This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large, containing advice on how to support grad students, now more than ever.

How are faculty doing, emotionally speaking, right now?

For many, the answer is “profoundly burned out.” “Anyone else feel like they’ve been working non-stop since March and are about to crash?” asked Arcelia Gutiérrez, a professor of Latinx studies at the University of Kentucky, on Twitter recently. ”And we have no breaks this semester, and we’re already on week 8 of the semester.” In a piece in EdSurge about faculty burnout, Kevin R. McClure, a professor of higher education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, noted that many faculty’s lack of time off in the summer of 2020 added to the feeling of stress that people were feeling in August, facing the fall semester. “Summer is normally a time of restoration for faculty and staff, and many believed if they could just finish the spring semester, they would have a chance to recover”—but a summer devoid of travel plans and childcare, and full of work to set up online or hybrid learning for the following semester, simply didn’t do the trick. 

Faculty and staff reported to McClure that it wasn’t just the fact that the summer was full of work that has left them feeling tapped out, but also the nature of the work. Endless meetings about an ever-changing and hopeless situation; hard work put into plans that may never be implemented; lack of communication from leaders, who were, themselves, overwhelmed—the summer, and the beginning of the fall semester, have seemed never-ending. Commenting to Inside Higher Ed about the piece, McClure said that he had received a pile of feedback after it published: “What I heard over and over again was people saying, ‘That’s me. This is how I feel.’” 

Much self-reported faculty stress comes from a perceived disconnect between people’s personal situations and the amount of work the university continues to expect. This pandemic academic life—no childcare and school, for parents; huge teaching burdens for those who are adjusting to new platforms; no travel for research; restricted access to materials—is not normal, five scientists wrote in a group plea published in Science in late August. “With the start of the semester upon us, we continue to receive a massive influx of emails from colleagues detailing service expectations, research disruptions, and complex new policies,” they wrote. “All of this can feel incredibly overwhelming.” The group argued for transparency, respect for personal needs, and aggressive triaging of what’s necessary: “Don’t hold yourselves, or your students, to the same standards as 2019.” 

What can be done?

Some senior professors have urged their fellows to step up, this semester and this year. Nicholas H. Snow, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Seton Hall University, argued on Inside Higher Ed that research scholars should “make teaching and serving undergraduate students your highest priority” this year. “Our institutions and our undergraduates need us. They need all of us. They need us to be accessible and inclusive,” Snow insisted, urging his senior colleagues to “go to your funding agency; get a no-cost extension…ask them to allow your postdocs to join with us in the classroom.” This was the time, Snow thought, for the “haves” of academia to put research goals aside and put their shoulders to the wheel. 


A sentiment many faculty share—one that, for some, is a saving grace—is the sense of common cause with their students. “Doing my best, kids—and I know you are, too,” tweeted classicist Christopher Polt, of Boston College, with a modified Spiderman meme attached. (For those unfamiliar, the meme usually features two Spidermen pointing at each other, and is used to signify a recognition of sameness. In Polt’s version, a single Spiderman, the “professor,” points at a group of students—the whole group recognizing one other as going through the same turmoil.) In replies to the viral tweet, professors described feeling a cathartic sense of identification with their students, who are having many of the same problems as faculty: lack of childcare, exposure to COVID, spotty internet, family stress.

A little bit of grace and recognition goes a long way, in the fall of 2020.

How are you navigating these times as a faculty member? How could institutions better support you in your work? Share with us on Twitter.

This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings, with Antione Tomlin as article co-author.

For doctoral students across the nation who are writing their dissertations, the onset of COVID-19 has drastically changed how they will approach their research projects. In some instances, doctoral students will have to redesign their studies to accommodate remote data collection or potentially scrap their research plans altogether. Moreover, dissertators are balancing the completion of their studies with employment and family obligations. Students are not alone—professors have also been impacted because they have to support their dissertation advisees remotely while juggling the care of dependents, adapting research projects, and preparing for remote and/or social distance in-person teaching. 

