Skip to content Skip to navigation

Leverage - A key To Faculty Efficiency

Tomorrow's Academic Careers

Message Number: 


-------------669 words-------------- 


Some of you commented that because of the open-ended nature of faculty time commitments, a "price" professors pay for their considerable autonomy, finding ways to connect or leverage various activities is essential Leveraging enables us to become more efficient, that is to accomplish more in less time and in some cases to do a higher quality job. Leveraging can also help us develop new connections and create new opportunities in our teaching and other forms of scholarship. 

There are many ways to leverage your teaching. Piggy backing, or using the same work several times, is an important efficiency tool. The most obvious application of this approach is the teaching of the same course several times since improving on wha t you have already taught is often easier than starting over from scratch. Eve Riskin, associate professor of electrical engineering, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, says: 

"I don't think you have to prove you can teach a different course each semester. In my first five years, I only taught three different courses. I'm still not tired of them and I can't begin to tell you the time savings coming from such an approach." 

You can also leverage your teaching with your research. One way is to teach a graduate class or seminar in your research area. You can use results from your research to present a more up to date course, and the work your students do in the course, li terature searches and summaries for example, can be a valuable learning experience for them, with an added benefit for you, i.e., using such reviews in your research proposals. Susan Taylor of the Faculty Association at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia puts it this way: 

"Do double-duty wherever possible. Combine your work with graduate students and directed study courses, with the kind of research you are doing. Go to conferences, and come out with names and research ideas. Bring speakers to campus, it gives both of you visibility, and it gives you a good future contact." 

There are other ways to leverage your research beyond connecting it with your teaching. One way is through a relationship with industry. 

The Rochester Institute of Technology (R.I.T.) is on a year-round quarter system and for seven years Mark Hopkins spent every other quarter doing full-time research at the Xerox Wilson Center for Research and Technology in nearby Webster. The other tw o quarters were spent as a full-time professor at R.I.T., while also spending one day per week at Xerox. Throughout the year he averaged 60% time at Xerox and 40% time at R.I.T. According to Hopkins: 

"Getting started well with your research not only depends on your own interests and initiative, but also on the resources, modes of operation, and expectations of the department and institution to which you belong. Finding the combination that works for you is the key, and this arrangement happened to be what made sense for me." During the seven-year period with Xerox and R.I.T., I received outstanding teaching evaluations, published papers based on my research at Xerox, acquired two patents, with one pending, and perhaps most importantly, I obtained academic tenure." 

"Originally some of my colleagues were skeptical and thought I had not spent enough time at R.I.T. to be awarded tenure in the normal time period. But this arrangement was part of my original appointment and when they looked at the entire effort, including my teaching record, they chose to award me tenure. 

"When I applied to R.I.T. as an assistant professor, I had just finished going straight through from my bachelor's degree (Southern Illinois University at Carbondale) to my Ph.D. 

(Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) without acquiring any industrial experience. I very much realized such experience would be important in my teaching and research, particularly at a school like R.I.T. When they suggested I apply for the (Xerox) joint position, I jumped at it." 


I would very much like to hear from those of you who have made other attempts to leverage your teaching, research, and/or service. Let me know of your experiences, even if just in an informal note, and I'll compile what I receive for a further posting . 


Rick Reis