Monday, February 20, 2017

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 of EC Representatives available also on the FA's web site under Contact information

The Executive Council 

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 Christina Bosco
English Kim Ng-Southard
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 Alice Tobin
Social Science Andrea Macari
Library, Counseling, Liberal Arts Bruce Seger
Natural Science & Math Davorin Dujmovic
Humanities Janet Simpson

Eastern Campus Representatives
Area Representative
Science, Math, Social Science,
Business, Nursing, Culinary, PE
Nic Pestieau
Library, Humanities, Counseling Nina Acquavita
PA / Specialist Representatives
Area Representative
Programmatic Lisa Behnke
Instructional Labs Deb Kiesel
Technical Areas and Instructional Centers Andrew Stone

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

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 last week without any traffic accidents or lack of electricity, and that this week 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). 

Conferences (and the books you purchase at them) are expensive.
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 of last year, for instance, to attend the annual conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP), cost well over $1700. Such is life -- it's the premier conference in my field and I was presenting on a panel, so I said "bye-bye" pretty swiftly to my conference allowance.

SO. When I attended AWP last week in Washington, D.C., I had to pay out of pocket with no chance of reimbursement for my expenses, right?

Not necessarily. Because, well, I'm a planner by nature, I knew I'd want to attend the conference this year. Additionally, I knew that the Faculty Association has ALSO negotiated with the college and county for additional funds 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 awards 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 $1800 conference allowance pretty early, like yours truly (remember, the amount increases in September) -- 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 new FA Secretary Cynthia Eaton.

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 15 (tomorrow!) on the Grant Campus in Captree 104.

Wednesday, February 22 (next week!) on the Eastern Campus in Corchaug 18.

Of course, if you can't make either of these workshops, simply email Cynthia Eaton with your concerns at cynthia [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 Cynthia a heads up by registering here.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Practical Matters: How to Stay Current in Your Field Without Breaking the Bank, Part I: Conference Attendance & Reimbursement

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Mentoring Program

By now, hopefully you've settled into your second semester as a full-time faculty member quite nicely. You're fully prepped for classes or you resumed your duties shortly after the holiday -- and now you feel comfortable enough with your regular job duties to venture out to some conferences or seminars for a little professional development.

Maybe you feel like engaging in some pretty major professional development. In fact, maybe the  professional development opportunity takes place in another state. Maybe that state is far away, like, say, California. Maybe the city in California is a fairly expensive city, like, oh, Los Angeles. Maybe you need to stay for three or four days just to attend all of the panel discussions and workshops and poster sessions that would make a trip like that worth the trouble and expense. 

And maybe your bank account will be flat-out busted by the time you're done paying for expenses like registration fees, air fare, lodging, and meals.

Or wait -- maybe it won't be! 

One of the most beneficial parts of the contract negotiated by our Faculty Association is the part that provides for 1) "T" days that you make take (instead of sick days or personal leave days) for conference attendance and 2) reimbursement for expenses such as the ones listed above. According to our most recent Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), each faculty member is allotted a total of $1700 to attend conferences over the next two years -- from September 2015 to September 2017. In September 2017, the amount allotted increases to $1800. 
The annual conference I'll attend tomorrow! Yay!

How do I access this money? you ask. Great question! The answer is, like at most institutions, slowly and sometimes painfully and through the careful application to the college's administration via forms -- a necessary evil, and one that shouldn't prove too cumbersome or unwieldy provided that you download the right forms and follow the proper steps. 

