Heidi Watt

Director of Accreditation and Quality Assurance, Office of Academic Affairs 2014 Womens History Month

What is your current job title and responsibilities?
I currently serve as Director of Accreditation and Quality Assurance in the Office of Academic Affairs, specifically in the unit called Academic, Faculty, and International Affairs. My primary duties include managing the academic program review process and a broad range of ongoing activities that support the university’s regional accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). These duties include managing the university’s faculty teaching certification process and monitoring and reporting activities that can lead to substantive changes like off-campus instructional activity and certain types of inter-institutional collaborations (e.g., dual degree programs). I also provide some support for specialized accreditations and am currently involved in various state- required compliance and reporting activities (e.g., centers and institutes, educational sites, program review). On any given day I may find myself reviewing a new program proposal or involved with any number of different academic initiatives. Literally, I am learning something new every day!

What is your history at UCF? (past job titles, responsibilities)
The short of it is, I came to UCF for graduate school and never left. After graduate school, I taught undergraduate sociology courses for a short time as a visiting instructor. I had planned to continue my education but instead found myself planning a wedding. When my visiting gig expired, a graduate school mentor offered me a temporary job assisting with a project in the Office of Faculty Relations. As the project came to an end, I began providing staff support to the UCF Board of Trustees collective bargaining team in its first round of post-devolution negotiations with the faculty union. That ended up turning into a permanent job and I spent the next six years working as a coordinator and then assistant director within faculty relations. During that time I became heavily involved in the university’s 2006 reaffirmation of accreditation with SACSCOC and related activities. That prepared me for my next opportunity in the Office of Academic Affairs where I took on a broader SACSCOC compliance role among other responsibilities noted above, first as associate director and then director.

What is your favorite UCF memory?
I’ve experienced a number of really special moments since coming to UCF but among those I hold most dear include my wedding and events surrounding the birth of my son. I’ve made a lot of friends during my time here. Some are even like family to me. The fact that so many wonderful people whom I’ve met at UCF cared to be part of some of the most significant moments in my life means a tremendous amount to me.

If you could change one thing at UCF, what would it be? ($ and time no object)
Public perception – I wish we could figure out how to help the public see more clearly the value that a university, and UCF in particular, brings to our state and our local community in order to establish consensus that our enterprise is a worthwhile investment of public funds. A substantial body of research confirms that higher education yields higher earnings over time as well as a number of other societal benefits. However, we need to strengthen our story of local impact. We need to gather more data that documents it. Of course, tracking our graduates, collecting their stories, and assessing their impact on our state, nation, and local community over time requires a substantial commitment of resources. When we are scrounging to find the resources to staff classrooms with faculty members, and to respond to incessant and increasing accountability reports, it’s difficult to squeeze anything else from a pretty dry well. It is clear, however, that somehow we must find a way. That’s the only way we will ever restore state funding and reduce the growing tuition burden on students and their families.

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with your colleagues?
Be a bridge builder and refrain from building walls. Come from this place with each word and deed. Rest assured that the high road is always the right path to take.

What is your favorite restaurant or food?
White Wolf Café & Bar located in Ivanhoe Village is a longtime favorite. The food is good but I’m drawn there mostly for the ambiance and live jazz.

If UCF was going to name something in your honor, what would you like it to be and why?
I would choose a scholarship for or maybe even a center for the success of first generation college students. I am not the first in my family to attend college but I believe education is the great equalizer. It has the power to expand minds, empower individuals, and transform families for generations to come. I believe a more educated world will be a more peaceful world, not to mention a more innovative and cooperative place. Higher education plays a critical role in achieving these ends. Those who are the first in their families to attend college have a unique set of challenges to overcome and targeted support is essential for their success.

If you could have lunch with anyone at UCF (who you do not normally eat lunch with), who would you choose and why?
I would choose a group of undergraduate students from across campus and from a range of personal backgrounds. In my current role, I have minimal opportunities to interact with students. However, when I do, I am invigorated by their personal stories, their aspirations, and the remarkable things they are already accomplishing. It helps to remind me why I was drawn to pursue a career in higher education in the first place.

Who at UCF would you like to thank for your success?
I could go on for days. I have worked on wonderful teams and with really great people from across campus since entering administration ten years ago. They have all been my teachers. My past and current supervisors, Drs. Lin Huff-Corzine and Diane Chase have been wonderful mentors who have challenged and invested in me in very significant ways. Much of the foundation for my success however, is a result of my experience as a graduate student in the sociology program. The extraordinary faculty members who were part of my journey from 1999-2002 really gave me the wings I needed to fly. I entered the program unsure of my abilities and left transformed and confident. They challenged me in ways I would not have chosen for myself at the time. The mentoring, opportunities, and professionalization I received from that program included textbook learning (Lots of it!) but went far beyond. Outside of class, they engaged me in the teaching and research processes and in many other aspects of the profession. I experienced a model of graduate education that continues to set the bar for me in my current role in the academic program review process.

Name and describe a teacher or researcher from your past who truly inspired you and why.
My mother was a high school math teacher until I was born. Then she became my math tutor. I remember my mom staying up late with me many, many nights for years and years, helping me through my math homework. Despite her remarkable efforts, I never became a math wiz, but I like to think I did learn a lot of far more important lessons from her. Through my mom’s words and deeds she taught me that anything worth doing is worth doing right. She continues to inspire me to do the right thing because that’s the kind of person I want to be and for no other reason. She taught me about commitment, responsibility, integrity, forgiveness, the importance of being a peacemaker, and unconditional love. She has always inspired me to try each day to be the best version of myself that I can. She’s the best teacher I’ve ever had and inspires me to want to be the same for my son and others.

What undergraduate or graduate class/program/experience inspired you the most and why?
I have been most inspired by the courses I’ve taken and taught on social inequalities. I’ve celebrated diversity in all its forms my whole life but studying sociology gave me a framework and analytic skills for understanding how structural factors come to bear on individual experiences and life chances. We don’t all start off in life from the same chalk mark on the track. Some of us start off with particular advantages or disadvantages. I’m not talking about absolving people of personal responsibility for their choices nor do I think embodying a “victim identity” is a helpful or productive thing to do, no matter how justified. Studying social inequalities and their causes inspires me, however, to help find ways to minimize barriers to the achievement of human potential and to empower others to do the same.

 

 

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Linda Walters, Director of the UCF Center for Success of Women Faculty
Linda.Walters@ucf.edu

Fran Ragsdale, Administrative Assistant
Fran.Ragsdale@ucf.edu

Phone: 407-823-4240

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University of Central Florida
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