Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Program

I'm grateful for Murph: veteran, FA mentor, colleague, friend
On my behalf and on behalf of the New Member Program coordinators, I'd like to extend good wishes to all of our new faculty members, and acknowledge how grateful I am for the faculty who donate their time and effort to mentoring. 

Additionally, I'm grateful for the FA and its officers, and particularly for their support of our membership's professional development. Programs like the New Member Discussion Series and The Write Time are important to me personally, naturally; but one of the primary reasons they're so important is that through them I witness community building and information sharing. These two elements are vital not only to our faculty's individual successes but to our college's sustained reputation as a workplace where faculty thrive.

I hope you all have a peaceful, restful Thanksgiving break with your loved ones.


p.s. Did you forget to RSVP to the Holiday Party? It's at Villa Lombardi's in Holbrook at 6 p.m. on December 4, and it's not too late to secure your tickets! Send an email to Anita (anita [at] by Friday, November 27, letting her know if you would like to attend. Your ticket this year is complimentary thanks to the FA. I look forward to seeing most of you there!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

NMDS Archive: Anticipating and Planning Your Career at SCCC, Part II

Editor's Note: At the end of this week, we'll hold the second event in our New Member Discussion Series program, titled "With Pride and (Surprise!) Joy: My Most Meaningful Projects and Endeavors at SCCC." (Eaton's Neck Room, Babylon Student Center, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.) I hope to see many of you at this event, which aims not only to inform you about the possibilities for your career at SCCC, but to inspire you to think broadly and outside the parameters of your job title and regular role at the college. 

Last year in November, we held an event titled, "The Long View: Anticipating and Planning Your Career at SCCC." One of these presentations was archived on The Undercurrent last spring (you can read it here); the following is a summary of FA EC Representative Teri Morales' presentation on the same topic. 

While it's not always possible to archive everyone's presentation (for instance, PowerPoint presentations don't really translate well to the blog format), we aim to keep a record here that you can return to when you're less busy but in need of some solid career advice.

See you on Friday! 

-- SKG

Important things I learned during my early years at Suffolk…

by Teri Morales,  Counselor and Adjunct Faculty, Ammerman Campus

Presenters Sarah Kain Gutowski (left), Teri Morales, (center) and Bill Burns (right)


It was important for me to have a mentor in my field while at Suffolk. My mentor was Giselle Torres, and she helped me grow both professionally and personally. As a single mom and a novice at Suffolk, I greatly appreciated her help in balancing both roles. I recommend searching out someone in your field and becoming collegial friends. This will prove to be beneficial in understanding the culture at the college and advancing in your profession.

Professional Development

It can be hard juggling work with professional development, but it is important and vital to your career at Suffolk. Don’t fret; every semester there are opportunities and you must remember to volunteer for them. You may get a lot of e-mails and feel overwhelmed by them,  so just try attending a meeting, or volunteer your time assisting in committee tasks. It may not be so overwhelming if you gradually take on small tasks. It all helps to make you more confident and be a part of the Suffolk community.


It may be hard at first, but getting to know faculty in other departments helped me to become more acclimated and feel a part of the community. As a Counselor, I tried to get to know faculty in all areas at the Grant campus. I attended all the events I could during my first year. I wanted to get a feel for the Grant culture. I am glad I did. I made good friends with colleagues who helped me to “deal” with stressful times. It helped me to be a better communicator, and I collaborated on many more projects that were interesting and beneficial to the student population.


Never, never, never stop being passionate about your work or your role here at Suffolk. I learned to surround myself with positive people and “feed” off of their passion and enthusiasm. I know that I loved coming to work because I had passionate endeavors that impacted the personal and academic life of students at Suffolk. Keep the faith! You do make a difference!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

On Service (With Purpose)

By Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Program

I hope that this post finds all of us well: avoiding those change-of-season-plagues-disguised-as-innocuous-colds, surviving the cramped schedule and MYSCCC/Banner problems that come with Priority Registration, and withstanding the sudden rush of student concerns about grades (midterms will do that to them).

(By the by, if you need to access Blackboard without going through MYSCCC, visit And yes, sadly, a student just brought that to my attention earlier this week.)

November's finally here, y'all.
ANYWAY, one of the things you may have found by this point in the semester is that there's a lot of activity going on at the college regarding assessment, ILOs, and Middle States. Workshops are being hosted via the Office for Faculty and Professional Advancement, deans are making house calls to departments and governance bodies, committees are being formed, subcommittees are being formed, and calls for faculty to chair these committees and subcommittees are becoming more and more regular.

