Services are temporarily suspended in Campus Center building.

Campus Center (CC) building remains closed through September 30, 2022.  Students, please check Canvas for class updates. Services normally located in CC are available in Morse Center second floor including library, tutoring, TRIO and Student Life. Campus Store has limited services in G building from 7:45 a.m.-1 p.m.

Teaching & Learning Academy

Welcome to the Teaching & Learning Academy at Bellingham Technical College! 

The Teaching and Learning Academy (TLA) was established at BTC in spring 2020 as part of the Guided Pathways project and a Title III Strengthening Institutions Program grant from the US Department of Education. Teaching and Learning Academy aims to support student learning at BTC by providing faculty with professional development opportunities and resources that will facilitate quality instruction and close equity gaps for non-traditional students. TLA key projects include:

New Faculty Orientation (TLA 101)

Orientation and onboarding first-year-experience program for new faculty, including mentoring from veteran faculty, designed to arm them with the tools, skills, and connections needed to be successful instructors at BTC. See the New Faculty Orientation section for additional details.

Faculty InService

Committee for planning and facilitating quarterly professional development days for faculty that includes plenary sessions for all faculty as well as breakout workshops focusing on a variety of professional development topics related to teaching, advising, assessment and reporting

TLA Tribune

Monthly newsletter highlighting pedagogy tips and connective faculty with professional development opportunities on and off campus

Teaching & Learning Resources (Website, Intranet, and Canvas)

Links to articles, webinars, and materials providing professional development to faculty on a variety of teaching and learning topics

 

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New Faculty Orientation (TLA 101)

Welcome, New(er) Faculty! Congratulations on your new/recent faculty appointments at BTC! We are excited to have you onboard and look forward to working with you!

TLA 101 is the orientation and onboarding program for new faculty! Think of it as a first-year experience: it starts with outreach during the summer about ProfTech Faculty Boot Camp and the fall orientation, then continues with monthly sessions throughout the first year for "just in time" training on relevant topics. The aim is to help familiarize you with BTC processes and tools gradually, rather than all at once in the first week!

The first-year faculty experience includes:

  • Boot Camp (through Olympic College)

    Olympic College hosts intensive, hands-on courses for professional-technical faculty in the Washington state Community-Technical College system. Basic Boot Camp is tailored to new prof-tech faculty who have no/limited teaching experience to introduce them to tools and strategies for classroom management, adult learning, instructor presence, assessment design, and syllabus/grading policies. Advanced Boot Camp provides a deeper dive into issues of inclusive classroom design, OER and accessibility, technology tools, and best practices.

    For details, including dates for upcoming sessions and registration information, visit Olympic's Boot Camp webpage, email bootcamp@olympic.edu or reach out to TLA Director Andi Zamora at azamora@btc.edu.

  • BTC Campus Kickoff & Fall Faculty Orientation

    Campus Kickoff is BTC's campus-wide professional development day to kick off the new academic year! Every fall, the week before classes begin, all BTC employees gather for a full day of campus updates, workshops, and seminars to start the year with fresh ideas, information, and energy.

    Fall Faculty Orientation occurs the day following Campus Kickoff in the week before fall quarter classes begin. New faculty are introduced to each other, their mentors, and various support staff on campus. The orientation also includes an overview of campus services, an introduction to inclusive teaching practices, BTC policies/procedures, the professional/technical educator certification process, and faculty best practices. After the orientation, the Handbook, handouts, and video recordings from the orientation are available on the TLA 101 Canvas site. 

    To participate in Campus Kickoff or Fall Faculty Orientation, reach out to TLA Director Andi Zamora at azamora@btc.edu.

     

  • TLA 101 Sessions & Mentoring

    As part of a new faculty's first-year experience at BTC, TLA hosts monthly TLA 101 sessions to provide  "just in time" training on relevant topics throughout the year. Topics include advising and early alerts/intervention, grading policies/procedures, accessibility and universal design, course design, professional technical educator certification, and Canvas tools. The sessions also allow new faculty to connect with each other and with their mentor faculty.