  1. First, you need to submit a request at least six weeks prior to the date of the conference or professional obligation. The request form requires you to estimate the cost of travel, hotel, registration, meals, etc. and support it with documents that prove your intention to attend the event (like a conference registration receipt, or the letter that confirms your participation as a reader or panelist). You can find this form here, as well as the Travel Expense Voucher (see below) on the front page of the college's governance web site. (Wait -- you didn't know we even had a college governance web site? This post is chock full of information, isn't it? More on college governance later -- that's a story for a later blog!)
  2. You'll need to have this form signed by your academic chair -- he or she must approve your attendance first -- and then you (or the chair) needs to give the form to your department's administrative assistant. He or she will forward this on to the Executive Dean's office for your campus. 
    • Note: Why can't you just forward it to the Executive Dean's office yourself? Well, the administrative assistant for your department needs to know about (i.e. actually see; become familiar with) the request because eventually, after the Executive Dean approves the request and forwards the appropriate material to the Business Office, he or she will need to enter a requisition into Banner for you, which will generate a Purchase Order Number, which will result in you being reimbursed the requested funds. If these steps aren't followed, you won't receive a payment. So long story short is: fill out the paperwork, have it signed, give it to the department administrative assistant.
  3. Once the Executive Dean's office and the Central Business Office have finished doing their thing, they'll send you a nice letter in the mail notifying you that your conference attendance has been approved. Also, they'll provide you with copies of the College Business/Contractual Travel Payment Request Form & Instructions, as well as the Travel Expense Voucher. Hold on to these items until you return from your conference.
  4. When you attend your conference, you have to note your absence from your campus in your faculty leave report. There's no option for "conference attendance" in that screen, so instead you should type a note to your supervisor (reminding him or her about the approved conference attendance) in the notes section of your monthly leave report.
  5. Once home from your conference, you need to fill out the Travel Expense Voucher as well as the Payment Request Form. Once again your academic chair will be asked for his or her signature the Travel Expense Voucher and the Payment Request Form, and then you'll forward those forms, as well as everything listed below to the Executive Dean's office:
    • The Payment Request Form
    • The Travel Expense Voucher
    • Your conference badge
    • Your conference brochure (hang on to all of the handouts, people)
    • The conference daily agenda or program
    • A conference report (an account and evaluation of the meetings you attended along with comments about its usefulness to you as a faculty member)
    • Relevant receipts, including those for payment of the conference fee, payment for hotel accommodations, payment for an auto rental, payment for tolls, payment for parking, payment for cab fare if a shuttle isn't available, and payment for airfare or train tickets, etc. If you drive to the conference, you can submit a mileage request form, also available on the college web site.
It's important to note two things: The first is that Remyou should submit your travel vouchers and supporting documentation and mileage requests within two and a half months of attending the conference -- otherwise reimbursement may be denied. The second is that it generally takes a campus Executive Dean's office two weeks to process the paperwork, and sometimes longer. So while you shouldn't expect to be reimbursed instantly, if you follow the guidelines and fill out everything correctly, you'll receive a reimbursement check before too long.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Practical Matters: Advising Student Clubs and Activities

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Mentoring Program
Later this morning, during common hour, faculty and students here at the Eastern campus will gather inside the Peconic building for Student Activities Day, a kind of open house for student clubs and organizations -- and the second of this academic year. Each semester, club officers and advisors make themselves available for an hour to answer questions from students seeking to participate in extracurricular campus activities, and to gain new members in the process. You may have seen something similar occurring on your own campus.

For years now, I've been a faculty advisor to a student organization. For several years while I worked on the Ammerman Campus, I co-advised a student writing group that workshopped their poetry, short stories, and plays outside of a classroom setting on a weekly basis. Then, when I transferred to the Eastern Campus, I began advising the campus literary magazine. From my time as an adjunct to the present, I've always been involved with student activities, and this involvement has kept me engaged and invested in a way that's much different from my experience in the classroom. In fact, I'd say that if anything, it's enhanced my ability to connect with students in a meaningful and productive manner.
The Summer 2016 issue of East End Elements.

I encourage all of you to consider being a student activities advisor as well, and if you’re presented with the opportunity to do so – well, jump at it. All three of our campuses offer our student body a richer, more diverse college experience by providing numerous activities throughout the semester – and by facilitating and supporting a number of different student clubs and organizations. Being an advisor can help you learn so much more about our students than time in the classroom can – and I say this after receiving lots of really personal personal essays in Freshman Comp.

PAs, Specialists, Counselors, Librarians and faculty can become more involved with student life by being an advisor to a student club or organization. Not only is this a wonderful way to mentor students, it’s also a good way to garner some campus-wide service you can cite on your application for promotion.

As an advisor, you’ll need to assist the club officers when necessary (you aren’t required to attend all the meetings, although the presence of an advisor is necessary for any off-campus excursions the club may make). Depending on the campus, you might attend an Officer and Advisor meeting during Common Hour once a month or once a semester. You’ll sign some forms. You’ll be invited to a lovely, catered Student Awards Ceremony at the end of the year. And that’s about all the heavy-lifting that’s involved, unless you’d like to be more active. 

The Ammerman Campus in particular has a large number of student clubs, and new ones are always cropping up in need of faculty advisors, so if you’re located on the Ammerman campus and you’re interested in becoming involved, contact Frank Vino at x4814. If you are located on the Eastern campus and would like to become involved, call x2531 and let Denny Teason know you’re available to advise; likewise, if you’re on Grant, call Lisa Hamilton at x6260.

Lastly, I’ll say this: Because the college is changing constantly to accommodate the needs of our students and community, our roles and requirements as faculty and staff are changing constantly, too. You may find that you’ll join some committees your first year or second year and that by your seventh year, you’ll either be chairing those committees or you’ll find yourself on entirely different committees.

