Wednesday, April 27, 2016

NMDS Archive: Hindsight: What You Can Learn from My First Year, Part II (2015 Edition)

Editor's Note: On Friday, we'll hold the final event in this year's New Member Discussion Series program, titled “The Art of the A-Form: What You Can Learn from My First Promotion Cycle” (Mildred Green Room, Babylon Student Center, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.). I hope to see many of you at this event; while this event doesn't aim to replace the Promotion Workshop in terms of information and resources, I believe it will help dispell fears and myths surrounding the promotion process by providing useful anecdotes from newly promoted faculty. (ALSO: Stay around the Mildred Green Room from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. for The Write Time -- our final attempt to set aside time for scholarship before finals arrive!)

Last semester, we began the New Member Discussion series with an event titled, "Hindsight: What You Can Learn from My First Year."  The following is Jill Malik's paper on the topic.

See you soon! 

-- SKG

Hindsight: What You Can Learn from My First Year

by Jill Malik, Instructor, Social Science

Thank you to Sarah Gutowski for inviting me to share my first year experience at Suffolk County Community College (SCCC). 
Before starting my first full-time year teaching at SCCC, I was an adjunct at both the Ammerman and Grant campuses. For me, this carried both pros and cons. My biggest “pro” column item was that I felt that I had a fairly decent gauge on the SCCC student population and what our students' specific needs and challenges are. My biggest “con” item was that I underestimated the disparity between a part-time and a full-time teaching load. 

Also, I had little-to-no idea as to what would be expected of me outside of the classroom. I didn’t know how my peers would react to me or how I’d fit into their well-established dynamics. I found myself in meetings where unfamiliar jargon was being thrown around as common, everyday language, leaving me feeling lost, and sometimes embarrassed. 

At times I questioned my own competence, my relative expertise, and my value to the department. Not because of any particular person or event, however; on the contrary, I feel fortunate to work with such intelligent, kind, humorous, and welcoming individuals and to be under the direction of an incredibly supportive Department Chair. Regardless, insecurity seeped in because of the “new-ness” of it all. I’d by lying if I said these feelings were entirely quashed; however, they are fewer-and-further between. I’ll take that as a “win!” 
So, how’d I get to this point? I’ve summarized a few notable moments from my time at SCCC in hopes that it helps your own transition: 
We're almost at the end, people!

You’ve just entered a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself.

Yes, academic burnout is a real thing. When educator responsibilities (e.g., professional development, expectations of student achievement, grading, lesson planning, advising) become overwhelming and chronically stressful, we often experience negative psychological and physical effects.

What can you do about this?
  •  Make realistic expectations for yourself and your students.
    • Talk to your colleagues if you are planning a new classroom activity or writing assignment. Bounce ideas off of each other to prevent or minimize unrealistic expectations.
    •  Realize now that this is an ever-evolving process. What “works” one semester (or even in one section of a class) may not work in another. Be flexible!
    • For me, the amount and type of assignments I had used when I was an adjunct for two classes per semester did NOT translate into a realistic full-time-with-overload teaching schedule. My first full-time semester more weeks than not grading over 200 papers each time. As a result, I had many sleepless nights. I pretty much cursed myself, asked myself “what WAS I THINKING?!” countless times, and vowed to never do that to myself again.
    • You may feel compelled (or obligated) to join a ton of committees at the start. My suggestion is that you start slow. Make it a goal to join one committee that you are genuinely interested in. Think about it: It’s easier to build and add responsibilities slowly, over time. It’s much harder to make a hundred changes all at once, do a mediocre-at-best job in them because you’re spread too thin, and then try to remove yourself from committees later on. Remember – marathon, not a sprint.
Jill Malik speaks to new faculty in September
  • Take time for yourself!
    • Put down the phone and step away from the computer. Now go do whatever it is that you enjoy – Perhaps it’s binge-watching your favorite television series, reading a good book, going to the gym or for a long run, yoga/meditation, or immersing yourself in a hobby. Don’t sacrifice, or underestimate, the importance of self-care. Self-care promotes a healthy state of mind and reduces chronic (long-term, “bad”) stress. 
  • Make time for family and friends!
    • Whether you’re a long island native or just moved here, your friends and family are your constant in a time when you’ve just embarked on your new employment journey. Lean on them if you need. Talk to them about how things are going. 
    • You have just joined the SCCC family, and that means you are meeting lots of new people, navigating coworker personalities, and seeing where exactly you fit in.  Likely, this excites some and terrifies others. Whatever end of the spectrum you are on, the people that have known you before this job are your constant in your recently-transitioning world.  

