Disclaimer: I felt a little odd going through new faculty orientation (NFO) last week, seeing as I’ve been at ZSR for over 10 months , and with the University for almost 4 years , but I’m not complaining! I had a lot of fun, really enjoyed the opportunity to meet our new colleagues, and have been pleasantly surprised at how much I learned.
One of the highlights from NFO Day 1 was hearing the Provost’s “Top 10 List for Success” for new faculty:
- Find mentors
- Form bonds with peers
- Get out there – network in your profession, be bold!
- Protect research time and explain it to students
- Give yourself deadlines
- Don’t be a summer scholar
- Find your own style in the classroom
- Be conscious of the responsibility that goes with your position
- Respect your students and treat them fairly
- Have high expectations
As a member of the Mentoring Committee, I was especially pleased to hear that Provost Tiefenthaler’s number one piece of advice for success was to find a mentor. She and several of the Associate Provosts affirmed the benefits gained from mentoring, and although the University does not have a structured mentoring program for new faculty, it is obvious that such relationships are highly valued. I also appreciated her encouragement to attend conferences and accept all speaking invitations to network in our professions.
Following the ZSR orientation session (kudos to my fellow presenters!), I enjoyed meeting with the new faculty in one of my liaison depts. (Math), and even gave a brief tour into the bowels of Reynolds Wing before lunch!
NFO Day 2 was all about benefits, and while I didn’t learn anything new (or need to sign up for benefits), I was able to put names and faces together of folks in HR and other campus depts.
NFO Day 3 was an all day orientation for Wake Forest College faculty. Although ZSR faculty aren’t part of the College, we were invited to attend and I sincerely hope that the invitation continues to be extended in the future, as I found this to be the most beneficial part of NFO. After an introduction to the depts. and staff within the Dean’s Office, there were a series of panels where existing College faculty shared their insights on the teacher-scholar ideal; managing self, life & work; and “the first year” faculty experience at WFU. While ZSR faculty aren’t evaluated as teacher-scholars and have different demands on our time, the panelists had good insights that apply across the board, and hearing their advice and experiences provided wonderful insight into what it means to be a teacher-scholar at Wake Forest.
Teacher-Scholar Ideal: Cindy Gendrich (Theatre & Dance), Ellen Miller (Anthropology), Jason Parsley (Math)
- you’re going to fall down on one or the other, teaching or research, some semesters; it’s OK, you’ll rebound
- perception of others not working as hard as you are isn’t true; just working through a different process
- everyone wants you to do well – you aren’t pushing against a brick wall!
- push students’ boundaries to have those “aha!” moments
- not good if you’re feeling too comfortable because it likely means you aren’t pushing yourself
Managing Self, Life & Work: Christa Colyer (Chemistry), Susan Fahrbach (Biology), Jarrod Whitaker (Religion)
- consistently attain success in work, self & relationships
- it’s NOT a mathematical balance
- they are ideals, you cannot reach them but you can come close
- our jobs are inherently spontaneous; we have so many opportunities for engagement, so don’t think of them as “wasted time;” we are part of the University community and we are richer for engaging
- problems of work-life balance, while experienced personally, almost always originate structurally or institutionally; the goal is to build structures within which we can honestly excel
- life is dynamic and balance is overrated – life would be boring if balance was actually achieved!
- don’t strive for balance over a period of days, weeks or months, but over a year; HOWEVER, don’t let the unbalance go unexplained to either side (work or life)
- you don’t have to sacrifice everything to be a good WFU professor; learn to protect your family time because that is the most important thing
“The First Year”: Susan Harlan (English), Oana Jureschu (Physics), Will Walldorf (Political Science)
- tell students you don’t check email after x-time (even though we know you do!), as you need to set boundaries
- be reasonable in expectations of self
- you cannot fool students if you don’t have passion for teaching or for the subject
- stick to deadlines in syllabus and don’t make compromises; if you find a problem, change it in future classes
- give grant proposals, manuscripts to colleagues to read prior to submission
- academia is not a 9-5 job and it can get overwhelming; it takes time to develop structure, personal practices
- our job is to explore everyday – that’s really cool!
I am very glad that I was able to participate in NFO, and will strongly encourage future new ZSR faculty to do so, regardless of how long they’ve been here when August rolls around!