If you've found your role to play in one or more of these processes, congratulations! (And wow -- that was fast, huh?) And if you haven't yet, you might take a welcome break from teaching and grading to consider whether or not now would be a good time to become more involved.

General advice to our first year faculty is always along the lines of, "Focus on your teaching; worry about committee work next year." And this is good advice -- but not always practical, particularly if you're a member of a small department or a small campus (*cough*) that requires representation on a committee. Additionally, you may find that joining one of these committees now will give you a better, broader sense of how the college works, and how faculty and administration work together to accomplish the Herculean tasks beset us by SUNY and/or Middle States (the association from which we receive accreditation) -- and that you'll be able to participate in some new initiatives from the ground up, instead of coming in later when processes are in full swing.

Nevertheless, there are questions you should ask and points to reflect on if you're considering committee work:
  1. What's the purpose of the committee? 
  2. Do I have expertise or knowledge that will make me a good fit for the committee? 
  3. What will be my role on the committee? (What will be expected of me?)
  4. What's the makeup of the committee? (Who are its members, and who is chairing?) 
  5. Who does this committee report to? (Which administrator or part of the college infrastructure?)
  6. What kind of meeting schedule am I committing to? (Weekly, biweekly, monthly?)
  7. Do I have to travel to another campus to attend these meetings? (Can I make this fit with my current schedule?)
  8. What kind of workload will this committee carry? (Will it involve research? Will it involve writing? How much will be added to my current workload?)
  9. Is this considered department, campus, or college-wide service? (Do I understand where this will "fit" on my form for promotion?)
Also, I recommend asking for week or so -- if you have that opportunity -- to think seriously about the commitment you're being asked to undertake. Use that time to talk to fellow faculty, and your mentor, about the committee. They may have insight or perspective that will surprise you, and make it easier for you to say yes or no.

Service to one's department, campus, and college is incredibly important -- aside from being the basis for promotion, it's how a lot of the necessary work at our institution is accomplished. And there's a lot of work -- a lot of different opportunities to become involved -- so it makes sense that you should be deliberate and careful in your choice of committees and projects. No one should (or would, I suspect) fault you for wanting to be more informed when making decisions. Be clear that you're willing to serve, but that you want to serve with purpose.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Practical Matters: Priority Registration

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Program

There’s usually some form of “priority registration” at any college or university, so you may have had an idea of what your new colleagues were talking about when they brought up SCCC’s Priority Registration at your department meetings this semester. 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.

Sure, it's darker earlier, but these autumn sunsets are gorgeous.
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. (I know, I don’t think it’s the best beginning to advisement, either, but that’s a conversation for another time and another forum.) 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 two weeks (since Priority Registration officially began yesterday, November 2, and continues until Open Registration begins on November 11). 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, I'm spending two hours in the Eastern campus center this Friday. Sometimes a change of scenery is nice.)

Keep in mind, too, that any hours you spent counseling or advising students before November (or after!) does count 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 when and where and whom you advised.

Also, particularly because you’re new to the college or the full-time teaching faculty gig, you should read (or at the very last, scan) the Faculty Advising Handbook that’s available electronically at the link above. There are also videos available on this site 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.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Practical Matters: Mid-Semester Mania and Withdrawal from Courses

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Program

Congratulations to our new members for reaching the mid-semester mark in your first semester as full time faculty at SCCC. This is no small feat; by now, particularly if you're teaching faculty and deeply entrenched in mid-term exams or paper grading, you're beginning to feel the weight of your tasks, big and small. You may even be able to see that weight quite literally, as all of the grading begins to stack up on your desk.

This is also the point in the semester where I find I'm most frequently reminded of all the burdens our students are carrying, too. I issue mid-term academic alerts and watch a line of anxious faces form at the front of the classroom, attempting to speak with me before class about missing assignments and less-than-acceptable grades. I'm met in my office hours with students who wish to let me know that because of their 1) caregiver schedule 2) employer demands 3) change in career plans, they're considering withdrawing from my course.

The weeds: Where we are at mid-semester
As you may have noticed, Monday was the deadline for students to withdraw from courses on their own -- they could have done so at the registrar or through their MYSCCC accounts. Usually, I put this deadline into my course outlines and remind students via announcements in class and/or class emails and posts in Blackboard, as a courtesy and a facet of my role as a faculty advisor (new students simply aren't aware of most college policies at this point). 

