Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor and Director of Academic Literacies Tutoring Center

Anne Arundel Community College

Maisha L. Cannon

Founder and Chief Learner

The Collab Lab, Inc.

As an English faculty member, I distinctly remember when the eruption of AI resources became available and popularly explored by students. In higher ed, some of us faculty thought the world was coming to an end. From my personal experience, it felt like every department and school meeting centered around how to detect, “catch,” and stop students from using AI resources, as it was believed that these resources were used for things like completing the work for students, ultimately leading to or working a very thin line of plagiarism. 

After semesters of myself being agitated and annoyed by the conversations surrounding “why not” to use AI resources or “how to” catch students who are using AI resources, I got curious and wanted to learn more. In my exploration to learn more, I consulted with Maisha Cannon, AI enthusiast and Chief Learner at The Collab Lab, Inc. So, this piece shares my questions posed to her around faculty rethinking the usefulness of AI and her extremely valuable responses, which help to make me more knowledgeable and shift my thinking. When I asked Maisha, “Should faculty think twice about using AI?” she cheerfully responded, “Absolutely. Think twice, but lean into experimentation.” As a life and engagement coach, I then got curious about this idea of experimentation, and our conversation and collaboration around rethinking AI evolved. 

Rethinking AI in Higher Education

As I pondered this idea of experimentation, Maisha provided a framework that proved to be beneficial in helping me to think about my position and stance on using AI in the classroom. Maisha shared: 

The guiding principle is: Pause, Ponder, Proceed. This helps you strike a balance between curiosity and caution.

As you begin your AI journey, take three pivotal steps:

  1. Pause to recognize both the potential and pitfalls.
  2. Ponder the ethical implications and data privacy considerations.
  3. Proceed with a well-intentioned plan and a growth mindset.

Together, educators and learners can navigate the AI landscape with both excitement and responsibility. Artificial intelligence is not intended to replace the human element in education. While AI offers academic aid, the emotional support, mentorship, and classroom community-building remain firmly in human hands.  

A Deeper Dive into AI!

With Maisha’s “Pause, Ponder, Proceed” framework in mind, we explored three questions that helped me to continue learning and shaping my philosophy around AI resources and support. The questions I posed to Maisha are: 1. What is helpful for faculty to know about AI? What could make faculty reconsider using AI in the classroom? 2. If you were to create an AI starter pack for faculty to explore using AI, what would be in it? 3. What do you believe would be the benefits to faculty encouraging the use of AI in the classroom?

1. What is helpful for faculty to know about AI? What could make faculty reconsider using AI in the classroom?

If you’re cautious about AI, it’s crucial to thoughtfully integrate it into your existing workflows. Consider the ethical implications, data privacy concerns, and the potential for inherent biases. Always align with IT and legal departments for responsible implementation. 

So, you’ve paused to recognize the potential. Now, let’s ponder the next steps. 

For those curious about AI, the technology offers educators a powerful edge, often at little to no cost. Think of the latest round of generative AI tools as your “AI allies.” They’re designed to simplify, streamline, and enhance everyday tasks, transforming routine work into efficient processes. 

By managing these tasks, AI allows faculty to reclaim time, enabling them to focus on human-centric endeavors that only they can excel at, such as nurturing relationships with students and fostering collaborations with peers and colleagues.

2. If you were to create an AI starter pack for faculty to explore using AI, what would be in it?

I love this question! Now that you’ve paused to recognize the potential and pondered the implications, it’s time to proceed. Here’s your AI Starter Pack to help you take that step.

Daily Tools
Let’s start with a daily task: searching the web. Tools like You and Perplexity are great ways to ease into AI-powered search. As an alternative to Google/Bing, you can use these for your questions, queries, and curiosities.

For editing and audio transcription tasks, WordTune or Quillbot can elevate writing with real-time feedback and suggestions, ensuring clarity and precision in documents. For your video meetings, Fireflies can take notes, transcribe, summarize, search, and analyze voice conversations.

On the research front, Elicit and Scite can assist with literature reviews and finding academic papers. Hyperwrite works for grant writing support.

When you’re ready for a thought partner, you can brainstorm with your friendly local chatbot. Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, Claude, Llama, and PaLM can all be found on a single free platform: Poe, where all the cool chatbots hang out! 

On Poe, you can converse with a variety of large language models to find the one that suits you best. You can even create your own chatbot!

Available on desktop or mobile, these augmented advisors can assist in brainstorming, lesson planning, instructional design, and enhancing the teaching process—all without inputting sensitive student data.

What’s more, you can even prompt these LLMs to “Act as [someone prominent in your field]” for specialized insights. Imagine asking, “Act as Andrew Ng. Advise a faculty member on the three things they should do to champion AI in their classroom.” The possibilities are expansive.

I use ChatGPT-4 on my iPhone daily to ideate, research, and more. It’s like having a personal think tank that fits in your pocket.

Advanced Tools
Ready to bring your words to life visually? Try text-to-image generators like DALL·E 3 in Bing or SDXL 1.0. Both are perfect for generating free, quality images for social media, course materials, or event promotion. 

Now, for the wow factor! When you’re ready to impress your colleagues, try Scribe and Guidde for quick tutorials; Holler for real-time feedback during a lecture; Loom with AI for auto-titling, summaries, and task lists; and L&D’s own 7Taps for micro-lessons on the go!

These AI tools not only elevate your teaching methods but also create a dynamic learning environment, freeing you up to focus on meaningful student interactions.

I’ve put all these tools together for you in a Faculty AI Starter Pack. You can find it here:

3. What do you believe would be the benefits to faculty encouraging the use of AI in the classroom?

Before faculty can champion the benefits of AI to their students, they need firsthand experience with the technology. Engaging with AI tools enables educators to explore their potential, discovering firsthand the creativity and efficiency these solutions offer. Only with this personal experience can they authentically share both the wins and occasional woes of AI with their students. 

Once they’re ready, here are a few benefits to encouraging the use of AI in the classroom:

  • Demystifying Technology: Proactive use and endorsement of AI by faculty can help demystify the technology, creating a classroom culture that embraces tech.
  • Innovative Curriculum Development: Artificial intelligence expands the horizon for diverse assignment types and introduces varied methods of expression. By incorporating AI, faculty can design enriched and diverse learning experiences.
  • Personal Tutoring with AI: Tools like GPT can serve as invaluable personal tutors, offering tailored support to students without delay. 
  • The Human-AI Collaborative Loop: This unique approach to brainstorming and decision-making pairs human intuition with AI’s data-driven insights. Pairing human intuition and creativity with AI’s vast data-driven insights creates a synergy where ideas are refined, expanded, and optimized in real time.

Whether you’re AI-curious or AI-cautious, the key is to pause, ponder, and proceed. This balanced approach will help educators and students alike navigate the complex landscape of AI in education.