Most of the discussion about supporting students with the onset of COVID-19 has tended to focus on undergraduates. Generally speaking, graduate students—and doctoral students at the dissertation phase specifically—have not been given the same attention. Therefore, we want to share some strategies for doctoral students from our vantage point of being a doctoral candidate in the midst of completing a dissertation, and as a faculty member who is currently supporting doctoral students. Below we provide three tips for students on how to navigate the dissertation writing process during the pandemic and also include how faculty can support students in each of these areas.

Be Realistic

It is easy to become so consumed and overwhelmed with finishing your dissertation that you forget to take care of yourself. So, it is important to know and recognize your limits. Life does not stop because you decided to be a doctoral student; it might be even more hectic than ever with increased family, work, and personal obligations. Be mindful of how much you are putting on your plate and deciding to take on. If you can only provide 50% effort to your dissertation because you took on more than you can handle, everything you said yes to suffers. Knowing when to say yes or no becomes more critical during these times. 

How Faculty Can Support:

As a faculty member, I can say from experience that it’s important to take the time to understand that our dissertation advisees have lives outside of the classroom. Take the initiative to understand their circumstances, so you can support them and become a trusted sounding board. This includes advising them on when to accept new responsibilities or defer them to another time. Additionally, we (faculty) can use this information to develop realistic timelines about when various sections of the dissertation can be completed. 

Ask For Help!

As doctoral students, we assume that we are supposed to know everything, and if we do not, we think we are less than we are supposed to be. Both of us understand how feeling like an imposter can be paralyzing to completing the dissertation. It is important to let go of assumptions, perceived expectations, and self-doubt because it gets in the way of moving forward. We are all experiencing the effects of COVID-19, acknowledging that some students may have more or less time depending on obligations outside of school. So, ask for help when you need it. You do not have to know everything, and your faculty and committee are there to help and support you. Do not feel ashamed about needing more guidance or additional motivation to keep pushing along. Use your resources and get it done.

How faculty can support:

Faculty should be proactive and reach out to students to ask how they are doing and if they need help. Even in instances when they say they don’t need any help, it is important for us to continue to check on our students consistently. Also, you should not feel that you need to have all of the answers for your students. It is okay to seek counsel from other colleagues on how to help your students succeed.

Be Open-Minded

This is one piece of advice that we’ve found doctoral students dread hearing. From our experience, open-mindedness can be perceived as having to change everything about a dissertation plan. In reality, these simple but daunting words can work in your favor. Remember doctoral students; your committee is there to support and get you to the finish line! When they strongly encourage suggestions, it is only to help, so we challenge you—be open and consider all suggestions. When you fight the process, you will spend more time finding your way to the finish line. As a current doctoral candidate, I can say that when I made an effort to be open to suggestions, my research was enhanced, and my committee members’ experiences were more pleasurable.

How Faculty Can Support:

While it is our job to push our students to develop a robust and rigorous dissertation, we should do so with care and compassion. Far too often we see professors put their students through what can be described as academic hazing primarily because they are trying to recreate the traumatic doctoral student experience they had. This is unfair to students and a practice we need to change. For instance, we need to ensure that by the time students get to the dissertation proposal defense presentation that we are not asking them to drastically change their dissertation plan. These types of major suggestions should be addressed prior to the defense being approved. Doing so during a defense is a disservice to students and can make the dissertation process feel insurmountable. 

Given the impact of COVID-19 on the foreseeable future, we will need to continue rethinking and reimagining the dissertation process for doctoral students. Our hope is that this piece begins the conversation about how to advise and support doctoral students virtually and ensure support for students who are juggling their dissertations along with other life circumstances.

How are you navigating the dissertation process? Feel free to send me your responses via Twitter so that we can continue this conversation!


Author Biographies

Dr. Ramon B. Goings (@ramongoings) is an assistant professor in the Language, Literacy, and Culture doctoral program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is Founder of the Done Dissertation Coaching Program (www.thedonedissertation.com) which provides individual and group coaching for doctoral students engaged in the dissertation process.

Mr. Antione Tomlin is a doctoral candidate in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is an assistant professor of Academic Literacies and English at Anne Arundel Community College.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.


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The modern institutions of today exist in a data-driven world, and this increasingly includes colleges and universities. Faculty data can provide valuable metrics that can be used to improve teaching effectiveness for future students and improve the student learning experience.

