Collegiate Faculty, Please

The biggest change I would like to see in higher education is greater emphasis on collegiate faculty at all colleges–but R1 institutes especially. I want these positions to be common, treated with the same respect as others, and to be seen as incredibly important to creating the balance between research and teaching faculty. Both are necessary, but at this point, it seems that teaching is always seen as not as great of a need.

In learning about the different ranks of professors and tenure vs. non-tenure track employment, it seems to me that increasing collegiate faculty positions is a no-brainer. Teaching, in my opinion, should always be at the forefront of education. Period. We must have good teachers to learn content.

In many college, though, especially those where research is key, the emphasis is put on research–not teaching; therefore, the teaching is compromised. Teaching should never be compromised for research. Research should never be compromised for teaching. I think there is an obvious solution here, which is that faculty should have a way to voice their strengths and weaknesses, choosing a track that will allow them to be successful. In turn, the students working with that faculty member should also be successful.

As a GTA, I love being able to get the hands-on experience teaching in higher education, but to me, this is often offered as a position so that other faculty do not have to teach certain classes; again, I want teaching to be valued more–not less.

Because of this, if collegiate faculty positions were given just as much importance, I think higher education’s trajectory could change dramatically. When instruction and content knowledge is the priority, everyone grows.

Emojis Affecting Writing

https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2018/04/23/emoji-are-ruining-grasp-of-english-says-dumbest-language-story-of-the-week/

Ah, an article for an English teacher’s heart! Is allowing visual representation (aka emojis) eliminating people’s abilities to write words? In my opinion, no, and this article agrees, putting a satirical spin on how emojis have changed the way we communicate. The article is written by a British-born American professor of linguistics, so I believe he is a great voice to analyze this particular assertion.  

Yes, we use emojis instead of words sometimes, but this does not mean we have lost the ability to both speak and write words. This is one of my favorite quotes from the article:

“Their texting, tweeting, WhatsApping, Snapchatting, Facebooking, and Instagramming may have psychological downsides (like cyber-bullying), but dropping the occasional pictographs into their prose is not going to strip them of the capacity to form sentences. Anyone who believes emoji are having even the slightest effect on English syntax is an utter 🤡.”

I do think an interesting perspective to think about, though, is how emojis can be used on social media accounts of colleges to promote a message and whether or not people either embrace or avoid this to appear “with it” or not. Most college students would appreciate an emoji, but I have to wonder if colleges make a conscious decision to or not to use them.

Overall, though, I believe that students, when tasked with writing a paper, are not going to fill it with emojis, and I believe that many other English professors could attest to this.

 

Counseling Wait Time

This article about cutting wait time for getting a counseling appointment caught my attention: https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-UPenn-Cut-Counseling-Wait/245839?cid=wcontentlist_hp_latest

I know that colleges are seeing increased numbers at counseling centers, and I am glad. I know that sounds funny, so let me explain.

Mental health has always been an issue people faced, but there has been (and often still is) a stigma around it, so people did not always seek the care they needed for fear of judgment. My hope is that these numbers reflect a reduction in that stigma–an acceptance of the fact that mental health matters and that there are treatment facilities available on college campuses (and elsewhere) to help.

I know that Virginia Tech had to expand Cook Counseling Center to other locations, which, again, I hope is because people are less afraid to seek the treatment that they need, but I still think that more needs to be done across college campuses across the globe.

Mental health facilities should be as big and as well-staffed as sporting events. No one should be turned away; wait time should not change a person’s decision. If that means, like this story, that better scheduling technology must be adopted, then I think that is great, but I do think that is requires more than just that. Colleges need to have mental health facilities for the 21st century, and they need to help to fight this stigma by making it easy, affordable, and normal to seek care when you need it.

This will take time, money, and effort, but I do not think that investing in mental health is ever a bad decision.

 

Transfer Students into a Four Year College/University

I teach an undergraduate writing course, and approximately a quarter of my students are transfer students–many of whom have already completed their associate’s degrees. I found this to be highly interesting. I am not sure if this is specific to my department, but it got me thinking about how many transfer students four year universities get and what the process is like.

I decided to do some browsing of the requirements and process for Virginia Tech. What I found is that the requirements are vastly different, depending upon what major you want to pursue. There are detailed documents about required versus strongly recommended versus recommended courses; there are phone numbers to call and people’s names. Truly, I thought it was very well outlined.