As with any technology, AI use comes with its challenges. Data privacy, ethical use, and the fight against inherent biases are paramount. It’s vital for educators and institutions to address these challenges head-on to ensure a fair and inclusive environment that sets students up for success in today’s competitive workforce. 

As a final thought, to paraphrase Richard Baldwin, Professor of International Economics, “AI won’t likely replace you, but someone using AI will.”

Final Thoughts

It is our hope that something from this post resonates with readers and opens windows of opportunity to become more curious and engage in more conversation around AI resources and support. Additionally, we are curious to know what others feel about AI in the classroom and how it may be used.

Have anything to add? Feel free to reach out on X (Twitter): @Tomlinantione or @talentgenie. 

Acknowledgements from Maisha
A heartfelt thanks to Dr. Tomlin for the thought-provoking questions and ChatGPTisha, my AI ally in this human-AI collaborative loop.

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor and Director of Academic Literacies Tutoring Center at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Maisha L. Cannon is the Founder and Chief Learner at The Collab Lab, Inc., where she specializes in transformative L&D programs for recruiting teams. Maisha holds a certification in Virtual Training & Facilitation from the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Social Links: LinkedIn/X (Twitter)

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

Historically, university leadership (Presidents and Provosts) have come from STEM and business fields. We know that these backgrounds are important, but we also know that we have to have that humanistic aspect—otherwise, we find ourselves dealing with complex questions without having the full context of what it means for our longevity as a species. As a social scientist, I bring that love of humanity to my work in higher education.  

Importance of Humanities and Fine Arts Faculty in University Leadership Roles

It’s essential to have a humanistic approach in higher education. As a Co-Principal Investigator on the Mellon Foundation’s Breaking the Mold grant, I’m working with colleagues at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and the University of Maryland to change the future of higher education leadership. 

It was exciting—Mellon approached our university Presidents back in 2020 about how we could solve this challenge. We went big; we thought expansively about leadership development and, as faculty ourselves, what would have helped our upward trajectory to Dean, Vice Provost, Associate Vice President, and Provost. 

I’m really proud of the program that we developed and Mellon funded—it’s like a dream come true for me and my colleagues. Our program focuses on faculty in the humanities and the adjacent social sciences, mostly women and people of color. We’re in our second cohort, with 15 faculty members across our campus who receive individualized leadership guidance, $10,000 for professional development, and the opportunity to apply for their campus allotment of an additional $50,000 for research or more substantive professional development. 

Some of them have gone to the HERS Leadership Institute, the management development program at Harvard. Some of them are now getting course release time to finish a manuscript because they want to move to full and that will help them. These funds and opportunities are a game-changer for faculty, who may not have gotten the attention or face time with campus leaders. We’re investing in them. 

Faculty Career Roadmaps 

A traditional career roadmap for faculty exists, and faculty should proceed along their established timelines from Associate Professor to Chair to Full Professor, equitably being recognized for their contributions to teaching, service, and research. And it’s always straightforward, right? I laugh as I type this because, in my experience, a roadmap doesn’t exist, and leadership development is uneven. And, when you add in race, gender, discipline—it gets infinitely more complex. We have had very honest conversations about how the traditional way is not the only way. How can we amplify the outliers and the value of diverse perspectives and backgrounds? These are all conversations that we should have across higher ed, and they’re just different nuances. 

My own background in my position at Morgan is not traditional. My path to tenure included serving as the Director of The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston. In that dual capacity, I not only ran an archival repository and museum—I also curated four exhibitions a year, oversaw 40–50 public programs, and had teaching responsibilities. In addition, I had service responsibilities. While it wasn’t traditional, it did give me the administrative background to succeed in my current administrative appointment. 

As part of the Mellon grant, we’ve had these important conversations about pathways to academic leadership. There isn’t one right way, especially for faculty like me coming from the humanities or cross-disciplinary fields. 

Not All Service Is Equal

A key lesson we try to import into this faculty development cohort is about service. We need to have honest discussions about service, and teach faculty how to be discerning about high-value, high-stakes services versus low-value, low-stakes services. Often, women and people of color are given the latter. Leaders must call it out when they see this happening. At the College of Charleston, I was a co-founder of the Black Women Resource Center, and part of its mission was to advocate for my peers to the President and others about these ongoing issues. Faculty may not be able to speak up, so it’s incumbent on us faculty leaders to do so.

There’s not enough credit given to some of the service work that faculty might do in preparation for leadership roles. This is a challenge in higher education—we don’t always acknowledge all of that work or credit it the way we should. In addition, many faculty may not know the steps they need to take to become a Dean or Associate Vice Provost. Some who have put in great service work—cultivating grad students, organizing co-curricular activities, and that sort of thing—and are primed for leadership, but may not have been tapped on the shoulder and asked if they’ve thought about trying to get into these roles. Presidents can often be more focused on STEM and R1 ascendency, which isn’t a bad thing, but that means humanities and social sciences can get lost in the shuffle. 

This project has made us really think differently about how people move up to leadership. It is imperative for us as leaders—as mentors—to make sure that our faculty are getting the development they need. Not only to make our institutions better and to be the best faculty that they can be for our students, but we should be in the business of helping our faculty grow. It’s important to do that—we should all be lifting as we climb in these positions.

Author Bio:

Dr. Patricia Williams Dockery currently serves as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Morgan State University. She is a writer, playwright, scholar-activist, and international commentator who is consulted for her expertise on diversity, equity, and inclusion; social justice; and Black women’s intersectional experiences. She has developed educational public programs for grades K—12 and general audiences at the Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the College of Charleston Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture. 

Dr. Dockery is a Fulbright Scholar and earned a PhD in anthropology from the University of Illinois Chicago. A transdisciplinary educator and artist, her play, Septima!, about the life and work of civil rights organizing mastermind and revolutionary educator Septima Poinsette Clark, debuted at Charleston’s PURE Theatre. She and her husband share a beautiful blended family of seven children and a loving boxer-hound mix named Sadie Mae.

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

Every year, administrators and department chairs are responsible for evaluating faculty performance. During the annual review process, these stakeholders will review the information and feedback they’ve gained about each professor in order to see who is eligible for promotion, tenure, and pay increases.

While there are factual pieces of information that play a role in the faculty evaluation process, such as years of service and scholarly publications, other more subjective factors hold significant weight in the evaluation. In order to properly evaluate the more ambiguous elements of faculty performance, universities should have an unbiased faculty evaluation system in place. A purpose-built platform that is designed for the collection of faculty data—and the use of that data in evaluations—is essential for both equity and efficiency. Find out more about how a comprehensive faculty evaluation system can ensure faculty receive necessary feedback and support.

What Is the Faculty Evaluation Process?

