Leadership Spotlight: De Angela Duff
De Angela Duff is an Associate Vice Provost at New York University and Industry Professor in Integrated Design & Media (IDM) at NYU Tandon.
She advises, guides, and evaluates University-wide, technology-enhanced teaching and learning initiatives managed by the Provost’s Office. She holds an MFA in Studio Art (Photography) from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MiCA), a BFA in Graphic Design from Georgia State University, and a BS in Textiles from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech).
Q: Could you please describe your role in the Office of the Provost?
A: I currently have a split appointment at NYU. I am an Associate Vice Provost in the Office of the Provost and an Industry Professor at Tandon School of Engineering. My portfolio in the Office of the Provost is broad. I work primarily with Vice Provosts Clay Shirky and Charlton McIlwain, as well as Assistant Vice Provost Anandi Nagarajan and her team, on various projects that fall under three main buckets: generative AI and other tech-enhanced education initiatives, faculty development, and academic leadership. However, I am also asked to consult in one capacity or another on other initiatives throughout the Office of the Provost.
Q: What do you see as emerging trends or innovations in technology-enhanced teaching that educators should be aware of? And how can institutions like NYU stay at the forefront of these developments to provide the best education?
A: Most definitely, at this time, generative AI. The rapidly-changing ecosystem will transform higher education and other industries as we know it. It is proving to be extremely challenging to keep up with the constant updates. Both educators and students must become aware of the strengths, weaknesses, and pitfalls of using it for teaching and learning, while staying on top of all the developments and changes in the space. To help with this, I’ve been leading the organization of several NYU generative AI events in August, September, and October–the NYU Teaching & Learning with Generative AI Virtual Conference with pre-conference workshops , and assisting Dr. Anandi Nagarajan and her Learning Experience Design team with a generative AI track of TeachTalks for this academic year, to help keep the conversations around generative AI ongoing.
Q: Can you share some examples of learning initiatives you've been involved in at NYU and the impact they have had on students and faculty?
A: There have been several, but I’ll mention three. I was on the LMS (Learning Management System) steering committee for NYU’s transition from Sakai to Brightspace. I was also a working group member for the transition from course evaluations to Explorance Blue’s Course Feedback system. And, I was a member of the educational effectiveness self-study working group for NYU to renew its accreditation with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). In all three instances, the impact on students and faculty has been the continuous improvement of our teaching and learning infrastructure at NYU.
Q: What does your role as strategic advisor for the Faculty Resource Network (FRN) entail? What key strategies have you implemented?
A: The FRN–a consortium of various academic institutions including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, community colleges, and research institutions– has been around for forty years. NYU is its host and a member. Its mission is to sustain collaboration amongst institutions and their constituents to strengthen the growth of its educators through faculty development, research, and academic leadership.
As a result of my broadening portfolio, my role as strategic advisor for the FRN has shifted over the years to concentrate on special projects. The three FRN programs that I currently oversee are the annual FRN Leadership Initiative, FRN Teach Share, and a new initiative, FRN Digital Leadership, which gathers leaders from the FRN who are interested in sharing the opportunities and challenges of adopting and maintaining digital tools for tech-enhanced teaching and learning. The ultimate goal is to be in dialogue to learn from one another and collaborate when possible.
Q: As an Industry Professor in Integrated Design & Media at NYU Tandon, how do you see the role of technology evolving in the field of design and media, and what opportunities or challenges does this present?
A: The only thing constant is change, and technology is simply a tool to use or, in some cases, not. While technology sometimes may appear to be more efficient and save time, it’s not that simple. Sometimes, it complicates things by adding more overhead/maintenance. We need to be more critical of why, when, and how we use technology. My overarching pedagogical goal remains—to get students to learn how to learn, as technology changes exponentially. So, they are prepared to change with it. Students must be taught how to keep up with technological shifts and handle change without anxiety or fear. So, once they are working professionals, their knowledge and skills continue to evolve and do not remain stagnant. As a lifelong learner driven by curiosity, my teaching practice parallels my art, music, and design practice as a dynamic, iterative feedback loop.
Q: Given your background in studio art, graphic design, and textiles, how do you incorporate these interests and experiences into your role as an Associate Vice Provost?
A: Two pivotal elements absent from that list are my engineering education and self-taught technological skills. My foundation in design and engineering, in particular, have both proved instrumental with problem-solving and identifying opportunities. My design and art backgrounds have helped me get really good at being creative through brainstorming and piloting new initiatives, courses, or curricula. My design education also helped me recognize how important systems are. Drawing was my first love. It sharpened my eye for detail and pattern recognition, which proved very useful when I learned how to code. Again, all my skills and knowledge feed into one another. I’m a firm believer in interdisciplinarity.
Q: How would you describe the FRN Leadership Initiative and the annual FRN Teach Share?
A: The FRN Leadership Initiative, initially funded by the Mellon Foundation, is an annual program where faculty from the FRN member institutions gather twelve times over an academic year for 90 minutes each to develop and share leadership strategies. The program prepares emerging leaders to transform their campuses by getting them to recognize opportunities to lead up, down, and sideways. It also builds community across the FRN for continuing leaders who want to facilitate change and maximize collaboration within and between institutions.
As for FRN Teach Share, I modeled it after Steinhardt’s Teach Camp series and combined that with the pecha kucha/ignite/lightning talk formats. FRN faculty, instructional designers, and educational technologists collectively share strategies, tools, techniques, and challenges about their courses through 10-minute case studies. This January, we’ll focus on using generative AI in and out of the classroom. In the past, we’ve concentrated on remote teaching and learning, as well as student engagement strategies such as active learning, flipping classrooms, framing and scaffolding the semester, and tech-enhanced education. You can see the video from the past three years on the FRN website.