October 11, 2021

Staff Spotlight: Lori Timmis, Dean of Distance Learning

Lori Timmis sitting at a table with a computer behind her

She looks to build upon a well-respected and important department at the College

Today for Staff Spotlight we’re sitting down with Lori Timmis, who recently joined Schoolcraft College as Dean of Distance Learning. Lori comes to us from Siena Heights University in Adrian, where she served for nearly 20 years in a variety of roles.

Schoolcraft College: First of all, welcome to Schoolcraft College! We’re happy to have you here. How have things been going so far?

Lori Timmis: Thank you for the warm welcome! I’m happy to join the creative and hardworking Distance Learning team and work with Schoolcraft’s dedicated faculty, staff, administrators and other key stakeholders. Since starting my position in mid-August, Schoolcraft employees continue to enthusiastically welcome me to the college. I appreciate becoming acquainted with faculty and staff across departments, many of whom maintain longstanding service to the college, understanding their important roles and the common threads we share in our higher education careers. The Schoolcraft community integrates daily the college mission in fostering a transformative learning experience for students. Likewise, Schoolcraft students reflect distinct generations with unique, evolving needs, representing first-generation students and returning students. 

During this time, I continue to gain knowledge of people, systems, processes, and initiatives to inform intentional and thoughtful planning for continued distance learning program growth.

Schoolcraft College: How did you get involved in higher education and why did you decide to pursue a career in higher education, specifically with a focus on Distance Learning?

A portrait of Lori Timmis
Lori Timmis, Dean of Distance Learning

Lori Timmis: A favorite quote, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, reflects my higher education journey: “Do not go where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path, and leave a trail.” My journey comprises winding paths that, simultaneously, situated my commitment to serve in higher education and distance learning. 

As a first-generation college graduate, I achieved my associate degree while a full-time student and working adult. Consequently, this progressed my interest to serve in higher education. I transferred to a bachelor degree completion program at Cleary University. This was my first exposure to distance learning through a hybrid cohort model, a setting I thrived in and one that propelled my passion for distance learning. Upon graduation, I started my higher ed career at Siena Heights University. 

My nearly 20-year career at Siena brought encounters to build and sustain quality online and hybrid learning initiatives. I completed my master’s degree with a thesis focus on developing a blended online program that I applied directly to my work. I served as the founding director of the university’s distance learning programs, as an online adjunct instructor and developer, and in various leadership roles with oversight of distance learning initiatives. Within these roles, I collaborated closely with faculty and staff peers. At the core, our professions reflect cultivating engagement with others, and our efforts to deliver quality online learning largely derive from shared collaboration.

Schoolcraft College: Is there anything in particular that appealed to you to pursue the Dean of Distance Learning position here?

Lori Timmis: Yes. Several aspects spoke to me in applying for the Dean of Distance Learning position at Schoolcraft. It would allow me to come full circle honoring my educational roots, as a community college graduate, and serve at a well-regarded community college. Likewise, I could serve in a successive leadership role to champion, in partnership, a continued vision of flexible learning experiences delivered through adaptable modalities, distinct services and resources, and emerging instructional models. 

My research and progressing through the interview process highlighted the college’s longevity, over a multi-decade period, with and commitment to quality distance learning for students, embraced by dedicated faculty and staff. These and other unique aspects highlighted an exceptional opportunity to me and why Schoolcraft holds a respected position as a forward-thinking institution in the community, state, and nationally. 

“No longer is distance learning an ‘alternative’ model, but part of a flexible and transformative learning experience.”

Lori Timmis, Dean of Distance Learning

Schoolcraft College: The importance of having a strong Distance Learning department has been magnified by the pandemic. What are your goals for Distance Learning both in the near future and long term?

Lori Timmis: Schoolcraft’s Distance Learning Programs maintain a distinct history over the last several decades with a growing portfolio of online degrees, certificates, and courses. The infrastructure encompasses a conscientious quality assurance framework for online course design and delivery. This foundation and the efforts of the Schoolcraft distance learning team, faculty, and staff allowed Schoolcraft to quickly respond to the shift in remote and online learning in the pandemic’s onset. Nevertheless, the pandemic continues to uncover additional needs and provide lessons to move us forward, which requires research, planning, and implementation. 

Short-term, I seek to build internal cross-departmental and program alliances and external alliances to support student and institutional success. It takes an extensive base to coordinate quality-driven instruction, student learning and student success, and faculty support and development. Likewise, I plan to incorporate evidence-based decision making from institutional and other scholarly data to drive long-term DL strategic planning. Distance Learning also will embark on numerous goals this academic year including a phased-shift to BB Ultra, new and revised RTT courses including SC’s Professional Development Series, and continued adoption of OER, accessibility, and inclusive practices and strategies. These short-term goals will springboard in creating a shared purpose and vision for distance learning in concert with SC Momentum 2021.

Faculty responded to massive change in a short time during the pandemic. Looking ahead, new and evolving technologies and their associated pedagogies will necessitate ongoing faculty support and development. Faculty, as subject matter experts, work closely with our instructional designers and course managers to develop and teach high-quality online courses. Distance Learning will continue to support faculty, in collaboration with the Center for Academic Innovation, with relevant instructional professional development and recertification pathways to inspire interactive and authentic distance learning design and delivery.

As national trends continue to show, students desire more flexible options through online, hybrid, and remote modalities, and Schoolcraft is positioned to respond with additional programs, courses, instructional models, and modalities. We also must stay well informed of the evolving landscape including trends, research, regulations, technologies, and competition. Correspondingly, the pandemic identified gaps and needs for students that we will continue to examine to support effective and engaging student learning, one that promotes comprehensive interaction and active learning. This requires long-term agility in designing accessible, equitable, and innovative approaches.

Distance learning can offer more students access to higher education to boost their professional and personal endeavors. No longer is distance learning an “alternative” model, but part of a flexible and transformative learning experience. This coupled with a robust community college education, such as through Schoolcraft’s comprehensive academic portfolio, brings opportunities for future unique learning and workforce contributions.

Schoolcraft College: You are currently pursuing your doctorate in Global Leadership and Change from Tiffin University. How is that coming along?

Lori Timmis: Thank you for asking. I’m halfway through my coursework in Tiffin’s Ph.D. program. The program format encompasses rigorous 7-week online courses, three residencies, and a dissertation with a curricular emphasis on global leadership and change and cultural awareness competencies. Today’s workforce environment incorporates cross-cultural characteristics. While our work may bring a local, physical context, our professions should espouse a global mindset, which celebrates a rich cultural diversity that contributes to successful work.

As a working adult student, the online program accommodates the needs of my schedule. I value the flexibility coupled with the faculty and student engagement in the program to build active learning communities. We can deliver this in any modality with thoughtful planning and humanized pedagogy. My online student experience strengthens purpose in creating a collaborative infrastructure that meets the needs and capabilities of our students, develops active and meaningful learning, and advances professional development for our faculty and staff.

Schoolcraft College: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Lori Timmis: I look forward to continued interactions, idea sharing, and collaboration with the Schoolcraft Community. I’m excited to build connections with the community to champion a vibrant future for online teaching and learning at Schoolcraft College.

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