For 20 years, Donna Petherbridge has been one of DELTA’s biggest cheerleaders. Whether it’s in the office, over email, on social media or across campus, you’re likely to find the Associate Vice Provost for Academic Technology Information spreading the word about DELTA and its talented staff.
Petherbridge worked as a high school English teacher and earned a Master of Information Science before joining NC State University as an instructional technologist in 1997 in the Natural Resources Library. There, she supported faculty who were a part of Project 25, an initiative to get 25 NC State courses online for the first time. Petherbridge worked with faculty to create webpages for newly online courses. Project 25 marked the start of online and distance education at NC State, a tradition that continues to expand and evolve in unprecedented ways, and Petherbridge has been there from the start.
She eventually moved to a full-time position in instructional technology with Learning Technology Services, the group that would help form DELTA in 2000.
“Once I went full time with DELTA, I never looked back,” she says.
Now a part of DELTA’s senior leadership team, Petherbridge is responsible for helping to set DELTA’s strategic direction and prioritizing its work as an organization alongside Senior Vice Provost for Academic Outreach and Entrepreneurship Tom Miller, a leader to whom she credits much of DELTA’s ongoing success.
“I’m definitely part of a team that believes that a collective approach to planning, organizing and problem solving is why DELTA is the service organization that it is,” she adds.
While her title has changed over the years, her commitment to DELTA and its people has remained the same.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
“It feels like it changes all the time. I never know what my day is going to bring. I think the longer you are at an organization and the higher level you are, you just have to be prepared for whatever curveball comes your way.”
Petherbridge works with DELTA directors and managers to implement strategies and oversee our progress, ensuring that we continue to achieve our goals. She also makes sure that DELTA has a seat at the table for cross-campus discussions.
“Most of my day-to-day work involves working with our partners across campus to consider and plan for opportunities to help each other meet both organizational and university goals and working with other members of DELTA leadership and our management teams to get our organizational work discussed, resourced, prioritized, and moving forward.”
Petherbridge is active in several committees at NC State. She previously served as the chair of the Campus IT Directors Committee and served as the 2019 – 2020 chair of the Council on the Status of Women (CSW). With CSW, she was part of the group that advocated to get eight weeks of paid leave for new parents across the UNC System. Recently, Petherbridge helped found the NC State Women in Tech interest group to support and encourage women technology leaders at NC State.
All of these commitments result in a lot of meetings every day. Petherbridge makes sure that DELTA is well-represented at each one.
“I’m an ambassador for DELTA services. I think I have enough experience to help people see what we can do together … I love helping others understand how much DELTA can help them!”
What has been your favorite project at DELTA?
“My favorite project is really anything I get to do with other people. I feel like our people are our best resource, and DELTA’s a pretty wonderful place to work.”
Petherbridge especially enjoys writing and planning. Many times, her passions will intersect.
“Drafting strategic plans, writing annual reports and crafting awards nominations for the amazing collective and individual work that this team and its members do are a joy because they are a reminder of the ‘Wow, look what we did!’ moments that happen in DELTA every year. I think I could write a recommendation for every person in DELTA from the heart because I really believe in every person on this team.”
A long list of happy memories with DELTA colleagues serve as a reminder to Petherbridge of what makes DELTA so special.
“DELTA is a fun, caring, collaborative place to work. People really are passionate about making a difference, and they care about helping others out. It’s wonderful to work with people who genuinely care so much, and who are so innovative and unique. I truly believe people can be their best selves at DELTA. We have such an interesting and diverse group of people, and we have so many opportunities to help the university successfully move the needle in an era of digital transformation.”
Petherbridge’s fondness for her colleagues drives her to create and sustain a positive work culture where people can see and feel the difference that they make at NC State.
What is your area of expertise?
Petherbridge considers herself an expert in working with people.
“As a leader, I understand that the best way to lead people is to serve people, to truly believe that it takes a team to get things done, to get people to craft and buy into a vision together, and to not get in the way of people. Good leaders are like good Zamboni drivers; you clear the ice for the game, then you get out of the way.”
In addition to working at DELTA, Petherbridge is a teaching assistant professor with the College of Education. For 12 years, she has taught EAC 580: Instructional Systems Design, an online course that explores what instructional design means, why it is important and how it is put to practice. She is skilled in helping people learn and design optimal experiences for learning.
“I really enjoy working with students, and teaching a class twice a year really helps me stay connected with the challenges, and opportunities, of leveraging technology for instruction. I think it grounds me and reminds me why we’re all here. We’re here for the students ultimately.”
Teaching allows Petherbridge to experience DELTA-supported learning technologies from an instructor’s perspective, which has a number of benefits. She can work with DELTA teams to test tools and identify needed improvements. Faculty know and appreciate that DELTA uses the tools we offer. Petherbridge also earned her Ed.D. in Adult and Higher Education from NC State in 2007, meaning she brings the perspectives of a former student, an instructor and an administrator into meetings with other campus leaders.
“I always want to keep my hand in teaching. It fulfills me, it makes me happy, but I also think it gives me credibility that’s good to have in a leadership role.”
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Outside of work, Petherbridge loves spending time with her family and traveling. She and her husband, Martin, have two children, Rachel and Matt. They are both working toward university degrees and have been studying from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Matt is a senior at UNCW, and Rachel is currently finishing up her master’s degree from University College Cork, Ireland. I am missing them now that they’ve gone back to school! Matt has already headed back to Wilmington (even though his summer class is online), and Rachel has moved to Boston in preparation for her Systems, Synthetic, and Quantitative Biology Ph.D. Program at Harvard this fall.”
Petherbridge also loves to dance. She teaches clogging classes two nights a week at the Center Stage School of Performing Arts in Garner and has enjoyed the hobby since childhood. While the pandemic has changed how she and her students meet, it has not slowed them down.
“If you are wondering if I am still teaching, the answer is yes! We are teaching all of our dance classes via Zoom. I record all the lessons and send the recordings to my students for additional practice, and I have also created some YouTube videos for my students.”
When possible, her family fosters dogs through Peak Lab Rescue and volunteers at the Wake County SPCA.
“I love animals, and if I could take care of all of them, I would have many, many animals. I only have two permanent fur babies, though; Lucy, a lovely 80-pound shepherd mix, and Rooney, a 20-pound cat who can be exceptionally awful.”
What is something about yourself that people may not readily know?
While Petherbridge considers herself an open book, she shared a few fun facts that might surprise people at DELTA.
Petherbridge grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Ashe County, North Carolina, as the oldest of four children. They are all members of the Wolfpack.
“All four of us siblings have degrees from NC State, and my father, Don Tucker, was a first-generation NC State graduate in Animal Husbandry (class of 1957). He used to mop the cafeteria floors to make enough money to live on as a student, and he tells stories of hitchhiking home on weekends to take care of his cattle.”
In addition to their alma mater, the siblings share names that start with the letter D. Donna studied education, Deborah studied mechanical engineering, Della studied forest management and David studied crop science.
“When thinking about the students we serve, I am often thinking of my rural North Carolina upbringing, and what this land-grant institution means to our students who come from various parts of rural North Carolina.”
Petherbridge continues to keep students, faculty and DELTA staff in mind during this challenging time.
“I am so grateful to work with such a supportive team during this difficult time. I think it is more important than ever for us to have grace and empathy for not only each other but for the faculty, staff and students we support. We will get through this time, but we will each experience this time uniquely because of our own circumstances. And as DELTA, we are absolutely going to work together with our energy very focused on helping NC State University get to the other side of this pandemic.”