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June 30, 2010

Patrick Callan

Kari Hudnell
202-955-9450 x318


Valencia Community College Professor Julie M. Phelps Receives National Award for Innovation in Higher Education

San Jose, CA— The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) today named Julie M. Phelps, project director of Achieving the Dream and professor of mathematics at Valencia Community College in Orlando, Fla., the 2010 winner of the Virginia B. Smith Innovative Leadership Award.

The award, presented annually by the National Center and CAEL, recognizes leaders who have made exceptional contributions to advance innovation in American higher education. While winners have demonstrated innovative leadership qualities, they are still at a stage in their careers where they will likely make significant contributions in the future.

Phelps has served since 2005 as project director of Achieving the Dream, a multiyear national initiative to help more community college students – particularly students of color and lowincome students – graduate from college. As project director and professor of mathematics, her work focuses on three learning community strategies: supplemental instruction or cooperative learning inside and outside of class; the expansion of the Learning in Community (LinC) approach that brings faculty members and student support experts to work with students in double-class periods; and expanded course offerings focused on academic success and life lessons designed for community college students.

“We were very impressed with Julie Phelps’ ongoing work to give students at Valencia Community College a good start and help them meet the academic and social challenges of college,” said Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center. “When we provide early support, particularly to at-risk students who are not college-ready, we can help ensure that they continue their education and make it to graduation.”

For the past 10 years, Phelps has studied ways to increase student engagement, learning, retention, and graduation among developmental education students. This research has provided her with strategies to strengthen student engagement and performance through peer mentoring in which a "role model" student demonstrates how to be a successful student both in and out of the classroom. Valencia’s supplemental instruction focuses on high-risk courses, those with less than a 70 percent success rate, instead of high-risk students so that the students are not stigmatized. Since its beginning in 2004, the supplemental instruction courses have grown from 10 sections to over 40 sections per semester.

In her work with Achieving the Dream, Phelps has used data to understand how Valencia Community College students experience college during their first year. She also has taught developmental mathematics as part of an intentional learning community by linking mathematics to a student success course. In this LinC program, two courses are taught back-to-back in the same classroom with two different faculty members and a success coach.

Phelps holds a doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction, specializing in Community College from the University of Central Florida. Her dissertation, “Supplemental Instruction in a Community College Developmental Mathematics Curriculum: A Phenomenological Study of Learning Experiences,” focused supplemental instruction in developmental math by looking at the experiences of students in supplemental instruction courses at other Valencia campuses.

More information about Phelps’ work and an interview by Joni E. Finney, vice president of the National Center, and Carol F. Stoel, program officer at the National Science Foundation, with Julie Phelps will be available in the July/August issue of Change magazine.

The National Center and CAEL established the award in 1999 in honor of Virginia B. Smith, president emerita of Vassar College and founding director of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE). Throughout her career, Smith led efforts to develop new approaches for improving opportunity and excellence in higher education. A committee of national experts selects the award winner, who receives a $4,000 stipend.

Previous winners include:

Freeman A. Hrabowski, III
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Improving education for minority students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), particularly through the university’s Meyerhoff Scholars Program.

2008 - Ralph Wolf
Executive Director
Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities
Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
Redesigning regional accreditation, with an emphasis on student learning assessment.

2007 - Carol Twigg
National Center for Academic Transformation
Increasing learning productivity through course redesign and the use of technology

2006 - David Spence
Southern Regional Education Board
Providing leadership in developing and implementing the California State University Early Assessment Program.

2005 - George Kuh
Chancellor's Professor of Higher Education
Indiana University Bloomington
Providing leadership in developing and implementing the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).

2003 - Barbara Leigh Smith and Jean MacGregor
National Learning Communities Project
The Evergreen State College
Providing leadership in developing and helping others develop learning communities.

2002 - Robert Olin
Professor and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
University of Alabama
Providing leadership in the use of technology in the classroom.

2001 - Tim Riordan
Professor of Philosophy
Alverno College Institute
Pioneering strategies to assess student learning.

2001 - Peter Ewell
Vice President
National Center for Higher Education Management Systems
Providing leadership for institutional change and assessment strategies.

2000 - Susana Navarro
Executive Director
The El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence
Developing and implementing community-based educational achievement strategies.

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The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education promotes public policies that enhance Americans' opportunities to pursue and achieve a quality higher education. Established in 1998 by a consortium of national foundations, the National Center is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in San Jose, California. It is not associated with any institution of higher education, with any political party, or with any government agency.

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) is a non-profit organization committed to providing better access to education for adults through partnerships with business, government, labor, and higher education. CAEL works to remove policy and organizational barriers to learning opportunities, identifies and disseminates effective practices, and delivers value-added services.

For more information about the Meyerhoff Scholars Program, visit www.umbc.edu/meyerhoff/index.html.

For more information about the Virginia B. Smith Innovative Leadership Award, including information about nominations, visit: www.highereducation.org/vsmithaward/.


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