The American Association of Community Colleges has awarded its 2017 Faculty Innovation Award to Berkeley City College’s Rachel Mercy Simpson. The award recognizes faculty across the country who have demonstrated leadership in the development and implementation of campus programs that have had a positive impact on the learning experience for students.
As co-chair of BCC’s Multi Media Arts department, Simpson is credited with promoting a culture of collaboration and inclusion and for piloting interactive teaching techniques that engage students in teamwork. BCC President Rowena Tomaneng said, “I have observed her passion for student equity and social justice, and she is constantly looking for ways to provide more access to students of color who are interested in pursuing careers in multi-media arts.” According to Tomaneng, Simpson’s influence on student learning is apparent. “The tone of the work produced by her students reflects the spirit of unity, caring and passion that she brings to this campus,” she said.
But Simpson’s work extends further than the classroom. Simpson organized a Multimedia Faculty Retreat where faculty learned how implicit biases could impact grading and expectations. Simpson invited students to share their experiences of prejudice and relay best practices that enabled them to succeed. She also designed several faculty trainings on how to engage students across varied experiences.
Since 2009, Simpson has been instrumental in transforming BCC’s Multimedia Arts program by developing a challenging and rigorous curriculum that focuses on sharpening technical skills while working as teams and mastering communication skills. Today, BCC’s Multimedia Arts program is one that is well respected by industry professionals who allow students to apply their learning beyond the classroom.
“My goal as co-chair of the Multimedia Department has been to create a top-notch community college media program that employs the arts as a gateway to rigorous and engaging academic and technical work, and to serve our diverse student body in preparing them for transfer and sustainable careers,” Simpson said.
Simpson will be recognized for her award by AACC at its 97th annual convention in New Orleans in April, 2017. The AACC was established in 1920 as a forum for the nation’s two-year colleges. The association represents nearly 1,200 two-year, associate degree–granting institutions and more than 13 million students, as well as a growing number of international members in Puerto Rico, Japan, Great Britain, Korea, and the United Arab Emirates.