    Every new faculty member at BTC is assigned a veteran faculty in a related program area to serve as a mentor for their first two years on campus. Faculty mentors participate in TLA 101 sessions with first-year faculty and provide ongoing support to ensure that new faculty feel prepared and supported in their teaching role as well as connected to the BTC community. 

    Handouts and video recordings from the Fall Faculty Orientation and TLA 101 Sessions are available on the TLA 101 Canvas site. To participate in TLA 101 sessions or be added to the TLA 101 Canvas site, or to find out more about mentoring, reach out to TLA Director Andi Zamora at azamora@btc.edu.

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Teaching and Learning Resources

TLA Tribune and the TLA Takeaway

Each month, Teaching and Learning Academy publishes the TLA Tribune, a monthly newsletter with updates about professional development opportunities and activities. Every edition features a short write-up about a teaching tip/trick that can help faculty design courses, build assessments, and/or interact with students to encourage more success for their students. BTC Faculty can visit the TLA Archives to find previous editions of the TLA Tribune. 

  • June 2022 TLA Takeaway: The Courage to Teach

    The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life

    Last month’s TLA Takeaway was a longer one, so I’ll make this one short and sweet! My hope is that these words from Parker Palmer will leave you with something inspiring to think about over the summer!

    If students and subject accounted for all the complexities of teaching, our standard ways of coping would do – keep up with our fields as best we can and learn enough techniques to stay ahead of the student psyche. But there is another reason for these complexities: we teach who we are.

    Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul. If I am willing to look in that mirror and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain self-knowledge – and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as knowing my students and my subject.

  • May 2022 TLA Takeaway: The Skillful Teacher

    Stephen D. Brookfield is one of my favorite authors on teaching, and The Skillful Teacher is probably my favorite of his books! The following excerpts summarize Chapter 2 – The Core Assumptions of Skillful Teaching. 

    In [Chapter 1], I argued that teaching is a process of informed muddling through complex and unexpected situations. What helps make this process more, rather than less, informed are four core assumptions I hold about skillful teaching: 

    (1) Skillful teaching is whatever helps students learn. At first glance, this seems a self-evident, even trite, truism – a kind of pedagogical Hallmark greeting card. Most of us would probably say that all our teaching choices are made with the purpose of helping students learn. After all, that’s why we show up for work. The problem is that an activity that helps one student learn can, to other students in the same class, be confusing and inhibiting. So taking this assumption seriously means our teaching becomes more, not less, complex. 

    In such a cauldron of difference, there will be very few standardized practices that help students across the board learn essential skills or knowledge. Keeping this assumption that good teaching is whatever helps students learn at the forefront of your mind frees you up to do things as a teacher that you might otherwise avoid because you feel that somehow they are unprofessional or deviant. There are times when a commitment to behaving in ways that we assume are unprofessional gets in the way of helping students learn. 

    (2) Skill teachers adopt a critically reflective stance toward their practice. Too often my own teaching has been like a scattergun spraying pedagogic pellets in the hope that some of them actually hit the target (the students). The process of identifying and researching our assumptions to make sure they are accurate and valid for the students and content we teach is what I regard as critical reflection. When we act in critically reflective ways we model critical thinking in front of our students. By showing learners how we are constantly trying to unearth and research our assumptions how best to teach them, we demonstrate the very skills and dispositions we are asking our students to engage with [and] helps us earn the moral right to ask them to engage in the same process. 

    (3) Teachers need a constant awareness of how students are experiencing their learning and perceiving teachers’ actions. Skillful teachers realize that most of their procedural decisions should be guided by an awareness of how students experience the classroom. But getting inside students’ heads is enormously tricky. You have to make students feel safe, [and] you have to model consistently a public nondefensive scrutiny of your actions. So a cardinal principle of seeing ourselves through students’ eyes is that of ensuring the anonymity of students’ responses to any questions we ask regarding their classroom experiences. After students have seen you, week in and week out, inviting anonymous commentary on your actions and then discussing this publicly, they start to believe that you mean what you say about the value of critical reflection.  

