Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Faculty Appreciation - Entry #30

Many college and university faculty think they are the main cogs in campus governance.  On the other hand, the full-time professional staff believes they are the indispensible faction that keeps the campus purring along.  In reality, both groups are important in keeping any institution of higher education meeting its mission of teaching, research, and community service.  In the best of both possible worlds it is a symbiotic relationship—one for all and all for one.  Yes, sometimes it can be a strained existence, one lacking mutual respect tinged with suspicion and distrustfulness.  But for a school to truly succeed, for its undergraduates to be properly serviced, these two groups must forge some type of alliance.

I have worked for almost 25 years at one of the regional campuses of the University of Connecticut.  With a population that hovers just over 1,000 undergraduate and graduate students we are quite small.  Many of my administrative colleagues at the main campus, with close to 20,000 students, would probably say their relationship with the faculty is tenuous at best.  An overgeneralization?  Perhaps, but at a large campus (more like a small city) the professional staff will have more peripheral contact with faculty members than at a regional site.

One of the strengths of being employed at a regional, non-residential campus is you really get to know many of the teaching staff.  It’s hard to avoid.  You see them everyday walking the halls, in the bookstore buying a cup of coffee, and coming and going to the attached parking garage.  My position is also unique.  I am the Director of Student Services and supervise such standard functional areas as career services, student activities, and counseling.  But I also have my hand in the other side of the house.  I coordinate academic advising and help train faculty advisors.  I am the go to person for questions on academic integrity.  I participate on campus committees and am involved with faculty searches.  I am also the person faculty seek out to vent about whatever is on their mind. 

I respect them for what they seek to accomplish and they, I believe, respect me for the way I work with the students and themselves.  It is this relationship that I highlighted in notecards to many of the faculty on our campus.  I wrote about our shared goals, friendship, and collective frustrations.  I expressed how thankful I was of their support for my office and volunteering for campus-wide programming activities that my staff coordinates.  I also wanted them to know, in a handwritten way, that someone out there acknowledges their dedication to the campus and appreciates all that they do to make our regional locale the best within the university system. 

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