You are embarking on a new journey here at SCCC, use that to your advantage. 

    • A few weeks before I was hired full-time at SCCC, I had gone through some major life changes. I mean, pretty much a complete life overhaul. For me, that felt both exhilarating and anxiety-provoking. I decided to focus on the former --- make new connections, meet lots of people, network, mentor students, and wipe the slate clean. However, I probably overdid it at times – immersed myself TOO much into these tasks, and lost a little balance in the other activities in life that I cherish. So, it’s taken me time to find that work-life balance, but I think that’s normal – and also ever-changing as our work and life-demands rarely stay stagnant. So, be flexible and be honest with yourself as to what your own needs are. 

There are very few times in life that we get to have fresh starts --- this is one of them. 

    • Take what you’ve learned at your previous jobs, coworkers, mentors, institutions, schooling, etc. and use the best of those practices. But, also, leave any garbage behind.  
    • Your expertise is valuable. Often, once we have spent a long time either studying or mastering an area of interest, we don’t view our own knowledge and mastery as any special. The shine has worn off – we may assume others know it too. 
    • For example, my second semester I participated in a Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) workshop at the Grant campus. Before being approached by the TLC coordinator, I had no idea my experience and knowledge in Microsoft Excel could also serve as valuable tool for others (again, assumed that what I had learned years prior was “common knowledge”). Participating in the TLC was also a great way for meet to other individuals on campus as well as to feel like a useful asset to the Campus community. 

 Embrace the amazing opportunities ahead. 

    • For many of us, change is a scary thing. Learning a new task can feel daunting and overwhelming. Avoidance creeps in.  
    • Remember – you aren’t expected to know everything on day one (or, possibly ever)! Immerse yourself in new tasks and learn from mistakes. Be honest with yourself and with others about your strengths and weaknesses and keep evolving and pushing ahead. 
    • Ask questions. Observe other faculty members. My first semester I participated as peer classroom observer. I also asked this same coworker to observe my teaching alongside my department chair. Giving and receiving feedback was such a positive experience for the growth of my own pedagogical instruction. 

 Own it. 

    • At first blush, my last piece of advice seems simplistic. And, in some ways it is. However, in many other ways, this one is a forever work-in-progress.

As noted above, there will be lots of opportunities that come your way. What excites you? Likely, there’s some student club and/or campus committee that you could advise that will match your interest. 

  • Last year I became the advisor of the Social Science Club. Advising a club frightened me – I didn’t know ANY school policy, any of the current students, and I made many mistakes (and thank the staff at the Office of Campus Activities for their patience with me!) Some of my most rewarding student experiences were through this advising/mentoring process. Being their club advisor has allowed me to help create on-campus and off-campus activities for our students. I spent many of my “own” hours reaching out to members of the community to create partnerships and future opportunities for the club. Although the procedural club advisor stuff scared me, I owned it and I did the best job I could for the students. I found that because I was interested in the activities and events taking this extra time wasn’t a burden. Rather, it was something I enjoyed. And seeing the students’ positive reactions, 

Make a conscious effort to think about your main goals as an educator. 

  • What are your main goals in the classroom? What are your obligations to students? What are their obligations as students in your classroom? 
    • If you have clear answers to these questions, it will help govern your first year and beyond. Own what these are. Your answers may differ from your colleague’s and that’s okay! What one professor may view as “hand holding” another may view as “necessary.” 
    • It is probably good practice to reflect on these questions ever semester, or every year. They may change over time, and if so, own it…and then modify your teaching strategies to fit your and your students’ needs.
Again, welcome to SCCC! I hope you’ve found some of my ramblings helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me!

