This fall, two NAC&U Faculty Ambassadors are launching a new faculty professional development program. Patrick Abulencia, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at Manhattan College, and Meghan Pifer, Assistant Professor of Higher Education at Widener University, have been collaborating on the initiative in their roles as Ambassadors since meeting at the NAC&U faculty innovation summit in 2013.
Early-career faculty members from both institutions were invited to apply to the institute, and asked to describe areas in which they might benefit from collaborating with colleagues at fellow NAC&U institutions. This included areas of scholarship such as grant-seeking, sharing of equipment and data, knowledge of particular analytical techniques, or co-authorship opportunities; areas of teaching such as guest lecturing, co-teaching courses, study abroad opportunities, scholarship of teaching, and expertise with high-impact practices; and general areas of professional practice within NAC&U member institutions.
Participating early-career scholars will be matched with more senior colleagues from their partner institutions in a day-long program hosted at Manhattan College that will feature a panel of experts, structured conversations about participants’ professional development needs and goals, and informal networking and advice-sharing.
Abulencia and Pifer became interested in the idea for the institute while discussing the potential for NAC&U membership to provide a direct benefit to faculty members within the member institutions. In such institutions, faculty members are often commissioned to do more with less and to wear multiple hats. Further, these institutional contexts are likely to be quite different professionally and organizationally than those in which faculty members completed their doctoral training or had prior professional experiences. The institute will create a space for discussing those realities safely and honestly outside of participants’ home departments and institutions.
The coordinators believe that the best way to find out what faculty members need is to ask them, and also that fostering connections between like-minded peers across campus contexts is an easy way to play to the strength of the NAC&U consortium. While it is common for faculty member to have access to professional development opportunities within their institutions and disciplines, this institute will provide both customized support within institutional environments and an opportunity for informal dialogue, support, collaboration, and institution with near peers beyond the walls of their own campuses.
Although just in the initial pilot phase, Abulencia and Pifer are enthusiastic about the potential of the program and look forward to its further development and expansion within the NAC&U in years to come.