Many students, however, don't realize their grade is in jeopardy before this deadline: in fact, as I've been finding this week, many students realize it the day AFTER the deadline has passed. I don't know why they ignore repeated to warnings to check their grades before the deadline: they just do. And when they realize their grade is less-than-satisfactory, they show up at your office door, panicked and contrite or angry and defensive or ambiguous and ambivalent (or a messy combination of all three).

Of course the first thing we should do, as responsible faculty and caring advisors, is see where our students might improve their study or work habits to increase their grade point average over the remaining weeks. Some students will respond admirably to this approach and do whatever they need to do to pass the course in December. Others, however, will be less sure of themselves and wish to abandon the endeavor completely. Those students will ask you for a withdrawal. Or, more common, they'll simply disappear -- that is, they won't return to class, although you may see them slinking by you on campus, trying to remain unnoticed.

As new teaching faculty (if you're new teaching faculty) it's important that you know the reach of the withdrawal or "W" grade. First, know that we do not -- yet -- have an official withdrawal policy (which is ridiculous, and entrenched in campus politics, but nevertheless, a sad fact). So the following is advice from a faculty member who believes that we should know the implications of each and every grade we assign.

Students may not withdraw from a class after the mid-semester deadline of their own volition. At this point, they must go to the registrar's office, find withdrawal slips, fill them out, and have you sign them. Second, before you sign a withdrawal (or assign it as a final grade at the end of the semester), you and your students should understand how the W grade will affect them if they are receiving financial aid.

If a student is taking the minimum number of credits to be considered full-time (12), and then they take or are assigned a "W" grade -- even at the end of the semester -- their credit load for the semester is reduced. The student's financial aid, calculated based on the number of courses the student takes each semester, is also adjusted accordingly.

This means that students who take the minimum number of courses may be reduced to part-time status once they receive a grade of "W," and their part-time status will reduce the amount of financial aide for which they are eligible in future semesters. Most students in their first semester here are unaware of this consequence; in fact, most students -- even those in third or fourth semesters -- are unaware of the potential problems created for them by the "W" grade.

Ideally, any "W" assigned after the mid-semester point should be done because of extenuating circumstances. As teaching faculty and advisors to our students, we need to be discrete in our assignment of the "W" grade and assign it only when a student as requested the "W" and understands -- fully and unequivocally -- the potential effects if he or she is receiving financial aid. While we may wish to be kind and assign a "W" to those students who disappear from our classes a day or two after the withdrawal deadline, it's unwise to use the "W" if you haven't had a frank conversation with the student about what it means. 

In December, if you have students who have mysteriously disappeared from your classroom but remain on your roster, and if you are adverse to assigning them the failing grades that they mostly likely deserve (you old softie!), I recommend emailing them and asking if they wish to receive a "W," and if they're aware of the implications and (very real, sometimes very devastating) effects of a "W" grade. Some of these students will be paying out of pocket for their classes and will be surprisingly cavalier about their grade(s). Others, particularly those receiving aid, will be grateful for the consideration and advisement and may prefer to take the "F" so that they may retain their full-time status and continue receiving their aid.

Even if you elect not to email "ghost" students at the end of the semester, at least you can assign failing grades knowing that, in the long run, it is usually the wiser, kinder course of action -- and that the "W"grade, when assigned without discretion, can be more of a burden than a gift to the student who couldn't get his or her act together this semester.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go get my act together -- at this time of the year, our students aren't the only ones in the weeds.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Practical Matters: The FA's Community Outreach Committee

by Tim McHeffey, Chair, FA Community Outreach Committee

A super way to accelerate your immersion into your new, wonderful position at Suffolk is to meet your extended FA Family! The Community Outreach arm of the Faculty Association is called TEAM-FA (Totally Enthusiastic Members of the Faculty Association). Our FA on-campus events include plant sales for AHRC, food drives, and Fair Trade sales. Many of you already likely do awesome activities in your respective geographic communities; why not help out with ours? To find out how you can help on your campus, email me at tim [at]

Or, you may want to jump on board our nationally acclaimed “Professors on Wheels” program, where we share our expertise in small presentations with nursing home residents and public libraries. Here are some of the topics & presentations our community partners may choose from for the 2015/2016 year:

  • American Cinema: Then and Now
  • Getting Over the Fear of Public Speaking
  • Families and the Juvenile Justice System
  • You and Your Culture: What Makes You Who You Are
  • How to Grow a Small Business on Long Island
  • Soldiers’ Life in the First World War: The Sounds Smells and Taste of War
  • Reporting From...(Making Short Videos to Post on YouTube)
  • From Beowulf to Rambo: Heroes and Western Heroism
  • The Fibonacci Numbers
  • Women in Politics
  • Renaissance Art and Musical Instruments
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Connecting with others through E-mail 
  • Getting Organized: How to De-Clutter your Life
  • Not Just Kids’ Stuff: Understanding Comics and Graphic Literature 

For more information about how to get involved, email Ray DiSanza at rayd [at] and/or check out the Professors on Wheels page on the FA's web site.