Friday, April 22, 2016

On Postmortem as Practice

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Program

In the theatre world, postmortems are critical discussions about or -- to use a phrase I'm sure we all LOVE -- assessments of a recent production, where everything about the process of staging that production is examined. Questions like What went right? What would we replicate? What went horribly, terribly, messily wrong and should be avoided at all costs next time? are asked and answered, and by the end of the session the members of the theatre company have a better understanding of what lead to the success (or, gulp, failure) of that production, a kind of wisdom they can then apply to their next big venture.
RIP little blooms. You did not survive that cold snap.
I'm a co-chair for an annual Creative Writing Festival and Conference that we hold at Suffolk, and every year we hold a postmortem for the week of events and the culminating Conference Day. Some postmortems are more successful than others -- because the festival occurs so close to the end of the academic year, it can be difficult to schedule a meeting at which all of our 1,264 committee members can attend. (Obviously, that's a little bit of hyperbole. But sometimes it feels like our tri-campus committee has that many members! Particularly when we're attempting to get them all in one room.)

What I've noticed over the years is that this practice -- the idea for which came from some source unremembered by me now -- is exceedingly helpful and can result in real, practical, purposeful change. We've been holding the festival for almost ten years, and every postmortem has resulted in a meaningful, and often very successful, change in the way we organize and run the weekly events and culminating conference.

Sometimes the changes occur because of seemingly innocuous observations, and sometimes they spring from really obvious, somewhat painful experiences during the most recent event. The key to their effectiveness, however, has usually stemmed from timing: It's important to hold a postmortem soon after the event, not later. We actually held our postmortem for last year's April festival when we returned to school in September  . . . and while we managed to have a good meeting and DID create some positive changes, it was a strain to remember all of the details that many months after the fact. Also, I'm almost positive that there were things about the 2015 festival that we really wanted to avoid repeating, or aspects of that year's conference that SHOULD have been repeated, and weren't when 2016 rolled around, simply because we didn't make a note of it. This year, we're going to attempt to hold the postmortem within the next two weeks -- before we all forget about what happened and get lost in finals and graduation and summer classes and summer scholarship. 

As I'm planning this meeting, however, I'm acutely aware that I need to hold my own one-woman postmortem, too -- regarding my "performance" in all the various roles I play as a faculty member of SCCC. This habit of evaluating your own performance over a academic year, privately and quietly -- and on a slightly different, more frequent schedule than our promotion cycle (which can also be a helpful self-examination tool) -- can be a way to steadily and consistently tweak your day to day work habits, your pedagogical practices, and your approach to professional development.

Of course, doing a kind of self-examination like this can take time. I mean, if it takes an hour meeting to discuss a week-long festival, then it's natural to assume evaluating an entire year would take longer, right? I suggest, then, beginning the process now -- even though the semester and year isn't entirely over. Break the task up into parts, and have faith that this is a necessary and productive process -- sometimes, I think just having the intention to do the process can be fruitful: the idea germinates at the back of your mind while you administer finals or begin other end-of-academic-year tasks, and eventually that idea will push its way to the forefront and initiate action, even if you fail to write it down.

Ultimately, though, I'm suggesting you write stuff down. It's just easier to remember your ideas this way.

First -- and this is the part I would suggest doing over the next few weeks when you have 5 minutes or so -- list all of the various aspects of your job. What do you daily? Weekly? Monthly? Are you on committees? Which committees? Write them down. What role do you play in those committees? Write that down, too. Are you an advisor? Have you been pulled onto a search committee? (And then been forced to go on hiatus . . .  but that's for another post, yes?) How many classes did you teach, and which ones? Bring out those copies of your schedule of assignments for this task, too. Did you follow your schedule? Did you have to adjust for sick days, or because of your student's progress? What kind of quizzes, tests, and papers did you administer?