    (4) College students of any age should be treated as adults. College students are either well into adulthood or on its verge, [and] higher education should be preparing young adults for participation in the adult world, with the need to take responsibility for their lives that such participation requires. Students, whatever their age, wish to be treated as adults. [They want their teachers to be]: 
    • Authoritative, not authoritarian – they don’t like to be talked down to or bossed around for no reason, although they may be happy for the teacher to give firm direction. 
    • Respectful – one of the most important indicators they mention that convinces them they are being treated respectfully is the teacher attempting to discover, and address seriously, students’ concerns and difficulties. 
    • Intentional – they want to be sure that whatever it is they are being asked to know or do is important and necessary to their personal, intellectual, or occupational development, particularly where the learning involves a degree of risk and where failure entails (at least in the students’ minds) public humiliation and embarrassment. 

    These four assumptions of skillful teaching are deliberately proposed at a level of generality. How each plays itself out varies enormously from context to context. As we move through this book I want to put some practical and technical flesh on the skeletal bones of these assumptions to illustrate their applicability across multiple college teaching contexts.

    If you’d like to read more of The Skillful Teacher by Stephen D. Brookfield, the book is available in the Teaching and Learning Library.  (If you're not familiar with the Teaching and Learning Library, ask a librarian to show it to you; it's inside the library on the 3rd floor of Campus Center. You can access the digital catalog as well).  

  • April 2022 TLA Takeaway: CATs (Classroom Assessment Techniques)

    CATs  -- Classroom Assessment Techniques

    For assessment to be worthwhile, the goal needs to focus on improving student learning, so assessment tools should primarily be formative (providing students feedback about their progress) not only summative (evaluating for the purpose of a grade or credential). Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) are quick, easy in-class activities that can serve to check students understanding or skill level, especially prior to a larger summative assessment, and help students become better learners. CATs reinforce the idea that learning is a process, not a destination, and offer an opportunity for instructors to provide feedback with significantly less effort than a summative assessment and lower stakes/risk for students. CATs are highly customizable so they can be as long or short, fast or slow, surface level or deep as you'd like them to be and are often used as low-stakes building blocks towards summative assessment and/or as a replacement for "attendance" grades that more accurately reflect a student's engagement in class, not just their physical presence!

    Thomas Angelo and Patricia Cross have published an excellent resource on Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers (2nd Edition) that is available in the Teaching and Learning Library. (If you're not familiar with the Teaching and Learning Library, ask a librarian to show it to you; it's inside the library on the 3rd floor of Campus Center and you can access the digital catalog as well). Some examples of CATs include:

    • Minute Paper: In the last 2-3 minutes of class, students are asked to briefly answer two questions  -- "What's the most important thing you learned in class today?" and "What are you still wondering about?" -- which instructors can use to assess students' understanding of key ideas and questions to guide future lessons.
    • Muddiest Point: More targeted and specific than the Minute Paper, this tool asks students to share their "muddiest point" or the most confusing part of lesson, an assignment instruction, a quiz question, etc. These can be done anonymously so students can report what they are unclear about with risking judgement from peers or their instructor.
    • Application Cards: Give students a notecard ask them to write down their own unique practical real-world example of how a concept or theory from class could be applied. This helps students connect their learning with experience and provides quick but valuable feedback on their depth of understanding.
    • Pro-Con Grid: Ideal for course content that is subjective or involves decision making and ethics, this tool asks students to create a quick list of pros and cons about a particular concept, idea, strategy or solution.
    • Concept Map or Flow Chart: To help students draw connections between ideas or steps in a process, ask students to draft a quick map or chart of the key ideas from a particular lesson or unit.
    • Invented Dialogue: Ask students to create a conversation between two or more characters about a particular topic (e.g. nurse and patient, mechanic and customer, technician and coworker, etc.) You might even ask students to incorporate specific vocabulary or challenges in their dialogue.

    For more examples of CATs, take a look at this CAT Examples page from the WWU Teaching Handbook or check out the physical book in the Teaching and Learning Library, which has DOZENS more ideas of varying lengths and depths.