Community Outreach is part of our fabric as FA brothers and sisters… It’s what we do! So Sunday, October 18th, consider joining our walking team at Jones Beach for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer; or, if you would like to donate to our team, please go to our TEAM FA web site @ or you can visit us on Facebook to sign up as well, For more information, talk to joanc [at] 

The month of October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Editor's Note: Did you know that the A-form (our application for promotion) specifically asks about your involvement in our community? (To wit: "Professionally related community activities in cultural, educational, and benevolent organizations")

While promotion shouldn't be your primary reason for contributing to your community, it probably helps to know that the college cares about and values your service to our community outside the college. So if you were hesitant to do community service, and wondering about whether or not you could or should sacrifice any of your hard-earned down-time, consider that you will benefit from donating that time -- although I'm pretty sure our community partners will benefit more. And yes, union-organized community service events count.

Also: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Find a ribbon and #gopurple on Facebook,  Twitter, and even during class -- letting students, colleagues, and friends know where they can find support if they need it.

Also also: Alongside Catherine Lipnick and Alyssa Kauffman, tommorrow (10/13) I'll be giving a workshop as one of the Professional Development Day Breakout Sessions on Service Learning and Civic Engagement. If you'd like to learn more about how to incorporate community service into your courses, we'd love to see you.
-- SKG

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Practical Matters: Overload and The Word

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Program

You may have noticed a few of the emails coming from Dean Gherardi's office over the past couple of weeks concerning the NORA form -- and you may have wondered, what the heck is a NORA form?

October rose (w/ site of new Eastern Health and Wellness Center)
Good question! And an important one. The NORA is a Notice of Reasonable Assurance. This form is most important for our contingent faculty, who need to let the college know if and when they'll be available to teach classes in the upcoming term. All full-time faculty need to fill out this form too, however, if we'd like to request an overload assignment in the upcoming semesters, including Wintersession (classes held in January), Spring, and Summer I (the first five weeks of classes following the spring semester for traditional, face-to-face classes, and the first eight weeks for fully online classes), Summer II (the second five weeks), and Summer III (you get the picture).

Now that you know what the form is, you may need a reminder about deadlines -- because deadlines are very important. If you want to request a class for Wintersession 2016, you need to submit your NORA form by tomorrow, October 7. As Dean Gherardi pointed out in his emails, assignments will be made by October 15, and you will have until November 6 to accept or decline your assignments.

The deadline to submit an overload request for the spring semester is ALSO October 7.  Assignments for the spring, however, will be made by October 22, and you will have until November 9 to accept or decline your assignments through Banner.
It's important that full-time faculty make their decisions about spring overload as soon as possible because it helps our academic chairs find adjunct faculty who can teach the remaining classes in the spring schedule.
But let's say you're already teaching an overload class this semester. You may be wondering, when am I going to get paid for all of this prep and teaching? Well, if you haven't been accessing your online pay stubs (available through MYSCCC, under the Employees tab), and if you haven't been keeping track of your automatic deposits to your bank account, you may not have noticed that we were just paid for overload courses last week, on October 1. The schedule for the rest of the adjunct/overload payments is as follows:
  • October 15
  • October 29
  • November 12
  • November 25
  • December 10
  • December 23
Additionally, this is what you'll be paid per credit this year for any overload assignments you take on:
  • $1,178 - instructor
  • $1,277 - assistant professor
  • $1,370 - associate professor
  • $1,501 - professor 
You can see more about negotiated overload/adjunct pay for the next few years in our Memorandum of Agreement for 2015-2019, available on the FA web site under Documents >> Contracts.
ADDITIONALLY, do you know where else you can find this information? And in particular, the information about overload pay dates? In The Word, the FA's official newsletter. If you're new to the college and/or working in a union shop, one of the best ways to familiarize yourself with the college, its history, and its long, sustainable, beneficial, and most importantly -- positive -- relationship with the union is to read through back issues of The Word (archived on the FA web site) and all of the subsequent MOAs following the 2001 contract (also archived on the web site next to the one I cited above). Both provide a broad perspective, and evidence, of how the union, college, and county work together to provide excellent working conditions and benefits for its classroom and non-classroom faculty, specialists, counselors, librarians, and professional assistants. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

On Being Ready, Willing, and Able

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Mentoring Program

Congratulations! You've worked here for a full month!

