Faculty Spotlight: Shahnaz Sokhansanj

The Teaching & Learning Center at Mountain View College seeks to share teaching practices across the entire institution. The following article showcases a faculty member, provides insight into the environment they’ve created for MVC students, and demonstrates effective teaching practices. 

This month we showcase Professor Shahnaz Sokhansanj.

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What is one element about MVC that makes it the “best college on earth?”

I have heard many times from other people that once they start working  at MVC, they do not want to leave. For me, Mountain View is just my home. I feel relaxed and comfortable here. I have learned that  if you show that you really strive to do your best and you work hard for your students’ and the institution’s success, you will get all the help you need from every person here. I do not mean only the current administration, staff, or faculty. During my 21 years of part-time and full-time teaching at MVC, I have experienced the support of co-workers in every position.

MVC is a very friendly and warm environment not only for employees, but for the students as well; there are many dedicated people who help support the students in all aspects of their lives. I have seen that many students do not want to leave MVC because they feel welcome, secure, and safe here.   Our experienced and dedicated faculty brings out the best in our students.

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How would your students describe you or your teaching style?

I think that my students would describe me as caring and helpful. They know well that I use all available methods to help them learn at their best, and to help them become active, inquisitive learners.

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What teaching strategies do you find most successful in your courses?

A lively class with interactive teaching and learning has proven to be the most fruitful approach. After only a few minutes of lecturing, students seem about to fall asleep. Students should therefore be fully engaged during every minute of the class time.

Working in small groups is one of the best ways for students to be active learners. For example, when groups of students work together on a project, this gives them a sense of purpose and motivates them to go beyond the minimum requirements of the class, and to be creative and innovative. They build, write, use mathematics, present their results, and record and upload a video to share it with their classmates. This experience expands the students’ knowledge and skills in many areas.

In addition, my students engage in activities with the MVC Astrophysics Club, both on and off campus. Students help organize and execute Star Parties for the community; they also travel to observatories to learn about astronomy and physics. At the same time, they enjoy the company of other students, have fun, and experience new adventures. These experiences help convince them that science is interesting and enjoyable.

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What do your students love most about your courses?

Students appreciate the fact that physics is about life—all of life. In the Information Age, students’ lives are entangled with physics. Every single electronic device: cameras, computers, iPad, cell phones–all their magic comes from physics. Spaceships, airplanes, cars, submarines, and other vehicles are all work by the laws of physics. Musical instruments sports and their rules, medical devices and many more things and experiences that touch people’s lives, fall under the umbrella of physics.

Astronomy, which is also based on physics, can reveal to every person the beauty and wonder of the cosmos. Physics and astronomy touch upon the great mysteries of the universe. Does the universe have a beginning and an end? Why do human beings exist? We all want to know where we come from and where we are destined to go. We want to learn about the smallest particle (or string in case of string theory) in this world, as much as we want to know what may lie at the edge of the universe (or multiverse). In sum, physics and astronomy help us to understand who we are—morally, mentally and physically; where we come from; and where we are destined to go.

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What is one creative solution you’ve implemented to address a specific challenge in your courses?

Physics concepts are hard to understand as long as they can be found only in books, but once they emerge from the textbook, in the form of 3-D simulations, animations, videos, and interactive activities, all the seemingly difficult concepts can become tangible, and their roles in  everyday life become much clearer to students. I have therefore fully embraced advanced educational technologies—indeed, the very latest technologies, not just PowerPoint—as a way of activating students’ dormant interest in science.

I have long accepted that my students belong to a new era. Learning and teaching is happening in a different world than it did when I was a student. Writing began with carving on stones, then on leather, then on fabric, then on paper; today, can touch a screen and write or speak and see it in writing. Today, students are able to type so fast and read so fast. Their minds are open to many more worlds compare to my time: they read about art, politics, war, and advances in science and technology all day long.

What has been your most positive or rewarding teaching experience?

I love to see students, who have moved on with their lives, stop by my office after many years to say hello and tell me what they have been doing during the intervening years.

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What advice would you give to a new faculty member at MVC?

Do not try to dominate the class. Do not fear the students taking the control of class. Do not take yourself or your course too seriously. Be relaxed so that your students can feel relaxed.

Understand that what even though you are an expert in whatever you teach, for your students it is like learning a new language. As you would with a child who has just begun learning to walk, walk with them, and let them go when they are ready. Respect them and try to distinguish them from each other as individuals. Every single of them has their own unique identity and self. Make them feel welcome and respected. And feed them as often as possible.

Who is one person at MVC who has been instrumental to your success (and why)?

I cannot name only one person. Every person at MVC has somehow participated in my success.

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MVC Employee Fast Track Supervisor Certificate

This series is part of an effort to showcase the many great employees who contribute to teaching and learning efforts at MVC.