Well, I began co-advising The Society of Writers back when I was an adjunct faculty member. Over the years – after being hired as full time faculty and going through the process of two promotion cycles – the one item that’s never changed on my promotion applications is my role as an advisor. I love mentoring students, and I’ve found the experience extremely rewarding, particularly with clubs that are educational in focus, like the honors societies or STEM clubs. It’s a fantastic way for us -- new and “senior” members alike – to connect with our students, and remind ourselves that while academics are (and should be) the primary focus of our energies, student activities further solidify a feeling of solidarity between faculty and students at our school.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Practical Matters: The FA's Prescription Copay Benefit

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Mentoring Program

Welcome back, new faculty, to a new semester! I hope you're all having a relatively smooth introduction to the new year, too, and that your holidays were merry and peaceful.

This is the time of year when many of us try to restore order to our lives after the chaos of the holidays. We do this also because it's the beginning of tax season -- W2s are coming in, 1098s, all of those various forms and pieces of paper that we need in order to figure out how much we've paid to the government over the past year and whether or not we still owe money or whether we'll be receiving money instead.

It's always more enjoyable to be the latter, of course, and to have more cash in hand. To that end, I want to make you aware of a way to recoup some of last year's expenses via a benefit the Faculty Association provides. And since this is the season of paper-and-form gathering, it makes sense to do this alongside or maybe even before you get to doing those taxes. 

The Prescription Copay Benefit allows you to receive up to $500 back for prescription copays you shelled out for medications prescribed during the previous year (to you, and to eligible dependents). That's money worth doing some extra work for -- and really, the work is not intense.
You'll find this at under Benefit Fund forms.

First, go to your local pharmacy and ask for printouts of all of the prescriptions you and your eligible dependents received over the past year (usually for the emergency drugs, like penicillin). Also go to the Welldyne Rx web site for any maintenance drugs you may be receiving and print out a list of your prescriptions and copays there, too.

Then add everything up. Write the amount you spent on copays on the claim form (which can be found here on the FA's web site), make sure the rest of the necessary information is filled out, and then mail your form and documentation to the address at the top of the form, which I'll repost here just so it's clear -- the Fund Office is a different location than the FA Office:

Faculty Association Suffolk Community College Benefit Fund
253 West 35th
Street – 12th Floor
New York, NY 10001-1907
Like your taxes, this form is due in April. The good news is that the deadline for your claim is April 30, well after the tax deadline. So you have some time -- but I always think it's better to get that stuff out of the way before the semester gets into full swing, don't you? One less item on your to-do list to worry about.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Practical Matters: Priority Registration

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Program

On Tuesday, October 25, I'm going to be advising Honors students on the Eastern Campus about the classes they'll be taking next semester. One of the benefits to being an Honors student at Suffolk is that they're allowed to register for their classes early, ahead of the regular Priority Registration schedule. It's a pretty sweet perk, as students in their first semester of college are usually registering last during the Priority Registration period: but because they've been accepted into the Honors Program, they get to take advantage of one-stop shop faculty advising in the Honors Lounge, and at the end of it, once they've decided on their classes, they can take a form over to the registrar's office knowing they won't have to worry about course sections being full yet.

There’s usually some form of “priority registration” at any college or university, so you may already have an idea of what I'm talking about. Just in case you’re still a little fuzzy, though, about what Priority Registration at SCCC encompasses – and what your role in Priority Registration is supposed to be– allow me this attempt to clarify.

October is #domesticviolenceawareness month.

In recent years, particularly after the award of a Title III grant, the administration has spent a good deal of time attempting to clarify the role of advising faculty when it comes to registration. Teaching faculty are required (again, like most important tasks, contractually) to set aside eight hours per semester, in addition to their regular class time and office hours, for advising students. This doesn't mean you have to cram all eight hours into the next two weeks -- although the administration does encourage you to spend more time in November answering student questions about their schedules, helping them decipher their SAIN reports, and guiding them to take classes that will fulfill their program requirements AND requirements for graduation.

Great, you must be saying in response . . . so who am I advising?

Good question! Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, there is no formal assignment of students to faculty advisors for the majority of our students. Some of our programs formally assign advisors, but most do not, and General Studies students are definitely left to fend for themselves. So, in order to make the most of your advisement hours, and in order to actually meet with and help students who would like to be advised, you have a few options.

The first option you have is to canvass the students in your classes. If you haven’t done so already, schedule some of your advising hours over the next month (since Priority Registration officially begins on November 7, and continues until Open Registration begins about a week later). Then make this into some sort of chart using Excel or the table function in Microsoft Word, or simply use the form you find here,, the official, college-wide Faculty Advisement Resource for SCCC. (The link to the PDF form is the first link at the top of the page). Announce your availability to your classes, post the hours on your door, and if you're particularly ambitious, post them to your Blackboard course space.

