Cougar of the Week: Q&A with Dean of Extended Learning Dr. Godfrey Gibbison


Carolyn Cheng

Dr. Godfrey Gibbison, the Dean of Extended Learning, talks about his goals and plans to help students succeed through the Extended Learning program at CSUSM. (Photo courtesy of the CSUSM Extended Learning website)

Brian Gallegos, Staff Writer

Dr. Godfrey Gibbison is the newly appointed Dean of Extended Learning at CSUSM. This interview with Dr. Gibbison has been edited for length and clarity.

What drew you to work at CSUSM in this position?

First of all, I think it’s my passion for students and education, for helping students complete their degree. A lot of what we do in extended learning is working with students who have gone to a community college and who want to finish their bachelor’s. And that is probably my biggest passion, to help people do what they need to do, and to complete their degree. As far as CSUSM, there is a fairly large, robust program in terms of options for students to complete degrees. There are also a lot of opportunities, I think there’s a lot of students who are community colleges, who would desire to complete a degree. There’s still more space to complete to create more opportunities and more programs for those students. And so both my passion and the opportunity to do more work to create more options for those students is kind of what brought me to the position.

What drives you in your profession?

Probably seeing students succeed. That’s probably the thing that drives me the most. Whenever you get to graduation or the end of the journey for the student, and see how happy they are, and see how much the impact you’ve had on them, how much their lives have changed … So that I think is what drives me seeing the success at the end. And knowing that I had some part in helping to put that together for the students.

What are your goals as you enter this new position?

My goals include understanding what are the additional opportunities that we should be exploring for students, in other words, what are the additional ways we should be serving students? Extended learning is doing a lot, but I think there’s a lot of opportunity that’s still unexploited and unexplored. There are a lot more students to be served. So just understanding what those are making sure that we are able to, adequately do those things for those students. That’s an important goal for me. Another goal is to connect with the community so that they understand the ways in which extended learning can serve their needs. You know, not many people in the community know that extended learning exists. There are a number of programs and opportunities. There are also certificates and non-credit certificates. There are workforce development programs so that if you just need a short certificate to upskill, or change your skill or shift, a lot of people don’t know that those things exist. An important goal of mine is to engage the community so that we always keep CSUSM at the top of their minds. Whenever somebody thinks about their next education, their next option, their next thing … they should always be thinking about CSUSM. The last thing I would say is that I know that the extended learning has been without a permanent dean for a couple of years. And so one of my goals is to reestablish the position of extended learning on campus and establish relationships with the staff. They will feel like, oh, we have a new dean and the new dean has a vision, the new dean is listening to us, and is willing to work with us to accomplish the things that we’re trying to accomplish. It’s really critical for me to make sure that the staff morale is high, that they feel good about their job, and that they feel great about the work that they’re doing for the community.

Has this pandemic caused a shift in your goals since starting as our new dean of Extended Learning?

The important message I’m trying to share with my colleagues is, let’s not hold our breath to go back to the normal. I think a lot of people are holding out to where the university returns to exactly what we were doing in fall of 2019. And the truth of the matter is that we’re not going to be going back to exactly what we did in fall of 2019 … Even if the transition online was rough at first for students, I think students have learned some new skills about how to focus on an internet environment and learn. … I guess what this pandemic has done is sort of renewed my emphasis on flexibility, and it’s caused me to really double down on that it’s not enough to have your curriculum. You have to deliver your curriculum in a mode or in a manner that reaches as many people as you’re trying to serve. Because everybody has something else going on from work or family members that are taking care of children and so on. And so it’s really caused me to double down on this notion that the university has to deliver the curriculum in a flexible manner, for the widest audience of people that our mission says we’re supposed to serve.

Right now, what we need to do is make sure that as a university, we’re delivering high-quality online courses. Rather than pulling back from that, I think we ought to move forward. We know we will do that everything online, we know they’re going to be students on campus who want their campus and university experience … we also know that going forward, we need to lean into online more, and then improve the quality of what we’re delivering, so that the students are successful in the online environment.

How has your experience at CSUSM been so far?

So it has only been just over a month, but it has been great … everybody has been extraordinarily gracious, very welcoming … and there’s a sense that everybody really cares about the success of the students. You would think that that is the common theme on all campuses, but it’s not … everybody I’ve encountered [is] willing to get out of their own personal self-interest, get past themselves and make the decision that’s right for the success of the students. And I think that has been an extraordinarily positive experience for me so far. I’m really looking forward to collaborating and working with my colleagues because they have created a really good and welcoming environment.

Brian Gallegos is a photography/graphic design intern for The Cougar Chronicle. He is currently a senior at CSUSM as a visual performing arts & tech major. After college, Brian hopes to work in the video game industry working on character designs and concept art. He loves to watch a vast array of different types of movies and shows but his favorite is The Office.