We spoke with Andy Goodman, Director of the Office of Academic Affairs at University of Missouri System, where he works on the measurement, evaluation, and improvement of the faculty teaching experience. He shared his best practices for understanding the data, evaluating the facts, and taking action to improve on teaching and learning.

“How you organize matters down the road.”

As the time approaches for an institution’s annual review of faculty, it’s crucial to look at what data is most meaningful to your institution and organize accordingly. Goodman explains how the University of Missouri thoughtfully approached their implementation of Interfolio’s Faculty Activity Reporting module in a way that would make reporting and analysis easier. While a list of recommended categories for organizing faculty data is provided, the University of Missouri did additional customization to meet the needs of their institution, specifically, with a more in-depth focus on teaching data. 

University of Missouri uses the Faculty Activity Reporting module to segment teaching data by courses taught, student advising, and mentorship of students. Other data collected includes their faculty’s extension efforts, courses taught at other institutions, and other teaching activities that are relevant to the evaluation of their work.

Goodman posed questions to consider for your activity reporting system when beginning the reviewing process: “Will your categories facilitate ease of evaluation?” and “Do your categories and annual review components help your university achieve its goals for annual review?” 

Evaluating Data for the Faculty Review Process

After providing insight and recommendations on structuring the data, Goodman discussed how faculty are evaluated, especially as it pertains to teaching and learning efficacy.

On a biannual basis, Goodman works with individuals in their review cycles. Reporting enabled the conversations to be data-driven, and allows regular discussion of what a faculty member needs to do in order to “put their best foot forward” in the next year, while highlighting what was deemed to be important in future evaluation rubrics. Goodman emphasized the importance of this feedback loop to institutional success.

Working Toward Teaching and Learning Improvement

“The goal of the annual review process is making things better,” Goodman described. It’s important to have buy-in and understanding about why an institution does annual reviews. For him, the guiding principles of the process are to improve teaching, to be forward-looking, and  “to approach it thoughtfully, [and] not just a perfunctory exercise.”

Goodman explained that the evaluations should be inclusive and holistic, including teaching preparation/delivery, teaching evaluations from students, and any other materials such as exams or syllabi. The goal of this approach is to make sure that the evaluation is not based on one data point but rather understand “the multiple means of which a faculty member can be evaluated.”

For evaluators involved in the reviews, he recommends doing a comparison of data across previous semesters, an evaluation of student feedback, and an assessment of “bottleneck” points for students in the coursework.

Using Annual Reflection Practices to Improve Institutional Success

Goodman recounted a best practice he found for encouraging faculty to understand student and peer reviews. For a qualitative course evaluation, he has his faculty bring in a black permanent marker and multi-colored highlighters along with their printed student comments. He asks them to think of these comments in terms of “control” or “no control” and then “positive” or “negative” to give context to the reviews. For example, he provided samples of a student saying “hate the haunted classroom” as a no control/negative comment and “really organized lectures – easy to follow” as a control/positive review. He encourages faculty to find central themes in these comments by breaking down what reviews are truly useful.

Finally, he explained how faculty utilize these reflection practices to see teaching improvement immediately. The process includes making sure faculty have easy access to information, support in identifying problems and altering pedagogy which may lower SET (Society for Education and Training) ratings, and understanding of the metrics on which they are evaluated. 

Goodman shares, “The way that teaching improvement happens is when you’re able to sit back and look at everything and say ‘OK, these were my strengths, these are some areas for improvement, and these are some insights that I’ve gained.'”

What Comes Next?

Goodman outlined three next steps that could be beneficial to an institution with their annual review process. First, he encouraged a working relationship with the provost’s office to clarify key components of the review process. Second, consult with the teaching center to coordinate professional development opportunities around use of SETs. And third, explore ways to explicitly align review, promotion, and tenure components with a designated data reporting structure such as Interfolio’s Faculty Activity Reporting module.

The 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit made clearer than ever that a digital transformation around online faculty affairs, academic work, and research impact is well under way—everywhere.

The July 2020 virtual event, held over four days, drew over 830 registrants from 369 higher education institutions and research organizations across the globe.