The faculty evaluation process is a multi-stage process that incorporates feedback from many stakeholders, including peers and students. Faculty evaluation, as a broad term, can refer to annual faculty reviews that most universities conduct, promotion and tenure decisions, honors and awards, and more. Thus, the results of evaluations can be used in a myriad of ways, including to inform faculty development and advise on faculty’s next career step.

How Does Faculty Evaluation Software Promote Fairness?

One of the primary ways a faculty evaluation system helps the institution increase its equity, diversity, and inclusion is by providing greater transparency. A comprehensive, unified software makes sure your institution is providing equity in terms of pay, tenure, and promotion across multiple demographics. For instance, are female faculty members being offered the same salaries as male faculty members with the same credentials and experience? Are faculty members of color being granted tenure at the same rate as their white colleagues? A faculty evaluation system can answer each of these questions to ensure faculty members are being acknowledged, paid, and rewarded in equitable ways.

Another way this technology improves fairness in the institution is by providing a transparent look at faculty achievements, giving faculty greater visibility into the data and content being assessed for review. While data can be ingested on their behalf, it’s important to use a platform that gives faculty control over their academic story with the ability to curate and validate the various pieces included. This way, when a faculty member is being considered for tenure, the fact that their article won a major professional award three years ago will be included in their review, thereby being acknowledged rather than overlooked. A faculty evaluation system may also track achievements beyond the traditional triad of research, teaching, and service. For instance, a faculty evaluation system could include records of op-eds a faculty member has published and other measures of impact. 

Lastly, software specifically built for faculty evaluation ensures that the review processes are conducted in a consistent manner across all faculty, with documentation and an audit trail along the way.

Who Should Be Included in the Faculty Evaluation System?

In order to ensure your faculty evaluation system is performing at its peak effectiveness, it’s important to determine who should be involved in the faculty evaluation process and who should be integrated into the platform. Faculty members, department chairs, and administrators all need to be included in order for this process to be fair and efficient. Including the faculty member being evaluated in the reporting system is crucial—not only is it useful for them to view the gathered information in order to perform a self-analysis of their performance, but this also creates transparency that encourages them to be active participants rather than passive observers in the assessment process.

The department chair of the faculty member going through the evaluation process should be able to review relevant information that is included on this platform. Whether or not the faculty member is eligible for a promotion, the chair of the department should have access to the faculty member’s quantitative and qualitative information. That way, they can work together to plan opportunities for professional development.

Along with the faculty member who is being evaluated and their department chair, it’s important to include administrators in the faculty evaluation system. While they may not be required to attend every annual review, they will need to be made aware of any departmental changes that occur before or during the evaluation sessions. For instance, administrators should know which faculty members are eligible for tenure. In addition, they may work directly with department chairs to assess which individuals may be eligible for a promotion. An integrated Faculty Information System (FIS) takes the guesswork out of career milestones and can initiate cases—on the correct timelines—in a faculty evaluation system.

Features of a Successful Faculty Evaluation System

In order to provide fair, accurate feedback for all faculty members, a faculty evaluation system must offer meaningful information that can guide academics’ professional growth. This evaluation should contain both qualitative and quantitative information, which the faculty member can refer back to as they develop their skills and experience.

A faculty evaluation system must also contain information that can be used to determine personnel decisions within the department or institution. While annual reviews aim to guide individuals’ professional development, they also determine faculty members’ performance in comparison to the rest of the staff.

One comprehensive faculty evaluation system can serve both purposes. It can gather detailed data from faculty members and compile information over time to reflect faculty members’ performance patterns that can impact department decisions, including tenure, promotion, and merit raises.

Types of Data that Support Faculty Evaluation

As previously mentioned, administrators and peers use different types of quantitative and qualitative data to evaluate faculty on their performance throughout the academic year. Exactly what information is needed in order to develop a fair and accurate faculty report?

Quantitative information

Certain information is necessary for administrators and department chairs to determine which employees are eligible for promotion. For instance, a part-time instructor who has put in a number of years of service and has yielded great results may be given a full-time course load if the university believes they can add value to the organization. In addition, it is necessary that universities collect certain pieces of information for compliance and bookkeeping; storing this information in a faculty evaluation system thereby serves multiple purposes.

Some of the tangible, easily reportable elements that make up a faculty evaluation include:

  • Years of service: The amount of time a faculty member has been with the university is a crucial component in determining whether or not they qualify for tenure or promotion.
  • Prestigious awards and fellowships: It’s worthwhile to keep track of which of your faculty members have earned grants and which instructors have been nominated for teaching awards and fellowships. This information can be used by department chairs and tenure committees recommending to the administration that these faculty members be promoted.

Qualitative information

Data collected regarding a faculty member’s performance that cannot be measured or reported numerically tends to be less standardized and more difficult to gather than quantitative data. Nevertheless, it provides immense value to a faculty report.

Some pieces of qualitative data that should be compiled in a faculty evaluation system and may be shared in annual reviews include the following:

  • Student perspectives: A numerical scale may not be able to capture an educator’s ability to communicate with students. However, the information students share about different faculty members in their course evaluations is worth noting. This may include faculty achievements or ways they can improve their teaching performance to resonate more with their students.
  • Professional successes: Perhaps a faculty member’s recent publications caused a department to gain credibility within its field. It’s important to gather information that suggests educators’ professional growth, as this reflects an asset they bring to the department and institution as a whole.
  • Quality of classroom instruction: A faculty member’s ability to coordinate classroom dynamics and plan out their courses throughout an academic year is an important element of the faculty evaluation process. Although student evaluations can provide useful information, evaluators may want the perspective of someone familiar with the challenges of teaching. This typically involves another educator—most likely the department chair—sitting in on a few class sessions and receiving certain materials, including syllabi, assignments, and exams.

Feedback on Current Faculty Evaluation Systems and Processes

When faculty members, department chairs, or administrators have any questions throughout the faculty evaluation process, they can look to a handful of sources. Faculty members who have questions about the system may be able to communicate their issues or concerns with their department chair or administration. However, every university is going to have different rules and regulations for who can access what data within the faculty evaluation system.

With any technology you implement for faculty processes, you may occasionally find that you have questions or require support that can only be handled by the provider. This is where it benefits your university to use a high-quality faculty reporting and evaluation platform that offers client services, technical resources, and a responsive support team to help you through every step of your journey. More often than not, it benefits the institution at large when administrators contact the platform’s support network. That way, they can resolve issues for all faculty members at once rather than on an individual basis.

Interfolio Streamlines the Faculty Evaluation Process

If your institution is ready to move away from clunky evaluation and reporting systems, it may be the right time to make the change to Interfolio’s Faculty Information System. The most comprehensive platform of its kind, the Interfolio FIS streamlines faculty processes, enabling academic leaders to effectively advance institutions and their academic staff. If you’d like to find out more about Interfolio, get in touch with us to see how integrating our technology into your institution’s review process can improve the accuracy and fairness of faculty evaluations.

