Tag Archives: faculty member

Investing in Yourself: Additional Training & Professional Development

Professional Development {New Faculty}

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I have taken full advantage of professional development since joining faculty. Even in my old position, there was very little I would say “no” to in terms of building and expanding my skill set. I know it can be a trap to say “yes” to too much, but when reflecting on it and strategically thinking about where I wanted to go professionally, I chose to take the attitude of “participate, don’t anticipate” and it’s paying off. I had always wanted to learn more about federal grants and sitting on panels for several years in a row really paid off. I had wanted to learn about how I could develop as a faculty and have been participating in a year long faculty development institute at my university. I was encouraged by my department head to get trained in KAI and recently finished training to facilitate KAI for organizations.

See the goal, make it happen.

Not all of the opportunities I’ve had cost me money, some have netted me some cash. I’ve had to agree to participate in research as a result, but I’m a researcher so I whole heartedly see why we need to do this. Building my own skill set has been a rewarding experience for me thus far in the young faculty member game and I’m glad that I said, “yes” several years ago to myself to get into these things. Each has been useful in a different way and each continues to serve me on many levels.

There’s a few things that I’ve had to work through to get myself developed professionally:

Buy in from my superiors. I have to say, I have an extremely supporting department head. I cannot say enough positive things about his attitude toward my development as a young faculty member. And no, I’m not saying that because this is on the internet. I’m saying it because it’s true. Hands down. He recently asked me during my annual review, “where do you want to go and how can we help you get there?” That kind of support is valued, appreciated, and amazing. I know that not all of my peers will have this kind of unwavering support and I’m grateful for it.

Support from my peers. My colleagues within the department and outside of it are more than supportive. Whether it’s filling on a class to guest lecture, excusing me from meetings knowing I’m doing this other “thing” or simply asking, “how did KAI go?” it means the world to know that they care enough to ask, cover, or excuse me. I’m not home watching TV, I’m working and I know I would reciprocate for them as well.

Time. In our society of “the busy contest” I don’t have any more or any less time than the next person. However, I give myself the gift of time to do these things. No matter what is getting in the way, I do my best to block my time and try to plan ahead. Life happens, but giving myself permission to spend four days reviewing grants or five days being trained or two hours on a day when grades are due getting some development is worth it later.

It’s a long-term investment. Sometimes, because I’m impatient, I have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees. I get ahead of myself and then I forget that spending a year in a program won’t pay off tomorrow, it might take time to see the effect. I might teach a course next year where I implement what I learned. My ROI is slow on some of the things I do but it is there. I just have to be patient.

Money. Some of my development has been 100% free and evens comes with snacks. Faculty professional development on my campus is pretty good. A few hours each month, a little homework, and a lot of great relationships have been free to me. My department supports this venture. Other things, like trainings, have cost money that I was asked to attend and therefore paid. Research PD has paid me in the end. It has actually evened itself out financially. Sometimes you gotta front some cash, but you always get it back.

In the end, spending some time and resources on professional development can be 100% worth it. I have more positive things to say than negative things on my experiences thus far. There are times that I’m the worst student you ever met (they say teachers make the worst students) and have absolutely no patience to sit for another hour at something, but I’m finding that when my ass is numb, my brain is usually full of good stuff.

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Being the “New Guy”

Being the "New Guy" {New Faculty}

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Being a new faculty member is hard. It’s tiring. It wears you out and wears on you. I know. I’m there. I come home some days and don’t move from my couch except for food, the bathroom, or to move to my bed and that feels like work. I feel you.

I’d like to make a case for getting out  and working after hours, weekends, or getting to know your fellow faculty at social functions that are outside of work hours. I know it’s hard. Many of you will have families and other commitments, but I’m going to encourage you to give it the “old college” try a few times. Hear me out.

I never like making a habit of working on the weekends. However, in this position, I find that if I give myself a few hours on Sunday’s to clear out my inbox, settle my calendar, and get myself organized, I have a much smoother Monday morning ready to jump into whatever I got myself into. Truth.