Here’s a look at four compelling themes around modern higher education faculty and technology that emerged:

  • The digital Faculty Information System as modern necessity
  • Diversity and inclusion in the faculty professional landscape
  • Teaching and digital faculty data
  • Online faculty work (and flexibility) in higher education

1. The digital Faculty Information System as modern necessity

It was clear from the 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit that faculty affairs professionals today are paying a great deal of attention to the proper role of modern technology in faculty information, workflows, and impact tracking.

“It used to be you spent all available energy just trying to figure out how many faculty there were in the biology department,” said Emory University’s Paul Welty in the opening panel. “Well, now we can answer that question in 30 seconds—and all the rest of that energy can be spent on interesting things… We’re freed from all the tedious work.” 

In this kickoff session (“Establishing the Faculty Information System”) the conversation between Nina Seppala, Deputy Director at University College London School of Management; Charlton McIlwain, Vice Provost for Faculty Engagement & Development at New York University; and Paul Welty, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation and Faculty Affairs at Emory University focused emphatically on how transitioning to a modern online Faculty Information System has contributed to institutional success.

The critical role of the dedicated Faculty Information System was further evident from the lively attendance at the 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit’s many “how-to” sessions.

We heard how Interfolio has meant a digital transformation of faculty affairs at Tulane University in Louisiana.

From “Innovative Uses of Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure” with Alysia Loshbaugh of Tulane University, to “Configuring & Understanding Your University Data” presented by Arizona State University’s Susan Barrett, Lily Roggenkamp, and Katherine Sackman, to many others, it was largely professionals at Interfolio institutions who led these sessions.

Read more on our blog about why Gartner listed Faculty Information Systems as one of the “Top 10 Strategic Technologies Impacting Higher Education in 2020.”

2. Diversity and inclusion in the faculty professional landscape

Across the board, 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit participants affirmed that inclusivity, diversity, and resistance to patterns of unequal treatment are of pressing concern for the higher education faculty affairs community. 

A highlight of the entire virtual event was the panel discussion on “Achieving a Diverse and Inclusive Faculty Workforce in the 2020s.” (Watch it here)

Interfolio staff moderators Max Swagler and Shawniece Disney highlighted some concrete data on faculty recruitment that is run through the Interfolio hiring module.

The 2020 Interfolio Summit session “Achieving a Diverse and Inclusive Faculty Workforce in the 2020s" includes some data on faculty hiring through Interfolio's technology.

The panel produced a nuanced and open conversation between Genyne H. Boston, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University; Christy Pichichero, Associate Professor of French and History and Director of Faculty Diversity for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at George Mason University, and Zulema Valdez, Associate Vice Provost for the Faculty and Professor at University of California, Merced, about the past, present, and future of diversity and inclusion in U.S. higher education.

You can watch the recording of this session here. And for more information about how Interfolio helps, check out our recent post, 3 Practical Resources for a Diverse and Inclusive Faculty Workplace.

3. Teaching and digital faculty data

Faculty teaching responsibilities was another main theme that emerged during these discussions about where academic affairs and modern technologies intersect. 

It became evident that when faculty activity data is more systematically tracked and more fully considered, the institution is substantially more equipped to support faculty in their instructional role. 

The 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit session “Tracking Faculty Accomplishments to Improve Teaching" addressed how activity data can lead to higher education classroom improvement.

Because of the traditionally major role that publishing research plays in a professor’s job security and advancement, and because of the immediate and more marketable connection between high-profile research and revenue, much development in faculty activity reporting has historically been biased toward research.

Yet, in 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit sessions like “Tracking Faculty Accomplishments to Improve Teaching,” from Andy Goodman of the University of Missouri, attendees expressed great interest in the connection between investment in faculty resources and the institution’s ultimate capacity to deliver quality instruction. Goodman’s session walked users through how to make use of the Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting module to support faculty professional development around teaching.

Get our free white paper on Data in Faculty Affairs here.

4. Online faculty work (and flexibility) in higher education

The fourth and final major theme we’ll note here from the 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit was that of agility.

Across the board, it was clear that the pandemic circumstances have produced very different outcomes depending upon how fully an institution is set up to conduct online faculty affairs, and how they manage change.

In best practices sessions on using the Interfolio Faculty Information System, our Professional Services team addressed approaches to digital transformation around higher education technology.