Sometime during the COVID winter of AY 20–21, I started to imagine our faculty as a forest.

Maybe it was Zoom fatigue. Or maybe it was my own research: my book “Why We Left” (Minnesota, 2013) examined the enclosure and destruction of English forests as a precipitant of the mass displacement of English to North America. Forests held it all together for rural English people—protecting waterways, providing habitat for game animals and bees, producing nuts during food-scarce winters, and anchoring the shared imagination that held communities together. When their forests were threatened with enclosure and privatization, people rioted. When forests were destroyed, as hundreds of thousands of acres were, communities dissolved.  

What holds faculty communities together? Deeply shared professional values—a “deep conviction of the worth and dignity of the advancement of knowledge” and regard for “common membership in the community of scholars”—can motivate academic discovery, inspired teaching, extraordinary service, and, well, riots once in a while. Could a values-anchored commitment to care (and the promise of a steady paycheck) bring us through a global pandemic?

The Multifaceted Work of Faculty

During our long COVID winter, I saw San Diego State University faculty drawing from deeply held collective values to hold our campus together by extending care and generosity to each other and to our 38,000 students. As did faculty around the world, our professors served as classroom first responders and Zoom lifelines, even as they shouldered the burdens the pandemic brought to us all—and disproportionately to our colleagues of color.

Returning to campus after those brutal lockdown months, I could see the toll this effort took not only on individuals but on the collective health, communication, collegiality, energy, and continuity of our faculty. 

This is what “common membership in the community of scholars” means after all: faculty work is a collective, interconnected experience. Faculty are rooted in and evolve in the context of campuses, disciplines, and communities that have their own distinctive histories, climates, vulnerabilities, and stressors. 

The multifaceted work of faculty—as teachers, researchers, artists, and stewards of the university’s academic mission—is held together by a million largely invisible strands of interrelatedness and interaction, just as forests are—as our colleagues in biology have shown—held together by massive underground fungi. 

The benefits a well-rooted, diverse, and healthy faculty can generate are, like those of an old-growth forest, simultaneously essential, invisible, and precious: the generative cultivation of knowledge for the common good, the inculcation of disciplines of critical inquiry and communication essential to the health of human societies, and, perhaps most importantly, the opportunity for young people to participate in such a hopeful collective experiment during their formative years.

COVID pushed me to (forgive the cliche) see the forest for the trees. It led me to conceive my post-pandemic work as an Associate Vice President of Faculty Advancement and Student Success, not primarily as developing individual faculty members (a verb I’ve never liked) but rather supporting the community of scholars that hold my university together.

Fostering a Culture of Faculty Support

Faculty support is more than training chairs to carry out routine managerial processes, dispensing helpful tips on managing professional pitfalls, or staging tenure and promotion workshops. Before, during, and after the pandemic, our robustly diverse assistant professoriate was, in fact, achieving tenure and promotion at very high rates. But they were stressed—by the fraying of their own physical or mental health, the impossible math of stretching a public university salary to cover the costs of living in California, by new expectations from students for teaching multi-modality and ubiquitous online availability, by the many righteous but loosely coordinated “asks” proliferating from university offices, and even by the abrasive conduct of a few colleagues.

Fostering a culture of faculty support means recognizing faculty as the critical and distinctive resource of any university—a resource that deserves ongoing care and repair. We often talk of the liabilities of “deferred maintenance” when it comes to facilities; what are the “deferred maintenance” liabilities we face post-COVID in our human infrastructure and our collegial relationships? What are the most important investments a university can make in the future of its faculty, collectively conceived? How do universities support the well-being of this hopeful and sometimes difficult profession and its hopeful and sometimes difficult constituents?

For my part, I still offer workshops, but I start everyone with a catechism of questions prompted by my SDSU colleague Lacie Barber, a professor of industrial and organizational psychology, whose research on telestress and its related work demands has won national notice:

  • Are you checking email after 5 PM or on weekends? Do you have email notifications set on your phone, and if so, why?
  • Are you holding at least 20% of your calendar for your own research, scholarship, or creative activity?
  • Are you limiting your 1:1s to 20 minutes or convening advisees in groups?
  • Do you have a regularly convening accountability/writing group?

Taking Action for Faculty Advancement

I now urge junior and senior faculty alike to dismantle the air of doom and mystery that still hangs over our tenure and promotion processes, an unhelpful residue of the days when hazing (like dating your graduate students) was seemingly an accepted element of faculty culture.

I now use my resources to fund a Women Faculty of Color support group led by women faculty of color who are credentialed in psychology and the counseling fields, with participants reporting positive outcomes in terms of their well-being and persistence.

In addition, I have started consistently elevating housing as a critical “faculty advancement” priority in my conversations—which is critical because faculty work best when they feel securely rooted. 

It can be tough putting down roots in San Diego these days, but they do it. 

Like the ribbons of centuries-old oak trees and fire-scarred sycamores in the canyons just north of campus, faculty hold on through tough circumstances. 

They are tough, sometimes gnarly. They are key to the whole ecology. 

Deep in their treebones, most of the time, they know what they are doing.

Author Bio: 

Joanna Brooks is an award-winning author and editor of 10 books on race, religion, gender, social movements, and American culture. She has appeared in global media outlets, including the BBC, NPR, the Daily Show, CNN, MSNBC, and The Washington Post. 

Joanna is a graduate of the CSU Executive Leadership program and a founder of SDSU’s Digital Humanities Center and Shared Governance Leadership Institute. She holds a PhD in English from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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

Effective faculty recruitment ensures that institutions can attract and retain top talent. Recruiting high-quality faculty members contributes to institutional growth by driving revenue, rank, and prestige, attracting talented students and researchers who can bring new ideas and perspectives to the institution. Additionally, academic hiring is vital in ensuring that the university remains competitive and relevant in a rapidly changing academic landscape.

Understanding the Academic Landscape for Faculty Recruitment

The higher education landscape is constantly evolving, so institutions are always on the lookout for talented individuals who can teach and conduct research in a variety of academic fields to meet shifting needs. But it’s not just about finding candidates with the necessary qualifications and experience to succeed in academic roles—it’s crucial also to identify those who can contribute to the institution’s goals. 

Hiring the best and brightest minds helps institutions maintain their reputation for excellence and stay ahead of the curve, and these efforts require a strong and thoughtful faculty recruitment strategy to attract top talent. To ensure a competitive edge, universities must keep up with the shifting needs in academia, such as the growing importance of interdisciplinary research and greater diversity among faculty members. The academic landscape is complex and dynamic, requiring institutions to be strategic, innovative, and adaptable in their faculty recruitment efforts.

