Rekindling Faculty’s Passion

Dearest faculty,

I don’t know about you, but the first 2-3 weeks have been… weird. There, I said it. I am on campus, I enjoy the FDEV office space and team dynamic, I am energized by the colleagues I see, and yet, most of my meetings are still in Zoom, so I feel I am living in a limbo between limited in-person interactions and the ever-present virtual world. 

In doing some reading in preparation for this Tuesday Tip, I came across an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Great Disillusionment (Ellis, 2021). The author presents a fairly grim look at academia, from the perspective of both faculty and staff, and she explores how, while “employees’ dedication to higher education’s mission has fueled colleges for many years […], the pandemic has caused many people to renegotiate this dynamic.” More specifically, Ellis shares how “the graciousness, the compassion, the ‘we do it for the students, we do it for the work’ — that’s gone.”

This year I would like to commit, as Faculty Development Director, to rekindle some of that graciousness, compassion, and passion and to focus on faculty’s needs more closely. Let me be clear, though: my commitment does not involve glorifying practices that justify working overtime and prioritizing work over health and wellness. I am not looking for faculty to embrace compassion at the expense of their well-being. I want to commit to rekindling faculty’s passion by offering resources, programs, and events that can help faculty thrive in all areas of their professional growth.

Last year, FDEV was inevitably very “reactive” to the pandemic, the switch to online instruction, and the need for supplemental training in digital pedagogy and academic technologies. For this, we have received very good feedback and we are grateful that our efforts could respond to and serve your needs. But looking at the low number of applications for FDEV programs in Fall 2021, I started wondering if we are truly responding to your current needs. This is certainly not a criticism towards the low number of applications we are receiving: on the contrary, I see this is a clear call for the Director of Faculty Development to stop for a minute, listen to “her” faculty, and re-think what faculty truly need to thrive. 

For this reason, we had a long and important conversation last Friday with the FDEV Advisory Board to discuss how, whether we are reacting to the pandemic, climate change, the wildfires, or social and racial injustice, the burnout is palpable, and we are now constantly in “survival mode.” 

Good job, Sherlock, you might think: did you really need an Advisory Board meeting for that??
Well, no, I did not need an Advisory Board meeting to know faculty are burned out. I needed that conversation to discuss how to better respond to and address the exhaustion I feel so present, though.

In this spirit, we have extended the deadline for the open calls of all FDEV Fall 2021 programs, and we have designed THIS SURVEY to collect feedback so that we can plan the rest of the year with your needs in mind. 

I hope that you will be willing to take a few minutes out of your day to fill out this survey, knowing that the Advisory Board and I will read your feedback carefully and we will use it to guide our efforts. 

Faculty, you are my priority, now and always, and I am here to support you in every way I can.

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