50 Influencers: Rob Little, a credit in and out of the classroom

INA, Ill (Dec. 2, 2017) - Every institution of higher education must prove themselves worthy to issue degrees though an accreditation process. It’s a lengthy cycle of reports, peer-reviews and campaigns to ensure the college is up to snuff. A single round of accreditation review can span a decade. It’s an important and monumental effort to be to be part of.

But, to be involved in three of those cycles is nothing short of herculean. And, that’s the rarified air that Rend Lake College English Professor Rob Little finds himself in.

Little is not only an award-winning instructor, he’s also been an instrumental part in the last 30 years of RLC by helping steer the institution through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accreditation review process.

He got his first taste of HLC in 1998, five years after he came to RLC on a full-time teaching basis.

In 2008, he championed the committee charged with evaluating every aspect of the college in order to create the 240-page Self-Study document used in the visiting evaluation team’s inspection of RLC, helping the college to receive the maximum 10 years of continued accreditation.

“While the document was a team effort, anyone involved can attest to the fact Rob was the one who was at the college on weekends, and until the wee hours of the morning, perfecting the manuscript,” his fellow committee members recalled.

“He brought out the best in others with his tireless efforts, supportive feedback and vision. Indeed, the document was commended by the outside evaluators as extremely well done.”

RobLittleWRob Little teaching a class

Little is currently hard at work in the latest round of the HLC cycle, providing valuable experience and insight to the entire campus about all the ins and out of accreditation. It’s no small feat. The work currently being done will help ensure another decade of nationally-recognized education. In a way, Little has had a hand in every degree to be issued by RLC for three decades.

For his dedication, he was presented a special, and not often awarded honor, the 2016 Assessment Recognition Award.

In the nomination letter, Little is applauded for his dedication to the college and his continued work on the Higher Learning Commission Committee for accreditation.

“Rob Little has proven that he plays an integral role in the ongoing process of assessment. He has always offered ideas to improve the college’s mission,” the nomination letter reads. “Professor Little served as writer and proofreader of the final report (in 2008-09), as well as collected and analyzed data for the report. He is currently the HLC Coordinator… while still teaching classes. He is attending multiple meetings, assisting faculty, and is a team leader to others on the HLC Committee and in the Liberal Arts Division.”

But, he had contributed so much more than accreditation work to the college and its students.

In 2009, Little was recognized as the RLC Faculty Excellence Award winner.

The large group that nominated him stated, “As a colleague, Rob is innovative, supportive and diligent. As a teacher, students find him challenging, encouraging and personable. We believe he embodies all the qualities of an excellent faculty member and fully deserves recognition.”

“I’m excited and honored they thought of me,” said Little at the time. “I’m very pleased.”

The Centralia resident graduated with his A.A. Degree from RLC in 1984. He went on to earn a B.A. from Southwest Baptist University and his M.A. from SIU Carbondale.

Combining 16 years as a full-timer since 1993 and seven years as an adjunct, Little has been teaching at RLC for more than three decades.

New challenges and new students are what keep him going, he said.

“There are a lot of diverse students. You see all types. That’s rewarding. The mission to help students realize their full potential is a constantly changing challenge,” he explained.

“I’ve been lucky because my job has changed. I had the opportunity to develop special topics classes when I was new. As people retired, I would move into a different class, or the challenge of HLC or technology. I have always had a sort of changing role within the department, and that keeps things fresh.”

His previous classes in horror fiction, Japanese film and literature and gender in film and fiction are as diverse as his teaching styles, which include team teaching, distance learning, online classes and hybrids. In fact, Little was the first to implement a film course at RLC and was an early proponent of distance learning teaching, for which he was awarded a Technology Innovation Certificate by the Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market and a Distance Learning Innovator Award in 1997.

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