It was fantastic seeing so many of you at the first event of the New Member Discussion Series. I hope that those of you who attended learned much from our lovely three panelists, Jared Dowd, Dawn Wing, and Jill Malik. All three gave us a lot of insight into creating balance and establishing positive, working relationships in the first year.

In the next few weeks I'll be posting the notes and talking points from Jared, Dawn, and Jill's presentations, archiving them here on the blog so that those of you who could not attend will still be able to benefit from their individual perspectives and advice. Of course, the only way to benefit from someone else's story is to be willing, first and foremost, to truly hear what he or she is saying. And this leads me to the topic of today's post.

Friday's NMDS: See? We had fun!
Mentoring is not something that happens to another person, an act we bestow or inflict on another living being. Mentoring is a relationship, which means it's symbiotic, and mentors benefit from interactions with mentees as much as the new faculty member gains insight from the veteran member. And for both parties to gain, and feel the benefits of the mentoring relationship, an extremely important element needs to be present: openness.

Such openness to mentoring may seem easy and like a no-brainer to some of you, but for others, particularly if you've been kind of wary of this New Member Program thing, the following excerpt from Hal Portner's "Being Mentored: A Guide for Protégés” (published by Corwin Press, and adapted by NYSUT’s Education & Learning Trust for a seminar they hold regularly on mentoring) might help you get the most out of this next year:

Be ready – “Wholeheartedly accept the opportunity to be mentored”

Be willing – You need to “believe that you have an ongoing need to learn . . . When you are doing something you believe in – when what you are doing sits well with your set of values and is relevant to your life – you will do it better; you will do it with passion.” Additionally, you need to “have confidence that being mentored . . . can make a difference between success and failure.” And lastly, you must  believe that “being mentored can help you remain in the profession and have a satisfying and gratifying career.”

Be able – “Whether you have a mentor who offers little help or support, or a mentor who throws so much information and help your way that you are constantly overwhelmed, or a mentor who is . . . experienced [and] who understands how to work effectively with a protégé, you will still get more out of being mentored if you are ‘able’. Being able means having the knowledge, skills and understanding necessary to be proactive in the mentoring process. Being proactive means not only being ready and willing to access the resources available to you, but also being empowered to do so.”

Finally, NYSUT’s Education & Learning Trust offers new faculty members these “Principles for Success”:
  • Take the initiative when it comes to having your needs met as a protégé.
  • Avoid making assumptions about your mentor’s plans and expectations.
  • Solicit feedback from your mentor as a way to improve.
  • Receive feedback objectively.
  • Attempt to construct ways to learn from seemingly untenable situations.
  • Take responsibility for your personal well-being.
  • Contribute to the learning of other educators. 
So, to these ends, I would take the next step and mark on your calendars the date of the New Member Bagel Brunch that will be occurring on your campus this month. The dates, times, and places are as follows:

October 14 -- Grant New Member Bagel Brunch (Captree 113, 11:00 a.m. - 12:20 p.m.)

October 21 -- Eastern Bagel Brunch  (Corchaug 18, 11:00 a.m. - 12:20 p.m.)
October 28 -- Ammerman Bagel Brunch  (Alumni Room, Brookhaven Gym, 11:00 a.m. - 12:20 p.m.)

At each brunch, FA officers and New Member Program campus coordinators will be present to answer any questions you may have, tell you a little more about the college, and give you your very own shiny white NYSUT "promotion folder" -- the savvy faculty member's secret weapon when it comes to building (and keeping track of) a successful career.

So: Mark the date of your campus bagel brunch, continue to open my emails and read these blog posts (!), and extend a hand and an open ear when your mentor comes to say hi or checks in via email. We are, after all, ready, willing, and able, too!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Practical Matters: Intercampus Travel Reimbursement

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Mentoring Program

By next week you'll have completed your first thirty days as full time faculty at SCCC. Congratulations! I hope the transition has been a smooth one. Most of you have been focused on the tasks and duties associated with your particular job title, and many of you have been teaching, but few of you have begun to travel between campuses for committee work.

