Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Plan for the Future: Purposeful Service and Your Career at Suffolk

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Mentoring Program 

Happy Spring Break, New Members. I hope everyone withstood the snow and rain yesterday and that your recess has been peaceful, productive and restful.

This week I received a significant letter from the college, one that we spend much of our academic career working toward at SCCC: a letter from the president of the college informing me that he'd approved my "promotion in academic rank from Associate to Professor," effective at the beginning of our next academic year.
Yay! Finally!

This was a joyful moment, and also a kind of underwhelming one. Underwhelming simply because not much is going to change in my academic/work life after this point -- there will be no magical shift or transformation that signals the end of an era or a dramatic end to my involvement at the college. For the most part (with one or two exceptions), my career post-promotion is going to look very similar to my career over the past few years. This is because for the second half of my career here, I've been trying to practice deliberation, and be much for mindful, before accepting service opportunities.

Service to the college comprises a large part of our responsibilities as faculty, and -- sometimes practically, sometimes theoretically -- also helps the college function. You're probably already familiar with some aspect of service through conversations with your mentor or departmental meetings; however, your first year as a faculty member is not supposed to be one that's heavy in committee work or meetings. Your eligibility for your first promotion, though, is going to arrive much faster than you expect -- so it's good to begin, particularly when you have some down time during spring recess, to plan your career and what that might look like.

I spoke about this kind of thing last semester at our FA Discussion Series event titled "What You Need to Know In Your First Year (and Beyond)," but if you missed it, and if you were to search The Undercurrent's archive of previous New Member Discussion Series events, you'd find many posts on this topic -- most notably, "The Longview: Anticipating and Planning Your Career at SCCC" and "On Purpose." Reading through those posts might help -- hopefully will help -- you create a long-term plan that will guide you through the next few years. 

I write "the next few years" because we need to allow flexibility in our planning. We need to know that aspects of the college are going to change, committees will come and go, opportunities to be on those committees will come and go, and you'll have to revise your perspective, both short-term and long-term, accordingly. But being aware of what is possible at this point in your career, and being mindful of your interests and values, your level of expertise, your available time, and your goals for the future can help you avoid dedicating time and effort to committees that aren't the right fit (for you or them). 

Granted, sometimes you don't know that a committee isn't a good fit until you've served on it for a semester. If this happens to you, don't be afraid to gracefully and expediently excuse yourself from the group. There are always new service opportunities that will arise. There will always be faculty members who can take your place while you find a better way to serve your department, your campus, and the college.

So to that end, as I am happily, officially, and finally at the end of the oft-dreaded promotion cycle, I am pleased to share with you these highlights from "What You Need to Know In Your First Year (and Beyond)":

Create a Plan from a Vision or Desire 

1. Answer this question: Where you see yourself in ten years? (OR, What do you want to do with your next decade?)

  • At Suffolk County Community College
  • As a professional in your field or discipline
  • Personally 

2.  Consider (i.e. write down) your various areas of responsibility at the college:

  • Teaching and Other Duties (Other duties = the daily lives of non-classroom faculty)

  • Service to the College and Community
    • Department/Area
    • Campus
    •  College
    • Community
  • Personal and Professional Growth 
    • Research and Scholarship

 3. Break down your 10-year plan by aligning it with:

  • Daily Duties (Teaching/Non-Teaching) 
  • Departmental Service
  • Campus Service
  • College Service
  • Community Service
  • Professional Development

 4.  Now that you've taken your "Future Self" and divided him or her six different ways, consider: Which area holds the most challenging or ambitious "future self"?

5. Next, consider: Where do I stand now in each of the following areas?

  • Daily Duties (Teaching/Non-Teaching)
  • Departmental Service 
  • Campus Service 
  • College Service 
  • Community Service 
  • Professional Development

6. Make rules for yourself, follow them, and try again if you mess up.

  • Example: I must take a week to consider before beginning any new projects or commitments
    • Take stock of your other commitments
    • Consider whether or not, realistically, you could handle the additional responsibility
    • If you can, great
    •  If not, do not fret 
7. Make a conscious effort to think about your main goals as an educator (this comes from faculty member Jill Malik, Social Science)
  • What are your main goals in the classroom?
  • What are your obligations to students?
  • What are their obligations as students in your classroom? 

8. Practice and Hone the Fine Art of Saying No

  • It’s okay, and advisable, to reject responsibilities that don’t reflect your plan, vision, or interests
  • They will find someone else
  • You will be offered other opportunities

9. Make realistic expectations for yourself and your students and your colleagues (also from Jill Malik, except I added the part about colleagues)

  • Slow start with committee work is the best start
  • Talk to colleagues about your plans – bounce ideas off them to realize and/or prevent unrealistic expectations
  • Adjust assignments according to your new number of students and/or courses

10. Meet the students halfway (this comes from Misty Curreli, Sociology)

  • Commit to the idea of being transparent about the policies and procedures and why they are the way they are
  • Explain to the students how to use the textbook, what purposes the assignments serve (what it evaluates and how it adds to their skill sets
  • Watch for and reflect on your assumptions of student behavior and then ground yourself not in ego but in what’s pedagogically best for the students

11. Surround yourself with mentors (this comes from Jared Dowd, Counselor)

  • FA New Member Program Mentor
  • Academic Chairs and Deans
  • Colleagues

12. Reach across departments and divisions for mentoring, expertise, and collaboration (this comes from Jason Ramirez, Communication and Art)

13. Remember the importance of networking (this comes from Teri Morales, Counselor and Adjunct Faculty) 

  • Within the college
  • Outside the college

14. Take advantage of what Suffolk has to offer (also from Jared Dowd, Counselor)

  • Professional Development Workshops
  • Monday Morning Mentor emails 
  • Assisting Student Activities, and/or becoming a club advisor

 15. Start small, end BIG” (also from Jason Ramirez, Communication and Art)

  • Effective teaching flourishes with a concentration on clear goals and objectives
  • Allow for new technologies of instruction whenever possible
  • Allow your students to bring their classroom to the rest of the campus
  • Ask yourself, “What can I share, based on my expertise, with the classroom, campus, and college-wide community?”
  • Reach out to the larger community whenever possible

16. Maintain your passion(s) (also from Teri Morales, Counselor and Adjunct Faculty)

  • Surround yourself with positive people and feed off their enthusiasm

17. Have compassion for yourself (also from Misty Curreli, Sociology)

  • It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, unsure, and/or exhausted. 
  • You should acknowledge ON A DAILY BASIS what you’ve accomplished despite any feelings to the contrary

18. Don’t neglect your own scholarly development (also from Jason Ramirez, Communication and Art)

  • Keep an eye out for conference calls for papers and scholarly opportunitiesUtilize any and all grant opportunities you come across throughout the year
  • Don’t forget to investigate possible publication opportunities, both in your field of expertise and your pedagogical development
  • Reach out to the union if you need to (It is always important to know what is contractually expected of you)

 19. Protect your time (also from Misty Curreli, Sociology) 

  • You deserve some personal, non-working time to give your mind a break 
  • This takes discipline and it also requires that you be alright with keeping some uncompleted things on the to-do list until the next workday

20. Maybe You Have Two Careers, Not One. Plan Accordingly.

  • Example: A teaching artist teaches students, and she exhibits, publishes, and promotes her work
  • Reserve/block out time (weekly, monthly, by semester) in your schedule for duties in all areas of both careers:
    • Grading   
    • Committee Work
    • Email
    • Office Hours
    • Research & Writing
    • Presentations & Conference Attendance


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