Institute for Academic Excellence - Indian River State College
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Institute for Academic Excellence

The Institute for Academic Excellence (IAE) is a center for faculty inquiry and exploration and reflection in the pursuit of excellence in teaching, learning and professional development. Its flexible environment allows faculty members to explore topics of personal interest. The Institute is guided by the belief that professional development is a dynamic, ongoing and collaborative process that results in highly effective educators and engaged, thoughtful and successful students.

The Institute is charged with creating a culture of academic excellence on the Indian River State College campuses. The Institute works in partnership with the Employee Development Program (EDP) and IRSC Global. All faculty members are encouraged to participate in the IAE and pursue personal interests, especially in collaboration with others.

Professional Learning Communities

Faculty Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) within the Institute continually review the literature for evidence-based research on communication, critical thinking skills, online teaching and learning, open educational resources (OERs), research and assessment, and student reading.  Another PLC develops support systems for faculty publication and another identifies and engages in service-learning activities. The findings of these PLCs are shared with all faculty members through a variety of means including a website, colloquia, presentations, conferences, reference lists and demonstrations.

The Diversity, Inclusion, Communication, and Education (DICE PLC) focuses on educating through communication; by enhancing positive communication principles, we improve our connections between each other and promote respect for our differences in the classroom, professional settings, and our culture. Current events have underscored the desperate need for celebrating diversity, the work of authentic communication, and acceptance and equity within our world. All administrators, faculty, staff, and students in a culturally diverse educational environment have biases and expectations that shape how they interact. Failure to communicate effectively creates negative interactions that perpetuate those biases. Therefore, this Professional Learning Community (PLC)'s primary objective is to assist all academic community members in acquiring the knowledge, motivation, and skills to communicate with one another through the following:

  • Identifying the barriers to effective communication that face our students.
  • Acquiring and utilizing resources to educate our community to eradicate, eliminate, or minimize the impact of identified barriers.
  • Implementing and institutionalizing new programs specifically designed to enhance and promote culturally responsive teaching and classrooms to advance student learning, retention, and completion.


For more information, contact Professor Camila Alvarez, Communication PLC Chair, at 772-462-7679 or

College students benefit from the acquisition of knowledge, and, perhaps more importantly, from the development of critical thinking skills. To enhance those skills, the Institute’s Professional Learning Community (PLC) for Critical Thinking formulates strategies for interpreting and evaluating knowledge. The PLC addresses critical thinking across disciplines such as philosophy; physical, biological and social sciences; language and literature; and mathematics, among others.


For more information, please contact Dr. John Carpenter, Co-Chair, at 772-462-7707 or or Professor Arlene Chandler, Co-Chair, at 772-226-2533 or

The mission of the Online Teaching and Learning Professional Learning Community is to research tools that can improve online teaching and learning, ultimately, leading to greater student success and faculty enrichment. As part of this mission, we will share these tools with IRSC faculty through hands-on training in the Institute for Academic Excellence.


For more information, please contact Mike Pelitera, Co-Chair, at 772-462-7734 or or Jessica Fulton, Co-Chair, at 772-462-7124 or or Chrisine Neubert at or 772-462-7096.

The Professional Learning Community for Textbook Affordability and Open Educational Resources (OER PLC) leads the charge at IRSC to make an impact on student success through fair, equitable practices in selecting materials for classroom learning. Faculty are encouraged to seek out and develop open educational resources when appropriate. The OER PLC can help faculty in locating, creating, and using OER effectively in the classroom. The committee will also update the IRSC community on best practices as it concerns changes in copyright, OER initiatives, federal/state mandates, grant opportunities, alternatives to publisher-supplied content, and understanding terms of use for teaching materials.


For more information, please contact Professor Alexis Carlson, Co-Chair, at 772-462-7194 or or Brett Williams, Co-Chair, at

The Institute helps faculty members construct research programs that strengthen professional and pedagogical development. The Institute’s Professional Learning Community (PLC) arranges consultations with mentors who advise faculty members on a variety of issues, including contact with publishers, College services, grants, software availability, meeting timelines, and integrating research programs with teaching responsibilities.


For more information, please contact Dr. Brian Freeman, Co-Chair, at 772-462-7682 or or Dr. Bodi Anderson, Co-Chair, at 772-462-7190 or

Although reading comprehension is a significant predictor of college success, reading challenges many college students. The Professional Learning Community (PLC) for Reading investigates such issues as the motivation to read, concentration, concept formation, and reflection. Based on its investigations, the Reading PLC recommends reading strategies within specific courses and departments, and across the curriculum.


For more information, please contact Professor Molly Bottorff, Chair, at 772-462-7196 or or Emily Renschler, Co-Chair at 772-462-7142 or

The IAE Professional Learning Community (PLC) for Research and Assessment encourages faculty members to improve student learning by assessing the empirical dimensions of traditional and innovative teaching methods. This PLC advises faculty about research design and data collection, analysis, and interpretation and promotes resources and events that foster undergraduate research across disciplines.


For more information, please contact Dr. Helen Wiersma-Koch, Co-Chair, at 772-462-7491 or or Sara Johnson, Co-Chair, at 772-336-6382 or

Service Learning is an instructional method that uses experiential education to assist students in acquiring a deeper understanding of underlying concepts, ideas, and principles associated with a course of study. Other objectives include developing sympathetic awareness of distant others, and promoting the idea of democratic citizenship. In Service Learning, experiential learning is not just learning by doing. It also combines direct, hands-on experience with guided reflection and analysis of what is being done.


For more information, please contact Dr. Joe Palencik, Co-Chair, at 772-462-7505 or or Professor Veronica Tempone, Co-Chair, at 772-462-7704 or or Dr. Kelly Caffery, Co-Chair, at 772-462-7628 or


Workshops are added throughout the semester, and monthly emails will be sent regarding the times and locations.

Contact the Institute for Academic Excellence

The Institute for Academic Excellence is located in Room V-125 in the Indian River State College Kight Center for Emerging Technologies on Main Campus in Fort Pierce.


Jodi M. Robson, Ed.D.
Director of the Institute for Academic Excellence

R. Joseph Grisham, Ph.D.

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