Congratulations to Renee Hoeksel

Renee Hoeksel, Professor of Nursing, is this year’s winner of the V. Lane Rawlins Distinguished Lifetime Service Award. This award honors individuals who have given a substantial part of their career to advancing WSU through excellent service and have demonstrated great personal commitment to the university and community.

One of WSU Vancouver’s founding faculty, Dr. Hoeksel started her career with us in the fall of 1990, when the campus was located in Bauer Hall at Clark College. She has been working to create, grow, and develop the excellence of the Nursing program and the campus ever since. Among her many contributions, she served as a leader in the development of the statewide Direct Transfer Agreement that provides seamless articulation for students to transfer to BSN programs in the state following completion of an Associate’s degree in nursing, which seeks to fulfill the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation to increase the proportion of nurses with a bachelor’s degree to 80% by 2020. Dr. Hoeksel also provided leadership in the development of the Masterplan for Nursing Education. In 2008, the Hoeksel Award for RN/BSN Student Achievement was created on the Vancouver campus to honor the values that Dr. Hoeksel has promoted throughout her career.

In her nomination letter for this award, Dr. Linda Eddy, Vancouver Academic Director and Associate Dean in the College of Nursing, wrote: “Her capable leadership has had a profound influence on the College of Nursing, the WSU Vancouver campus, the University, the nursing profession, and patient and population health outcomes. She did this through active and skilled engagement with leaders across the university, the Vancouver community, and health professionals throughout the state and region.”

The Vancouver campus, Washington State University, and the State of Washington have benefited from Dr. Hoeksel’s advocacy and service, and I’m delighted to be able to congratulate her on receiving this significant recognition of that service.



Oscar Vazquez speaks as part of Common Read

Last night our campus was fortunate to host Oscar Vazquez, one of the team of young roboticists featured in this year’s Common Read book Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream. Mr. Vazquez spoke about having been brought to the U.S. by his parents when he was a child, the events that led him to the robotics team at Carl Hayden High School, and how that team went on to win the Marine Advanced Technology Education Robotics Competition, beating the MIT team and other college teams. He talked about getting a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University, then returning to Mexico to attempt to re-enter the U.S. legally and begin a path to citizenship, and the enormous setbacks and hurdles involved in that process. After his return, he joined the military, served in Afghanistan, then began his current career with the BNSF railraod. He has testified before Congress regarding DACA, and showed as part of his presentation a photo of


of himself and former President Obama at the White House. Following his talk, there was a lively Q&A session with the audience.

At the reception following the talk, Mr. Vazquez interacted with Vancouver students, iTech prep students and teachers, and community members. It was clear that his presence engaged our students and community in significant and meaningful ways.

My thanks go to Oscar Vazquez for coming to our campus, to the Diversity Council for sponsoring the event, and to Suzanne Smith for coordinating the event as part of the Common Read program.


Adverse Weather Statement

Just when we thought the winter was going to pass without significant snow and ice, it started snowing at the beginning of this week. And while the campus is truly beautiful when decorated with snow:


the weather can cause disruptions for faculty, staff and students traveling to campus. So I just wanted to remind everyone about the adverse weather statement we adopted last year, and to encourage faculty to include the syllabus statement in their syllabi so students have guidance about what to do in circumstances such as we’ve been experiencing this week.


New Year, New Learning Opportunities

Happy 2018! May it be a year of growth, development and productivity for us all.

The year starts with faculty professional development opportunities offered by Academic Affairs and VIT’s Academic Services, the first of which will be held next Tuesday, January 9. Workshop topics include preparing your class for campus closure, how to deal with accommodations and accessibility issues, Blackboard and One Drive. For a complete schedule and descriptions of sessions, check the Faculty Development Opportunities site.

The Meaning of the Week

I’ve heard some questions and confusion arise about the academic regulation regarding the 15th week of the semester; it’s a topic around which a fair amount of folklore has grown, so I’d like to disambiguate. It seems to be commonly referred to as “dead week,” but is actually called Closed Week in Academic Regulation 78, which defines it as follows:


No examinations or quizzes (other than laboratory examinations, make-up examinations and make-up quizzes) may be given during the last week of instruction.  Paper-proctored exams given for Global Campus courses are exempt from this rule, only if scanning and emailing the completed exam is not possible due to lack of equipment or infrastructure.