In a number of sessions, including “Enterprise-wide Change Management: Creating Engagement & Buy-in” with UCLA’s Erika Chau, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Personnel, and Penn’s Rob Nelson, Executive Director for Academic Technology & Planning, attendees heard specifically what role various Interfolio modules played in COVID-19 business continuity.

Many higher education academic affairs professionals related how Interfolio has been critical for business continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In “Fostering Success in Decentralized Environments”—featuring Penn’s Julie Orts, Senior Business Systems Analyst, and Michelle Kenney Shears, Associate Director of Faculty Affairs, as well as Yale’s Audrey Bribiescas, Faculty Services Manager and Pam Bosward, Assistant Director of Faculty Affairs—we heard more about how to check in and remain nimble around technology usage throughout the year.

Speakers from UCLA and University of Pennsylvania addressed "Enterprise-wide Change Management" around faculty technology in a 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit session.

And in “Best Practices for Communicating, Training, and Supporting Your Campus,” Doris Ng of University of Washington School of Medicine addressed both the conceptual importance of thoughtful user support on campus, and the nitty-gritty tactics like which email templates to create.

Speakers from University of Washington School of Medicine and other higher education institutions discussed best practices for transitioning to remote faculty work.

To learn more about Interfolio’s recommendations for making a rapid transition to online faculty evaluations, download our free eBook here.

***


We’re very grateful to our presenters for their valuable insights and to the thoughtful participation of our hundreds of attendees. Ask us about the 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit here, and keep an eye out for our 2021 Summit next summer!

Higher education leaders have known for many years which gaps need to be closed to create a more diverse and inclusive faculty body. So what are your peer institutions doing successfully? What methods and tools are they using?

If you are involved in ensuring an inclusive environment for faculty at your institution, here are some practical resources you can consult to understand what seems to be working today.

1. How to create transparency around applicant pool data—during the faculty hiring process

It is critical to build as much data as possible about the demographics of faculty job applicants. At some innovative institutions, such as the University of Maryland—Baltimore County or the University of Notre Dame, an appropriate administrative professional such as an associate provost or a chief diversity officer can view the aggregate, anonymized self-reported EEO data for a search, in real time. Then they can compare the search to field-wide data, such as the National Survey of Earned Doctorates. Knowing where the pool falls below national rates of demographic representation can inform the search chair and/or the dean so they can take appropriate action.

Get an overview of how your peers are improving diversity and inclusion in faculty recruitment in our recent white paper, The Modern Faculty Recruitment Playbook.

2. How to make faculty professional review processes transparent, and centrally viewable

One major factor in why inequitable patterns of faculty advancement persist—both in the US and internationally—is inconsistent documentation and communication around actual professional reviews of faculty members.

More and more modern higher education institutions (from Dartmouth College to Haverford College to Tulane University to the majority of California State Universities) are recognizing the transformative value of successfully managing faculty review workflows in a centralized way that both:

  • Defines the official steps and requirements for everyone involved
  • Tracks what actually happened in the decision process along the way

This type of digital transformation goes far beyond efficiency and business necessity. It is about clarity, transparency, and the humanity of the scholars.

Get an overview of how your peers are making faculty tenure, promotion, and professional reviews more equitable in our Best Practices Checklist for Promotion and Tenure Reviews.

3. How to build a reliable source of information about faculty responsibilities and advancement patterns

Finally, a key factor that leaders in higher education faculty affairs are increasingly addressing is the historic invisibility of faculty workload distribution. By strategically approaching how information is gathered and shared—or even simply making the move to treat faculty information as its own need, especially around employment agreements and expectations for success in their role—the college or university eliminates a historic cloud that obscured persistent inequalities.

Learn which concrete challenges to tackle, and how officially tracking faculty employment expectations serves equity, in our free eBook, Mapping Scholar Careers.

We are pleased to announce our full agenda for the Interfolio Virtual Summit, July 9-10, 2020. This two-day event will bring together higher education leaders for networking and knowledge exchange in support of this year’s theme, A Community of Practice: Fostering Engagement & Impact in Higher Ed. In support of our clients in higher education, we have made the Summit complimentary to attend, so that even more individuals can participate, thus amplifying the impact for departments, colleges, and institutions.  