My afternoon commute. Pretty, huh?
But soon, as the semester picks up, you may have to do just that.

For instance, this Thursday (which is a Wednesday, according to the academic calendar), I will hold office hours and go to an on-campus meeting in the morning, teach a class at 12:30 p.m., and then travel to the Ammerman campus to a meeting of the college-wide distance education committee.

Because my job duties that day begin with work at the Eastern campus, but then also require me to attend a meeting from 3-5 p.m. on the Ammerman campus, as per our contract I can be reimbursed for the mileage between the two campuses. Our contract states: "If a faculty member's full-time duties require travel assignments at more than one (1) campus (i.e., location) per day, the faculty member shall be reimbursed for the mileage between assigned locations."

Cool, right? 

There are a couple of ways to begin this process. One is to visit the SCCC Governance page (I know -- were you even aware that we had a governance page? Did I just blow your mind or what?  . . . Or are you asking yourself, "Governance? What's Governance?" Oh, my friend... This is a story for a whole other post...) and download the PDF titled " Instructions for Intercampus Mileage Reimbursement." This gives you instructions for logging on to your MYSCCC account and downloading the appropriate forms, as well as a run-down of the process for submitting those forms. The caveat here is that the PDF is a little outdated. Banner tabs have changed since this document was created, and so instead of going to the "Finance" tab, you have to go to the "Employee" tab, and then click "Reimbursement Forms" under "Employee Forms and Procedures." So some of the navigation information needs updating, but for the most part it's pretty straightforward.

You may also visit the college's web page about mileage reimbursement, which is thorough and helpful but doesn't include links to the actual forms (again, you have to log on to MYSCCC for these).

All of the information you'll find in these places is important, but here's what I think you should be particularly mindful of:

  1. Our contract covers required travel between 2 or more sites (campuses) in a single day. If  you travel voluntarily to a campus other than your home campus (say, for a professional development workshop!) you still aren't eligible for mileage reimbursement. And even if you're traveling to another campus for a required event (like Commencement in the Spring), you can't be reimbursed for mileage if you're going to be at only one campus that day. Basically, you're reimbursed only when it's absolutely necessary, which makes sense, right?
  2. You should attempt to submit mileage reimbursement vouchers monthly. And the Business Office will accept nothing over three months (90 days) old. So if you're interested in reimbursement, you should perhaps make it a habit -- set aside time at the end of the month -- to go over your calendar and note all of the times you traveled to another campus from your "home" campus (where your everyday duties take place).
  3. There are standard mileage amounts between campuses: Selden to Brentwood is 15 miles; Riverhead to Selden is 23 miles; Riverhead to Brentwood is 34 miles. If you were to travel to a different campus directly from your personal residence (I'm avoiding the use of "home" again because, you know, CLARITY), you have to subtract the mileage you normally travel to get to the office everyday from the standard mileage amounts above.
    1. For example: I live 9.75 miles from the Riverhead campus, where I teach. When I travel to the Ammerman campus on Friday for the New Member Discussion Series event, I'll leave from my house, not from the Riverhead campus. So I should subtract 9.75 from 23 and claim 13.75 miles for that morning trip. Of course, I would only claim this amount if I ALSO had a meeting scheduled at Eastern or at Grant that day, since Friday is usually my non-duty day (I don't teach classes or hold office hours on Friday).
  4. We aren't reimbursed the entire amount, but it's still a pretty nice feature of our contract that we get back 57.5¢ for every mile we travel between a campuses. It's especially nice if you end up on a committee that, for whatever reason, requires you to travel between campuses more than once a month. Those trips can add up!
Mileage reimbursement is just one good example of how the Faculty Association contract ensures that while we're asked to do many different kinds of service and various tasks in the course of performing our jobs, we're compensated and reimbursed accordingly for our trouble and/or efforts. I think we should appreciate that fact, and also take advantage of it! Paperwork is a pain in the arse, sure, nothing's going to change that fact, but it's necessary and perhaps a small price to pay for the benefit it brings.  

Put more bank in your bank, people! Submit those reimbursement vouchers!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Practical Matters: Student Activities and Clubs

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Mentoring Program
On Wednesday of last week, faculty and students here at the Eastern campus gathered on the patio outside the Peconic building for Student Activities Day, a kind of open house for student clubs and organizations. Club officers and advisors were generally on hand 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 met to workshop their poetry, short stories, and plays outside of a classroom setting. 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.