The awesome part about this is that many of my colleagues like working on the weekends as well. Sunday’s will find many of us in our offices working along quietly playing the never ending game of catch up. Before you get all “misery must love company” on me, the weekends are great for catching up with colleagues. There’s fewer students milling around, there’s no class to rush off too and generally there’s no formal meetings on weekends. Each Sunday I’ve logged has been useful to me in terms of productivity, but it’s also had the added benefit of getting time to converse with my colleagues. We don’t always discuss work, but we do talk. And, as the newest faculty member in the department, I think it’s important to have those conversations to set some context.

For me, it’s valuable time spent. As a self-identified introvert, I don’t do as well in large groups, faculty meetings are too busy with business for any chit chat, and walking into another faculty member’s office to strike up a conversation isn’t my forte. In fact, the last one makes me downright uncomfortable. The weekend is when the feeling is a little less formal, standing around for a few minutes chatting helps me get to know my peers and them get to know me. I’m “work new faculty” at work. I have things to do and tasks to check off. I’m guilty of not wanting to socialize much and I have a calendar full of things as well. Formal business hours are not the hours you want to get to know me in to get a good picture of who I am.

I’ve been told many times that I’m a hard person to know. I acknowledge that. I think many academics are. We choose academia for the solitude of research sometimes and it feeds our tendencies. Being aware that I’m not the most open, charming, naturally extroverted human helps me work within the boundaries that have been set by my personality.

Our faculty tries to go out to happy hour too. I don’t always want to hit the bar with my colleagues on Friday, but I’ve gone each time it was organized and I felt as though it was valuable time spent. I’ve been able to cultivate talking points as I get to know my colleagues. We rarely discuss work specifically, students and work do come up, but it’s more tangential in nature and non-specific. Again, my personality comes out in these settings since I can speak to people in a more social setting without the fear of students or other hindrances.

Can it be awkward? Of course. Entering an established group of peers is always a little unnerving, but maximizing your personality potential and being self-aware enough to understand how you’re situated in a group can be important. I don’t come out and say how much I love research, but the spouse of my colleague saw me design a course at faculty development this spring. He observed me working for days on it, had conversations with me about the topic, and learned how much I love research and undergraduate students. Because of that positive interaction, my name was brought up to plan a possible undergrad research certificate in our college. That’s pretty exciting to me. I learned this at the bar. I solidified my ability to do this during a hallway conversation on a Sunday. Over half of my interaction about this had nothing to do with M-F from 9-5.

Being the new kid on the block can be tough. It’s hard to know where you fit in the group. It’s kind of like being the last kid picked in gym class in middle school. It’s taken me nine months to order business cards. It’s also taken me nine months to get to know the people I call colleagues better too. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither have my relationships with my peers.

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Academic Collegiality: Offering the Proverbial Cup of Sugar

A Lesson in Academic Collegiality {New Faculty}

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year in the hallways of my office. It’s annual reporting time for all faculty. A grad student swung through, saw one of my computer screens and observed, “almost every faculty I’ve seen today has that on their screen.” Let me tell ya kid, we’re really all in this together.

It’s my first faculty reporting season on this job. It’s a totally different form/page/requirement list than my old job. I was thankful to get a tutorial from a more senior faculty member this week and a crash course provided the broad strokes that I’m going to need to finish mine. There’s one more relatively new faculty member in the department and she and I visited about it a few times as well, making sure that things like “objectives for 2014” were missing for both of us since we never put in objectives last January because we weren’t employed by said department/college. A sense of camaraderie has been nice in that respect. It’s more like, “you struggling?” “yup.” “Oh hey, me too.”

I began this job in May so it’s been about seven months on the job. Needless to say, there are times when it feels like I’ve spent a lot of time working but don’t have a lot to show for it. That’s my self-efficacy monster to wrestle with. Knowing I have a colleague who also feels that way softens the blow a little bit. Neither of us have gone up for any external funding yet. Hell, I just moved into an office around Thanksgiving. Can I report that?

The colleague who was nice enough to give me the tutorial-she also got a tutorial on hers from a tenured member of the department since she’s going up for tenure this year. See how this works? You never know when you’re going to need a good colleague to show you the ropes.

