Five Minutes with Lisa Furman, Ph.D., Director of Academic Assessment

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Lisa Furman, Ph.D., serves as director of academic assessment, following her lifelong love of education. Her passion stems from music education, holding a bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. in music education paired with experience as a music teacher and band director for students of all ages. Dr. Furman’s interest in music brought her to The University of Olivet in 2011. In her current role as director of academic assessment, Dr. Furman oversees and directs the college-wide academic assessment program, and also works closely with the provost and dean of faculty as a member of the Higher Learning Commission accreditation team for the college. Despite serving in a leadership role, Dr. Furman still remains connected with students on campus, this semester teaching the Research Link course.

Why do you love The University of Olivet?

I love the sense of community at The University of Olivet. It is a caring community focused on improving the lives of students. I appreciate being able to work with others who share this passion; people who want to make a difference in the lives of others.

Where do your passions for music education and student success stem from?

I was very fortunate to have an outstanding music teacher who encouraged me to pursue a career teaching music. Given my interest in pursuing a music education career, my high school band teacher, Pat Brumbaugh ’76, who happens to be an alumna of OC, provided many opportunities for me to work with individual students, like teaching private trumpet lessons, and to assist her with teaching a middle school jazz band. She also taught me how to read and study music scores, how to repair instruments, and the list goes on. She was, and continues to be, a great mentor.

Teaching music in the public schools provided me with the unique opportunity to work with students from the sixth through the 12th grades. I worked in both the middle school and high school buildings, so I started students in beginning band in the sixth grade, and had the pleasure of working with them all through high school. It was during this time as a public school teacher that I realized how much I enjoyed watching students grow over the years, not just in terms of their musical abilities, but also as people. Being a part of that growth process was incredibly rewarding. I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in music education because I saw it as an opportunity to have a broader influence. Teaching future music teachers meant I could influence undergraduates and the students they would eventually teach.

What is your teaching style like?

I want students to develop not just in relation to the course content, but also as individuals. I follow a constructivist approach to teaching. I believe that students learn by doing, and that we learn from the mistakes that we make. My courses are organized to allow students to build upon what they have already learned. For example, I offer the opportunity for students to submit papers and projects in stages and offer feedback and guidance throughout the various stages. I think this approach to teaching develops students’ awareness of their strengths and weaknesses and provides them with the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge.

I also consider myself both a teacher and a student in the classroom, and like my students, I share that I have strengths and weaknesses and will not always have the right answers. I tell my students that we will develop our skills and knowledge together. I appreciate the opportunity for growth that teaching provides and enjoy being a part of the growth process for students.

What’s the average day in your role, or some of the unique things you are responsible for?

My days vary so there is not really an “average day.” I teach a couple of days a week, spend quite a bit of time writing reports, and I am in meetings frequently. In my current role, I oversee the academic assessment program for the college. I assist programs as needed with planning, designing, implementing, analyzing, reporting and disseminating academic assessment results. I also chair the student learning assessment committee, which provides guidance and support in the development and implementation of the college academic assessment process, to ensure the quality of academic assessment.

What is your role with the Michigan Music Education Association?

I am currently serving a two-year term as the president of the Michigan Music Education Association (MMEA), the state chapter of the National Association of Music Education. MMEA serves music educators, students, parents and community members through leadership in the advancement of music teaching and learning. The organization also serves its members through legislative advocacy and policy work at the state and national level.

The MMEA earned the 2018 National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Excellence in Advocacy Award. The NAfME Excellence in Advocacy Award recognized the MMEA for outstanding accomplishments in music education advocacy.

I enjoy the opportunity to serve as the president of the MMEA. Music is still very important to me even though I am no longer directing bands or teaching music classes. This role allows me the opportunity to still serve the profession and make a difference for music students and music educators. This is a great organization and I am proud to serve as its president!

What advice do you share with students?

I regularly remind students we are here to help them be successful – that is our goal! To that end, I encourage students to engage in the process of learning, including not being afraid to make mistakes. If they don’t engage in the process, we can’t help them to develop. Their success is our success!

What is an interesting or little known fact about yourself?

I have two step-grandchildren, and I enjoy being a babcia (Polish for grandmother). They keep us very entertained! Making memories together is priceless.

Learn more about The University of Olivet and the outstanding faculty and staff who make up the OC family, like Dr. Furman, by visiting campus. Contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or admissions@uolivet.edu for more information.


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