Posted on behalf of Dr. Alex Diaz, Ed.D.

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Can you tell us a little bit about what is happening in your area?

The Fast Track Supervision Certificate is a new program that utilizes a Competency Based Education approach.  Because the entire program can be delivered online, employers may be more motivated to support their employee’s development (as it will not cause the employee to miss work).

How did Mountain View College (MVC) get involved?

The DCCCD District Office initiated the effort to develop CBE courses. Gemmy Allen (NLC) and Dr. Diane Minger (CVC) volunteered to lead the development of CBE courses with assistance from the LeCroy Center for the Business/Management Discipline.  The Fast Track Supervisor Certificate is the product that was the result from these efforts.  As the completion of the development of the product, Mountain View College adopted the program.

How does this positively impact our students, employees, or community?

By providing this program to our community, students, and employees, MVC is expanding opportunities for our community to earn a recognized award that can help promote the career of a budding leader.

What  should we expect and what timeline exists regarding this effort?

MVC is offering the courses in the program in 8-week sessions. If the student completes two (2) courses per 8-week session, then the student is scheduled to complete the program over three 8-week sessions.

What does finishing this project mean to the MVC?

The effort is really never finished. MVC Faculty will continue to support the development of new programs and educational modalities to deliver programs that serve our community.

What departments or individuals on campus helped bring this initiative to life?

The Careers and Technology Education Division has supported Dr. Alex Diaz effort to adopt CBE courses at MVC.

If interested, where would you point folks to learn more?

Contact Dr. Alex Diaz at MVC to get more information.

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New Employee Interview – Jennifer McGuire

We’d like to take the time to recognize one of our newest employees (new to the eLearning and Professional Development office that is) to Mountain View College. Please take a moment to learn more about them, in their own words.

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Jennifer McGuire, Distance Education Instructional Applications Integration Specialist

Please tell everyone your new title and a little bit about your professional background.

I am proud to be the new Distance Education Instructional Applications Integration Specialist, within the Teaching and Learning Center at Mountain View College. In this role, I will be collaborating with faculty in curriculum design and content development, for a variety of course delivery formats.

I have 7 years of graphic design and publishing experience and over 20 years of technology, office, and management experience, including time in educational institutions. I also teach Microsoft Office courses within the Career and Technical Education (CATE) division and am proud to hold both faculty and support roles.

I began my professional career with a heavy focus in office productivity, administrative support and emerging technologies. In leadership roles, I managed a housekeeping service in Dallas for 11 years and also created an Australian Publishing House, serving as the Chief Operations Officer for 6 years. Although this position is new to me, I have worked at Mountain View College for the past 3 years and look forward to utilizing all of my technology, troubleshooting, design, and support experience in serving the needs of the institution.

What drew you to apply to Mountain View College?

I have always felt more comfortable working in an education setting. Once the publishing house became self-sufficient, I decided to return to an industry I loved. After researching the different institutions in the area, DCCCD appealed the most to me. I applied for every position that I met the qualifications. I interviewed at three campuses and felt the most at home at Mountain View. I was so excited when I received the call from HR offering me the job here.

What does working in higher education mean to you?

Working in higher education gives me the opportunity to change people’s lives. Every job on campus affects the students. If I can have one conversation with a student that helps them realize their passion and ignite their desire to pursue it, then I have accomplished something great.

 

On the car ride to work, what do you listen to?

I listen to audiobooks during my commute. I’ve just started re-listening to the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward to prepare for the release of the next two books.

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What was the very first job you ever had and what skills did it teach you?

My first job was as a checker at Minyard Food Stores. The most important skill I learned was customer service. I loved the interaction with the customers. I was 15 years-old and could only work Saturday and Sunday from 8-5, so I got to know the regular customers. They loved that I went the extra mile to get to know them and hold a genuine conversation when they came through my line. Expressing concern for their family and daily life or congratulating them for successes would always reward me with a genuine smile. I learned to always speak with a smile. The most difficult customer can be eased if you just listen to them and reply smiling.

What about your new position is most exciting for you?

I am a huge geek. I love everything dealing with technology. I am the first person my friends and family call when they can’t figure out a new program on their computer, or how to work their new smart phone. I love that I will get to learn all of the cool programs and gadgets to make online learning more interactive and engaging.

What is one thing you’d love to accomplish in your first year?

During my first year in this position, I would love to put together a series of short how-to videos for Blackboard. I feel this would be a great tool for both faculty and students to refer to for the basic functions they utilize on a daily basis.

What three accomplishments are you most proud of in your life?

  1. I live in my dream home mortgage free.
  2. Maintaining a 4.0 GPA while working full-time and having a family to care for.
  3. Building substantial, lasting relationships with my co-workers.