Featured sessions include:

  • Addressing Enterprise-wide Change Management: Creating Campus Engagement and Buy-in with UCLA and University of Pennsylvania
  • Bringing our Vision to Life: New Product Development and Research at Interfolio
  • Innovative Uses of Review, Promotion, and Tenure with Tulane University
  • Fostering Success in Decentralized Environments with Yale University and University of Pennsylvania

The Interfolio Virtual Summit will offer specific tracks for current Interfolio clients, as well as future clients. The Interfolio Professional Services team will present pre-Summit product deep dives for existing clients. Additionally, networking and meet-the-speaker sessions will provide opportunities to meet and learn from peers.

Summit Series

We will continue to build the Community of Practice during our Summit Series, which includes these sessions:

  • Best Practices for the Faculty Information System with the University of Chicago, August 
  • Recruiting Global Talent with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), September
  • How Butler University Highlights Faculty Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity with Faculty Activity Reporting, October

We believe in the power of community. Indeed, service to the community is one of Interfolio’s core values. We look forward to seeing you, virtually, for the Interfolio Summit.

“It was so great to have the camaraderie of colleagues from across the spectrum who actually know and understand what I do. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and this was the first time that I’ve attended a conference/summit that was focused purely on the peer review process and its necessary tools, rather than the process as part of HR.”

-SUMMIT ATTENDEE, 2019

“Your summit was incredibly well organized and thoughtfully scheduled.”

-SUMMIT ATTENDEE, 2019

“Great experience to connect with Interfolio and peer institutions. It was especially helpful to have an opportunity to problem-solve.”

-SUMMIT ATTENDEE, 2019

This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar, with a focus on five insights to consider when selecting a mentor.

As a higher education faculty or staff member, administrator, or other higher education leader, mentorship is critical to our professional development and growth. In conversations with colleagues, we frequently discuss that we are constantly recommended to find mentors, but not given much advice on what to look for in a mentor. Therefore, for this post I provide five insights I’ve learned to help you in selecting a mentor.

Seek a genuine connection that’s trustworthy

When seeking a mentor it is imperative that you find someone who you trust and can build a genuine connection with. While this is not directly related to the technical aspects of mentoring, I find it hard to be supported by someone who you have no connection with and you feel is not trustworthy. 

What does trustworthy look like to me? I am referring to an individual who is always able to keep your best interests at heart and they’re someone who you can confide in without your conversations being discussed with others. From my experience, you can learn about someone and their character through the current individuals they mentor. Are those individuals satisfied with their mentor/mentee relationship? Sometimes asking other mentees will give you insight into someone you are seeking to be mentored by.

They’re willing to listen, along with give advice

Some of the best mentors I’ve had are those who are willing to listen in addition to giving advice. Listening is an important skill when cultivating a mentoring relationship, and you should look for a mentor who seeks to understand your unique situation and then provides advice tailored to your needs. If you find that you are developing a relationship with a mentor who does not listen to you and your experience, seek another mentor. This one-sided relationship may eventually lead to frustration. Plus, who wants a mentor that isn’t interested in supporting their personal career journey or growth?

Seek someone who will commit time to mentor

As professionals, our lives are pulled in a variety of directions and priorities. I think it’s fair to say that there is often a shortage of time, but when seeking a mentor, it is important to find someone who is willing to find and spend the time mentoring you. I have witnessed a number of individuals who want to be mentored by a recognized name in their field and have found—in some cases—that these mentor relationships do not blossom because the mentor does not have enough time to devote to the mentee. Therefore, I would recommend that you find a mentor who commits the time to interact with you to develop a mentorship.

Find a willingness to provide critical feedback

In order to grow professionally, it is important to have mentors who will push you outside your comfort zone. When looking for a mentor, seek someone who is willing to provide critical feedback. My advice here is to also develop a team of mentors who can provide critical feedback on various aspects of your career such as job and funding applications and interview preparation.