At this point, you're not assessing/examining/questioning the quality of anything: not those tests, not those paper assignments, not even that committee where you know you played Minesweeper under the table on your phone at each meeting while Big Shot ______ rambled on and on and on. You're simply trying to remember -- what did I do this year? That's all -- what did you DO?

Then -- when finals and student papers have been graded and our annual epic graduation ceremony has been withstood survived gleefully and gladly attended -- THEN set aside some quiet time to briefly (don't make this painful) think about each item on your list and ask: HOW did I do, when I did all of this? Am I satisfied with how this played out? Would I want a different result if I relived that experience again? (Because, honestly, a lot of what happens in academia is circular and will happen again, for good or ill.)

IF you think of a way to correct or alter any aspect of your job while you're working on this part, then by all means, WRITE IT DOWN. A quick note, however sloppily written, will preserve that idea so that later, when you're ready, you can take action.

If you get through this "What Did You Do?" part and you feel exhausted, as if you just worked the academic year all over again, you'll need to take a break. Like, a LONG break. But first circle the one or two areas of your job that clearly need some attention. (Just one or two -- you could try three, but really, what are you, an overachiever?) 

Then put the list in a clean/tidy part of your desk (this will be difficult for me), and leave it there until late July or August when you begin your prep for the new academic year. (Or, you know, the second week of September, if you're a professional procrastinator.) Chances are, when you were "taking a break," those hidden parts of your mind were working on solutions and suggestions for those problem areas.

Don't be alarmed or stressed if you don't fix everything right away -- some years you're like, I rocked that thing! and other years you're like, Do I still have a job? How do people still trust me? These are the highs and lows of any career -- the key to longevity is realizing you can only do so much. Do what you can, be patient with yourself, and know that somethings will get done now, and others later, and that it might take several attempts to get things right.

I laugh as I write that last paragraph, because honestly, I'm still one of those "Hey, I'll do EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW" people who end up sometimes (often) asking, Do I still have a job? How do people still trust me?

ANYWAY. The point of this post is to remind us that just as we request feedback from our peers and colleagues whenever we complete projects at work, we should be "requesting" regular feedback from ourselves. 

So, the recap:
  1. Write down "who you are" -- each and every role at the college.
  2. Write down what you did in each of those roles over the course of the year.
  3. Evaluate: How'd you do in each of those roles? 
  4. Decide: What will you work on next year? (ONE OR TWO ITEMS. Don't break the rules!)
  5. Take a break. Put the list away (but remember where you put it). 
  6. Remember the list. Take it out, and begin to brainstorm actions -- achievable goals, people -- for those areas that need attention and revision.
And hey, if it rings your bell, call it self-assessment or whatever the latest pedagogical buzzword is making the rounds as a synonym for quiet, pragmatic reflection . . . just know that taking a moment or two to review the past year can result in more effective, more productive, and more enjoyable future years in your career at Suffolk.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Practical Matters: Grievance, Arbitration, and now, Mediation!

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Mentoring Program
I'd like to think that your first academic year here at SCCC has gone smoothly and that you've found your working conditions here optimal. Also, I'd hope that if you've run into anything problematic, you've addressed your concerns with your mentor first and they've provided you with some sound and useful advice for tackling the problem.

Dogwood. (Dogwood? Sure. Dogwood.)
If you ever run into a problem that seems larger than your mentor, academic chair, or department supervisor can handle -- specifically, one that includes a violation of our contract -- OR, if your academic chair or department supervisor is part of the problem (fingers crossed, that won't be the case) -- that's an appropriate time to ask the FA's Grievance Officer, Dante Morelli, about filing a grievance.
Any member of the bargaining unit -- even those who aren't voting union members -- may be represented by the union when he or she files a grievance. Just remember that timeliness is a real and pressing issue; if you're going to file a grievance, you need to do so within 30 days of when you noticed the violation (or should have noticed the violation).
Once the grievance has been filed, the FA will work to settle the matter satisfactorily through arbitration. But if you're someone who'd like to avoid the grievance and arbitration process, the FA has a brand new Conflict Mediation Program (CMP) to help you do just that.  

