Thursday, December 19, 2013

5 Tips for Being an Awesome Faculty Colleague

I reread yesterday's post about how to leave a classroom in good shape for the next classroom instructor and I realized I came off a bit whiney.  As someone who tries to be positive and keep whining to a minimum,  I thought I needed to counteract the negative with some positives.  Yesterday's post was an amalgam of suggestions from experiences of nearly 30 years of higher education teaching and wasn't reflective on any one institution or person.
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Today's post is all about really fantastic experiences I've had with faculty who have gone above and beyond to help me, other faculty, or students.  I've put the experiences into generalized tips so that any new or seasoned faculty can become more awesome than they already are.

1.  Help others with research.  One of the great joys of being a faculty member is that I get to be a professional writer and researcher as part of my job.  Each faculty member has different skills.  Some may be great with statistics and others may be great with field work or grantsmanship.  I've had so many wonderful collaborators over the years who have helped me in immeasurable ways.  One of the best gifts you can give to your colleagues is help with their research without any expectation of publication credit (although sometimes that happens too).

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2.  Honestly evaluate teaching.  In this day of continuous outcomes assessments, university professors are formally evaluated quite often.  However, we don't often take the time for informal low-pressure evaluations of teaching.  Some of my best teaching advice came from informal evaluations by my faculty friends who coached me on new teaching techniques, classroom exercises, or exam styles.  Be honest.  Praise without critical assessment is not a true evaluation.

3.  Be supportive through thick and thin.  Friendships are really lifelong treasures.  Over the years we have people come and go in our lives, but some are able to last through difficult times--including difficulties that may arise in the workplace.  Over the years, I've had a few faculty friendships dissolve over small university political disagreements.  However, I've had many others that were able to survive very tough times.  As time passes, the disagreements are forgotten, but the friendship lives.

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4.  Give of your time.  If you've been in the higher ed biz, you've certainly had the colleague who won't do anything outside of the strict confines of his or her limited schedule.  They can't show up for meetings except for particular days at very specific times or they never volunteer for needed department or university service work.  I don't want to unload too much on these folks because I've had periods of time in my life when I've been unable to do much beyond my assigned duties.  However, some of the most productive and awesome people I know in higher ed are very much available for service work and they are also highly productive teachers or researchers.

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5.  Help students who aren't your own.  We've all had students come to us for advice or assistance who are outside of our department.  Some few faculty members are not particularly helpful in such circumstances.  I knew one faculty member who wouldn't even talk to students from his department who weren't his own graduate students.  I felt sad for this faculty member because it impacted his relationships with students and other faculty, thereby isolating him.  Of course, such behavior is rare and most faculty are extremely helpful to students across the board.  You never know where such assistance may lead.  One of my best friends is a professor I had from outside my department when I was a Ph.D. student.  I went to her for advice, took her class, and we ended up being great friends.

In summary, most faculty are really awesome already. What other tips for awesomeness would you suggest?


Kevin Bisceglia said...

Hi Bob,

I'd like to thank you for being such a wonderful colleague. Thanks for your support and generosity over the past semester.

You certainly live by your own advice, and all of us who know you are better for it!

Best wishes,


Bob Brinkmann said...

Kevin, You are such a great addition to Hofstra! Thank YOU for being such a great colleague! It is a real pleasure to work with people like you. We are lucky in that Hofstra is full of amazing people.