Remember, you also bring value to the mentor

Interestingly, we often seek mentors because they bring us value in a variety of ways. However, when seeking out a mentor, I am always looking for someone that I too can provide value and advice to. This is especially important to me—being a genuine mentor takes time and energy—and I always want my mentors to know that I value them. For instance, one of my mentors suggested we work on a special issue of a journal on a particular topic together.  I leveraged our conversation, went and spoke with a journal editor that I had a relationship with from meeting at an academic conference, and turned the idea into a special issue! My mentor and I served as co-editors on this journal issue, and subsequently are planning a co-edited book. Our mentor relationship has brought us both value!

What do you look for in a mentor? Feel free to send me your responses via Twitter so that we can continue this conversation!


Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. Dr. Goings is also the founder of The Done Dissertation Coaching Program which provides individual and group dissertation coaching for doctoral students. For more information about Dr. Goings’ research please visit his website www.ramongoings.com and follow him on Twitter (@ramongoings) and for more information about The Done Dissertation Coaching Program visit www.thedonedissertation.com.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.


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Under the constraints of COVID-19, how are higher education institutions handling faculty personnel processes digitally? What are the traits of a well-prepared institution, and what aspects are most critical to success in a digital transformation of faculty affairs? And what lessons will academic employers carry with them even after the crisis recedes?

Interfolio recently facilitated a digital roundtable conversation asking forward-thinking leaders from a diverse combination of universities to address how they’re currently handling academic personnel processes in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. 

With discussion among academic and administrative leaders at East Stroudsburg University, Vanderbilt University, Tulane University, American College of Education, and University College London, the roundtable event painted an encouraging picture of higher education’s prospects for a digital transformation around faculty affairs.

Online faculty evaluations (and other digital personnel processes) already in place

First of all, it was clear these institutions’ embrace of digital processes for faculty work had put them in a better position to handle the pandemic before it even began.

Several panelists actively pointed out the value of this head start—among them Danielle Certa, Assistant Director of Faculty Appointments in the Office of the Vice Provost at Vanderbilt University; Alysia Loshbaugh, Assistant Vice President for Business Relationship Management at Tulane University; and Nina Seppala, Deputy Director of Academic Affair at University College London.

These institutions’ shift to digital faculty personnel processes some years earlier meant that the administrative routines around faculty work—especially review, promotion, and tenure—faced relatively little need for change or adjustment as a result of the COVID-19 circumstances.

And this modern digital framework for faculty affairs, they stressed, applies not only in crisis scenarios, but as a sustainable daily approach to processes like hiring, activity data maintenance, tenure and promotion candidacy, and committee work.

“Resistance to change is a bit of a luxury”

A recurring theme was the importance of thoughtful change management around faculty technology.

While adopting new technology is hardly painless, several panelists pointed out that it is a perennial workplace phenomenon. And higher education, while distinctive in many ways, is no exception.

“Resistance to change is a bit of a luxury, I think,” said Certa (Vanderbilt), “and I think that people now recognize that we no longer have that privilege. We have to change; we have to adapt. We keep hearing, over and over again, that there’s no going back to the way it was before, so let’s put things in place that will continue to help us move forward. Doing as much as we can digitally is the way to go.”

Speaking of the piles of 3-ring binders historically used for faculty promotion and tenure cases, Bajor (East Stroudsburg) advised: “We do not need to continue to recognize the permanence of this [paper-based] practice as the sole means for evaluating faculty talent. It’s not stated anywhere in the collective bargaining agreement, and it’s not the best method of assessing everyone’s talent.”

A key component of successful change management around faculty technology is communication, as several panelists mentioned.

When it comes to change, ventured Loshbaugh (Tulane), there is no such thing as communicating too much. She emphasized the need for an internal communications strategy, and high volume of communications, to effectively reach the people on campus whose workplace routines you want to change.

And Natalie Pelham, Senior Director of Training and Development at the American College of Education, gave the example of the dozens of self-guided training resources their institution had provided. These specialized materials walk all academic employees through how to do the full scope of their job online.

“Little treasure chests of data”

When it came to advice the panelists would give to institutions considering a move to a faculty information system, the panelists stressed the importance of consulting the right people on campus.

Seppala (University College London) spoke of the highly positive experience she had had when pursuing an innovative and non-traditional use case for their digital platform (Interfolio Faculty Search) that their institution’s situation called for.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for something that doesn’t seem to be in the system,” encouraged Seppala, “because it might be possible.”

