Inspiring those who inspire

Medals awarded at the 2019 AACC Annual Convention to recipients of the 2019 Dale P. Parnell Faculty Distinction Recognition. (Photo: AACC)

Where do those who serve as “chief inspiration officers” in their classrooms go for inspiration? The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) annual convention.

“For me, the AACC convention is a great place to connect with my counterparts,” says Jen Lara, a professor and coach at Anne Arundel Community College in Maryland. “If you stay in your office or with people like you, your perspectives stay limited. Getting involved with AACC has opened many doors for me to connect with my faculty colleagues from across the nation.”

The 100th Annual AACC Convention, which will be held at National Harbor, Maryland, March 28-March 30, promises to be one of the most inspiring of all AACC events. Convention sessions will touch on topics such as teaching and learning, closing achievement gaps, innovative technology, student success and completion, collaboration, equity and the 21st-century workforce. With 250 sessions tailored for four audiences — faculty, mid-level managers, senior leaders and CEOs — there is something to inspire everyone.

Amy Powers, associate professor of history at Waubonsee Community College in Illinois, agrees.

“Attending the AACC convention provided me a broader perspective on national initiatives and challenges all community colleges are facing,” she says. “The opportunity to interact with faculty from across the country, and some from other countries, helped me see my place in the bigger picture.”

Share and grow

Both Lara and Powers note that sessions at previous AACC conventions helped them to grow personally and professionally.

“It’s important for faculty to learn about the efforts of AACC and what is happening on the national stage, what programs are being developed, and most importantly how we can break down silos and grow in our personal and professional lives,” Powers says. “Professional development opportunities such as this have positive effects on our students and our colleges.”

Lara adds she would recommend to faculty colleagues to attend the annual gathering.

“I would also encourage them to go curious and wanting to hear from different people,” she says. “By attending past conventions, I’ve realized almost every challenge has been solved, and if you connect with the right people, you can always find the solution you need at your college.”

The association’s new edition of its popular “AACC Competencies for Community College Leaders” includes a section for faculty.

Not only is the AACC annual convention an excellent place to network and find solutions, it is also a great opportunity to learn best practices for the classroom.

“One of my most recent takeaways from AACC is the idea of completion and success and how challenging that can be for first-generation students,” Powers says. “I returned to my classrooms much more cognizant and aware of these challenges. I’m now more responsive and flexible, and seek ways to remove unintentional barriers for my students.”

In addition, the event provides the opportunity for faculty, mid-level managers and senior leaders to network and learn from CEOs through workshops on how to develop leadership skills and transition from faculty into an executive role at community colleges. These sessions provide essential leadership strategies and tactics attendees can implement immediately at their colleges.

“Don’t box yourself in,” Lara adds. “There are many creative solutions to learn from at AACC. It is a visionary convention and I always leave inspired and excited for ‘what’s next.’”

Other opportunities

The association again will recognize exemplary faculty through its Dale P. Parnell Faculty Distinction Recognition (the deadline was November 15), which includes a special reception. (Check out the 2019 and 2018 Dale P. Parnell Distinguished Faculty.)

In addition, AACC has started a faculty ambassador program. One faculty ambassador from each member college who will serve as the point person to share special AACC communications for faculty and requests for faculty feedback from the college. Each selected faculty member will receive a complimentary base registration to the 2020 convention.

Convention registration special: For every five employees who register together from a member college for the 100th Annual AACC Convention, the association will offer the sixth base registration free of charge.