The CMP assists its members in addressing conflict proactively and confidentially before problems become bigger problems. Several FA members, all of whom undergo intensive training, are available to provide neutral, judgment-free, confidential mediation between members, or between members and administration or staff, in a confidential, safe space. Did I mention that it's confidential? Everyone involved must sign a confidentiality agreement.

For more information about the CMP, contact Dante Morelli at 451-4963.

Note that most grievances don't approach arbitration because they can be resolved beforehand -- sometimes through the CMP and sometimes less formally -- but if they do go to arbitration (and the FA decides which grievances go to arbitration and which do not), your union will be there for you.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Practical Matters: The FA's Executive Council

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Program

If you would like a particular issue brought to the attention of the FA (separate from a grievance) your Executive Council Representative is the person you should contact.
An EC Representative's primary charge is to serve as a liaison between the union's membership and its officers. You may have noticed, however, that our officers are pretty approachable and easy to speak to, so the other significant function of the Executive Council is that it occasionally acts as a decision-making, or governing, body within the union.
Because that's a fairly important charge, EC Representatives are elected by members within their academic areas (although some academic areas are grouped together). This is one of the reasons it's so important to become a voting member of the union. (If you haven't yet, please do!) You'll find the following list available also on the FA's web site under Contact information 

Ammerman Campus Representatives
Area Representative
Nursing, Health & Human Services Lisa Aymong
Music, Art, Theater, Philosophy, Women Studies Alex Nohai-Seaman
Library Central Krista Gruber
Social & Behavioral Studies, Legal Studies Denise Haggerty
English Audrey Delong
Business Admin, Business Information Systems, Accounting Kevin McNamara
Biology & Physical Science Matt Pappas
Counseling Matt Zisel
Engineering, Computer Science, Industrial Technology Mike Simon
Math Jane-Marie Wright
Communications Melanie Weinstein-Zeolla

Grant Campus Representatives
Area Representative
Business Programs Ali Laderian
Nursing, Health Science, PE, Veterinary Carmen Kiraly
Social Science Andrea Macari
Library, Counseling, Liberal Arts Bruce Seger
Natural Science & Math Deborah Wolfson
Humanities Vacant

Eastern Campus Representatives
Area Representative
Science, Math, Social Science,
Business, Nursing, Culinary, PE
Nic Pestieau
Library, Humanities, Counseling Teresa Morales
PA / Specialists Representatives
Area Representative
Programmatic Maureen Arma
Instructional Labs Deb Kiesel
Technical Areas and Instructional centers Andrew Stone
Adjunct Representatives
Area Representative
At-Large PA & Specialists Maureen Sandford
Counseling & Education Vacant
Science & Engineering Doug Cody
Math Russell David
Social Science Vacant
PA, Specialist- Instructional Labs Joan Cook
Foreign Languages, ESL, ASL, Reading Marshal Stein
Retiree, Guild Christopher Gherardi
Nursing, PE, Health Science Adam Holtzer
English Katelynn Delduca
Humanities Michelle LaPorte
Culinary, Fire Protection Technology, Library, Electrical Tech, Drafting, Interior Design Pricilla Pratt
Business, Accounting, Communications, Telecom Vacant
The Executive Council meets monthly throughout the academic year to discuss the business of the union and its membership. You can find the minutes of past EC meetings archived on the FA web site under Documents>>Executive Council Minutes. Looking through some of these documents might give you a better idea of what kinds of concerns the EC meetings cover.

And, if a spot on the EC is ever free in your subject area, I strongly urge you to consider running for the position of Representative. I was a member of the EC as an adjunct, representing the English adjunct faculty, and I learned a lot about the union and our college in my time there. Also, service as an EC Rep counts as College-Wide service, which helps around promotion time. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Practical Matters: Being Prepared for Your First Promotion

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Program

You may have noticed that yesterday you received an email blast from the Faculty Association about the annual spring promotion workshops held on all three campuses. 

