Dr. Muller had lasting impact on College STAR program

Dr. Dorothy Muller, Director - Office for Faculty Excellence at East Carolina University

Dr. Dorothy Muller, Director: Office for Faculty Excellence at East Carolina University

Although Dr. Dorothy Muller is retiring after 40 years, she talks about assisting students and faculty with the same level of enthusiasm you suspect she brought to her arrival on campus in 1977.

It was a younger, pregnant new Ph.D. who arrived in Greenville with her husband in 1976. She made ECU one of her first stops and began her career with the university as a part-time adjunct professor of reading. The following year, she was on the faculty full-time--sharing her expertise on reading in content areas, a specialty which she now acknowledges as a pre-cursor to the concepts of Universal Design for Learning which she would champion through College STAR.

Muller worked directly with students until 2006, ultimately becoming Dean of the Office of Undergraduate Studies whose mission was to support distinctive education and to provide academic support services to assist students in obtaining the best education ECU had to offer.

She made a shift to faculty development once she was convinced that this also was a good way to continue to have a positive impact on students. As director of the ECU Office for Faculty Excellence and in other faculty development roles, she supported Scholarship of Teaching and Learning initiatives and increased the professional development opportunities available to faculty to more than 160 annually. She credits this success to her great OFE staff and faculty and staff partners from across the University.

Muller said she was delighted to work with Dr. Sarah Williams when Williams was developing the grant proposal which ultimately became the College STAR program. “I’m delighted with the additional opportunities faculty have now through STEPP and College Star,” Muller said.

Muller said a Summer 2011 UDL workshop she attended courtesy of the College STAR program was a wonderful, eye-opening experience, affirming what she already believed but adding focus, theoretical supports, terminology and additional strategies. UDL has now become a part of almost every OFE program. “It turns out we had been using UDL principles and trying things like flipping classrooms all along – the terminology and theoretical framework add authority,” Muller said.

She credits College Star with focusing on faculty development as one of its program components, giving faculty additional resources to redesign their courses, providing them access to graduate students and opportunities to work together through learning communities.

Williams said Muller was instrumental in the success of the College STAR component focused on faculty learning and engagement.

“Dorothy’s passion for students and for supporting the faculty who teach them set the tone for the design of the professional development elements of the initiative. Her good ideas, wisdom, and experience made a critical impact on the project,” she said.

During her career, Muller received many honors including the ECU Centennial Award for Leadership. She was named to the ECU Educators Hall of Fame in 2014. But Muller says she gets the most pleasure when she sees a faculty member who has benefited from development opportunities receive a teaching award. And if these teaching honorees, by chance, haven’t been through one of the programs offered by the Office of Faculty Excellence, she quickly signs them up to share their expertise with others.

Muller’s CV shows a host of initiatives for students and faculty she has planned, executed or successfully secured funding. When asked about the many changes in her career she readily admits that the opportunity to work on something new and different was what kept her going. She regularly attends training to learn about new technologies so she can support faculty members interested in adopting new ways to support more active learning among their students.

To Muller the key is to “keep thinking, keep learning, keep breathing, keep doing.” Sounds like a good recipe for success in retirement as well.