CTN hosted the second in its series of professional development trainings for new and returning Ascender instructors on October 16 beginning at 9am. CTN CEO, Dr. Chavez, welcomed over 40 participants and discussed CTN’s mission and updates. Then, as an example of object- based learning and a method of introduction, Allegra Villarreal, CTN Director of Professional Development, asked participants to share an object that represented their lives and explain.  In Allegra’s 9:30 session titled “The Journey thus Far: Using Metaphor to Make Meaning of Our Lives,” she asked participants to reflect on and discuss the challenges educators and students are having right now and how these can be better understood and coped with through the use of narrative and metaphor. She guided participants through a writing prompt and shared Uri Treisman and his student Yolanda’s parallel journey.  Metaphor helps to “crystalize for students the struggle and show them that we all go through it,” she commented.

Erin Doran, CTN Director of Research and Development, presented her session titled “A Community of Practice” next. In it, participants discussed what “community of practice” means and how it relates to Ascender’s framework and faculty development. “Now is the best time to build learning communities; it is an opportunity to start sharing and building community through departments,” commented Mario Morin, math instructor, STC.

After a short break, Victor Saenz, Department Chair and Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, UT Austin, presented “Latin Males: Improving Retention and Completion in Higher Ed.”  Saenz discussed with participants the causes that contribute to male disengagement in higher ed as well as ways these can be addressed in the classroom and institutionally. He said, “With good intention, we tend to look at them through deficient narratives; we need to take a harder look at the structures we have produced around these young men. To be truly successful; we must work with our young men across the pipeline.”

During the Q and A following his session, Saenz offered suggestions for improving the retention and success of males in higher ed. “Try to have learning communities be responsive to the needs of consortium members. One might be how instructors can better serve male students in the classroom. Look at key strategies. For example, young men want to be engaged early and often. We have to find ways to do this. Some are simple things like calling them by their name. A learning community is a good platform to be able to share these strategies.”

Participants were led in a discussion about the importance of mental health for faculty and staff as well as methods of self-care in the session “Mental Health in Trying Times” presented by Rosa Rodriguez-Alvarez, Associate Dean, Counseling, at Austin Community College.

Rodriquez offered tips for managing stress which included “find what works for you and be intentional about self-care. Be able to say “no.” and seek support. Develop a self-care plan.  Set boundaries.”

The first afternoon session was presented by Julia Preston, contributing writer for the Marshall Project and former New York Times national correspondent. Her session explored the nature of truth in reporting and was titled “Facts vs Truth in News Reporting: The Case of DACA.”  Preston began her presentation with a brief history of her work relationship with CTN founder, John Siceloff, and an explanation of why journalism is a good type of writing for all students as it “makes them take a step back, and therefore, is good for debate.”

Preston then defined DACA and explained the route of DACA to the Supreme Court. She next shared articles of the current status of Dreamers and those who are eligible, but cannot, apply now.

She told participants that “by understanding the practice of journalism, students can understand that they are a part of history -happening right now. In Texas, DACA is all around them, with 106,000 recipients and 192,000 who are eligible.” She ended her presentation with suggestions for student assignments.  

Preston’s session was followed by four breakout sessions. These were “Mathematics in the Ascender Framework”

led by facilitators, Mario Morin, Department Chair, Mathematics, South Texas College and John Mullin, CEO EnLearn; “How to Handle the (Digital) Paper Load” with facilitator, Allegra Villarreal; “Learning Frameworks Session” led by facilitator: Anna Alaniz, CTN Fellow and Ascender Coordinator, South Texas College; “The Art of Advising in the Virtual Age” with facilitator: Ariel Flores, CTN Fellow and Specialist, Area of Study Master Advising, Austin Community College.

The day ended with campus team time sessions where participants gathered in five breakout rooms to discuss concerns, questions and resources available on their campuses. SAC Ascender Program Director, Dr. Jaimes, commented, “Every time I attend, I leave inspired. It reminds me of why I’m here, why this is the field for me.”

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