Why, yes, I am, Sean Tvelia! Thanks for asking!
Also, you may have ignored that blast, thinking, "Oh, I don't need to worry about that. I have such a long time until promotion!"

Actually, you don't. You'll be surprised at the speed with which that first promotion will sneak up on you -- really. One day you're confused about where to find chalk or how to fill out your leave report, and the next you're receiving a letter from your Campus Executive Dean reminding you that you're eligible for promotion in rank. 

To help alleviate the natural stress and anxiety one can feel over promotion, one should be as prepared as possible. One way to do this is to actually attend the promotion workshops in your first year -- there, you'll hear our union's Vice President, Sean Tvelia, speak alongside your Campus Executive Dean about the process: how to apply, the timeline of promotion, what to consider while filling out your A-form. For those who are about to fill out the A-form, this will be reassuring and procedural. For new members, however, this should be strategic. Now is your time to plan:  what kind of items will I need to write on my A-form? What can (and should) I do at the department, campus, and college level to successfully fill out my A-form?
Guess who's gonna be busy this summer? This gal!

Another way we intend to help you anticipate and prepare for that first promotion is through our New Member Discussion Series. At the end of April, we'll hold our final event for the year, and I think it may be one of our best yet: "The Art of the A-Form: What You Can Learn from My First Promotion Cycle." This event, held in the Mildred Green Room of the Babylon Student Center (Ammerman Campus) from 11-12:15 p.m. on Friday, April 29, will feature three to four classroom and non-classroom faculty who will share the good and the bad parts of applying for promotion. Part inspiration, part cautionary tale, these faculty will give you advice on what to do -- and what to avoid -- as you ascend the promotion ladder (and the step scale) at SCCC.

If, by chance, you can't make your campus promotion workshop AND you can't spare time for that Friday event in April, take some time at the end of your first year here to peruse the FA's web site and the promotion materials available there. Just looking at the A-Form (and the observation forms that your chairs or supervisors will need to fill out) can give you a good idea of what to expect in that crucial year -- because the process, from start to finish, is almost a year long.

Also, remember that your faculty mentor is a great resource for candid conversations about promotion. Ask them about their experiences, and let them know what your plan is -- sometimes another point of view (particularly an experienced one) can help you navigate (or completely avoid) problems you didn't even know were possible. 

And then, once you've covered the basics and established a good plan, breathe a little easier and appreciate the fact that you're ahead of the curve. (And enjoy the springlike weather this week -- a new season is almost here!)

Friday, February 19, 2016

NMDS Archive: Hindsight: What You Can Learn from My First Year, Part I (2015 edition)

Editor's Note: Later today, we'll hold the third event in this year's New Member Discussion Series program, titled “Taking Your Show on the Road: How to Participate in Scholarship while Teaching at a Two-Year School” (Mildred Green Room, Babylon Student Center, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.). I hope to see many of you at this event: while continued professional development and scholarship is not only something many of us are interested in personally, it's also a requirement for promotion. This event aims to share some excellent advice on ways to engage in scholarship in a way that doesn't threaten or impede your regular duties at the college. (ALSO: Stay around the Mildred Green Room from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. for The Write Time -- another way to work some scholarship into your busy schedule, and there's coffee courtesy of the Faculty Association!)

Last semester, we began the New Member Discussion series with an event titled, "Hindsight: What You Can Learn from My First Year."  The following is Jared Dowd's paper on the topic.

See you soon! 

-- SKG

Hindsight: What You Can Learn from My First Year

by Jared Dowd, Counselor, Financial Aid


In starting any new job there is a tendency, as a new hire, to shy away from asking questions and acting as though you know it all. Do yourself a favor and utilize your relationships with your colleagues. Bridging a line of communication with those around you engenders trust and enables you to improve on your skills and shows you want to do your job to the best of your ability. Reach out beyond the larger community. Knowing all the avenues your students can take advantage of makes you a better advisor to your students. Plus, it also helps you whenever you are trying to get something done yourself. 