Interestingly, I thought the process, documents, and contact information were better defined than it is for high school students applying for their undergraduate degrees. The fact that there is a person’s name, email, and phone number for each major sets it apart immediately, giving it a more personal touch; furthermore, the documents for each major are more specific than the general requirements for VT, even though many people know some majors are harder to be accepted into than others. These documents explain this more concretely.

Also, at Virginia Tech, high school coursework and SAT/ACT are not part of this process whatsoever. I thought this was interesting, especially since many transfer students are coming from a year or two at a community college. What this means is that many people essentially get to start over. I like this idea because I think there is a huge difference in age and maturity, and many people figure out how to master school work better with age. This makes it so that a four year college is still a chance for anyone coming out of high school.

Does anyone have any experience with this or thoughts about the process? I would love to hear other stories.

 

The Article I Needed To Read Right Now

I started looking The Chronicle of Higher Education for an idea for this week’s blog post, and I feel like this article was screaming at me: https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-PhD-Identity-Crisis/245805?cid=wcontentgrid_hp_9.

It was exactly what I needed to hear right now. It’s nice to know that others are in the same mental place I am.

I am about to take my prelims–to (hopefully!) become a PhD candidate. It feels all-consuming at this particular moment, and I find myself reflecting on how I used to feel and thinking about how I might feel when I am done. Talk about emotions!

I think that graduate school is a wonderful thing–one that pushes your mind far beyond what you thought you could do. For that, I am grateful. For that, I am also stressed. I love learning, and the endless possibilities excite me, but I feel like my job is to be an expert in one thing, but I like so many things! Finding that balance right now is difficult.

I have also been thinking a lot about the idea of your dissertation defining you. I don’t want it to be my everything, but at the same time, I am attached to what I am doing.

Is anyone else feeling this way? I would love to hear other people’s thoughts about the process.

Open Access

Here is the journal I used: http://hybridpedagogy.org/about-us/

This journal is somewhat unique, as it does not have a specific location that it is from. Instead, this was founded by Jesse Stommel and Pete Rorabaugh–two guys who love technology and education and decided to create a space for these conversations. Moreover, this journal is unique because it is one of the only ones with a focus on hybrid learning, which is a relatively new trend in education. For me, this is a great space to read articles about my research topic and to engage in the latest conversations within the topic.

This journal’s model is based on influencing digital culture. Specifically, it focuses on the development of hybrid pedagogies through praxis pieces. There are three main themes in pieces: learning, teaching, and technology. Moreover, the journal revolves around advocacy within education. Overall, the journal aims to further the conversations around technology and education while creating meaningful information for educators to read.

This journal addresses open access by readily stating “open access” in its descriptions. More specifically, it is clear that the journal is a network that is discussion-based. They participate in peer review, but they call it collaborative peer review because editors and authors work together to perfect articles. Then, there is a peer review after publication as well. Finally, they encourage experimentation and improvisation within this process; it is clear that the journal is a network of people who have similar ideologies about education, and collaboration is central to this journal.  

Collegiate Faculty

In this week’s class, we discussed all of the different distinctions of professors and employment within higher education. I was most interested in a relatively new position in higher education: collegiate faculty.

These positions are non-tenure track and designed primarily around teaching and learning, which is something I am definitely drawn to, as it plays directly into my studies and future aspirations.  

This discussion has my mind swimming with thoughts, mainly in the form of questions.

My first overwhelming question is this: why has it taken so long to figure it out that this is a good idea?

Higher education is about education, right? Because of this, there is a need for great teachers. There is also a need for great researchers. There is also a need for outreach. Balancing all of these things is challenging, so it makes sense that there should be positions that allow people to thrive in specific areas. After all, research faculty have been around for some time.

I also wonder about this: will instructor or adjunct positions disappear over time as collegiate faculty positions grow?

Currently, is there any benefit to staying an instructor instead of a collegiate faculty?

By design, if collegiate faculty are non-tenure track, does that mean that they are seen as “less than” other faculty members?

I would love to hear people’s thoughts about these questions!

 

Emails

I have recently read a few articles about the dilemma of email in education. I believe the arguments could be applied to any context because the sentiment is the same: how do we balance our personal lives and our professional lives while still answering all of our emails in a timely manner?

Email has certainly become the most common way to communicate in education; however, it is not always ideal. Some questions are just better answered in person. Some conversations take far less time face-to-face. Responding at home is common. Regardless, finding the time, whether it be face-to-face or for writing responses, is quite a challenge.

