Our amazing faculty are one of the reasons why our students get such a supportive and stimulating experience during their time with Excelsior College. In this article, we look at the recipients of the Distinguished Faculty Awards 2017 from the School of Business and Technology. The award is nominated by students and recognizes members of our faculty who have contributed to providing our students with an outstanding learning experience. Faculty Program Director for Accounting, Dr. Santhosh Abraham, interviewed award recipient Dr. Dawn Wright, and Dr. Andrew Hurd, Faculty Program Director for Cybersecurity, interviewed Ken Desforges.
Dr. Santhosh Abraham interviews Dr. Dawn Wright
Abraham: Dr. Dawn Wright, please can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Wright: I am an Air Force veteran and graduate of the United States Air Force Academy. I attained the rank of Captain and was a Weapon Systems Operator/GIB flying F4E’s during the Vietnam War. After leaving the service, I earned a Masters’ in Civil Engineering from Auburn University and worked as a consulting engineer for 25 years and was a registered professional engineer in six states. After retiring, I returned to school and earned my Ph.D. at the University of South Alabama in Educational Technology/Instructional Design. I have taught for Excelsior since 2011. I currently live in Mobile, Alabama, my home for about 40 years, but I am relocating later this year to mid-Florida to get nearer my family and a bit warmer to boot.
Abraham: What is it that you enjoy most about teaching?
Wright: Teaching non-traditional students in an online environment is challenging but rewarding. I have enjoyed finding creative ways to connect with my students so they sense there is someone real who cares that they are learning and progressing in the course. Particularly for our military students, I enjoy finding ways to remove technology obstacles in their paths. I have found that my relatively crude instructional videos add something of value to my classes that my students cannot get from watching videos from people who are unknown to them. I particularly enjoy helping struggling students who need a bit more time to complete a course. Our students typically are working fulltime with family obligations as well. The isolation exacerbates those stresses in an online environment. One particularly fond memory was of an Excelsior student who is my age. He was struggling and almost dropped, which would have caused him to miss graduation that year, but we persisted together and he finished. He sent me a photo of him receiving his Excelsior MBA on time.
Abraham: You are this year’s winner of the Distinguished Faculty Award, what does it mean to you to win this award?
Wright: I am very honored to receive this award in recognition of my teaching. Too often in higher education, faculty who focus on teaching are overshadowed by researchers who many times look at teaching as an afterthought. I am glad Excelsior supports faculty research but also visibly recognizes teaching as being important.
Abraham: You received your award at Commencement in July, what is the best piece of advice that you would give to the many students graduating as they take the next steps in their journey?
Wright: My advice to graduating students is to understand that a very important skill they are taking away from their time at Excelsior is knowing how to learn. Continuous learning will be needed by everyone who wants to ensure their future employment and career progression. Earning a degree in a remote, online environment is evidence of a higher level of self-discipline and focus that will be valuable tools in their tool box.
Dr. Andrew Hurd interviews Distinguished Faculty Award Recipient, Dr. Ken Desforges.
Hurd: Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and what you enjoy about teaching?
Desforges: I have served as a Director of IT/IS in both private and public sector enterprises for the past 18 years, and have led numerous technical teams performing IT/Cybersecuirty projects. Currently I am the Director of Information Systems for the City of Diamond Bar, a city with a significant online presence and a population of 60,000. There I develop and direct comprehensive programs which deliver progressive information technology solutions to meet current and future needs; and I collaborate with all directors, managers, and staff to insure successfully integrated information technology initiatives. I have been Married to my beautiful wife for over 26 years. We have 4 Children, 3 Boys and a 1 Girl (our Youngest) and we live in Sunny Southern California. I have been an Information Technology (IT) & Cybersecurity (CYS) – Course Developer, Reviewer and Instructor since 5/2011, Teaching over 70 Course Sections to date. In the IT & Cybersecurity program many of our students are active duty or former Military service members and I LOVE working with them, and helping them achieve THEIR Professional and Academic goals.
Hurd: What do you think is the most important part of the instructor’s role, particularly when dealing with online students?
Desforges: Treating them with respect, as adults; realizing that LIFE HAPPENS, and working with students within in reason and EC policy; being their course cheerleader – encouraging them to be their best and produce their best work. Providing Clear Instructions and setting Expectations for QUALITY and demanding that, even when flexible on deadlines.
Hurd: You are one of this year’s winners of the Distinguished Faculty Award, so what does it mean to you to win this award?
Desforges: It is a wonderful acknowledgement of the efforts of MANY people, including administrators, staff, instructional designers, and current and former faculty who have been my instructors, mentors and now peers. I am very pleased to be recognized by students and the Excelsior College – School of Business and Technology, for carrying on the work of our visionary founders, leaders, and wonderful caring faculty who came before me.
Hurd: You received your award at Commencement in July, what is the best piece of advice that you would give to the many students graduating as they take the next steps in their journey?
Desforges: Commencement is amazing, you get an opportunity to meet your Excelsior College Faculty & Staff, make new friends/memories, and find out how to stay plugged in to your Alma Mater now and in the future. I NEVER intended to Teach, I am receiving this award only because I came to commencement, and made some connections. As you graduate, explore every opportunity, you never know what wonderful opportunities may be there. Go through every open door until you come upon a closed door, and then find the next open door. Never be afraid to take a risk, if you fall, get up and try again. Ever Upward!!!