What’s Involved in Being the APR Liaison
Come July 2020, I will have been in the role of the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) CFLE Academic Program Review (APR) Liaison for 9 years. I find much reward and enjoyment in fulfilling this position or I wouldn’t have persisted with it over this long period. For a variety of reasons, when this ninth year concludes, I will be ready to have someone else take on the position.
In preparation for my departure, several tasks need to be completed. Soon, Dawn Cassidy will more formally announce my exit date and initiate a search for my replacement. Perhaps one of you reading this column might be interested in pursuing the role of APR Liaison, which is a paid, 10-hour-per-week position. To facilitate decision-making about whether to apply, let me highlight my key responsibilities.
In a typical year, I field about 10 inquiries from faculty wanting to know about the process their academic program needs to undertake to be considered for first-time CFLE APR approval. Out of such inquiries, on average, four or five actual applications and accompanying materials are submitted. My role in this effort includes the following:
- Providing direction and guidance to the primary faculty contact for the applying program about how to prepare and submit documents
- Securing three members of the APR Committee to review the narrative, syllabi, and other relevant documents submitted on behalf of the academic program, then providing direction and guidance to them about review processes, assessment criteria, and feedback procedures
- Synthesizing reviewers’ feedback based on their assessment of submitted materials, adding my own insights, and summarizing all input in a multiple-page document that is then shared and discussed with the faculty program contact
- Supporting, encouraging, and perhaps even nudging the faculty program contact and any colleagues involved in efforts to respond in writing to reviewers’ requests and suggestions
- Determining a final level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the responses provided by the faculty program contact regarding review-related feedback, sometimes with input solicited again from one or more of the reviewers
- Notifying the faculty program contact and NCFR staff about the decision to affirm, table, or deny first-time approval
- Helping to recognize and celebrate an academic program’s achievement of first-time approval at the annual conference’s CFLE Reception.
Also, in a typical year, I oversee, on average, the review of materials submitted by faculty contacts for about 28 approved academic programs that are seeking renewal of CFLE program approval. In addition to the tasks undertaken for first-time approval, my role for program renewal applications includes the following:
- Providing direction and guidance to the primary faculty contact for the academic program about how to ready and submit renewal-related documents: Explanation of and rationale for any changes, up-to-date syllabi, and other relevant documents
- Assessing the need (due to complexity of or controversy associated with any changes) for participation of one or more members of the APR Committee and, if need exists, securing such participants
- Following CFLE APR standards and criteria, assessing the submitted materials, particularly course syllabi
- Preparing written feedback about strengths and any areas for enhancement, then sharing and discussing such commentary with the faculty program contact
- As with first time approval, determining a final decision, notifying the program of that decision, and, when approved, helping to recognize and celebrate the program’s approval
For the most part, every week that I am “on the job” entails some degree of work along the lines of that just described. Somewhat less frequently, perhaps every other week, I confer by phone or other virtual means with Dawn or Maddie Hansen (or both), who is also on staff at NCFR. The focus of our conversations varies. Most often, it has to do with (a) unexpected or unusual circumstances that develop during a review; (b) ways to revise and improve the wording of information, policies, procedures, directions, and guidelines about the Academic Program Review initiative; (c) plans for CFLE- and APR-related sessions at the annual NCFR conference as well as other occasions for APR Committee member training; and (d) responses to a call for new members for the APR Committee.
Although I am nearly always pondering possible topics, it is four times a year that my ideas solidify, and I then compose a column for Network. On occasion, I ask APR Committee members to coauthor a column with me. Some columns focus on the APR application and review process. Other columns address curricular and instructional applications that are particularly relevant for one of the 10 FLE content areas. The message of an intriguing book that I have read often serves as the basis for a column as well.
One important—and fun—facet of this position is attending the annual NCFR conference. While on site, my responsibilities include the following:
- Helping members of the APR Committee become better acquainted
- Providing an update of the overall program to APR Committee members and others
- Facilitating training activities and exercises for APR Committee members
- Facilitating a conference session that allows faculty and administrators from currently approved academic programs, as well as prospective ones, to ask questions, share success stories and concerns, and network
- Helping Dawn get ready for the CFLE Reception and then participating in the APR-related portion of the formal agenda
- Meeting informally with faculty program contacts from currently approved programs or those seeking approval
If asked what my favorite things are about being the APR Liaison, without hesitation I would make two points. First, I really like interacting with faculty program contacts, whether by e-mail, phone, virtual meeting, or face-to-face. While it was a unique occurrence, I was once invited to come to a university campus to meet and talk with the faculty and key administrators associated with an academic program contemplating the rewards and costs of pursuing first-time CFLE APR approval. It was most enjoyable to champion a field and credential that I whole-heartedly believe in and support. And, I seldom, if ever, grow weary of brainstorming ideas related to curricular and instructional design, delivery, assessment, and evaluation.
My other favorite thing is working with Dawn Cassidy. Our relationship has been one of healthy collaboration, along with mutual respect and collegiality. She has been readily available whenever I have needed her, and she has provided me with much flexibility and professional freedom. These job benefits far outweigh any moments of possible fatigue, such as those resulting from reading and reviewing 25 or so syllabi, or perhaps typing up 15 pages of review-related feedback.
The upcoming annual NCFR conference will be my ninth as CFLE APR Liaison. To anyone seeking further insight into the responsibilities and duties I have undertaken in this position, I look forward to arranging an informal chat with you during the days we share in Fort Worth or feel free to reach out to me via email.