SALISBURY, N.C. – Rowan-Cabarrus Community College English Chair Dr. Jenny Billings has been honored as an Innovator of the Year “Star Act” for 2019 by the North Carolina Community College Association of Distance Learning (NC3ADL).
Billings was selected in recognition of the Office Hour Initiative (OHI), which makes faculty available during non-traditional hours and online so that students who have jobs, families and other responsibilities outside the classroom can access help when needed. The OHI also requires students who fall into certain at-risk categories to meet with faculty so that they can get back on track for success.
The first of its kind, the concept has garnered a following of other schools and increased student attainment. It was created in response to feedback from students who noted that faculty members were their best resource at the College, but they were not meeting with them often.
“I am extremely proud and appreciative of Dr. Jenny Billings for her dedication to our students and creativity in finding ways to enhance the student experience. She is very deserving of this recognition,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus.
Billings was nominated by colleague Melissa Reid, Rowan-Cabarrus math department chair, and was honored at the organization’s annual conference in Cary, N.C.
“Dr. Jenny Billings is not only an instructor and a program chair, she’s a student advocate,” Reid said in her nomination. “The Office Hour Initiative increases pass rates, teaches students to advocate for themselves, and breaks down barriers of traditional office hours.”
Implemented in 2017 in the Rowan-Cabarrus English and math departments, the Office Hour Initiative allowed faculty to meet with more than 750 students in its first semester, building meaningful relationships and yielding critical conversations that led to better student performance.
“I am honored to be nominated by a peer and friend,” Billings said. “I work diligently each and every day to make sure I am serving students as best I can.”
Billings is no stranger to accolades, having won the 2016 National Faculty-Led Digital Learning Initiative Award from the OLC, the 2012-2013 Rowan-Cabarrus Excellence in Teaching with Technology Award, and the 2014 Rowan-Cabarrus Outstanding Employee Award. She was named a Top 10 Finalist for the 2018 Bellwether Award, and NROC Specialist for North Carolina’s RISE Redesign for 2019-2020. She also is a two-time president of the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College Faculty Association and a Cengage Learning Faculty Partner.
Beginning her career at Rowan-Cabarrus as an adjunct instructor in January of 2011, Billings was hired as a full-time English instructor eight months later. She took on the role of English department chair in August of 2012 and now chairs the College’s Study Skills, Developmental Reading and English, and Curriculum English programs.
Billings holds a bachelor of arts degree in English from Wake Forest University, a master’s in Creative Writing in Poetry from Queens University, and a doctorate in Higher Education Executive Leadership with a community college focus from Wingate University. She co-manages the Read Across Rowan & Cabarrus Counties (RARCC) book drive, during which volunteers blanket the community each year to read and present books to school children.