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
The super-sophisticated display for the club I advise.
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 needs faculty and staff advisors for student clubs, 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.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Practical Matters: How to Access Your Office Computer Files Remotely

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Mentoring Program 

A Rose of Sharon bloom that appeared on Labor Day.
Happy Labor Day, fellow unionists! I hope you spent your Labor Day relaxing and enjoying the beautiful weather. I labored a little, despite the holiday -- there was a house to clean after weekend guests, and some prep to do before classes Tuesday. And in order to do that prep, I had to access computer files that I created back in my office last week -- but I didn't have to use a flash or portable hard drive to do it.

How did you do that? you might ask. Well, I'll tell you (as if you haven't figured that out yet from the title of this post). Far be it from me to encourage laboring over a weekend (and especially a holiday weekend at that), but you should know that if you ever forget to email yourself a document or save it to a flash drive, there's still another way to access your files without driving several (or several + several more) miles back to your home campus.

First, type into your web browser (or, you know, click the link and then bookmark it). You'll arrive at this:

Then, enter your MYSCCC login information. You'll be taken to this screen:

At this point you're asked to select the link to your home campus. It's important to note that if you were formerly an adjunct who began teaching on another campus, or even a full-time member transferring from another campus, your files are probably located under your original campus. (ex. I transferred to Eastern from the Ammerman campus last year, and my files are still located under the Ammerman link.)

Click the link and be patient: you'll find a redundant screen that asks yet again for your MYSCCC login, and then you may have to wait while a red "LOADING" sign appears in the top right hand corner of the screen.:

I find that depending on the amount of traffic on the college server or the strength of the wifi signal at my own home, it can take a minute or two for something like this to appear: 

Use the arrows on the top right of the screen to scroll through the list until you find your MYSCCC Login. When you do, click the link, and you'll be directed to another link for your files ("My Documents").

Once you're in there, you can access anything that you created on your office computer and saved to your documents folder. (A word of warning: if you were working on a document and didn't save it, you'll be unable to open it up remotely.) You can even upload documents that you create at home to the school's server, and they'll be ready for you to access once you return to the office. All in all, this little tool is a pretty useful one to remember. Remote access to my office files has saved me time and stress on more than one occasion. May it do the same for you!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Necessity (and Benefits) of Ceremony

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Mentoring Program 

By now you've had a whopping two-three days to acclimate to SCCC while classes are in session -- but this will be your first full week at the institution (at least as a full time faculty member). You're bound to have some questions. When you have them, I'd advise you to write them down and save them for your mentor; on Friday, the campus NMP coordinators and I met to brainstorm mentor/mentee pairings -- and so you should be receiving word soon(ish) about who your mentor is, and they'll contact you shortly after that.

Also, you've had the opportunity to attend our annual Convocation -- and that event may have created questions, too, such as: why a convocation? Is this really necessary? 

The answer is that no, convocations generally aren't necessary. In fact, they're a fairly recent part of Suffolk tradition. And sure, it can be a drag to stay on campus longer -- or travel 30-40 minutes to Ammerman from your home campus -- but instead of grumbling or groaning (or maybe after grumbling and groaning, because I was certainly guilty of both), perhaps we should consider why such ceremonies and traditions (whether new or as old as the institution itself) are beneficial. More specifically, we should see what moments of the convocation we can find useful to our daily professional lives as we move forward with the academic year and our careers here at SCCC.

Best. Bingo. Card. Ever.
I can imagine it's disorienting to go to Convocation on your first day at work. You file in to the gymnasium behind fellow faculty you don't really know yet, not knowing what to expect. People are taking photos. For some reason that's not entirely clear to you, there are cheerleaders and a dance team. (Are they usually present at Convocations? you might ask your more experienced neighbor. No, they answer, they usually aren't.)  It's really, really cold. You wish you had a snack. You wish you had your academic robes (or, you feel kind of foolish wearing yours next to faculty who are not . . . but then, the extra fabric sure helps against the cold!). You wish, at the very least, you'd printed out that Bingo card from McSweeney's that's making the rounds of Facebook and Twitter and even, good lord, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Then things get going. There are some opening remarks, soft joking, a general atmosphere of optimism and celebration that the more cynical of us (author raises hand here) regard with a healthy bit of side-eye. There are a few trending buzzwords from higher ed initiatives thrown around (Hey! "Initiative" -- there's one!). Still, it's interesting to observe how these things work -- these ceremonies, that is -- and what is considered worth celebrating.

