So here I am in sunny and unsustainable Tempe, enjoying the warm weather and empty morning (the workshop I’m here to attend doesn’t start until 1:30 local time). I spent this morning sleeping in (gasp!), chatting to my mom on iChat, calling a friend whose birthday it is (Hi, Sarah!), and — even more shockingly — beginning to read a new book.
The book is called Rethinking Faculty Work: Higher Education’s Strategic Imperative, by Judith Gappa, Ann Austin, and Andrea Trice. I don’t know Gappa or Trice, but Ann Austin is a truly marvelous human being — I know her through my grad work at the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning.
Anyway, I came across this book while browsing online, I think, and thought it would be good for my research for ADVANCE. So there I was, reading through it in the hotel lobby, with my half-eaten toast and $3 coffee (yikes!), and then I read this section (p. 20, references left out for readability):
Early-career faculty, like doctoral students planning to pursue academic careers, are especially concerned about the nature of the academic community. When early-career faculty discuss what they value and look forward to experiencing in their careers, they often mention the hope of participating in a “culture of collegiality.” Yet early-career faculty, as they begin to experience their careers, often express surprise and disappointment that their experiences do not match their hopes and expectations.
I literally stopped eating, hand with toast halfway to mouth, upon reading this section, because it was just what I had said to my airplane seat-mate just yesterday.
In fact, my seatmate was provost of Butler University. She saw I was editing a student’s paper, and asked “Faculty or student?” That was nice that she didn’t presume I was a student. She introduced herself, and then did I, and mentioned I was in my second year of tenure-track at Purdue. She went back to reading her book, and I went back to my paper; and then she said, “Can I interrupt you for a second?” She said she was very curious to know whether there were any surprises I had about being in a faculty position.
I mentioned how I skew the distribution, what with two parents who are faculty members (at UW-Madison) and a husband who was a faculty member, but that I was surprised by two things — 1) that I had to learn to say no when no one had actually given me a choice (particularly about whether to participate in something or not), and 2) that I had expected that, because of the unique nature of my department (that it was the first such department in the country, that it soaked up all kinds of good people in engineering education research into one place) that I had expected more intellectual stimulation and sharing of ideas. I had thought it would be common to have colleagues knock on one’s door and ask one to look over a manuscript, or for one’s opinion on some new idea. Not that this doesn’t happen to me — in fact, it happens more now than it did when I started — but I confess it surprised me greatly last year.
The provost thanked me, said she had felt the same way when she started, and eventually after a bit more chit-chat, she handed me a card and said I should give her a call if I ever needed to talk about things as I progressed through my pre-tenure years. I felt this was a very generous thing to do, and was quite struck by how I missed that hand being held out, something I’m also feeling a lack of in my department.
So to read that book excerpt the very day after I felt was serendipitous. Hence the blog post, even though I’m supposed to be working on other things here. (That’s okay, I have only one more ASEE review to complete…) I’ll share other things I come across in this book too — so far, it’s clearly thought-provoking.
In fact, the rest of the section quoted above reads:
A strong academic community that values and includes all faculty members contributes to the intellectual vibrancy of a college or university, supports the bonds of commitment that link faculty members to the institution, and creates a climate that enhances students’ learning. When institutional leaders recognize the value of nurturing a community that includes all faculty members, regardless of their appointments, they enhance institutional health and success.
Sounds good to me.
Those of you out there on tenure-track, was there anything that surprised you when you started your tenure-track job? Those of you not on tenure-track (at all, or yet), any surprises you experienced? Share your thoughts in the comments (and it might be helpful if you identified your job/identity [not name!] for us).