As part of CalSouthern’s 2013 Commencement Ceremony, the inaugural Faculty Mentor of the Year Award was presented. To no one’s surprise, the recipient of the award was Enid Richey from the School of Behavioral Sciences.
Richey has been an instrumental part of the School of Behavioral Sciences for the better part of two decades. In fact, she helped develop much of the foundational curriculum for the school in the mid-’90s.
Throughout her career, she has consistently added richness and depth to CalSouthern’s psychology programs. Whether it’s revising an existing syllabus, developing a new course, integrating new clinical components or incorporating case vignettes, Richey has worked tirelessly to ensure that CalSouthern’s curriculum is current, dynamic and vital, reflecting the latest developments and best practices in the field.
She also is a gifted and dedicated educator. Her unfailing responsiveness and willingness to do whatever it takes to help her learners succeed make her one of CalSouthern’s most popular and highly rated faculty mentors, year after year.
In addition to her work at CalSouthern, Richey maintains a private practice in Rancho Cucamonga, California. A licensed clinical psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist, Richey’s multi-disciplined practice includes extensive work in trauma, addiction and anxiety issues.
We caught up with CalSouthern’s 2013 Faculty Mentor of the Year for a wide-ranging discussion in which she reflected upon her accomplished career and the evolution of distance education, offering her thoughts on online learning, keys to success and how to maximize the mentor-learner relationship.
The Early Days—On Helping Developing CalSouthern’s Foundational Psychology Curriculum
It was extremely exciting to be part of the development of the psychology program at CalSouthern. We were a small team of licensed professionals that wanted to develop a program of learning that fit the lifestyles of busy, working professionals from all over the world. It was so inspiring to meet with the team and brainstorm about the content of each course and how to design the courses to address a diverse population.
I recall trying to “put myself in the shoes” of the learner, based on my own experience as a graduate student. This was markedly different from today, where I have the opportunity to interact with so many wonderful learners and solicit their feedback on course content.
As I look back on those days, it occurs to me how exciting it has been to watch our university evolve to what it is today.
Teaching at CalSouthern: How it’s Evolved; How it’s Remained the Same
One of the most significant ways that teaching has changed at CalSouthern over the years is the level of technological sophistication and all the tools mentors now have at their fingertips. Originally, we received learner papers by mail, and all our feedback was done longhand. We did not have sophisticated programs or databases or easy access to research, or the ability to work with learners interactively, daily and even hourly if needed, as we do today. That has been a major advancement, and we continue to improve and enhance our ability to interact with learners.
What has remained the same is the personalized focus on learner needs. We do not have a “cookie cutter” approach to teaching and learning at CalSouthern. While course criteria, APA format and university policies are applied consistently and uniformly across the board, each learner is seen within a context that includes culture, language, experience, learning style and individual needs. We have always had a hands-on approach to working with students to help them reach their academic goals.
Keys to Academic Success
The most successful academic strategies that I have seen over the years—and continue to see—are: asking questions often throughout the course for clarification and assistance prior to submitting assignments; enthusiastically considering feedback with an eye toward enhancing writing and assessment skills; and submitting the assignments according to the course schedule—this allows learners the time to make any necessary corrections to the current assignment and to incorporate mentor feedback into future assignments.
But perhaps the most important shared characteristic that I have observed in my truly outstanding learners is a thirst for knowledge, a desire to learn beyond the motivation to achieve a certain grade.
Optimizing the Learner-Faculty Mentor Relationship
I sometimes hear from learners that they get frustrated because each faculty mentor has a slightly different teaching style. In my opinion, the best strategy for maintaining a solid learner-mentor relationship—despite these inherent differences in teaching style—is continual interaction throughout the course. I encourage my learners to write or call often with thoughts, feedback, questions, confusion, complaints or ideas for enhancing assignments. I take learner feedback very seriously in my courses and invite their thoughts and ideas—I know the vast majority of my colleagues feel the same way.
The best, most successful learner-mentor relationships are those characterized by mutual learning, and the key to that is interaction and communication.
Cherished Memories and Rewarding Moments
There are so many; it’s so difficult to identify just a few. One that comes to mind is the joy and elation I felt when the school first achieved accreditation. We had all worked so hard over the years to have our school be recognized and stand firm as a respected, noteworthy university.
On a more regular basis, one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is seeing learners experience those many “ah-ha” moments during our coursework together. Those moments are a reminder that learning is both fun and exciting—and I share in those emotions with my learners. Watching a learner grow and seeing their horizons expand is an ongoing experience I will always cherish.
On Being Named CalSouthern’s Inaugural Faculty Mentor of the Year
I was honored and overwhelmed with gratitude to be the first faculty mentor to receive this award. There are a few of us “original mentors” still teaching that are as deserving of this award as I am. So to be chosen from among my colleagues—who I respect so much—is a hallmark event in my career. It is both a humbling and invigorating honor.
A Look Toward the Future
First and foremost, I will continue to mentor students with the active, hands-on teaching style they deserve. Also, I will continue to be involved with course development. Currently, I am working with the dean, associate dean and a team of colleagues on curriculum development and program enrichment. I am excited to be part of this innovative team of scholars as we continue to research the needs of our learners as well as emerging trends in online education, all to enhance the quality of our learning process.
I have an inspiring journey ahead!