Another option, which you may have discovered already, is to participate in your department’s efforts to hold department-specific advising sessions. Also, you can volunteer to spend some of your hours advising in the Academic Advising and Mentoring Center. (For example, come November, I'm signing up to spend two hours in the Eastern campus center on a Friday. Sometimes a change of scenery is nice.)

Keep in mind, too, that any hours you spend or have spent counseling or advising students before November (or after!) counts toward your advising commitment. We're not often required to turn in an official record of our time spent advising, but just in case the administration does ask for such a record, it's a good idea to keep notes about whom you advised and when and where.

Also, particularly because you’re new to the college or the full-time teaching faculty gig, you should visit the link above to find videos that demonstrate useful information like “How to Read a Student’s SAIN report” and “Using Banner for Advising Purposes.”

So that’s my heads-up . . . and be prepared to receive a maelstrom of emails concerning Priority Registration at this time of year. As overwhelming as they may seem, you should pay attention to them, as they’ll help you fulfill your advising duties as a faculty member.

Friday, September 30, 2016

To PD or Not to PD: That is the Question

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, New Member Mentoring Program, Chair

Greetings, New Members. As September draws to a close -- for some of you, your first month as  full-time faculty -- it's good to take a moment and reflect on the past few weeks. Take a moment to decide what's gone well and what has gone . . . well, less successfully than you would have hoped.

Even though you've just begun your career at SCCC as a full-time member (yes, some of us were already familiar with Suffolk as adjunct faculty!) you should take a moment to do this kind of reflection. Why? Because, quite frankly, you're going to become busier -- and not just this semester. The typical career path of our faculty members, whether from Instructor to Full Professor or from Specialist I to Specialist II, is often a steep climb of mounting college committee work and campus and departmental obligations.

If you were a new member in the spring, you might remember my post about taking a time out at the end of an academic year to reflect on the way you fulfill your job duties, and whether or not you did them in a manner that truly reflects your values. (If you're new this semester, please click on that link now or bookmark it for later.) On a smaller scale, you could (maybe should?) do this on a regular basis throughout each semester, to track your activities and recognize when those activities and tasks are becoming difficult to master/navigate/complete.

Sometimes, professional development opportunities allow you to do this kind of reflection and self-searching. (I won't go so far as to write "soul-searching." Let's keep this blog drama-free, shall we?) For instance, this summer I participated in the Chair Academy's Advanced Leadership Academy. Sounds super exciting, ammaright? Actually, it wasn't as dry as it sounds -- and it provided me with a few days in which I could set aside my regular duties, take a breath, and consider my career and where I'd like it to go from this point onward.

Today, similarly, I attended the W.I.L.D. (Women in Leadership Development) "Art of Saying No" workshop, led by Dr. Alyssa Kauffman, and it was really well-organized, delivered, and well-attended. Its message was one that I consider particularly important for new members: Protect your time and peace of mind, and remember that sometimes saying yes to every request leaves you unable to meet any of those requests in a way that satisfies you or the people you've committed to helping.

Particularly if you're one of our Spring hires and have been here for half a year already, you may have been asked to join a committee or two (or, especially if you're on a smaller campus, five). As you may remember from orientation, however, both the FA and the administration encourage new members to focus mainly on teaching and job duties during your first year at SCCC, and ignore the hoop-jumping of promotion.

I would qualify this advice, however, and say that you should take advantage of the many workshops our Office of Faculty and Professional Advancement offer throughout the academic year. These Friday events do not often involve a heavy time-commitment nor do they require a lot of pre- or post- workshop tasks. Rather, you are asked to arrive with an open mind and a willingness to participate.

These are opportunities to gain real perspective and insight, and sometimes very practical tools, for doing your job at SCCC more effectively and with greater efficiency. Additionally, they are a fantastic way to meet fellow faculty and members of the administration, and network in the most useful and meaningful way. Through them, you often become more familiar with the way the college works and its various processes and traditions, and yes -- you can even earn credits towards promotion. (Even though, as stated previously, you really shouldn't be worrying about that now!)

Also, you get a free notepad, pen, and usually some sort of refreshment. (And who doesn't like free swag and chow?)

Lastly, think about perusing OFPA's web site occasionally -- not only do they keep their calendar of events there, they also provide an archive to transcripts of all those "Monday Morning Mentor" emails Dean Gherardi sends us (which -- honestly -- I have a difficult time opening before the week ends. Hopefully you're better at this than me). There are also links to issues of Academic Leader, The Teaching Professor, and the Chair Academy's Leadership journal.

Oh! And don't forget to participate in an especially important PD event on November 18, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in the Mildred Green Room of the Babylon Student Center (Ammerman Campus) -- it's the first FA Member Discussion Series of the 2016-2017 academic year, and it's focused primarily on the new member experience. It's called "In Hindsight: What You Can Learn from My First Year." Mark your calendars and save the date!