Here are some of the piece of folklore that I’ve heard regarding Week 15 which are not true:

  • No new information can be introduced in a course during this week. [There is no such prohibition. It is a week of instruction; only exams and quizzes are interdicted, not teaching of new material.]
  • Classes don’t meet this week. [They do meet! This is why I particularly dislike the practice of calling it “dead week,” a term which historically referred to a week between the end of classes and the beginning of finals that was meant to be used for study.]
  • Make-up exams can’t be scheduled during this week. [Not true. See above.]

Academic Regulations 74-89 pertain to examinations; most of them pertain to final examinations, and collectively they provide the framework in which we operate at the end of the semester. I encourage you to check them out, rather than falling for the folklore.

Inclement Weather Statement

The following statement has been developed by the Council of Faculty Representatives and the Vancouver administration, and has been adopted by the campus:

Adverse Weather or Natural Hazard Statement

WSU Vancouver is a commuter campus, with faculty and students arriving from diverse regional micro-climates. Conditions in one region may significantly differ from conditions in another region. In the event that an adverse weather event (e.g., snow or ice) or natural hazard that poses a safety risk occurs, course instructors can use their discretion to decide whether they would like to offer students an alternative learning option that does not require travel to campus. Faculty and students should take personal safety into account when deciding whether they can travel safely to and from campus, taking local conditions into account. Faculty will not be penalized for working remotely to provide students with alternative learning options and students should not be penalized if they are not able to attend class in person.

The faculty member is responsible for choosing the best mechanism for alternative learning, if WSU Vancouver is open and the instructor decides to cancel the face-to-face meeting and substitute an alternative learning activity. A repository of alternative learning options is available on the WSU Vancouver Knowledgebase website or you may contact Information Technology for help. Faculty are encouraged to use universal design when possible, to make online content accessible.

Faculty are expected to notify all enrolled students by email or through Blackboard, along with letting their Academic Director and office support staff know the status of their course, within a reasonable time after the determination has been made to open or close campus. In the case of a course taught by AMS over multiple campuses, AMS should be notified, if possible.

If an instructor holds class during a weather event or natural hazard, but a student does not attend due to adverse conditions, the instructor should not penalize the student. Allowances to course attendance policy and scheduled assignments, including exams and quizzes, should be made by the instructor. Faculty delivering a course via AMS to a campus that closes for inclement weather should make similar allowances for students enrolled at that campus. Students who attempt to gain advantage through abuse of this policy (e.g., by providing an instructor with false information) may be referred to the Office of Student Standards and Accountability for disciplinary action.

Syllabus statement: In the event that an adverse weather event (e.g., snow or ice) or natural hazard that poses a safety risk occurs, you should take personal safety into account when deciding whether you can travel safely to and from campus, taking local conditions into account. If campus remains open and your instructor decides to cancel the face-to-face meeting and substitute an alternative learning activity, you will be notified by your instructor via email or through Blackboard within a reasonable time after the decision to open or close campus has been made. Instructions regarding any alternative learning options or assignments will be communicated in a timely manner. If travel to campus is not possible due to adverse regional conditions, allowances to course attendance policy and scheduled assignments, including exams and quizzes, will be made. Students who attempt to gain advantage through abuse of this policy (e.g., by providing an instructor with false information) may be referred to the Office of Student Conduct for disciplinary action. If a student encounters an issue with a faculty member, the student should first talk with the faculty member. If the issue cannot be resolved, the student should follow the reporting violations of policies outlined on the student affairs website.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day

[author’s note: this should have posted yesterday. Ah, well]

The second Tuesday in October is celebrated annually as Ada Lovelace Day, to encourage women to enter the STEM fields. Ada Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron, is widely considered to have devised the first programming language, and her work later inspired Alan Turing. In a reversal of stereotypes, her father was an emotionally tempestuous poet, one of the founds of the Romantic movement, and her mother was a mathematician.

More information can be found about Ada Lovelace Day here.



