It takes a virtual village: Building professional community in an online world

Streamed Session Leadership

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Brief Abstract

Amidst the pandemic online enrollment in higher education continued to trend upward and a need for virtual connection among online educators emerged. Mindfully curated inclusive support opportunities are shared.  Innovative online community was fostered through faculty lounges, professional consultation, curated online HUB services, and inclusive office gatherings using virtual platforms.


Melissa Huy is a licensed clinical psychologist with 20 years of experience providing neuropsychological assessment and psychotherapy to children and adults. She currently serves as an Assistant Director of Pepperdine’s GSEP Online Psychology Program in addition to her faculty position. Prior to her appointment at Pepperdine, Dr. Huy has worked in a variety of academic, university and research based medical centers, and community settings. She has taught various courses such as intellectual assessment, advocacy and professional development, clinical practicum, psychopharmacology and abnormal psychology. In addition to her academic career, Dr. Huy has a private practice assessing and treating known or suspected central nervous system disorders, anxiety, and depression. She has published in the areas of neuropsychology, adoption and technology related to the field of psychology. Dr. Huy is active in providing various community outreach opportunities aimed at promoting mental health awareness and support.
Princess Walsh, PsyD is Visiting Clinical Professor, and an Assistant Director for the Online Psychology Programs Pepperdine University. Dr. Walsh is a licensed marriage and family therapy (LMFT) and licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) who provides psychotherapy for adults in her private practice. Dr. Walsh received her doctorate in Organizational Development and provides consultation on training and professional development through the lens of adult learning theories and principles.

Extended Abstract

This workshop covers current research regarding the profound and influential impact of the COVID 2019 pandemic upon the field of online education.  Specifically, one direct change in the field has been an increase in students entering graduate online programs and or traditionally “on ground” programs quickly moving to teach temporarily online.  This influx of students resulted in a need for additional instructors, some who were new to virtual instruction.  Discussion regarding the transition to virtual teaching and the lack of in person interchange among professionals was compounded with the added stress of an isolated work environment.  Review of research supports that having regular conversations with colleagues in supportive environments assists in reducing level of stress.  A necessity to develop a unified community to foster connectivity among graduate professors was paramount for program connectivity and success. As a result, virtual and alternative modes of communication, with diversity, inclusion and equity in the forethought, were created.  

During this workshop you will learn how to mindfully curate community engagement opportunities and learn specific strategies we developed based on the identified needs of our faculty within an online graduate school. Furthermore, you will learn how to individualize these strategies to meet other program specific needs.  Examples will be shared regarding the development of tools and events to aid in promoting virtual networking, consultation and professional support designed to encompass multiple venues and capacities.  Focus will be placed on how these opportunities for small and large group meetings as well as drop in versus fixed start time were and can be implemented.  Throughout the development the needs of the user were reflected upon and the activities were created in a manner to promote community engagement among all our faculty in a respectful and collaborative manner.  This transparency in development illustrates the building blocks for attendees to duplicate these tools while being mindful of unique program and individual needs.  Review of inclusion methodology to enhance anti racism, inclusion and equity for the design and implementation is covered and appreciated. The introduction and instruction regarding the use of state of the art interactive virtual platforms as well less sophisticated strategies like drop in zoom office hours are demonstrated. Topics covered include strategies for successful online teaching, professional self care suggestions, networking, and professional consulting.  Informal and formal gathering events including inclusive social gatherings are exhibited and include attendee participation.  The audience will assist in the design of a virtual gathering and such a gathering will be shared in real time.  Helpful instructions on how to advertise community building/instruction as well as helpful tips for successful interaction during touchpoints are provided.How to advertise each opportunity for community building and helpful tips for successful attendance is provided. Flexibility is a key component and adaptations for growth as well as diversification across professionals within online higher education are shared.

In summary, measurable outcomes and activities for participants will include implementing a  casual virtual gathering aimed at creating academic and professional support and connectivity. Participants will be able to identify how to create virtual interactive meetings being mindful of diversity, inclusion and equity. Lastly, participants will be able to identify three virtual resources to increase community and support online educators.