  • March 2022 TLA Takeaway: Shifting From Deficits to Assets

    Shifting From Deficits to Assets

    Our students, many of whom are from underrepresented populations, possess an array of personal assets and related skills they’ve developed through their lived experiences that have the potential to positively contribute to successful academic, career and personal outcomes – things like perseverance, resourcefulness, hopefulness and strategic thinking.  Unfortunately, students Caren’t always aware of, or tapping into, those skills and assets! Instead, they may see themselves as “not college student material” and focus on the things holding them back. This kind of thinking, referred to as a deficit mindset, keeps the emphasis on problems instead of looking at the tools that already exist for solving them. And as faculty, we can be prone to this kind of thinking as well; even language like “achievement gap” tends to focus on barriers and obstacles rather than strengths and opportunities.

    By contrast, an asset approach puts the attention on strengths, opportunities and tools that can be useful in overcoming a challenge.  Faculty can support student success by helping students identify, cultivate, and mindfully utilize the strengths and skills they already possess by highlighting them in our interactions with students. This means being intentional about noticing and then reflecting to the student the positive attributes they are exhibiting even when they are struggling.

    One example is how we respond to emails or office hour visits from students, especially toward the end of the quarter when they are running out of time to complete a project or pass a class. These interactions provide an opportunity to put an asset approach into action by helping that student tap into their strengths and skills for long-term success, even if they won’t be successful in your course this quarter. Before trouble-shooting the immediate concern with the student, start your reply by highlighting an asset or characteristic they are already demonstrating, and reinforce that strength by pointing out how it can help the student’s long-term success. For example, you might start with “I appreciate your perseverance in working to complete this class; that is going to serve you well as you persist in the program” or “Kudos to you for reaching out; that shows resourcefulness, which is a skill that not everybody has” or “I’m glad you’re thinking strategically about how to make this work; that’s actually a really valuable skill for college.” Even when you have to follow that with “bad news” about their final grade, it can help the student shift their focus away from deficit thinking and onto the strengths and assets that will contribute to their long-term success.

    To read more about other ways to incorporate an asset-based approach in your teaching, try this article from Northwestern University or this article about asset-based approaches in math classrooms (which might apply to many program or lab classes as well).

  • February 2022 TLA Takeaway: Routines (3Rs)

    This month's Takeaway is written by Jill Burns, expanding on the Routines component of the 3Rs video she and Caren created together. In case you haven't seen it yet, here is a link to the 3Rs video.🙂 

     
    As I look back at the TLA Takeaways from the past few months, I see "RRR - TILT - RRR - FOUR CONNECTIONS!" ...sounds like a pinball game, which is not unlike our teaching and learning lives at the moment: we are all bouncing around chaotically amid each new surge, update, recommendation, bonk, whirl, flicker, and spin. 

    No doubt you've been delivering heaping spoonfuls of flexibility to your students, meeting them where they are, adapting to each new crisis as it arises.  Excellent!  We're building those Relationships that Caren Kongshaug wrote about as part of the 3R's for student success.  Now, I'd like to re-introduce the less charismatic but critically important R in the trio: ROUTINES. 

    Words that describe or complement "routines" are steadiness, comfort, things-that-are-known, constant, consistent, not surprising, and something-to-look-forward-to.  These words are sounding pretty good in these uncertain times, right?! 

    This is not to say that as instructors we must require practices that are mundane, ordinary, or boring.  On the contrary, we long for our beacons, our touchstones; a sturdy ballast to steady us. Including routines in our classes keeps our students anchored in learning, experiencing regular successes, and feeling more confident about the path in front of them. 

    So, take an inventory of the routines you have in your courses and programs.  What purposeful, structured elements and activities do your offer each day, week, or month that your students can rely on?   

    In my face-to-face Communication Studies courses, my students expect a 5 minute mindfulness meditation at the beginning of every class, an impromptu speaking prompt at mid-class weekly, and exit notecards at the end of each class.  For my in-person writing courses, students sign in upon entry, fire up their computers, login, and complete the writing prompt on the board - this is the first ten minutes of every class. 

    My online classes include different routines. I publish my Canvas courses with the same look/feel/structure/style for all modules and assignments (right down to the images, graphics, numbering, hyperlinks, and fonts.  I have guided mindfulness meditations at the beginning of every Zoom group meeting, and consistent discussion practices each week.  My due dates always fall on the same days of the week, at the same time of day. 

