source of resilience in the face of challenges the future poses. What is the essence of CTE’s culture? Here is what I have gleaned from many discussions in meetings, annual retreats and ‘around the water cooler.’

In CTE we believe that commitment to innovative teaching and learning must be the driving force for applying technology in all aspects of the educational process. To play its appropriate role, technology must be useful and accessible. Communications from those who purvey technology must be respectful, clear and empowering.

In CTE we believe that good stewardship to faculty students and other members of the AU community is the overriding priority. When an AU community member seeks us out, we never tell them their need is ‘not our job.’ If we cannot directly respond to a concern, it is our responsibility to connect the client with someone who can. In an era where ‘customer service’ seems to be at the bottom of many organizations’ priority lists, we intend to be an exception.

In CTE, we believe an affirming, empowering, work environment that fosters innovation, creativity and risk taking is the foundation of good stewardship. We primarily view ourselves as educators, mentors and colleagues, not as ‘managers’ and ‘staff’ and ‘part-time workers. We care about each other’s well being and have fun together. CTE’s part-time student staff members are integral to our organization and play pivotal roles. They are major sources of energy, creativity, innovation and self-renewal.

In CTE we believe in celebrating our successes and acknowledging those who make them possible, especially community members who are not part of CTE. We tell the truth about our failures, take responsibility for them and move on. We are especially committed to truth telling in our relationships with each other. We know that trial, experimentation and error - especially error - are essential to fulfilling our mission.


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