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Faculty and Staff

Five Questions with Helen Chen and the Office of Instructional Programs

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The Office of Instructional Programs (OIP) collaborates with colleges and other units for effective academic planning that equips NC State undergraduate and graduate students with an outstanding experiential education. It also enriches the broader Wolfpack community through support of lifelong education programs. Units within the Office of Instructional Programs include NC State Continuing and Lifelong Education, Digital Education and Learning Technology Applications (DELTA), and the Institute for Advanced Analytics. 

Helen Chen
Senior Vice Provost for Instructional Programs Helen Chen

The office is responsible for academic program planning including new degree programs and dual degree programs, and other select university-wide academic programs. We spoke with Helen Chen, senior vice provost for Instructional Programs, about how the unit serves students and advances NC State academics.

How does the Office of Instructional Programs ensure a high-quality, well-rounded education for all students?

Higher education has entered an era of rapid transformation. Changing student demographics, rapidly evolving stakeholder demands, and new technologies require us to embrace organizational innovation and agility.The newly established Office of Instructional Programs is thoughtfully structured to support the university’s academic planning functions. OIP provides direct supervision for DELTA, NC State Continuing and Lifelong Education (NCSCaLE), and universitywide instructional programs.

OIP provides leadership and support for academic activities, including academic and lifelong learning program planning and development, academic partnership development, and new academic initiatives to serve our learners better and respond to the changing landscape of higher education. In achieving our mission, we will foster a culture of innovation and strategic thinking to ensure our academic policies, procedures and structures support academic program innovation that furthers the institution’s goals, values and strategic priorities.

What are some of the most important ways that the Office of Instructional Programs supports academic programming and academic program planning?

OIP fosters a culture of collaboration and innovation in academic program planning and implementation. Working closely with key stakeholders of the university and its communities, we develop academic policies and procedures, as well as the administrative infrastructure and financial mechanisms needed to develop innovative academic programs, alternative academic credentials, and coordinated for-credit and non-credit learning pathways. Additionally, the office will create and maintain a repository of academic resources, such as Policies, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and MOU/MOA templates, to aid in the development and delivery of instructional programs. Our office works across campus to: 

  • Provide guidance and support for academic program development and approval processes;
  • Facilitate universitywide instructional program development and collaboration, especially for interdisciplinary programs;
  • Support faculty professional development, engagement, collaborations and innovation in instructional program development, primarily in coordination with the Office for Faculty Excellence (OFE) and DELTA ;
  • Create opportunities to foster and accelerate entrepreneurial academic initiatives, such as alternative academic credentials and non-credit lifelong learning programs;
  • Regularly review and update policies and procedures related to academic program and partnership development and implementation to ensure quality and compliance, remove barriers, support innovation and collaboration, and achieve operational excellence; and 
  • Facilitate colleges’ efforts to develop and expand external academic partnerships. 

What is your role within the Office of Instructional Programs? What do you enjoy most about your position?

I oversee four units and participate in university governance committees, and I take great pleasure in being at the forefront of shaping the educational experience for our students. I see my roles as a stimulus to encourage new ideas and foster creative thinking, a catalyst to facilitate changes, a connector to bring people together and build relationships, an advocate to promote diverse perspectives and a strategist to lead our teams to make data-informed decisions. 

I am committed to fulfilling these roles and leading by example. I have the opportunity to learn about the exciting new initiatives across campus and to bring those ideas together to create forward-thinking educational programs. It is a challenging and rewarding role that allows me to constantly learn, collaborate and grow.

What plans does the Office of Instructional Programs have for the coming year? What new opportunities for growth will you pursue?

We have developed a strategic plan that identifies our direction and projects we will embrace in the coming year, and that offers growth and collaboration opportunities for all of us.

Our strategic plan has four key goals: 

  1. To provide central support for academic planning and coordination of academic and non-credit instructional programs;
  2. To establish a clear and comprehensive NC State lifelong learning strategy;
  3. To develop and implement new academic infrastructure to support interdisciplinary courses, curricula and programs; and
  4. To lead the digital transformation to enhance necessary teaching and learning experiences.

To achieve these goals, OIP will be pursuing several tactics, including: 

  • Creating a new degree planning process. The new process aims to define each party’s roles and responsibilities, set realistic expectations, and facilitate effective communication. This will help the departments to remove barriers, provide support and streamline the process, which will shorten the overall implementation timelines.
  • Working with OFE and the Office of University Interdisciplinary Programs to develop academic policies and procedures, as well as the administrative infrastructure and financial mechanisms needed to create innovative academic programs, particularly interdisciplinary courses, curricula and programs. 
  • Collaborating with key stakeholders to develop and implement NC State’s lifelong learning strategy, including defining terminology used for credit-bearing and non-credit-bearing instructional programs to ensure that it reflects the academic quality and is transparent to our learners.
  • Exploring the possibility of creating flexible pathways from non-degree to degree learning that makes the learning journey more accessible and inclusive.
  • Continuing to support faculty and learners through innovative, accessible and effective technologies that foster creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.

I encourage you to take a few moments to review the OIP strategic plan, and I look forward to working with the NC State community to achieve our goals.

What is something that the NC State community may not know about the Office of Instructional Programs?

The new office fosters innovation, agility and collaboration among the DELTA and NCSCaLE teams, allowing them to respond quickly to meet learners’ needs. These teams collaborate to ensure that the new academic initiatives are aligned and integrated. 

DELTA is excited about the upcoming DELTA grants cycle, and is looking forward to the variety of project ideas that come to us through this process. DELTA is also looking forward to continued work with faculty in getting additional NC State courses certified by Quality Matters and is excited about co-hosting the 2023 NC State Conference on Faculty Excellence with OFE and the NC State University Libraries. We imagine future growth and development in the digital non-credit area and look forward to directing our efforts, together, to accomplish goals established in both the university’s strategic plan and OIP’s strategic plan. 

NCSCaLE is proud to be working with OIP, DELTA and the colleges to develop and deliver market-informed non-credit courses and certificate programs, with many of these taking place in the online space. We’re equally excited about the continued demand and job placement resulting from digital skills bootcamps, as well as the significant return of in-person programs and conferences that are being run at the McKimmon Conference and Training Center and elsewhere. From an internal perspective, NCSCaLE held an all-staff retreat with the theme of “Growing Together” on February 14, which allowed staff to become even more productive and therefore more positively impactful to all the learners we serve. 

DELTA and NCSCaLE are already working together to support each other’s work and OIP by using existing expertise. DELTA offers data analysis, academic program planning and development expertise to be shared in digital education. Collaborative efforts will continue to evolve and contribute to the university’s goal of empowering students for a lifetime of success and impact. Some examples include educational enterprise technologies support, course design and production, online program market research, branding, marketing and communications, integration of for- and not-for-credit, on- and off-campus, hybrid and distance programs.

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