As I work through this first year of the process, I’m humbled by what I have done, by what I haven’t done yet, and by my colleagues. I cannot stress the importance of having good colleagues who are willing to take a few minutes of their day and help me out. Willing to admit they’re struggling or when they’ve figured something out and are willing to show me has been an invaluable asset to me. Small? Yes. Important? Absolutely.

I have continued to be overjoyed to be back in agriculture. I know I’ve discussed it here before but this would NOT have happened in my old appointment. It just wouldn’t have. As much as I know that my job is just my job, it’s also important to me to be happy, to be able to be social, and to feel like an equal member of the faculty. I do feel that way now. It’s not just getting help on my annual report, it’s small things like joining the other faculty for a happy hour, engaging with them over casual conversation, and not worrying that every little thing I might say is being put under a microscope-there’s room for error. HBR ran a piece about how your colleagues should be like good neighbors, willing to lend a hand, a proverbial cup of sugar, but also know you’d reciprocate if ever asked. It just so happens that I brought back some NY goods for one of my colleagues as a kindness. I didn’t have to, but I wanted too. Who doesn’t appreciate good maple syrup? Pancakes for everyone!

If my car broke down on the side of the road and I had to call one of these folks for a ride, I think they would answer the phone AND also come get me if I asked. I hadn’t had that feeling of collegial security since 2011. It feels pretty good.

 

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Using Your Network

Using Your Network | New Faculty

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After a few years on planet earth, you meet some people. You go to college. You meet some people. You move once or twice. You meet some more people. You change jobs/professions. You meet some more people.

Twenty years later: you know quite a few people. Introvert or extrovert, you just meet people!

As a newer faculty member trying to rework a course for fall, I started really thinking about all the people I knew and know. I was looking to supplement my online course with video’s, shorter documentaries, and anything that would serve as a “think tank” piece to get discussion going among the students as a way to engage with them without physically seeing them.

I began drilling down who I knew and what their area of expertise was. As I did this, I was pleasantly surprised by the people who I’d crossed paths in life with and how many I had the good fortune of knowing. These folks came from all parts of my life from a friend from childhood to people I’d worked with during my days with FFA and 4-H, to grad school cohort friends, and current colleagues in my faculty life. The best part was that I still keep in touch with many of these folks. Whether it’s by social media, emails, or actual face-to-face time, keeping these ties open has been important for me on many levels. Sure, I don’t speak to these people as much as I’d like to and see some even less frequently, but it’s nice to know that my parents urge to join clubs, set high goals, and earn my education are paying off even if it did take 15 years to get a ROI from it all.

As a young faculty member or grad student, you’re in the same boat. I cannot stress the importance of networking enough, building professional and personal relationships, and being mindful of what you’re doing and where you’re doing it. I know I’ve written before about being under the microscope all of the time and while being human means making mistakes, it’s important that people see you at your best and sometimes you’re worst.

I don’t know if all of my contacts will say yes to a guest video or audio cast, but it was really nice to be able to reach out to folks, personalize a few lines of an email and then make my request. As I put the finishing touches on this post, I sent out 10 emails and have had seven, yes SEVEN come back and say they’d like to help me out. In stats speak: that’s pretty darn good! It made me see how vast a network I’ve been able to set up and I hope those people feel the same way when they saw my name drop into their inboxes.

As you navigate the first few years of your faculty career, it’s important to reach out to your network to help give you a boost. You know you’ve helped others before and it’s only kind to return the favor. I made sure to ask for a manageable commitment, didn’t get too heavy handed with my request, and set firm expectations for deadlines so I can get things up for my upcoming class. I always tell my students, “you never know when you’ll come across someone in life again,” so make sure you’re representing yourself the way you want to be remembered for the future. The first few years on faculty are fraught with distractions, requests, and time management issues so why not give yourself a break and lean on the folks you can count on? I’m ever so grateful to have seven “yes’s” this evening and was again reminded how wonderful it is to be back in agriculture.

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