Although I have been with the college since 2010, prior to my current position as the Campus Coordinator for TRIO: Student Support Services, I have always found this to be helpful. In my first semester I took advantage of the veteran counselors around me at the Eastern Campus One Stop Shop. Through expanding my knowledge base on how the campus operated, I built relationships with each branch of student services. It allowed for my contemporaries to learn from me as well, knowing they could count on me for help and advice. I am privileged to have such a supportive group of colleagues.
Jared Dowd presenting at the NMDS in September 2015


Each semester Suffolk Community College runs many workshops and professional development opportunities for you to learn and expand your knowledge base. I also found the Faculty Association's New Member emails, and the Office of Faculty and Professional Advancement's Monday Morning Mentor emails, started my weeks off on the right foot.

You can also get involved with advising a club on your campus or becoming part of a committee. At the end of my first semester I was approached to be a co-advisor for the Students Against Depression Club. Twice a month I would sit down with the club's president and discuss their plans for the semester. They do a lot of positive work on campus.

These occasions are also a great place to meet some of your peers, build relationships, and enrich your own education.


Prior to coming to the Eastern Campus, Lorianne Lueders-Yanotti, director of Student Support Services, was my professional guide and mentor in higher education. During my years working at Ammerman, she helped cultivate my understanding of higher education and always encouraged me to keep an open mind. I was always willing to take on new challenges. She taught me the proper way to handle myself at this level. Her guidance has helped me become the professional I am today.

In my first year at the Riverhead Campus, Matthew Okerblom was my Faculty Association mentor. He actually held my position in years prior, so knew the workload I had to deal with and helped my transition immensely. Throughout my first semester I feel as though I thanked him on a daily basis for clarity on an array of issues and for giving me advice on navigating my journey at Suffolk Community College.  He recently became the assistant dean of Curriculum, yet I know I can always go to him for advice. (The free lunches didn’t hurt, either. I am now a fan of Turkish cuisine.)

Dr. Martinez, the Assistant Dean of Student Services, provided me with many one-on-ones throughout my first year. In our meetings I was able to bounce any issue off of him and get his insight.  He was a big proponent of encouraging me to become more involved in campus and taking advantage of professional development when I could. I feel fortunate to have him advising me and his encouragement to make the most of my time with the college.
I was lucky enough to already know one of the mentors for the Faculty Association, Terri Morales. I knew her through my work with Student Support Services and EOP. She was my go-to for any questions regarding benefits, bereavement, vacation, and was an integral part of me becoming an adjunct professor in my first semester. She helped me figure out my syllabus and class lessons as I was appointed a COL 105 class 10 days before it began. I highly suggest contacting your Faculty Association Mentor on your campus at the start of the semester and getting to know them. They provide a wealth of knowledge. 


When beginning any new position you want to make an impact. Your intent is to show your colleagues that you have what it takes to be amongst them and excel. In some cases, people get themselves in trouble because they don’t know the power of the word "no." 

Obviously, being put in a situation to take on more work, or being asked to do something beyond your job description is hard as the new person on campus. In my first year, it was frequently acknowledged that I should get involved with a campus committee. I intend to sometime this year, but last year it was very important for me to be my 110% best at my current position as the Campus Coordinator of Student Support Services. When the issue of committees was brought up, my reply was simply, “At this point, I want to be the best counselor for the program I am serving. Perhaps later in the year, once I have everything in place, I will begin to seek out getting more involved in that way.” I think any colleague would respect this approach and still think highly of you, regardless.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Practical Matters: How to Stay Current in Your Field Without Breaking the Bank, Part II: Faculty Retraining and Development Fund

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Program

Greetings, new members! I hope you managed to survive the snowfall of this weekend without any traffic accidents or lack of electricity, and that today your classes and meetings and daily tasks are comfortably back on schedule. 

