Being able to talk candidly with counterparts at peer institutions is a phrase that emerges often when NAC&U constituency group members describe what they like most about this consortium. While constituency group engagement offers a direct path to collaboration, networking, and resource-sharing, it can be challenging to raise awareness of NAC&U among those who are not constituency group members. Recently members of NAC&U’s faculty ambassador group, which is specifically tasked with building awareness on their campuses, shared successful tips for engaging other faculty and staff.
“Being new to their positions, they’re eager for resources and networking that can help them expand the scope of their scholarship, service, and civic engagement,” said Koster of new faculty.
Koster and Bell weren’t sure whether their presentations at the faculty senate actually reached enough people, however, so they furthered their efforts by hosting an end-of-the-year happy hour the last two years. Those who are engaged in NAC&U wear purple beads at the event to identify themselves as people who can talk more in-depth about the organization, and a presentation in the background highlights the ways Nazareth faculty, staff and administrators have been engaged in NAC&U. Nearly 100 people, including deans and Nazareth’s president, Daan Braveman, attended the event this past June.
Brad Wile, ambassador group co-chair and assistant professor of chemistry at Ohio Northern University, says it can be helpful to provide concrete suggestions on how faculty can benefit from NAC&U, such as looking within the consortium for external reviewers and speakers. Koster added that those who have participated in NAC&U events can serve as guest speakers on campus. Indeed, following the NAC&U Digital Scholarship Workshop, Belmont University’s attendees later shared their new knowledge through a workshop on campus.
Jeannetta Williams, professor of psychology at St. Edward’s University, urges ambassadors to identify groups on campus that may be open to presentations. For example, she and co-ambassador Teri Varner, associate professor of communication, have presented to the Faculty Senate, Dean’s Council, and general faculty meetings to share news about NAC&U. Koster and Bell attend department meetings and suggest reaching out across agencies on campus to learn about their projects and determine if NAC&U could help them achieve their goals.
Both Nazareth and St. Edward’s ambassadors have created pages on their campus websites that serve as portals to the NAC&U website. They also recommend adding NAC&U Faculty Ambassador to one’s email signature line and making sure to share NAC&U emails, such as calls for submissions and event invitations, with the campus community. Williams recommends having the VPAA’s assistant send out emails on behalf of the ambassadors as she finds that people are more likely to open and read them based on the sender.
Since students are one of the most challenging groups to engage, Nazareth makes sure to present NAC&U’s student opportunities during orientation. To promote the NAC&U Award for Student Excellence, Ohio Northern created the PLACE award (professional programs, liberal arts, and civic engagement) to solicit submissions from their students. The recipient of the PLACE award then becomes Ohio Northern’s submission in the NAC&U award process. Campus media stories about the PLACE award recipients help to spread awareness of NAC&U as well.
The ambassadors also emphasize the need for good communication among those who already know about NAC&U, including administrators, such as one’s VPAA, and with each other.
“Marie and I correspond via email or text regularly, but we also meet once a month to discuss our efforts, follow through on ideas, and strategize future plans,” said Koster. “We also discuss campus announcements to determine if NAC&U could be involved in a Nazareth initiative.”
It appears as though their efforts are working. A Nazareth student will be traveling to Hampton University in the spring after learning about NAC&U’s student exchange program, and the theatre department approached Bell and Koster about pulling together key contacts and social media accounts for music and theatre departments in NAC&U. Their goal is to establish connections to foster collaboration on guest artist visits, joint performances, broadcasts of master classes, joint commissions of works, grant opportunities, faculty and ensemble exchanges, and/or study abroad experiences.
When faculty ambassadors are able to bring awareness of NAC&U to more people at their institutions, the benefits can be significant, whether the result is cross-institutional faculty collaboration, students studying away at another member campus, or the sharing of resources from hundreds of miles away.