In my application letter to be the next director of the Faculty Development and Innovation Center at Eastern Illinois University, I stated that I am just as interested in faculty development as I am in developing faculty. Acknowledging the impact that a global pandemic has taken on faculty, staff, and students, I knew that I was applying for a position that at the forefront of ensuring my colleagues were supported and prepared for the precariousness of the moment. I wrote:
The university, and the state of higher education as a whole, are experiencing an important moment as we weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Classes are offered in multiple modalities – often not reflecting the strengths of individual faculty – but out of necessity and duty. We understand both the impact higher education has on the lives of our students and the mission to serve them as best we can. As we come through this incredible time, there is an opportunity and mandate to ensure that our faculty, my peers, are again empowered to be their best selves. While so many of us have learned the ins and outs of online learning platforms, designing online lectures, synchronous and asynchronous designs, and discovery of the potential educational technology, how we re-engage in traditional instruction will be the most important challenge to the FDIC in the coming months and years. Eastern Illinois University has a reputation built on its in-class, in-person instruction, and the FDIC is vital to continue this legacy.
The mission of the Faculty Development and Innovation Center is to help Eastern Illinois University faculty achieve and maintain excellence in teaching, scholarship, and creativity through training opportunities, grants, and fostering a community of collegial learning. I appreciate this core mission and its importance for our university. But I have ideas and a vision if I were to be given the opportunity to direct this center and serve this mission. I know that there are amazing people like our Director of Learning Innovation and our Instructional Designer, as well as instructional support specialists and information technology specialists across campus. These individuals have proven themselves in aiding the educational mission, especially during the pandemic. This, as well as the online and physical resources of the center are addressing the critical faculty development mission of the FDIC.
But I am also interested in developing faculty, and this, to me, speaks to the fostering of a community of collegial learning. From New Faculty Orientation through mentoring and empowerment of our instructors, I would like to grow programs that help build and sustain a community of teacher-scholars. I know it may take time and buy-in, but as we emerge from this year of social distancing and multiple modalities, supporting faculty and instructors as faculty and instructors seems a worthy task.
While I do not officially take over until June 1, 2021, I have officially begun my development. Beginning January 1, 2021, I will be a fellow in the center, learning the role and responsibilities of the director position, working to build and implement programs, and ease the transition between myself and the current director.
This blog, “Developing Faculty,” is the acknowledgement that I have much to learn – to develop myself – as I take on this important role. I have always been interested in pedagogy, the scholarship of teaching and learning, working closely with students, and the power of empathy plays in and outside of the college classroom. But here I document my adventure in transitioning to this new role – ideas I may have, reviews of books and articles, shout-outs to others in the field, and other musings that may emerge.
But what I do know is my philosophy of teaching – my anchor to my primary passion as a university educator – and it is the spirit and growth mindset with which I will approach this journal as well:
My pedagogy and teaching philosophy are rooted in collaboration, inquiry, empathy and empowerment, and a growth mindset. I believe in high impact educational methods, but I know that such practices range from online and technological innovations to a simple pad of paper and colored markers, or even informal conversation over coffee or lunch. I take pride in being an educator-scholar, using my passion for service and research to inform my teaching and praxis. But from a student-centered perspective; the foundation of higher education is the students, and the mortar of this institution is the relationship between students and faculty. This is why I want to direct this center – in service to our students and my peers.