What we talk about when we talk about “us”

The Council of Presidents, State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, Independent Colleges of Washington, and the Washington Student Achievement Council have put out a joint statement supporting Washington’s DACA students, denouncing the termination of DACA, and urging congress to find a legislative solution. Reading the statement, I was struck by some of its language: “These students and those who came before them are not strangers on our campuses, in our communities, and in our homes. They are our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and our family. They are us.”

That last sentence led me to thinking about how people form a picture of “us”–that is, when someone says “we,” who is included and who is excluded in the mental picture formed by the words “we” and “us”? “They are us” could function as a grammatical oxymoron, or it could serve as a revolutionary and transformative way of thinking about our relationships to our communities, to our neighbors, to our fellow residents, to our fellow Americans, to our fellow occupants of planet Earth. Who do you picture as you think each of those terms? Who is your “us”? Is the “us” that you automatically picture the “us” that you would like to picture? Or would you like to have a more inclusive picture, to move people from “they” to “we” in your mind?



“Don’t criticize something if you haven’t read it”

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first of the Harry Potter books in Great Britain. Reading those books as they came out was one of the most enjoyable literary experiences of my life. One of my favorite memories of the series is reading Goblet of Fire aloud to a friend who was recovering from a back injury and getting to do my best Dobby the house elf voice. Another favorite memory is buying Half-Blood Prince at a bookseller’s in the London underground, as I just happened to be in London on the day of its release. And, of course, whizzing through Deathly Hallows to find out whether or not it turned out that Neville, rather than Harry, would be the one prophesied to defeat Voldemort (the ending I always wanted to see).

It’s not the ending of the series I really want to talk about, though, but rather the beginning, and how I came to be a fanboy of the series through my students challenging me to practice what I preached.

In the late 90s, when the first three books of the series had been released and the series’ popularity had really started to become a phenomenon, I made an offhand comment in a graduate seminar I was teaching. I don’t remember what prompted the comment, but I’ll never forget what I said, or what one student said in response.

“Nobody reads anything anymore but those Harry Potter children’s books!” was my expression of exasperation.

“Have you read them?” my student asked, and in challenging her professor modeling the courage of Dumbledore’s Army.

“Of course not!” I replied in Umbridge-like fashion.

“Well,” my student persisted, “haven’t you always told us not to criticize something we haven’t read?”

Reader, she had me there. So, in a more McGonnagall-like fashion, I told that class that I would, indeed, read the first book, so that then I would be entitled to criticize it to my heart’s content.

I read the first book and found it so intriguing I read the next, and the next. And reported back to my students that I had to eat my words and admit that I was quite wrong and that they and everybody else should read all the Harry Potter books they wanted. (Not that I don’t have criticisms–like, boys get to do all the good stuff in the books, but the Hermione-is-really-the-hero meme is good on that score). And how could I not appreciate the terrific boost to interest in reading that the series produced while the release of each new book created such excitement that kids and adults waited in long lines at actual bookstores to get them?

My real point here, though, is this: my students were right to hold me to the standard of don’t criticize something you haven’t read. If we all followed a simple protocol: read first, think second, respond third, we might be one step closer to the wisdom of Dumbledore.


Welcome our new Campus Director of Equity and Diversity, Obie Ford III

Please join me in welcoming WSU Vancouver’s first full-time Campus Director for Equity and Diversity, Dr. Obie Ford III. Dr. Ford comes to WSU Vancouver from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, where he served as the founding Director of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity since 2014. Prior to his time at Warren Wilson, he held positions at Columbus State Community College including Multicultural Facilitator and Career Counselor. He holds a BA in Psychology and an MA in Educational Policy & Leadership from The Ohio State University and a PhD in Higher Education Administration from Ohio University. Dr. Ford is also a poet who has carried out the projects #HaikuForJustice and #HaikuForLove. As Campus Director for Equity and Diversity at Vancouver, he will join the Chancellor’s cabinet and have campus-level responsibilities for carrying out the objectives of our strategic goal to promote an ethical and socially just society through an intentional commitment to inclusion, equity and diversity.

I had the opportunity to serve as chair of the search committee for this position, and am very pleased to have such a successful outcome for the search. I look forward to working together to advance our strategic goal relating to equity, and on improving our recruitment and retention strategies for faculty of color.