The Center for Learning Innovation and Student Success is pleased to welcome Cristi Ford, PhD, as the newest member of our team. As our Assistant Vice Provost for Learning Innovation Initiatives, Dr. Ford provides thoughtful leadership in identifying promising next generation online learning innovations and leads the implementation of this plan through rapid prototyping and piloting.
Dr. Ford brings more than 15 years of cumulative experience in higher education, project management, program evaluation, training, instructional design, and student services to her new role. Before joining UMUC, Dr. Ford served as director of the Research Academy for Integrated Learning (RAIL) for the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) and as an assistant professor for UDC’s Center for Academic Technology. Prior to UDC, Dr. Ford was the founding director of Distance Education at Hampton University, creating Hampton U Online with 22 online programs. She also teaches courses online for Prince George’s Community College’s Department of Psychological and Sociological Sciences.
In addition to her experience building new online learning programs and her research related to teaching and learning in the online environment, Dr. Ford possesses significant experience in the design and delivery of integrated educational support, training, and transition services for young adults and children with neurodevelopment disabilities. She has served as Associate Director of Training, Marshall University, Autism Training Center; Coordinator, Integrated Services for Young Adults, Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders; Consultant, Trellis Services; ACT Specialist, Kennedy Krieger High School; and Transition Specialist, Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Dr. Ford was selected by the Online Learning Consortium, as a 2012 participant in the Institute of Emerging Leaders in Online Learning and in 2013, received a Best-In-Track award from the Online Learning Consortium for a paper entitled, Three Institutions, Three Missions, One Goal: Addressing Quality Assurance in Online Education. In 2014, she served as the summit chair for the Online Learning Consortium’s HBCU Summit on Online Education. As a volunteer member of the Middle States Commission in Higher Education, Dr. Ford reviews distance education programs as a part of the accreditation team. She also serves as a national Quality Matters trainer at campuses across the country. Her research interests include online education and new strategies in the teaching and learning environment.
Dr. Ford holds a PhD in Educational Leadership from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field of Psychology from Hampton University and University of Baltimore, respectively.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Dr. Ford about her experiences and outlook on higher education.
Kate: How did you first become involved in online education?
Dr. Ford: In my first career, I worked in Special Education in level 5 non-publics in the Maryland school systems. I became very familiar with the challenges of students with High functioning autism or Asperger Syndrome at a time when society at large knew very little. In my work, I offered guidance counseling and made connections to higher education institutions for these very bright individuals with a few specialized learning challenges. As a result, my connection to online education began to flourish and I was able to see the power of giving students more flexible access to the learning environment. Witnessing this transformation was what really sparked my passion and love for thinking about higher education in a more flexible and dynamic way.
Kate: What is your philosophy on higher education?
Dr. Ford: Students must be prepared to contribute and thrive in the post-industrial economy. As educators, we have an obligation to strive, continually, to meet the dynamic needs of our students in a world characterized by constant change. We cannot rely on the same approach simply because it was successfully in the past. We must chart new paths for the future. I believe that higher education administrators, faculty, and staff have a requirement to be lifelong learners themselves in order to be a part of the incremental changes leading to the big shift.
Kate: What drew you to Center for Innovation in Learning and Student Success at UMUC?
Dr. Ford: As someone involved in online education on a national level for many years, I was aware of the great strides being made at UMUC. I wanted to share my insights, and more importantly, be a part of this great opportunity to see that old wine is no longer being poured in new bottles – to embrace the fact that the learning environment is indeed changing. UMUC’s Center for Innovation in Learning and Student Success embraces this change and affords me unique opportunities to shape, guide, and collaborate on the future direction of higher education.
Dr. Ford’s educational leadership knowledge and experience combined with her passion for learner success make her especially well-suited to her new role with CILSS. We are fortunate to have her as a member of our team.