Creating a Successful Faculty Recruitment Strategy

Define Your Institution’s Value Proposition

If your institution is looking to enhance faculty recruitment efforts, there are steps you can take to improve both efficiency and effectiveness. As you develop your faculty recruitment strategy with attracting top talent in mind, consider the value your institution brings to both faculty and students. What sets your institution apart? What are the institution’s mission, vision, and core values? This may include a commitment to DEI initiatives, delivering low faculty-to-student ratios, becoming a destination campus, or offering top-tier research opportunities.

Create In-Depth and Engaging Job Descriptions

Cultivating the relationship with potential faculty members begins with the job announcement, which may be potential candidates’ first exposure to your institution as an employer. Here, you should offer clear expectations for the role while highlighting details that will appeal to your ideal candidate, such as benefits provided by your institution, how the institution supports work/life balance for faculty members, and the academic opportunities they could see from your institution throughout their career. 

When it comes to academic hiring, it’s important to note that some candidates may shy away from jobs if the description is not an exact match, so be careful and inclusive with the language used. While it’s vital to detail departmental needs and expectations for an open position, it’s also wise to leave room for flexibility in order to attract a wider pool of candidates representing diverse backgrounds. In essence, the job announcement is a sales pitch, so careful thought must go into attracting the best and brightest candidates on the job market.

Form a Search Committee

A core component of academic hiring is assembling the faculty search committee, which will be responsible for carrying out the search plan’s disciplined steps. Consisting of multiple faculty members—including tenured and untenured individuals—along with a committee chair to ensure the integrity of the search, the search committee will develop the evaluation criteria for candidates. Research demonstrates that groups of individuals with varying viewpoints arrive at sounder decisions, so the committee should include faculty with an array of sub-disciplinary knowledge, members from underrepresented groups, and individuals with relevant expertise from outside the department. This approach with divergent perspectives will be beneficial during the initial review of applications, the panel interview process, and when it comes time to select the ideal candidate for an offer.   

Throughout each part of the process, committee members will need to be prepared to demonstrate how they have sought diverse, wide-ranging candidates, and they will need to record all activities. Using a faculty information system (FIS) for academic hiring enables the recording and retention of data, beginning with job advertisements and continuing to applications and dossier review through to interactions with candidates. Gathering this information allows you to compare the makeup of your candidate pools with national standards and helps support your DEI initiatives. 
At University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), search committees evaluate the diversity of candidate pools using data gathered in Interfolio. UMBC then compares their data to national standards, helping spot potential problems before it’s too late. From there, they can check back in with committees about their approach and any signs of implicit bias, ensuring their recruitment processes are more inclusive. These efforts are modernizing faculty recruiting and hiring practices at UMCB, helping the institution prioritize faculty diversity.

Use Digital Channels to Boost Your Reach

Digital channels are an essential part of the recruitment process, helping search committees expand their reach when advertising job openings. Are you leveraging social media, job boards, and your institution’s website to connect with potential candidates from all over the world? These channels also allow for more targeted advertising, delivering your job ads directly to individuals with the appropriate skills and experience to fit your needs. Ultimately, utilizing these channels for job advertising can save your search committee valuable time while also increasing the likelihood of finding the right candidate, making this an important piece of your faculty recruitment strategy.

Build Relationships With Academic Networks

Your relationships within academic networks can be highly beneficial when searching for new faculty members. While attending conferences, job fairs, or even sparking engagement with peers in online communities, your opportunities for collaboration with like-minded individuals from other institutions become much more significant. These relationships can prove invaluable when it comes to academic hiring. Through your connections within the field, you may even learn about academics seeking new opportunities who are the perfect fit for your institution—before their resume hits the open market.

The Benefits of an Effective Faculty Recruitment Strategy

Faculty searches are among the most important tasks at higher education institutions because these decisions will impact both the near- and far-term future. But when faculty recruitment is approached more thoughtfully using best practices, the benefits extend across faculty, administration, and the institution as a whole. With an effective faculty recruitment strategy in place, search committees can access a more robust pool of qualified candidates, existing faculty gain more trust in the process, and institutional goals—including DEI initiatives—can be more easily attained.

Track Review, Promotion, and Tenure Processes Post-Hire

Once you’ve identified and hired the ideal candidate for your desired role, their journey at your institution is only just beginning. A faculty member is a major investment, and keeping them engaged—from hire to retire—should be a priority. It’s important to use tools that enable efficient, fair evaluations of faculty while also giving faculty members under review a positive experience and a seamless way to share their contributions. Digitizing this process can be beneficial for everyone involved, housing relevant details in one convenient location and delivering a consistent source of reliable information to all parties. 
As faculty members move throughout their career journey at your institution, you should consider tools that help you seamlessly manage appointment, workload, and advancement processes. Interfolio offers a simple-to-navigate, searchable database of your entire faculty, helping you visualize career paths as well as anticipate and plan for upcoming milestones.

How Georgetown University Enhanced Its Faculty Recruitment Efforts

With different schools and departments each following their own individual approach to faculty hiring, Georgetown University faced issues with incomplete reporting. “When you have this kind of Wild West, it’s impossible to gather all the demographic data from all of the processes across the University to see how well you’re doing in attracting diverse faculty,” said Charlie Leonhardt, Georgetown University’s Director of Online Initiatives and Innovation.

By adopting Interfolio across the university, Georgetown was able to connect Workday to faculty recruitment through Interfolio’s API, creating greater consistency and making the faculty hiring process much easier for departments, candidates, and administrators alike. While the university previously had incomplete and isolated pools of new faculty demographic data across campus, the team now has one central and complete source of demographic data, gathered in Interfolio and then automatically sent to and stored in Workday.

Using Interfolio to Meet Your Academic Hiring Goals

Interfolio’s comprehensive FIS covers the whole academic recruitment process—including the job board and applications, confidential letters, fair committee review, and collection of diversity data. With Interfolio, your institution can save time for faculty hiring committees, enable efficient and fair recruitment decisions, recruit more strategically and effectively, and deliver on diversity and inclusion efforts. Reach out today to learn how Interfolio can help support faculty recruitment at your institution.

Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

Meghan MacNamara, MFA

Assistant Professor

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences

Within higher education, especially as faculty, sometimes we get caught up in the routines, checklists, and essential tasks as we prepare for another semester. While our time can be consumed with what we must do and how we must do it, we must also remember that we can bring creativity and autonomy to the process. Furthermore, we need to remember that we can shake things up and bring even more fun, excitement, and ease to our process. In this post, two higher education educators share some ways to shake up the start of the semester with some reminders of how we, as faculty, can survive and thrive in the beginning weeks of the new semester.

