By Dani Moritz-Long
Credited as Valencia’s first director of curriculum initiatives, Robyn Brighton has a knack for expanding the scope of important work. That’s putting it mildly.
In her 12 years of tenure at the College and, more specifically, her nearly six years in her director role, Robyn has significantly grown key initiatives that fall under three pillars of focus: Study Abroad and Global Experiences (SAGE), Learning in Community (LinC) and service learning.
Specifically, Robyn explained, she’s contributed to the steep growth of service learning and study abroad at the College. In fact, she’s partly responsible for increasing service learning enrollment from 172 enrollments in 2013 to more than 1,200 in 2018 (which totaled 20,000 service learning hours this past year). As another example, Robyn points to increased enrollment in study abroad programs.
“I was once told that student enrollment in study abroad programs wouldn’t surpass 100,” she said. “Since then, we’ve increased that number almost 10 percent annually throughout the past three years.”
In 2019, Robyn estimates there will be at least 130 students enrolled in short-term study abroad programs.
Robyn’s proudest accomplishment, however, lies with LinC and its transition to Valencia’s First 30 program.
Prompted by Senate Bill 1720, which made college placement tests and remedial courses voluntary for most students entering college, Robyn and her team were forced to evaluate the LinC initiative. LinC courses are two classes “linked” together with the same cohort of students, taught collaboratively by faculty of the two different disciplines, and include a success coach as part of the course delivery team. As Developmental Math and Student Success courses were traditionally linked, the changes resulting from the bill decreased student enrollment in the LinC program and, in turn, the program’s effectiveness.
Enter Robyn’s affinity for collaboration and innovation. Robyn worked with Speech Professor Karen Borglum (then assistant vice president, curriculum and assessment) and Director of Institutional Evaluation Laura Blasi to develop a way in which Robyn could evaluate and improve the LinC program, given the recent changes to the educational landscape. Together, they created the Academic Initiative Review (AIR), an internal, unbiased initiative assessment process now managed under Laura’s leadership.
Leveraging Robyn’s concerns with LinC as a pilot for evaluation, they performed a cost-analysis, discussed the program’s strengths and opportunities, and ultimately evolved LinC into a new program better suited to meet students’ needs.
“As a result of the AIR process, we created First 30, [which is a learning community, cohort-based model that offers first-time-in-college (FTIC) students a clear academic pathway],” Robyn explained. “We wanted to provide support for FTIC students who opted out of developmental courses.”
While First 30 is still in its infancy stage, Robyn is optimistic about the initiative’s success.
“We went from Senate Bill 1720 getting mandated to potentially losing the Linc Program,” Robyn explained. “I was able to preserve it by collaborating with key individuals at the College and by helping to develop and implement the AIR process and coming up with a new model using the original framework for LinC, but expanding it to meet the culture of the College.”
This, Robyn explained, exemplifies her commitment to scaling up Valencia initiatives, whether that means increasing enrollment numbers or adapting programs to better meet students’ needs, thus expanding efficiency and effectiveness.
“For me, it’s efficiency — looking at a model and trying to figure out how we can make it more efficient and doing more with less,” she said. “I’ve been able to do a lot of this scaling with less money than we started with. With efficiency, organization and collaboration, you can still achieve your goals.”
And for Robyn, achieving her goals is of upmost importance as curriculum work directly affects our faculty’s ability to teach and our students’ ability to learn and engage with their respective Valencia experience.
“The outcome of everything we do is to improve the learning experience of students at the College,” Robyn said. “Academic curriculum work is designed to enhance curriculum in some way, to deepen the learning experience through means like service learning, interdisciplinary integration, and offering courses abroad. It’s hands-on engaged learning, which has been shown nationally to improve the learning experience.”
Summarizing Robyn’s success and impact on the College, Karen, Robyn’s former supervisor, said, “Robyn has risen to every challenge that has been presented to her with great collaboration, organization and professionalism. It has been my distinct pleasure to have been her supervisor. I look forward to working with her as a faculty member.”
Rocky (left), Regan (middle) and Robyn. Photo by Graphic Design Professor Amanda Kern
Outside of work, you’ll find Robyn enjoying time with her family of three, which includes herself, her husband Rocky (who is a Valencia alumnus) and her nine-month-old daughter, Regan. Robyn went into labor the day after she left for Spring Break in 2018. (How’s that for a memorable break?)
Robyn holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in exceptional education and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction.
Know of someone who embodies one of Valencia’s values (learning, people, diversity, access or integrity), who has been an employee for at least one year? Send the colleague’s name to us at The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu. He or she might be one of our featured colleagues, subject to supervisor’s approval.