What is your favorite sports team and why are you a lifelong fan?

I am a die-hard Dallas Stars fan. I’ve never been a huge sports fan. When the Minnesota Stars moved to Dallas my husband got me hooked on the sport. I love the fast-pace of the game. Due to the Dallas Stars being the team my husband introduced me to the sport with and them being the home town team, I will never stray.

For MVC’s Annual Employee Talent Show (this doesn’t actually exist), what hidden talent would you showcase to everyone?

This one is extremely hard for me. I’m not a performer by nature. I tend to hang back in the shadows and work the tech for the performers. The only people who truly see the performer in me are those that I know and am comfortable being myself around. Having said this, I would say karaoke. When no one is around, I’m the best singer out there 😉

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Jennifer McGuire, Distance Education Instructional Applications Integration Specialist

December 2017 Workshops

December 2017 Workshops

The Office of Professional Development has helped coordinate and promote various workshops throughout the month. There’s even a conference opportunity in October (register ASAP if interested). Below, you can view, download, and print the entire schedule of upcoming workshops.

Lynda.com Training Courses

  1. Log into myPortal
  2. Click on Lynda Training (right hand side of screen)
  3. Select course of interest and begin viewing tutorial videos
  4. Upon completion, print out certificate of completion to keep in your records

eConnect Registration Information

  1. Log on to eConnect as an employee and choose “Register for Staff Enrichment” from Employee menu.
  2. Select the current term, choose Mountain View College as the location, and click Submit (or choose another location to see all available training across the district and online).
  3. Select course(s) by checking the selection box(es) to the left and click “Submit.”
  4. Questions? Call the Software Training Support Hotline at 972‐669‐6452 (between the hours of 8AM – 5PM, Monday – Friday).

Hosting Your Own Workshop?

Interested in hosting your own workshop to share your knowledge, expertise, or passion for teaching and learning? Simply contact the Office of Professional Development (email mvcprofdev@dcccd.edu) and we’ll help coordinate logistics and raise awareness for your event. Our goal is to connect faculty, staff, and administrators across the institution in discipline specific, teaching pedagogy, and leadership opportunities. As a reminder, all requests must be submitted by the 15th of the month prior to the workshop scheduled.

Relaxing in the Workplace

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I recently received a massage this past November on our campus by Star Wolfe, licensed massage therapist. What a difference just 15 minutes makes sitting in her chair. Ms. Wolfe has spent many years mastering the art of massage therapy. Each session she spends time talking about the importance of breathing, reducing stress, getting 8 hours or more of sleep, and any other special tips to live a healthy lifestyle. This past session she talked about Yerba Mate. Yerba Mate is made from the naturally caffeinated and nourishing leaves of the South American rainforest holly tree. Yerba Mate has been used as a base for herbal medicines in South America for centuries. You can buy it in a form of a drink or supplements. I never know what the next topic of discussion will be but I do walk away with her knowledge and passion for taking care of your body.

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As you sit in the massage chair with the lights dimmed, lavender oil in the air, and the soft music playing draws you into the moment. The pains of age and over-stressed muscles all cry out for the therapeutic hands to start their work. Once the session gets underway, the problems of the world fade into a 15-30 minutes of relief and all you can comprehend is not wanting it to end.

What if the 15-30 minutes of massage did more than just take away the pressures of the day? Massage is a healing tool that has been around for thousands of years in many cultures. Having a massage relaxes your body and mind. Massage not only feels good, but it can cure what ails you.

The physical changes massage brings to your body can have a positive effect in many areas of your life. Besides increasing relaxation and decreasing anxiety, massage lowers your blood pressure, increases circulation, improves recovery from injury, helps you to sleep better and can increase your concentration. It reduces fatigue and gives you more energy to handle stressful situations (Body Sense, Fall 2001).

The benefits to receiving regular massage treatments include:

  • Increases circulation, allowing the body to pump more oxygen and nutrients into tissues and organs
  • Relaxes overused muscles
  • Reduces spasms and cramping
  • Increases joint flexibility
  • Reduces recovery time, helps prepare for strenuous workouts, and eliminates subsequent pains of the athlete at any level
  • Improves range-of-motion and decreases discomfort for patients with low back pain
  • Relieves pain for migraine sufferers and decreases the need for medication
  • Assists with shorter labor for expectant mothers

For more information about on campus massage therapy appointments you may contact our MVC liaison, Dianne Cole at diannecole@dcccd.edu. For more information about off campus massage therapy appointments you may contact Star Wolfe at starwolfe.massage@yahoo.com or call (972) 689-0253.