Tip 1: Foster Connection 

It is vitally important to be approachable at all points in the semester, but especially as a first impression. To accomplish this, I add a personal photo to my syllabus, something less austere than my forced-smiling, half-grimacing faculty headshot. Whether teaching face-to-face or fully online, providing an introduction that reinforces humanity can soften the classroom atmosphere. While my introduction email explains course expectations and allays students’ most frequent worries, it also gets personal. I might share that I was once an aspiring boxer, that I love coffee and gardening, or that I foster rescue dogs. Because teachers can be intimidating without meaning to be, and students can be hesitant to reach out with questions or concerns, reinforcing our shared humanity is important. Teachers can also make themselves less intimidating by giving students permission to make an authentic connection alongside course-related communications.

Tip 2: Embrace a Beginner’s Mind

After teaching for several years, it’s easy to forget how overwhelming the start of the semester can be for students, so starting the semester with a beginner’s mind can be helpful. For example, a first-generation college student might not know what instructors mean by office hours, so having an explanation in the syllabus can be helpful. I explain that it is time for students to drop in to discuss their progress in my course, questions, study tips, or favorite pastry recipes. I let them know that it’s their time if they want to use it, and they don’t need an appointment. The door is open, which is the first step to reducing anxiety, increasing success, and starting the semester on a positive course. 

Tip 3: Get Organized

While this may seem fundamental, organization of meetings, emails, classes, and self-care is vital to the start of any semester, be it Summer, Spring, Winter, or Fall. Getting organized can be something we take for granted, especially if we have been teaching for several years, or if we are teaching the same courses each semester. However, taking the time to get organized can help faculty get off to a great and productive start. Some strategies to get organized include setting time boundaries, as it is essential to establish working times and off times. Think about when you want to be “on” and when you need to be “off.” While you may have to deviate from this schedule or routine at times, it is crucial to have a plan. Additionally, we encourage faculty to honestly examine all they have on their plate and think about which things were added because you were voluntold and which were added because they fuel your passion and light up your core values. Being mindful of what you have on your plate and how you spend your time, energy, and effort can help you recognize when you need to make shifts that could prevent fatigue, burnout, and, in some cases, resentment of your institution or the field.

Tip 4: Ask for What You Need!

As educators, we are expected to provide the love, care, and support our students and colleagues may require or need. However, we sometimes forget that we must ask for what we need. We encourage you to find something that will serve as a structure and reminder to ask for what you need. If you do not permit yourself to ask for what you need, who will? When thinking about what you might need to feel supported and positioned for success, ask yourself:

  • What do I want or need more or less of?
  • What is helping me to honor my core values?
  • What is on my plate that brings me joy/What is on my plate that brings me challenge?
  • What is on my wishlist of resources this academic year?

Lastly, we encourage you to be mindful to ask for what you need from your colleagues, students, and personal social networks, too!

Have anything to add? Feel free to continue the conversation with us on Twitter: @TomlinAntione.

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Meghan MacNamara, MFA is an Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences, where she teaches online asynchronous writing and medical humanities courses.

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

Get a Demo for Your College or University

Find out why the Interfolio platform is so popular among leading institutions.

September has been a busy and exciting month for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Last week, the latest Fulbright HBCU Institutional Leaders were announced, in which 19 institutions were recognized for “their noteworthy engagement with the Fulbright Program during the 2022–23 academic year.” Congratulations to these exceptional institutions!

In addition, this year’s annual National HBCU Week Conference is currently in full swing in Arlington, Virginia, where leaders in the field have gathered together for a week of sessions that have a common theme of “Raising the Bar: Forging Excellence Through Innovation & Leadership.” 

“HBCUs have been critically important to providing educational opportunity for generations of Black Americans and broader communities of color,” shared Dr. Dietra Trent, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, in the press release from the Department of Education (DOE). “HBCU Week will feature workshops, engagements, keynote addresses, and interactive exhibits that will connect vital federal and private resources to the HBCU community.”

Sessions on education excellence, innovation, and equity have been presented by a number of government departments, including the U.S. Departments of Education, Commerce, State, and more.

In addition, there are two other HBCU events to look forward to this week: the HBCU+ Entrepreneurship Conference hosted by Bowie State University and the 5th Annual National HBCU Week Conference Career and Recruitment Fair.

As we follow along with the conferences this week, we’re thrilled to celebrate and highlight stories and thought leadership from several of the HBCUs that have partnered with Interfolio.

How Elizabeth City State University Decreased Administrative Burden

Adopting a digital platform purpose-built for faculty affairs has many advantages. So many, in fact, that Elizabeth City State University is still discovering new ones. Read this essential case study to learn how Interfolio helped ECSU modernize processes and capture the full scope of their work—enabling this innovative HBCU to drive strategic alignment and demonstrate their institution’s impact. 

Embracing Inclusivity at Florida A&M University

In 2020, Interfolio hosted a panel discussion on achieving faculty diversity, where Dr. Genyne Boston, Associate Provost at Florida A&M University, shared insights around building a diverse and inclusive faculty body, the importance of faculty data, and using modern technology to create a more inclusive and more diversely represented academic workforce. Check out the blog post to learn more about these insights from Dr. Boston and other panelists. 

Digitizing Faculty Processes at Xavier University of Louisiana

Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) was dealing with the challenges of working with paper-based data: having to comb through stacks of files and making calls to verify information and fill in blanks—all while facing deadlines. In this case study, learn how this esteemed HBCU partnered with Interfolio to streamline data, enabling them to more easily complete grant applications, promote the University, and respond to their accreditation body. 

Insights on Navigating Challenges From Students at Morgan State University 

It’s important to create a great environment for students to flourish and succeed as they work toward obtaining their degrees. However, there are a number of challenges that may arise and cause roadblocks in their education journey. In this blog post, returning blogger Dr. Antione D. Tomlin partners with Morgan State University doctoral students Geoffrey Colbert and Joshua Spivey to provide insights into challenges students have faced at HBCUs—as well as how faculty members can navigate students through those challenges and support them in a variety of ways.

Learn More: Discover the ways in which faculty data can contribute to institutional success.  

At Interfolio, we’re proud to partner with a number of HBCUs like Elizabeth City State University, Xavier University of Louisiana, Florida A&M University, Morgan State University, Tuskegee University, Bowie State University, and more to drive institutional success and streamline processes for faculty hiring and recruitment, academic appointments and timelines, activity data reporting, and reviews and promotions. If you’re interested in learning how to drive strategic impact at your institution, schedule a demo to learn how the Interfolio Faculty Information System can help.

Last month, Interfolio clients and staff from across the country convened for Interfolio Summit 2023 in Washington, DC. Over three days, attendees participated in a variety of insightful discussions, workshops, and networking opportunities focused on driving institutional success. 

