CSM Professor Earns Award at North American Conference

College of Southern Maryland Professor Kim Donnelly has blazed a trail to lead adjunct faculty from diverse backgrounds and experiences on a journey toward professional development and ultimately certification. For her efforts

Kim Donnelly Recognized for Adjunct Faculty Development Program

            She is the self-described ‘pioneer’ of adjunct faculty development. Once an adjunct professor herself, College of Southern Maryland Professor Kim Donnelly began blazing a trail five years ago to lead other adjuncts from diverse backgrounds and experiences on a journey toward professional development and ultimately certification, as well as greater connectivity with college administration and full-time faculty.

“The certification program at the college was not well known prior to 2007, but if you went through it you could get a 10 percent pay raise,” said Donnelly. “In combining training sessions and service opportunities for adjuncts, we were able to help streamline the process and boost the number of certified adjunct professors.”  As a result, nearly 200 adjunct faculty have earned Level III certification, as compared to about 40 adjunct faculty back in 2007.

For her efforts, she has been recognized by the North American Council for Staff, Program and Organizational Development with an Exemplar award.

“Kim's programs send important messages to our adjunct faculty members– that they are valued members of our college community and we are providing the training they need to be successful.  Not only will our adjuncts feel more comfortable in their classrooms, the students will be the ultimate beneficiaries because our faculty will be more effective," said CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried.

Adjunct faculty are teaching staff that are part-time temporary faculty who may be working in their field of expertise during the day and teaching at the college in the evenings or on weekends.

“A student probably wouldn’t know if his or her teacher was adjunct or permanent faculty—there’s nothing on the syllabus. I’m not sure that most students realize what ‘adjunct’ means. But adjuncts represent around three-quarters of the faculty at the College of Southern Maryland,” said Donnelly, adding that although there are more adjuncts some may only teach one class a semester, whereas full-time faculty teach five.

“Adjuncts come from all over the place—they teach in the public school system, are current or retired federal government executives, are active or retired military or law enforcement officers—a mixed group from diverse backgrounds that bring a wealth of experience to their courses,” Donnelly said, adding that the instructor training is designed to cover topics that will benefit first-time adjunct as well as experienced faculty. “We work really hard to have concurrent session options that would meet the needs of ‘Hey, I just got hired here and I have no idea how to calculate a mid-term grade’, all the way up to ‘I’ve been teaching here as an adjunct for 20 years and what I really want to do is learn about the college’s initiatives for student success,’” Donnelly said. 

Donnelly’s initial efforts focused on development of adjunct faculty training that would work in concert with the certification process run by the college. After several months of preparing a new mission and function statement, re-writing procedures and changing the group’s name, Donnelly and the new committee organized the first official Saturday meeting. Eight adjunct faculty came. A month later, at the second meeting, 12 came and at the fall pre-semester meeting, the number doubled. Attendance has been on a steady rise ever since.

“We can expect 40-50 adjuncts at the Saturday sessions that are held eight times a year,” said Donnelly.

Throughout the year of Saturday sessions, Donnelly brings in CSM administrators so that adjuncts who may only teach one class on a Saturday can meet face-to-face with someone from Student Services and learn about tutoring, computer labs, advising and financial assistance. They learn a blend of technology, teaching strategies, personal development and one series included “Step into a Student’s Shoes.”

“The goal of the program is to help adjunct faculty become better, more effective teachers with a parallel goal to help them become more connected. When you are an adjunct and you pop in one night a week from 7 to 8:45 p.m. it’s easy to feel like you are outside of everything that’s going on. So, Adjunct Faculty Academy is really about getting connected and getting to know other faculty,” Donnelly said.

“Kim has been a consistent support to the success of the adjunct faculty trainings held on Saturdays throughout the academic year. The time she spends keeping the adjuncts connected to the college, engaged in the accountability of our students' success, and informed of changes that directly impact our ability to perform the role of adjunct faculty does not go unnoticed,” said CSM Student Services Executive Director Regina Bowman-Goldring, who is also an adjunct professor. “The passion she has for student success and the development of those involved in her profession is evident. She listens to adjunct needs, connects with those who can fulfill those needs and is supportive of adjunct faculty working towards their certifications. She is a real collaborator and a tremendous asset to the college and to her faculty colleagues.”

Another aspect to the Adjunct Faculty Academy is the keynote project which combines a college or community service project with classroom instruction and leads to Level 3 certification. Professors are invited to present their completed keynote projects at a Saturday session and to answer questions from adjuncts who also may be contemplating doing a keynote project.

“When adjuncts attain Level 3, they are not guaranteed a permanent position, but with changes instituted by our Academic Affairs Division, Level 3 adjuncts are guaranteed an interview for open full-time faculty positions,” said Donnelly.

Donnelly is from Pennsylvania and holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and master’s degree in library science from Clarion University. Donnelly also earned a graduate certificate at University of Maryland Baltimore County in instructional design which was her inroad into faculty development. As an academic librarian at York College of Pennsylvania, Donnelly got her start in teaching.

Following her husband to Southern Maryland to pursue a job opportunity, Donnelly found work at CSM that she loved. She has been at CSM for 11 years. When she arrived no orientations existed for adjunct faculty, but she was assigned a mentor.

Donnelly teaches developmental reading and writing for underprepared freshman, coordinates the developmental reading program at CSM, and collaborates with the Charles County High Schools on the College Prep English program.

“Monitoring my own teaching and leadership activities often results in new ideas for adjunct training. I have trained myself to be aware of my own training needs and to find the resources to get that training out there for others,” Donnelly explained.

When not working with adjunct faculty, Donnelly coordinates Faculty Academy for newly hired full-time faculty which is a series of workshops to help them get started.

Her latest initiative is combining adjunct and full-time faculty retreats into one.

“Kim’s award recognizes her efforts in chairing a committee that created not only a program that would encourage professional development but also one that would create a sense of community among faculty. Her success has been astounding,” said CSM Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Sue Subocz, who also started at CSM as an adjunct.

NCSPOD, an affiliate council of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), was founded in 1977 to serve a diverse membership comprised of colleges, universities, businesses, consulting firms and government agencies from across the United States and Canada and beyond with the mission to sustain an international community of engaged professionals by facilitating the sharing of expertise and resources to advance faculty, staff and organizational effectiveness. For information on NCSPOD, visit http://ncspod.org/index.html.

For information on CSM and faculty employment opportunities, visit www.csmd.edu.

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