Defining who we are: The Office of Teaching and Learning at Utah Valley University

by bethanyaldenrivers

The Office of Teaching and Learning (OTL) is a central unit within Academic Affairs at Utah Valley University. The OTL is a new department that merges three existing areas: Faculty Development, Instructional Design, and Support Services for Distance Education. The integration of these areas is both important and complex. The OTL is tasked with key Presidential Priorities, including 1) raising the bar on teaching and learning and 2) increasing flexible learning opportunities. To achieve these objectives, the OTL cannot operate as merely a combination of three former departments. Rather it is vital to establish an identity of its own.

The first Team Development Workshop was designed to explore various aspects of OTL’s identity. Sixteen members of the team attended this session.



The first activity was a ‘speed dating’ session, designed to quickly explore several key questions (in 2 minutes or less):

  1. Why does OTL exist?
  2. To whom is OTL responsible?
  3. What does OTL do?
  4. Who does OTL serve?
  5. What spells success for OTL?
  6. What spells danger for OTL?
  7. How is OTL ‘engaged’?
  8. How is OTL ‘serious’?
  9. How is OTL ‘inclusive’?
  10. How does OTL support ‘student success’?


Several other fun activities followed, including:

An exercise in futility (a guessing game of some not-so-great corporate mission statements), which Ursula and Karen won.


A ‘first date mash-up’ activity, where couples were matched based on their speed-dating scores. On the first dates, the couples had to come up with Adverbs, Verbs, Adjectives, and Nouns to describe OTL. Then, they used the mission statement generator ( to come up with automated mission statements! Some of these were surprisingly very good! Jean and Janel won the prize for the best generated mission statement.



A ‘mission statement freestyling’ competition. Sadly, no one ‘performed’ their response. Maybe next time…


And, an reduction exercise to write a three word mission statement for OTL. These were used to generate this word cloud.


We concluded the session with a team-based competition to design the best email signature and pitch the idea to the rest of the team. The winning signature, along with the draft mission, vision, and philosophy statement, will be unveiled next week!

These activities gave us a fun, team-oriented, opportunity to explore how words shape our organizational identity.