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If you can’t take the 15-30 minutes out of your day for a massage then there are other resources you can take advantage of to de-stress on MVC’s campus: nature preserve hiking trail, outdoor walking track, free gym membership (with employee ID), and visiting with Dollie, MVC’s therapy dog, who visits our campus quite frequently. Whatever method you choose to relax in the workplace, you will appreciate the many benefits such opportunities provide.

Faculty Spotlight: Alex Diaz

The Teaching & Learning Center at Mountain View College seeks to share teaching practices across the entire institution. The following article showcases a faculty member, provides insight into the environment they’ve created for MVC students, and demonstrates effective teaching practices. 

This month we showcase Dr. Alex Diaz, Professor of Business Management.

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What is one element about MVC that makes it the “best college on earth?”

The college’s ability to identify and relate to the needs of our students and provide instruction in a small classroom environment.

How would your students describe you or your teaching style?

I believe that the students would describe my teaching style as focused on student engagement.  I seek out opinions from the students to engage them in the topic of discussion.  In the instruction of Business and Management, I feel that it is an essential skill for the student to learn how to communicate their ideas related to Business and Management topics.

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What teaching strategies do you find most successful in your courses?

Keeping the topics related to real world applications or current events helps the students connect with the topic.

What do your students love most about your courses?

My willingness to seek out their opinions and listen to them communicate their ideas.

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What is one creative solution you’ve implemented to address a specific challenge in your courses?

Getting students to purchase and utilize course support materials (textbooks) has been a challenge.  I have attempted to lower the cost of purchasing required support materials (like textbooks) by utilizing materials developed internally through the DCCCD.  These materials are made available to them through the utilization of BlackBoard or eCampus course shells to supplement lecture courses.

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What has been your most positive or rewarding teaching experience?

Having students that contact me after they have left MVC to share how they have found success in their academic or professional life.

What advice would you give to a new faculty member at MVC?

Find ways to engage your students to enhance their learning experience, as it is a new opportunity every semester.

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Who is one person at MVC who has been instrumental to your success (and why)?

All of the administration, faculty peers and support staff facilitate my success at MVC.  It is through their support and encouragement that I have the opportunity to be successful at MVC.

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Readily Available Data, via DCCCD’s Data Depot

This series is part of an effort to showcase teaching and learning efforts at MVC.

Posted on behalf of Iva Bergeron, Dean of PRIE and SACSCOC Accreditation Liaison.

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Can you tell us about a service your department is responsible for at Mountain View College (MVC)?

The Office of Planning Research and Institutional Effectiveness has a variety of responsibilities.  The planning arm of our office works with the PBA Committee to develop and institutionalize planning.  This includes strategic planning, department planning, and unit planning.  Research in our department is data research.  We assist the college by gathering and aggregating data to inform decision making.  We are also responsible for institutional effectiveness.  While institutional effectiveness includes both planning and research, it is reviewing what we are doing, assessing what we are doing, and making improvements.  This is something that we should all strive for, but is also required by our accreditation agency, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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How does this service support the college mission?

Mountain View College has as part of its mission statement to ‘provide exemplary education through higher education programs, workforce development, educational support services, continuing education opportunities and community partnerships.’ Our office serves as the anchor in insuring that these things not only happen, but that they are planned, reviewed, and improved.  Our office helps the college adhere to the comprehensive requirements and standards of our accreditation agency, which are designed to insure that we maintain practices that are acceptable to the Department of Education.

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What are some of the most frequent questions you receive related to this service?

Our office receives many questions, all the time!  We must indeed be a family, because people do not mind sending us questions at all hours of the day and night J.  Unfortunately, most questions are unrelated.  However, we have received questions such as:

  • What high schools serve as our feeder schools?
  • How many dual credit students do we have?
  • What’s our student success percentage in developmental courses?
  • How many employees do we have?
  • How diverse are our employees and/or students?

The questions are very varied.

I would like to mention, that it is always beneficial for us if the person making the request will let us know what problem they are trying to solve.  Oftentimes we get requests and fulfill the requests only to find out that it doesn’t answer the requestor’s question. Additionally, there is a lot of data available on the District’s Data Depot.

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What is the data depot?

The Data Depot is an online resource designed to assist all DCCCD locations with access to readily available data. The District IR Department (Systemic Reporting and Analytics) created this resource, which is available via MyPortal, to provide immediate data to those in need.  The Data Depot includes several dashboards and key performance indicators for each college.  Data available includes: enrollment, contact hour, transfer information and much more.  This data should be reviewed prior to contacting PRIE, as it may serve to answer many questions.

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If interested in learning more, where would you point folks towards?

To access the Data Depot, an employee would simply go to MyPortal, and review the Popular Links on the right.  Data Depot is the third link listed.  Once in Data Depot, employees would click on their area of interest.  If anyone is having problems accessing this data, they can contact my office at 214-860-8735.  We will be happy to assist.