    For our students to flourish and grow, they need solid ground.  Implementing consistent routines in your classes can provide that strong foundation.  For many students, our classrooms, virtual and otherwise, are the most reliable thing in their lives at the moment.  Thank you for being that beacon, that touchstone. 

  • January 2022 TLA Takeaway: TILT

    Many of our students begin BTC nervous about college! Lots of them come from challenging academic backgrounds, underrepresented populations, and/or are first generation students, and many have internalized the idea that they are not "college student material." Unfortunately, a major barrier for many of these students is the "hidden curriculum" of college, an unwritten, unmapped set of expectations about how to succeed as a student, ranging from things like how to ask for help or organize their time to how to register for classes or study for a test. While student services programs offer students loads of resources to help them navigate many of these expectations, one that we as faculty can influence most is helping students learn how to learn in our disciplines, and how to tackle assignments successfully.

     TILT (Transparency in Learning and Teaching) is a framework for approaching course design and instruction to help reveal the "hidden curriculum" so that students are more likely to learn from our assignments and succeed in our programs. There are a handful of key practices in the TILT framework (and you can see the full list on the TILT Higher Ed webpage). The one I'd like to highlight is a practice for designing assignments that has also been called The 3 Questions (Why, What, and How). The goal is to clearly articulate three main things on every assignment: 

    1. Purpose (Why)  -- Identify the learning benefits to students (what specific skills will this assignment help them practice? what real-world tasks will they be able to do with these skills?)
    2. Task (What)  -- Describe in detail the specific steps students must take to complete the assignment. Be sure this description is written for the novice in your discipline, not the master! 
    3. Criteria (How)  -- Provide grading criteria (such as a rubric) in advance so students know what success looks like. Offer examples of high quality work, and include comments that show how the examples met the criteria for success.

    If you'd like more resources to TILT your own course assignments, check out the TILT Higher Ed webpage, which has several examples of TILTed assignments in a variety of disciplines, a template to help you structure your assignment instructions, and even a checklist to keep you on track. And I am always willing to help you revise assignment instructions, design rubrics, or brainstorm new ideas; reach out to me anytime you'd like a sounding board or instructional design ideas!

  • December 2022 TLA Takeaway: Relationships (3Rs)

    This month's Takeaway is written by our own Reading Apprenticeship expert and gracious faculty colleague, Caren Kongshaug 🙂 The article expands on the Relationships component of the 3Rs video about student success that she and Jill Burns created together. 

    After reading the first issue of the TLA Tribune, I was immediately interested in the Four Connections concept of nurturing rapport between teachers and students. It reminded me of the work we do here at BTC. We know that connections in the classroom, virtual or face-to-face, make all the difference for our students. It makes sense that if you call a student by their name (one of the Four Connections), the student will feel heard and seen. Even with something as small as that, you initiate something very human and essential. We know we aren’t friends with our students, but friendliness can lead to a partnership in learning. When we foster partnerships, both parties feel accountability, and this, I believe, is key with our students. 

    In BTC’s College Success Foundations Course (CDEV), we emphasize the Three R’s, one of which is Relationships (Remember the Opening Day Video & Workshop?) In CDEV, we go beyond the Four Connections, emphasizing the many alliances between: student to student, student to Navigator, Student to Tutor, and Student to Librarian. We know it really does take a village. 

    It is not surprising that making connections is important for students, and with an abundance of online learning these days, instructors must be intentional about it. Here are some connection builders to try in your online courses: 

    • Set up table talks for your students where each break-out room can focus the conversation on a single topic and share out to the whole group later.
    • Model ways to communicate constructive criticism in discussion posts by providing sentence stems that are non-judgmental and encourage conversation.
    • Invite a tutor to post a photo and introduction to your first week resources page in Canvas.
    • Normalize students working together by creating weekly partnered activities.
    • Host a 15-30 minute social space for your class to get to know one another. Pop out or stay in.

    Lastly, as a campus effort, let’s remind students that relationships born out of learning tend to support learning. Learning is a social experience, and our team effort makes a difference.