Remember our last blog post, when I wrote about Conference Reimbursement? I just want to emphasize how fortunate we are to have a faculty union that negotiated, and continues to protect, our right to funding for professional development. $1700 per person, particularly when multiplied by our membership, seems like a lot of money, doesn't it? And, of course, it is -- but we have to remember that $1700 is intended to stretch across two years. If you're familiar with the rising cost of airfare -- and/or the astronomical costs of staying in "the" conference hotel for the duration of a conference -- you'll know that this $1700 is not going to last beyond, well, one or two conferences (depending, of course, on how long you stay and how far away the conference is located). 
Winter sun. It likes to hide.

In your first years as a tenure-track faculty member, you'll be expected to stay current in your field by attending relevant local and/or regional conferences. There's no magic number -- although I'd suggest that a minimum of one per year demonstrates a comfortable commitment to one's professional development. With each subsequent promotion, however, and as with most aspects of your career, the stakes are raised the higher you climb toward full Professor or PA 2 or Specialist 2. You'll be expected to attend -- and eventually present at -- larger, more widely-recognized events on a national scale.

This, of course, will take money. My trip to LA in March, for instance, to attend the annual conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, will cost well over $1700. Such is life -- it's the premier conference in my field and I'm presenting on a panel, so I've said "bye-bye" pretty swiftly to my conference allowance, haven't I? (Yes. Yes I have.)

SO: if I want to attend the annual Southampton Writers' Conference this summer I'm out of luck, then, right? And I shouldn't even dream about AWP in 2017!

Not necessarily. Because, well, I'm a planner by nature, I anticipated having all of my conference money sucked away by this AWP visit in March. ALSO, I anticipated wanting to attend the Southampton Writers' Conference and finally (FINALLY) finishing the play I've been tooling away at for almost ten years. And yes, I'll probably be attending AWP next year.

The catch is that I had to anticipate most of this almost a year ago -- in April of 2015 to be precise. You see, the Faculty Association has ALSO negotiated an additional amount of money for faculty development and retraining: $30,000 per year, to be exact. Assistance for the next academic period is awarded to faculty who apply by April 15 of each year. The committee that oversees these applications will award funds first and foremost to faculty who require retraining. Then, after retraining needs have been met, those faculty who have applied for assistance for faculty development (like my attendance at the summer writers' conference) are awarded based on the strength of a faculty member's application and the amount of money still available in the fund.

So if you anticipate attending a conference or two next year -- and if you suspect you'll use your entire $1700 conference allowance pretty early, like yours truly -- you should consider applying for Faculty Retraining and Development assistance this spring. One way to make sure you understand the process and follow it correctly is to attend a Faculty Retraining and Development workshop one of our three campuses this semester, held by FA Secretary Marie Hanna (who is also a member of the Faculty Retraining and Development Committee -- so she knows what she's talking about).

The Ammerman Campus workshop was last week -- but that doesn't mean you can't attend on a different campus if you're interested in learning more. The dates for the remaining workshops, held during common hour (11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m.) are as follows:

Wednesday, February 10 (tomorrow!) on the Grant Campus in Sagtikos 221.

Wednesday, February 17 (next week!) on the Eastern Campus in Corchaug 18.

Of course, if you can't make either of these workshops, simply email Marie Hanna with your concerns at marie [at] She'll be happy to help. Or ask your mentor, who may be able to answer your questions after having gone through the process him or herself. 

(And if you are interested in attending one of these workshops, give Marie a heads up by registering here.)

p.s. Want to learn more about how to balance professional development and scholarship with your regular job duties? Make sure you attend next Friday's New Member Discussion Series Event:

Friday, February 19: “Taking Your Show on the Road: How to Participate in Scholarship while Teaching at a Two-Year School” Faculty from various departments and disciplines re­flect on finding time for writing, research, and other forms of scholarship at an institution where teaching is the focus. While describing their own personal paths to publication and conference presentations, panelists will offer advice and share resources for new hires looking to balance their day to day duties with professional and scholarly concerns. Mildred Green Room, BSC, Ammerman Campus, 11:00-12:15 p.m.