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Helping New Faculty Find the Time

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Talia Anagnos, chair of the Civil Engineering Department at San Jose State University has some advice for other department chairs on how to help new faculty find the time for long-term important activities. She writes: 

"I really got dumped on as a new faculty member. I was given all the duties no one else wanted, such as faculty advising for the student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers, serving on an outreach committ ee visiting various high schools, and a myriad of other committee and administrative assignments. I'm not saying these things aren't valuable in some way, it's that as a young faculty member they were overwhelming at the time I was trying to get my feet on the ground professionally. 

"Some chairs let their new professors flounder. I don't buy the argument that because we had to suffer, they should as well. We bring them on board, assume they can do it all, leave them on their own, and give them no direction. Unless they are lucky enough to have a mentor, they try to figure it out by themselves and, not surprisingly, the results are not as positive as they could be. This is especially true at a metropolitan institution like San Jose State with a large commuter student population, few master's students doing research, no Ph.D. students, and very few (if any) teaching assistants or graders. 

"Our older colleagues need to understand that the goal posts have moved and the expectations for young faculty are different than they were twenty years ago. Senior professor need to help by picking up more of the administrative and service loads. We should be asking ourselves what we can do to help young faculty get their scholarship program going, not, 'How can I unload lots of busywork on them?' I am not saying young faculty should not get involved, they sh ould. But, not to the point where they are under a pile saying, 'help, I can't get out!' 

I get calls from people who ask my newer faculty to help out with their committees. Instead, I usually recommends some mid-career people who have established scholarship and would probably be a lot better for the p articular committees. When I explain to them in a nice way why I am saying 'no' [to their request for the new faculty member], people usually understand. At times however, I will help young faculty by recommending that they serve on certain committees w here they can gain visibility, learn how the college functions, and make connections. 

Chairs can help in other ways with respect to workload. Take, for example, teaching assignments. I am expected to have my faculty average 17 students per class, four classes per semester. However, if a professor t eaches three classes, two with 17 students, and the third with 35 students, the commitment can be considered equivalent to four classes of 17 students per class. Or, if the number of students taught by a faculty member in one semester is very high, as ch air I can give the faculty member released time the next semester. I use this system to give young faculty teaching assignments requiring fewer preparations, or to allow them to borrow ahead to get started on research. Young faculty everywhere need to un derstand that they do not have to take what they are given blindly, they can ask if there are alternatives. If they have a good reason, something can usually be worked out. 


What approaches have other department chairs used to help beginning faculty? What are the barriers to providing such help? Looking forward to hearing from you soon. 


Rick Reis