  • November 2021 TLA Takeaway: The Four Connections

    Odessa College, a junior college in Texas, conducted a Drop Rate Improvement program where they spent time investigating what made the most difference in improving student success rates. A lot of typical things we expect to make a difference (like type of course/subject, time of day, rigor, preparedness, and even teaching methods) actually made little or NO impact at all. The one thing that had the most effect on student success and retention was CONNECTION! Based on this research, Lake Washington Technical College identified four relational practices faculty can (and might already!) do to enhance their student's success. Those practices are called The Four Connections, and they include:

    • Interact with students by name: Invest time on the first day in getting to know your students, and use their names throughout the quarter. Icebreakers can be great way to start!
    • Check in regularlyPay attention to student behavior and track student progress. Empathize with students. When a student is struggling, intervene by referring students to campus resources and submitting early alerts.
    • Schedule one-on-one meetings: Meet at least once with each student early in the quarter, and encourage or even require regular meetings for struggling students. 
    • Practice paradoxStructure your course clearly. Communicate your expectations regularly. Then, be reasonably flexible when students come to you with concerns.

    For more information on how various WA state technical colleges have implemented The Four Connections, take a look at this PPT Slide Deck from Lake Washington Institute of Technology.

TLA Toolkit

Teaching and Learning Academy maintains a public Canvas course that functions as a repository of teaching and learning resources (information pages and links to articles, webinars, and other materials) on a variety of topics for faculty. Topics include:

  • Backward Course Design
  • Bloom's Taxonomy (Outcomes Assessment)
  • The Four Connections
  • Culturally Responsive Teaching
  • Reading Apprenticeship
  • TILT (Transparency in Teaching and Learning)
  • UDL (Universal Design for Learning)
  • and many more...

Click this link to access the TLA Toolkit on Canvas (you do not need a Canvas account or BTC login credentials to access the Toolkit). To make suggestions about topics or resources to include in the TLA Toolkit, please sent your suggestions to TLA Director Andi Zamora at azamora@btc.edu.

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Professional Development Resources

Faculty InService

Each quarter, faculty participate in all-day professional development including plenary sessions for all faculty as well as breakout workshops focusing on a variety of faculty-related topics and issues. To see Archives of Faculty InService agendas and Zoom recordings, BTC employees can visit the TLA Archives on the BTC Intranet.

Workshops & Webinars

TLA Workshops

The Teaching and Learning Academy promotes and/or facilitates workshops on campus, often in partnership with other campus resources (eLearning, DEI, Accessibility Resources) or neighboring institutions (Whatcom Community College, WWU).

Innovative Educators

BTC subscribes to Go2Knowledge, a professional development website that provides live and on-demand workshops and webinars through Innovative Educators for higher education faculty and staff around the nation, which BTC employees can log in and access for free. The TLA Toolkit (Teaching and Learning Academy Canvas page) includes an extensive list of relevant webinars.

SBCTC and Beyond

The TLA Tribune monthly newsletter highlights upcoming workshops, conferences, and webinars sponsored by various organizations and institutions, including the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, DoIt at the University of Washington, and many more!

SBCTC Professional Development

SBCTC Assessment, Teaching and Learning (ATL) 

SBCTC Educational Technology Professional Development

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

Washington Center for Improving Undergraduate Education

 

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Campus Resources

Accessibility Resources: Facilitates accessibility and accommodations for qualified students

Advising & Career Services: Navigators assist students with career exploration, academic planning, and success coaching

Assessment Center: Provides proctoring for placement testing, GED exams, accommodated testing, and industrial/career exams

Counseling: Provides free, confidential counseling services to enrolled students

Financial Resources: Helps students explore and access funding options and develop financial literacy

eLearning: Canvas and instructional technology support for faculty and students

Library: Provides resources, research support, and learning materials for faculty and students

Registration: Assists students with adding, dropping, or withdrawing from classes and access transcripts 

Student Life: Maximizes student opportunities beyond the classroom by encouraging social activities, critical thinking, civic engagement and the development of leadership skills, including ASBTC, campus clubs, the student center, and a food pantry

Tutoring: Provides free tutoring for a variety of courses & subjects

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Faculty Support Team

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