Being a wise, wait, wizened, nope, seasoned (yes!) faculty member, here's what I would say is worth remembering: 
  1. The Chancellor's Excellence Awards ceremony. If you are teaching faculty, Thursday's ceremony should, at the very least, make you aware of the awards, and, at the most, help you shape the rest of your career here. These awards are prestigious and competitive, and nominations come from the college community. The nomination and selection process is rigorous at the local level and the SUNY level, and so we should look to these winners not with envy or de-facto admiration, but with a careful and appraising eye. That's not to say that award winners aren't worth our cheers and celebration -- but I'm talking about using the fact of the awards, and their distribution, not as a kind of yard stick (not something you measure your own accomplishments against), but as a source of professional-development information. Specifically: look at the bios of the awardees. Look at their accomplishments, plus the types of service they've completed and the associations they've joined. These are possibilities for your career, too -- particularly as you just begin your tenure here. What looks interesting? What looks challenging? This exercise can be useful when determining what not to do with your career, too. Not everyone gets to be (obviously) a Chancellor's Award winner -- but not everyone wants to be a Chancellor's Award winner. (Although we can all agree we'd like some cool-looking medal-bling for future ceremonies, ammaright?) If you don't want your career to include the kind of activities or markers that the award winners have, what do you want it to include? Anyway, moments like these can help you think about, early on, the kind of career you'd like to have at SCCC.
  2. The Professor Emeritus Awards: Similarly, if you listened to the biographies of the Professors Emeriti (including that of the fabulous Ellen Schuler Mauk, former president of the Faculty Association), you would have heard a long list of varied accomplishments. Here, I would point out that these former faculty members were being honored because they never stopped being active and engaged faculty after their final promotions; none of them sank into an abyss of reclusiveness and anonymity after retirement, but rather remained vigorous participants in (and advocates of) higher education. This is something to observe, and something to marvel at: how they didn't burn out. How they remained invested. It may seem difficult to imagine career burn out at this point, but in about seven years, you may find yourself a little, well, spent. Tired. And if that happens, it might help to remember and consider professors such as these. If you see any of them around campus, ask them to divulge their secrets.
  3. Dr. Suzanne Johnson's speech: As new members, you probably felt that you were getting your first good look at our administration -- President Shaun McKay, Vice President for Student Affairs Chris Adams, and of course, Vice President of Academic Affairs Suzanne Johnson. But what you may not have known is that most of the college community was having their first real introduction to Dr. Johnson, because she just began her tenure as VP this summer. Her keynote speech was optimistic, geared appropriately toward our student audience (the most substantial reason to hold a convocation in the first place), and peppered with some personal information that let us know a little more about who she is and what she values. The most refreshing revelation from this speech (and the most important) was that she, a key member of our administration, sees the community college degree not as a certificate that proves job-worthiness or -readiness, but as process, steps taken to make one a more learned citizen capable of substantial, reasoned and valuable contributions to society. This is a message I attempt to ingrain in my students every semester, as I suspect many of you do as well, but it was particularly heartening at the beginning of the academic year to hear such a sentiment from the mouth of one of our administrators.
  4. The Shark: As yes, the shark. The foam fins! The fanfare! The instrumental Metallica! (C'mon, you know you weren't missing Hetfield's hyperbolic growl.) Some of you may have been thinking, really? A mascot? Is this important and relevant, academically? The answer is, of course, no AND yes. Sure, we could survive as a commuter school without a mascot. And yes, there's often a little too much emphasis placed on sports in higher ed. But it's worth remembering your own undergrad experience, and any sporting events that you attended while there: school mascots provide students with a sense of unity and camaraderie, while the traditional humorous antics provide a kind of cathartic release from the tension that can build from too many hours of studying in isolation. Having a school mascot gives our students one more reason to feel like they belong to a college with a cogent identity, even if they commute daily to that school instead of dorming, and even if that school is divided between three campuses instead of contained in one sprawling mini-city. 
Hopefully, if anything, the Convocation gave you a better sense of the identity of SCCC, for better or for worse. Pomp and circumstance can be a little wearing, I know, and particularly after the stress of a full day of classes -- but it has its purpose, and very real ramifications, and it's important to reflect on those effects, if even for a brief while. Because faculty who are more informed and educated about the institution to which they belong, and faculty who think honestly and critically about the programs and celebrations and values of the institution, are faculty better poised to teach, and serve, and shape the future of that institution.

That's right! You're responsible for shaping the future of SCCC ... No big deal, right?

( Happy first week back!)