Letter from the Vice Provost
Donna T. Petherbridge, Ed.D.
Change is a necessary part of one’s lived experience. It can creep up on you, as Carl Sandburg wrote, like fog that comes on little cat feet, or like a subtle technology upgrade that slightly changes an interface design enough to make you think twice before you can do something you have automatically done many times before. Or it can be more of a tectonic plate shift, an event like the pandemic that jolts you into a new reality, forcing changes in how you live and work, often before you are ready. However it happens, change is inevitable, and ultimately what matters is how we respond to it and what we learn from it. That is where resilience comes in, and where an organization can not only survive, but thrive and innovate to meet the challenges of the future.
Stepping into the role of Vice Provost this year, I have reflected often on how organizations remain resilient while experiencing significant change. DELTA, after all, means change. And while that has been the DELTA motto since our organization was formed on July 1, 2000, the last two years have accelerated changes in teaching, learning and working much faster than we might have anticipated. From navigating staffing turnover, leadership transitions and flexible working both within DELTA and the campus community, to serving greater numbers of faculty and students with the increasing reliance on academic technologies, DELTA staff have been working diligently to continue to provide the campus with the excellent service our partners expect while we navigate our own new normal.
In the past year, we have had 10 DELTA staff members leave. Three retired and seven left for other opportunities. For DELTA, this number of staff departures in a given year is unusual. And I share this with you knowing that across campus, we are all experiencing turnover and going through organizational recalibrations as a result. While goodbyes are not easy, I’m genuinely happy for all of my colleagues who moved forward with well-deserved retirements or are on to the opportunities found within a new career. And upon reflection, while the departure of colleagues is difficult as we find ways to transfer organizational knowledge and provide excellent support while refilling vacancies, these changes have also given us the opportunity to bring into our organization new team members who bring to us new perspectives, ideas and a wealth of expertise to DELTA and NC State. Thus within a sea of change, we remain resilient, have added amazing new talent to our team, and continue to provide excellent service to our constituents.
And we are excited about the increasing number of users to support because we hope this means that when the pandemic resulted in an increasing reliance on technology, within our instructor toolkit, instructors have found value in continuing to use technology to support student learning, even when moving back into a primarily face-to-face classroom. We all value the power and importance of the connections, experiences, and mentoring that happens within the residential campus experience, and yet we also strongly believe that how we work, teach and learn have permanently changed and we must embrace that reality to remain resilient and relevant. The deeper digital imprint on all courses (and business activities) will remain, and as an organization, we have to reflect on what worked really well for us in teaching and technology and keep what works to support all learners. We have seen the reliance on Zoom during the pandemic become the new everyday norm for not only academic but business continuity on our campus, with (on average) around 4,000 meetings scheduled on any given weekday. We have noted the growth of tools such as Gradescope (which will replace OpScan in 2023), the ubiquitous use of technologies such as Moodle, and the widespread continuation of lecture capture via Panopto.
Ultimately, the upswing in technology usage can support student learning. When students have multiple ways to access course content when they cannot attend a course in person because of a life event, or when they need to review a lecture multiple times to help them reach an understanding of complex content, or when they need to take part of their courses online and part on campus so they can work, participate in athletics, or when they have other flexible access needs, we are providing multiple modalities that empower students to be successful and that allow us to teach and learn in engaging and creative ways. The future of teaching and learning is flexible, immersive, interdisciplinary, and lifelong, and as an institution, and to power the extraordinary, we need to not only be resilient to changes that come to us, but we need to be change agents for creating the best possible learning experiences for our students to empower student success.
I am honored to be the Vice Provost for DELTA and so very proud of the amazing team that I have watched over the past two years swiftly address challenges previously unimagined. Our staff used every opportunity to innovate and explore with the goal of making student learning experiences even better and improving the accessibility of and access to learning. We look forward to partnering with others to ensure NC State remains a leader in teaching and the digital transformation of higher education.