One of the big debates within this issue is whether or not to send emails “after hours.” I have thought about this often. Sometimes, I will respond really late, which almost seems like an invitation for people to contact me then. Personally, though, I could probably put myself in a category of people suffering from “email anxiety.” I always want to make sure that I have read them and answered them quickly, but this is not always easy because I set a precedent by responding at certain times.

For this, I have a simple solution that I wish existed: email should have a feature to schedule an email to be sent at a certain time. In this case, you could respond to an email late at night, but it could be scheduled to send at 8 A.M. the next morning. It can be marked as read. I wonder if this could help create better time parameters around email.

Perhaps the only thing I could argue has made this any easier is text-to-talk. I find myself quickly responding to emails with that feature because it takes far less time than texting with my fingers or typing with my hands. Regardless, I still have to read it over more because it will often hear things differently than what I said.

Overall, I am curious to see how this dilemma will develop over time and if any protection of personal time will be pushed.

Ethics

Here is the case I used: https://ori.hhs.gov/case-summary-walker-kenneth

The ethical issue in this case revolves around falsified and/or fabricated quantitative data for submission, which is clearly a major issue. This falsified data was reported not once, but in five different sets of data throughout these submissions: two publications, one manuscript, and two grant applications. The level of this ethical violation is pretty severe to me due to the multiple applications in which it occurred.

The respondent was a postdoctoral fellow, which I assume would mean there is less oversight than as a graduate student–not that the position gives any excuse–but it is interesting to think about the context in which this occurred.

The respondent had quite a few punishments:

1. He must have his research supervised for three years.

Questions/thoughts: Is this enough? What is a standard monitoring period after this type of violation?

2. Any employer must submit a certification to ORI that the data are based on actual experiments.

Questions/thoughts:Is this normal? This seems like an obvious requirement, but it also seems like a major risk to put his name on any further applications.

3. He must refrain from an advisory capacities for three years.

Questions/thoughts: This also seems obvious due to the violation, but at what is the three year period about? It seems common.

4. He must retract or correct his publications.

Questions/thoughts:I think it is interesting that correct is an option is something that is falsified; I would assume retraction would be the mandate. What allows for the option?

Mission Statements

Mission statement for App State: https://www.appstate.edu/about/mission-values/

The first mission statement is from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, USA, right in the Appalachian Mountains. I know about this school due its commitment to core academic teaching, scholarship, and service–three things I value very much. When I taught high school, many of my students ended up going there, so I have always had a draw and curiosity about the school.

The first thing that stood out to me was the length of the statement; by comparison, it seemed longer than some I have seen. Also, I appreciate the use of bolding to emphasize the elements that were most important; this is something simple, but it can go a long way. I would argue that this mission statement includes many of academia’s “buzz words,” such as inclusion, diversity, service, etc. I almost feel that those words are required these days. While I certainly appreciate the sentiment, I think that the premise can be discussed in other ways, though. Perhaps the most interesting element of the statement is the repeated use of the word Appalachian. What is clear is that the location of the school is absolutely central to the experience. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your preferences, but I appreciate the transparency about the importance of that. Yes, the university even has it in the name, but that does not always relate back to a university’s mission.

Perhaps the thing that I appreciate the most was the discussion of students and teachers and how they would be interacting. In academia, this balance is something many students fear having come from a traditional public school education with a smaller student ratio. This statement makes it clear that the teachers and students have great relationships.

Mission statement for Hollins University: https://www.hollins.edu/who-we-are/history/

The second mission statement is from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, USA. I live in Roanoke, so I wanted to learn more about this school. I know that it is primarily a women’s college, and again, they focus on teaching. Other than that, I do not know much.

This statement is definitely shorter than Appalachian State’s, but I don’t think it is any less meaningful. Similarly, there are some words that are repeated often. In this case, it is the use of “liberal arts” over and over. Whether intentional or not, it makes it clear that their focus is different than many other schools’ focuses. Moreover, this statement was visually separated in its own box with a different color, bringing some contrast. This statement emphasizes independence and self-expression of students, too.

I appreciate the nods to social justice in the wording, as that terminology encompasses so many endeavors. Overall, this statement is clear, concise, and purposeful. I am not left with many questions.

Overall, both of the statements address the four questions missions statements should answer. I did notice that both largely ignored quantitative measures, which my qualitative preference much appreciated. I did find both to be effective, which I believe is much easier said than done. The rhetoric and semantics of writing the mission of a school is no small task. It certainly requires a deep knowledge of the school, the students, the mission, and more. I imagine crafting a mission statement truly takes a team.