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Date: Thu, Sep 24th, 2020

Mandy Wright named interim director Weaver Library in addition to all her other duties

Mandy Wright, interim director of GFCMSU Weaver Library

GREAT FALLS, Mont. – Mandy Wright has a pretty extensive hat collection.

She is sporting several simultaneously at Great Falls College MSU right now.

She has been the director of the Teaching and Learning Center and the director of assessment the last couple of years. And now Wright added to her hat collection by becoming the interim director of the Weaver Library.

"I was asked to help out, and I said, 'Yes,'" said Wright, her good-natured smile apparent even behind the mask she was wearing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wright, who started on the English faculty at Great Falls College in 2008 after a year as an adjunct instructor, is not teaching any classes this semester.

She quickly downplays the load she is carrying.

"It really meshes well with the assessment part because what I proposed when I took it on was that a lot of the assessment work that needs to happen needs to be supported by faculty development and giving people the opportunity to learn new things and beef up their knowledge," Wright said.

She said most schools have a difficult time documenting the assessment work required by regional accrediting bodies because it can be difficult to show the work completed in the classroom and how it is demonstrated on program and institutional levels.

"We are assessing student learning at more than just the classroom level and showing how we are using assessment data to drive decision making," Wright explained. "We want to take what is happening at the classroom level and show how that scales up. That has been my biggest project: showing that data and looking at it from a couple higher levels."

Faculty rave about Wright and her friendly, inviting demeanor.

"She calls everybody, Friend," said Todd Reser, a welding faculty member, referring to her habit of saying, "Hi, Friend," when she sees you in the hallways.

Reser met Wright a year ago when she talked about assessment during orientation before the start of the 2019-2020 school year. It was his first year at Great Falls College and his first year in higher education.

At the end of the presentation, she asked for volunteers to serve on the assessment committee.

"I thought, 'Well, I don't know anything about assessment, but I'd like working with her; she is really nice and welcoming, even to some clown that doesn't know anything really about teaching,'" he remembered. "I joined and really enjoyed it. She's very helpful, there's no dumb questions, no pride."

Wright's work with the Teaching and Learning Center, formerly the Faculty and Development Center, makes it possible for her to identify strengths and weaknesses and help shore up any deficiencies with training sessions that she does with Becky Sullivan, the instructional designer at Great Falls College.

"Hopefully, people will be able to see in a program our students have these strengths and these weaknesses, and we're going to make these changes to make these improvements," Wright said. "Or as an institution we are noticing these things when we look at our learning outcomes."

Reser said Wright and Sullivan played a big role when Great Falls College closed campus in the spring because of COVID-19.

"She drew it out of us what we wanted to do, and then organized it," Reser said. "She is available. I can call Mandy any time I want to and ask her, 'What do you think of this?' and she'll give me her opinion and makes sure we feel comfortable with what we are doing. She tried hard to understand what we do here."

Wright loves her job.

"We have awesome faculty, and people who work here in general, but our faculty are amazing," Wright said. "But not all of them were trained as teachers. What happens in higher ed sometimes is that you are a subject matter expert, but you are not necessarily a trained teacher. I need to do training and workshops for assessment, so those two things really mesh. It gives me the opportunity to build supportive training for folks that supports assessment but also supports good teaching and helping people to grow as educators."

Dr. Elfie Neber, a psychology instructor at Great Falls College, said Wright's innovative nature makes her stand out.

"She is so bright and intelligent no matter what she does, she does it well," said Neber, who has worked with
Wright for years. "I think this institution is really fortunate to have her."

While the Teaching and Learning Center and assessment work complement one another, the library is a different matter.

Wright gives a nervous laugh on one of her first days in charge of the Weaver Library when asked what she got herself into.

"I don't know," she said, shaking her head. "I don't know. I'm not completely unaware of libraries."

Actually, she has been working on a K-12 library endorsement and has ideas on how to make just one more hat complement the others.

She wants to see the library get more robust offerings to teach students how to do better research in addition to the Research 101 Workshop the library always has done.

Wright plans to work with instructors to ensure the research instruction is integrated into classes and part of the coursework so it's not something extra thrown on top of students' already too busy lives.

"Some students, having a session at a specific time on a specific day was really hard," she said. "It was like pulling teeth with some of my students to get them to do it."

"I go to school, I go to work and I come home and go to bed,'" she remembers some students telling her. "'That's my life. I don't' have time on a Tuesday night to spend an hour learning about research.' It was frustrating because my students weren't fully engaging. They were doing it under protest and weren't getting out of it what we wanted."

So Wright is finding a way to make it part of the curriculum and provide it in such a way that students can listen to a recording on their own schedules rather than having to tune in at a specific time when they may have other commitments.

"Faculty can assign students to learn about research and point the students to the website and say, 'It's your job this week to learn about research and apply it in class,'" she said.

Neber pointed to this change as an example of her innovative spirit.

"She has a survey at the end where students can weigh in, and she asks them if they have any questions and then answers them first thing so they still have that personal experience," Neber said.

The library's longtime staff members, Ben Truman and Beth Cooper, are helping fill in Wright's knowledge gaps.

"Beth and Ben will be just fine," she said. "They don't need me."

Dr. Susan J. Wolff, CEO/dean of Great Falls College, is excited to see what Wright does with the library.

"I selected Mandy to be the interim librarian because I have long thought the library is an essential service for excellence in teaching and learning," she said. "Mandy is the director of the Teaching and Learning Center, so this is an opportunity to explore the marriage of the two areas of focus."

Wright lives in Fort Benton, where she got her first job teaching English in middle school and high school in 2004.

When her job changed to part-time, she became an adjunct at Great Falls College and the next year became a full-time English faculty member at the college.

In the meantime, she met and married her husband, Lawrence, and bought a house in Fort Benton.

Of course, she added a hat to her burgeoning collection there, too.

She is in her third year as an elected member of the board of trustees in Fort Benton.

"it was cool to get elected," Wright said. "That was really a heartening thing that the community had that kind of faith in me to be on the school board."

Lawrence is the shop foreman for the Chouteau County Road Department in the Fort Benton District.

They have a son, Lawson, 10, and daughter, Scarlett, 6.


Scott Thompson | Director of Communications and Marketing
O: 406-771-4314
C: 406-750-0982

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