A Culture of Accomplishment
Conversations about faculty development that arose between faculty and Anne McCall when she became dean of Harpur College of Arts and Sciences in August 2013, have resulted in the creation of a three-tiered initiative — the Culture of Accomplishment — to focus on new, junior and tenured faculty. This umbrella program, headed by Harpur College Associate Dean Florence Margai, involves mentorship for faculty at both the assistant and associate levels, grant-writing circles, networking events and a Distinguished Leadership Council.
The program is developing from what the dean was hearing at transitional meetings with faculty, said Margai, as well as from results from a Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) faculty satisfaction survey completed a few years ago.
“Initially, we reviewed faculty reports that are available on the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment website, and these, along with what Anne was hearing, led to the development of the program. We also wanted to build upon the past successes of our previous deans in the college,” Margai said. “Peter Mileur developed on a faculty development fund to support dean’s research semesters; Don Nieman developed a program to celebrate faculty accomplishments, awards and publications; and Wayne Jones implemented a luncheon for new faculty to help acclimate them to the campus. Our goal was to bring all of these programs under one umbrella, adding more to promote the integration of faculty, the level of interaction between them and also continuing to support their scholarship and the recognition and celebration of their work.”
Margai wrote a proposal, which was shared with chairs and faculty, asking for input in helping to develop a program geared to faculty across the ranks.
For new faculty, departments have been encouraged to review their tenure and promotion guidelines, a critical task given the surge in hiring. “We believe it’s important to have tenure and promotion guidelines that are transparent and up to date through dialog in departments about what constitutes scholarship at highly ranked public institution,” Margai said. “Departments worked on this throughout the fall semester, and the chairs have found it to be really beneficial. A number have already submitted their revised guidelines to us.”
For junior faculty, establishing Harpur connections through three to four networking receptions each year, folding in the celebrations of books and awards, is key. “We’re trying to bring junior faculty into the fold so they can learn from mid-career and senior faculty,” Margai said. “The next reception will be on March 12, during which we will celebrate those who’ve gotten awards and completed book projects.”
The Culture of Accomplishment initiative also includes formalized mentor programs for junior faculty, so departments have been asked to share their mentoring guidelines to pass along to other departments looking to create theirs Departments have responded in that regard, Margai said.
“I think there’s a renewed sense of energy and revitalization in the college, partly because we’re seeing new faculty come on board but also because we’re having these conversations,” Margai said. Grant-writing circles are another source of energy. “We have two of them ongoing. One led by Wendy Martinek in political science. She’s a former NSF program director who is leading a grant-writing circle with colleagues from multiple disciplines proposing to NSF this academic year. The other is led by Leigh Ann Wheeler, an NEH award winner, who is leading scholars, most from within Harpur, who are looking to apply for NEH fellowships down the road.”
The grant-writing circles have provided a template of sorts, said Margai, and some junior scholars have responded by creating their own peer-mentoring circles. “We’ve indicated that if they need resources or need to travel to visit an outside mentor or collaborator that we will provide support to help them move their research along.”
The third tier of the Culture of Accomplishment is establishment of a Distinguished Leadership Council comprised of faculty who have achieved distinguished professor rank. The council’s first meeting was held in December. “We have about 18 who have agreed to serve,” Margai said. “One of the things we hope to do is use them as a resource to help us identify faculty who should be nominated for awards at the SUNY, national or international level, or to provide guidance in preparing dossiers to support nominations.”
Harpur is also looking to departments that are successful at nominating faculty for recognition. For example, psychology has an awards calendar that is discipline specific, includes SUNY and international awards and has deadlines on it. “That fits into this recognition piece and celebrating our faculty,” said Margai, “and we’re hoping our distinguished faculty will also help us in that regard.
In addition to these efforts, a number of outreach activities are supporting the Culture of Accomplishment, Margai said. These include teaming up with the Writing Initiative to help faculty with their own writing and to help those who teach writing courses with to develop grading rubrics and assessments, the ‘How I write’ series where faculty talk about their writing process, and the Center for Learning and Teaching resources available to help faculty improve their teaching.