During the event, faculty affairs leaders shared what’s going on at their institutions, their biggest concerns in their roles, and what they need most from their tech. Here are the top five takeaways from this year’s Summit—and how your peers in faculty affairs are addressing these challenges:

1. Workload

Faculty workloads—and how to track workload in order to drive equity—was a top theme this year. Since workload is often not transparent or equitable, high-performing faculty tend to take the brunt while chairs and deans have to both manage faculty performance and a host of other duties—often with little to no training.

The team from Texas Christian University discussed their efforts to launch a faculty workload equity model, noting that they initially struggled with decentralized, PDF-heavy data. “Any perceptions of a person’s workload could be anecdotal—sometimes unrealistic—and this leads to certain people being overextended,” shared Mica Bibb, Associate Director of Faculty Services, Appointments & Recruitment. “And this can lead to frustration for some who might feel like they volunteer and serve for everything and complacency for others who might feel like they’re on the good side of that equation.”

This highlighted the need for a quantitative tool to consider and enhance equity within departments, disciplines, and academic units, so they looked to their Interfolio platform for this use case. After piloting their workload model this past spring, the team looks forward to continuing their efforts and using the data they’ve gathered to initiate change. “We’ll be thinking about how we can go about enhancing workload equity,” shared M. Francyne Huckaby, Associate Provost of Faculty Affairs. “How we can use the data to address those inequities, and how we can monitor the progress that we’re doing.”

2. Faculty Buy-in and Engagement

Always a hot topic amongst faculty affairs professionals, our clients shared their success stories around faculty buy-in and engagement. We asked attendees for the most successful action they’ve taken at their institution to garner faculty adoption, turning their responses into a word cloud that highlighted training, internal documentation, closed-loop feedback, and office hours as top actions supporting their efforts.

When it comes to faculty buy-in and engagement with Interfolio, clients attributed their success to the platform being so user-friendly and easy to use. “The Interfolio system is built so that it really allows faculty to go in, do what they need to do, and then go back to their teaching and research,” shared Alpa Khatri, Senior Technology Manager at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. “So, at the end of the day, we’re all happy.” Being able to show faculty how Interfolio directly helps them makes it significantly easier to get them on board—especially when it’s a minimal lift.

3. Impact

While everyone agreed that impact is important, academic leaders were quick to point out how incredibly difficult it can be for institutions to measure since impact means different things to different people and different academic disciplines. While it’s clear that impact contributes to an institution’s success—whether that’s meeting funding metrics, maintaining accreditation status, implementing DEI initiatives, or a host of other activities—measuring and proving impact can be a difficult process.

Susan Halsted, Program Support Coordinator at the University of Missouri, noted how her institution uses Interfolio to showcase faculty impact. UM maintains faculty data—such as publications, grants, honors, and awards—in Interfolio, which helps them keep track of everything faculty members are doing to drive institutional success. “We are focused on being able to show the work of our faculty,” said Halsted. “Our faculty success and impact contribute to our institution accreditation processes to maintain our high research level accreditations.” This information is also shared through the UM Faculty Scholars website, which highlights what faculty are doing—as well as the impact the university is having on their larger community. In addition, Halsted noted that being able to see all the work faculty are doing in one place helps the institution put up qualified faculty members for campus-level awards that they might not think to apply for.  

4. Integrations

Interfolio clients at this year’s Summit were eager to learn more about our integrations—and especially how Interfolio can help save them time when used with existing systems. 

Our team shared how Interfolio can be integrated with existing institutional systems—such as Workday, PeopleSoft, and even homegrown systems—through APIs, resulting in valuable time savings. If you think of your systems as a customer in a restaurant and Interfolio as the kitchen in that restaurant, the API is your server, delivering what you need when you need it. These integrations can automate processes, taking a lot of effort off your staff so that you are both saving time and receiving more accurate information in all of your various systems.  

Reducing effort for staff is incredibly important for faculty affairs leaders, and we are always looking for new ways to help achieve this. We’re constantly striving to improve our capabilities to ensure our clients can be more efficient and effective in their roles.

5. Data Access and Reporting

With Interfolio, clients are able to collect and access a wide range of data to support faculty lifecycle processes. During Summit, the Interfolio team shared ways to be more efficient in the Interfolio FIS, focusing on key points to keep in mind when making data decisions:

  • What is the goal?
  • How do you measure that goal?
  • Gathering information
  • Analyzing the data
  • Taking action on that information

With so much data readily available in the FIS, institutions are able to quickly generate reports for compliance, accreditation, and other vital activities—all while saving faculty and staff time. 

It was great to be back in person for Summit 2023, and we’re already thinking about how we’ll make next year’s event even better. We hope to see you there in 2024! 

In higher education, faculty are essential to the success of every institution. Focusing on effective faculty data management is critical to facilitating that success.

To remain healthy and competitive, a university must understand who its faculty are, how they are contributing to the institution, and how best to support them throughout their career lifecycle. Improving faculty data management can empower institutions to better meet regulatory requirements and increase collaboration, transparency, and equity in faculty affairs.

What Is Faculty Data Management?

Faculty data management is the collection, organization, maintenance, and analysis of information related to members of faculty at higher education institutions. This includes a broad range of data such as faculty members’ qualifications, publications and scholarship, teaching, service and mentoring activities, and other professional achievements, as well as information related to administrative processes, from hiring to promotion and tenure.

The breadth of data demands a centralized, specialized data management solution—keeping records on paper or in Excel workbooks no longer meets the needs of a modern university. Faculty Information Systems (FIS) are built specifically for higher education and combine multiple streams of information into one database, with reporting tools that allow users to analyze information and make better-informed decisions. These systems can also streamline workflows around shared governance decisions, automatically populating faculty review cases with CVs and digital copies of academic work.

What Are the Benefits of Faculty Data Management?

Streamlined Administrative Processes

An effective faculty data management solution tracks faculty information and pulls all relevant data into one central database—the FIS. Leaders and administrators are then able to review faculty activities, workloads, and accomplishments more easily. Administrative processes that were once time-consuming and repetitive become streamlined when faculty and leaders no longer need to hunt down information. Data readiness not only saves valuable time and effort but also enables greater accountability and transparency in critical processes to meet compliance and accreditation standards.

Stronger Data, Smarter Decisions

Armed with reliable data, higher education leaders can make more informed decisions that contribute to the efficiency and competitiveness of the institution as a whole. An FIS enables institutions to validate their dataset, analyze information, measure effectiveness and performance, and identify areas of growth and development.

Increased Transparency and Integrity

Faculty data management can also protect the integrity of core institutional processes through improved documentation. When a university is able to track faculty activities with validated data, leadership can approach faculty affairs with more confidence. Faculty will be more engaged, and the institution will have stronger accountability in faculty hiring, promotion, and review activities.

Key Considerations for Implementing a Data Management Solution

While there are many potential benefits of launching an FIS to support your faculty data management efforts, implementation led by trusted partners is key to realizing those benefits. The chosen system must work for the institution and contribute to faculty success—and thoughtful change management and faculty buy-in are essential.