Certa (Vanderbilt) advised peers considering the move to a faculty information system to thoroughly interview the individuals on campus who, historically, handle data and paperwork around faculty hiring, tenure, promotion, CVs, and activity reporting.

“It’s very likely,” said Certa, “that all of your areas are keeping little treasure chests of data that they have developed over time… And these might not be higher-level people in the unit. This might be your boots-on-the-ground administrative assistant.”

Faculty rising to the occasion

Overall, all panelists emphatically praised the spirit of giving and goodwill exhibited by faculty, staff, and leadership on their campus during this time.

“I can’t tell you how many faculty members have leveraged this time of crisis to become absolutely fantastic online educators,” says Bajor (East Stroudsburg).

When we asked the panel what the least challenging thing has been, all panelists said some version of “working together as a team.” In various ways, they reported, faculty and staff have displayed admirable flexibility and collaboration, regarding both their student-facing and administrative responsibilities.

“I must say,” said Seppala (University College London), “I just feel that our faculty and our professional services staff have been very flexible, and they’ve been doing more than we ever expected… There’s been a lot of goodwill and effort on the part of our faculty as well as our admin team.”

***

Interfolio is committed to helping the global faculty affairs community and academic leadership continue to play their pivotal role throughout these changing circumstances. 

If you have questions about moving higher education operations online or business continuity in these trying times, we welcome inquiries or conversation at team@interfolio.com

Advice from the Faculty Affairs Community for Your Digital Transformation

Long before the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic appeared, a growing group of colleges and universities had already made the transition to online processes around faculty evaluation, hiring, and data reporting.

This eBook draws upon Interfolio’s recent digital roundtable conversation, as well as an associated survey of faculty affairs professionals, to share what’s challenging, what’s worked, and what steps you should take

Download the free eBook to understand:

  • The primary challenges that faculty affairs professionals face around managing faculty online in the present time
  • What solutions are working to take faculty evaluation workflows, hiring, and data online
  • Advice for success from your peers who have undergone a digital transformation of faculty affairs
Download the eBook:

In Conversation: Adrianna Kezar + Andrew Rosen

Thursday, June 18, 2020 / Noon – 1 PM ET

Join Andrew Rosen and Adrianna Kezar for a discussion about the pressures on higher education and the future of faculty.

As colleges and universities prepare for uncertainty with respect to tuition and research revenue, state funding, and endowments, many institutions are also exploring the expansion of revenue opportunities.

While it is obvious that COVID-19 will have short and long term impacts on the business of higher education, what are the implications on tenure, non-tenure track, and contingent faculty? Are we witnessing the dawn of a new era in this existential crisis?


About our featured guests

About Adrianna Kezar

Adrianna Kezar is the Dean’ s Professor of Leadership, Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education at the University of Southern California, and Director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education.  A national expert on change, governance and leadership in higher education, Kezar is regularly quoted in the media, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Atlantic, Boston Globe, Washington Post, PBS, and NPR (national and local stations), among others. At the Pullias Center, Kezar directs the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, and is an international expert on the changing faculty. Her latest book is The Gig Academy: Mapping Labor in the Neoliberal University (October, 2019). 

About Andrew Rosen

As CEO at Interfolio, Andrew Rosen brings a proven track record of successfully introducing and scaling innovative, problem-solving technologies into new markets. Andrew started his career as an early co-founder of Blackboard where he and the team successfully built and scaled the Learning Management System throughout the education marketplace. After taking Blackboard public, Andrew left to grow Presidium Inc., an early education start-up focused on end user support services and then joined the Education Advisory Board as General Manager of its Education Technology. At EAB, Andrew and his team evolved analytics and predictive modeling technologies to address the rising issues around student retention and student success. Most recently, Andrew served as the Sr. Executive Vice President and Head of Product at MicroStrategy, a world-class enterprise analytics platform company.


Free eBook: Rapid Digital Transformation for your Faculty Affairs Processes

Compiled and published in the time of COVID-19, our free eBook pulls together best practices around online faculty evaluations and professional reviews, planning ahead for future digital transformation, and more.