Below are a few key considerations for any institution adopting a new FIS:

  • Identify institutional goals and evaluate whether a system provides tools that will strategically advance those goals.
  • Understand how the FIS will integrate with existing platforms and processes at the institution.
  • Plan ahead for training time and evaluation periods to ensure buy-in and successful implementation across faculty and staff.
  • Take steps to ensure the privacy and data security of all faculty and system users.
  • Recognize that human biases and systemic inequities can affect data. Be proactive and rigorous in using faculty data as a tool that can advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at the institution.

Challenges (and Solutions) for Implementing Faculty Information Systems

As with any system, institutions can encounter roadblocks during implementation. Faculty adoption may be slow, technology systems may clash, and data security and privacy requirements can provide additional hurdles. It’s crucial to highlight the benefits for faculty, staff, and other stakeholders and work with a partner that offers high-quality customer support and services. Look for solutions that will help your institution build reliable data by pulling your faculty members’ publication records and enabling easy validation.
By joining forces with the right partner, institutions can comfortably navigate challenges and be set up for institutional success. For example, the Harvard Graduate School of Education used Interfolio’s FIS to not only address challenges but also re-energize faculty and maximize their impact.

Transform Your Faculty Data Management With Interfolio

At Interfolio, we understand that faculty are central. Their success defines not only the success of the institutions they enrich but also higher education at large.

The Interfolio Faculty Information System is preferred by hundreds of leading institutions thanks to best-in-class faculty data management that saves you time, builds data-driven strategic capacity, and supports faculty throughout their professional lifecycle.

At Interfolio, we offer support through every step of your journey with us. We provide dedicated implementation support and ongoing professional services to ensure the FIS works for you and your institution. We take the time to understand your institution’s specific needs and assign dedicated resources to make your experience as seamless—and transformative—as possible. From the day you sign on with Interfolio as a partner, our teams are here to help ensure your success.
To find out what the Interfolio system can do for your institution, please schedule a demo today.

As a full-time faculty member celebrating the end of year ten teaching in higher education, I have found that my engagement with students significantly influences student success. While I cannot do the work for students, I can do the work for myself to be better, show up better, and perform better for them. As faculty, what we do matters. What we say matters, and what we do not say matters. How we show up and perform matters to students and dramatically impacts their success. This post will explore some of the learnings I have held onto over the past ten years of teaching.

Engagement Starts Before the First Class

While many institutions are moving toward faculty sending some form of contact before the first meeting, not all have implemented this effective practice. Whether face-to-face, online synchronous, online asynchronous, or hybrid, faculty teaching in any of these modalities should send some basic information to students before the first day of class. I send my communication to students about a week before the course starts. Some basic information that would help students prepare and be more ready for the course includes:

  1. Faculty Name, Email, preferred method of communication
  2. Course Title and information/description 
  3. Course Modality
  4. Location/Time/Meeting Expectations
  5. Instructors for what to expect/prepare for on the first day  

While this may feel like a no-brainer for some faculty, and for others may feel like extra work, I have found it incredibly beneficial for students. This is especially helpful for students who may already be anxious or nervous about your course. I advise you to draft an intentional and thoughtful welcome message to your students that you can recycle semester to semester. Your students will appreciate you for this. You also will appreciate yourself, as I have found that this simple yet impactful approach cuts down on pre-semester emails and first-day confusion.

The First Day

Just as contact before the course starts is essential, equally as important is the engagement and energy that the first day will bring to students. I am not saying we need to jump through hoops and put on a circus show; however, first impressions mean a lot to us and our students. So, remember, your students are watching and observing you and your personality and energy just as much as you are watching them. Please think deeply about what experience you want your students to have on the first day. Here are some questions to consider as you plan and create the first-day experience for your students.

  1. What is the goal of today?
  2. What do I need to be mindful of and reminded of?
  3. After class, how do I want students to describe their experience? 
  4. What’s one word that describes my intentions for today?
  5. What does showing up to be in service to my students look like?

These are a few questions you could ask to be intentional about how you are thinking, planning, and showing up for the first day of class. I revisit these questions often, as, after a few years, the first day of classes could become routine or mundane, so I try to intentionally shake things up so that I bring a fun and light energy. This helps me to connect with my students and what they might need from me. On that note, it is vital that we, as faculty, remember that we should build with our students. We should include them in the learning process so we can co-create a space conducive for all to learn. Moreover, we must remember that our students are the experts of their lived experiences, and we should allow them to use that knowledge in the classroom to facilitate new learning and growth.

Regular Semester Check-ins 

In addition to first-day support, regular check-ins have proved to be helpful for me and my students. I encourage a variety of check-ins throughout the semester, and I do class, individual, department, and personal/self check-ins throughout the semester. Below, I will also include some started questions you can use as you check in:

Class/Group Check-ins:

  1. What’s working?
  2. What needs to be changed?
  3. What do we need from ourselves and each other to be successful?
  4. What’s missing?

Individual Student Check-ins:

  1. What do you want or need more or less of from me?
  2. What do you want to continue doing to be successful?
  3. What do you want to start doing to be successful? 
  4. What do you want to stop doing to be successful?

Department/Colleague Check-ins:

  1. What is something new you are trying?
  2. What is something that has surprised you this semester?
  3. What support do you need from me?
  4. What tips and advice might you have for finding balance?

Self Reflection/Personal Check-in:

  1. What does a pause look like?
  2. What do I need to be supported?
  3. What is driving me right now?
  4. What do I need to say “no” to?

Engagement is Continuous!

As faculty, we must remember that engagement is continuous. While I provide some check-the-box to-do list items above, we must also acknowledge the continuous effort it takes to be impactful with engagement. We should make time for collaboration with our students and colleagues. We should also make time for professional development. Some of the best ideas and approaches to student learning have come from professional development workshops and conferences.

I have also learned to look at the course syllabus and all of the materials and assignments to be co-created, co-edited, and co-evaluated with my students. Years ago, I switched my approach and philosophy to be entirely student-centered and focused. That means the learning space is co-created and is not “my” classroom but “OUR” classroom. It is one thing to shift terminology and language from “my” or “our,” I encourage you to be sure your actions align with your words.

Lastly, remember to put a diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-racist, and accessible lens on things. DEIAA should be woven into all approaches, learning activities, and reflections for you and the students. Your approaches to student engagement and success should help remove barriers, not create them. I encourage you to use methods that honor universal design and evaluate all that you know and do inside and outside the classroom.

Author Bio:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Feel free to join in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione.

Build Your Dossier With Interfolio.
Advance With Confidence.

Applying for academic programs or positions requires many artifacts. Put your best foot forward with Interfolio.

Start building your dossier for free today.

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