Oct. 1-14, 2004
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Microsoft gives $3 million to Darden/Curry program
Nursing School establishes rural health care effort
Making good health of world’s poor
Hereford’s half-century: Former president remembered as link between U.Va.’s past and future
Faculty Senate explores collaborations at retreat
Football game Oct. 7 will limit parking
Employees show they care
Art History — Mixing it up
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Faculty Senate explores collaborations at retreat

By Matt Kelly

The Faculty Senate’s annual retreat on Sept. 10 focused on interdisciplinary collaborations and how they fit with the University’s culture. Senate members, meeting in small groups, discussed collaborations and how their implementation could support diversity, faculty recruitment, mentoring and advancement, and the roles of retired faculty.

Chairwoman Marcia Day Childress said the senate would examine collaborations as a way of enlivening and enriching faculty life. U.Va.
employs world-class scholars, and is small enough for them to get together and to develop new curricula, she said.

Some speakers noted that collaborations needed to be appropriate and well planned.

“Disciplines are important,” said Gene D. Block, vice president and provost of the University, adding that participants need a solid grounding in the subject. “You need strong disciplines to collaborate.”
Collaborations can connect things in novel ways, but he suggested that faculty members weigh their timing and appropriateness, because some students who are introduced to interdisciplinary work lack a proper foundation in the field. Block added that the promotion and tenure culture at the University might work against interdisciplinary work. Faculty members have to account for time spent teaching, researching and applying for grants, so time devoted to an interdisciplinary course may be counterproductive to advancement, he said.

James F. Childress, a professor in the Depatment of Religious Studies who has worked in several collaborative efforts, agreed that faculty members have to continually refresh themselves in their own discipline.

“Interdisciplinary courses should not be an end in itself,” he said. “They need to benefit the students and the faculty members.”

Such courses are very demanding, he said, and each faculty member needs to be an active participant.

J. Milton Adams, vice provost for academic programs, said that two-week courses, which start this year between New Year’s Day and the start of the spring term, would be an opportunity for collaborations. The courses provide intense and comprehensive explorations of a subject, and Adams suggested that people think in terms of developing collaborative courses for them.

During a discussion of the emeritus faculty involvement, the group suggested ways retired faculty can choose to participate, including traveling with junior faculty on fund-raising trips, giving guest lectures and conducting seminars. The group also proposed creating an alumni
association of faculty.

Some senators, echoing Block’s remarks, questioned whether collaboration would be a barrier to tenure, and other groups raised the
issue of whether mentoring led to collaboration.

Professor Michael J. Smith, co-chairperson of the president’s Commission on Diversity with Angela M. Davis, associate dean of students, said that it is important for the University to look at its recruiting process, noting that during the past 10 years only 20 percent of faculty members who are eligible for tenure are female. The Univer-
sity also needs to do a better job of retaining those who have been recruited, he said.

“We have to look for people who look different from us,” Smith said.
The diversity discussion group suggested involving the Office of Equal Opportunities Programs early in the recruitment process to seek a more diverse pool of applicants by partnering some initiatives with traditionally black universities and increasing graduate recruitment and funding. Smith, who delivered the report from the discussion group, suggested that faculty have a designated space on Grounds for members from different departments to socialize.

Smith also is promoting the idea of creating a diversity officer position at U.Va. There may be many diversity efforts in various departments, but he said people outside these areas may never become aware of them. A diversity officer could coordinate these efforts.

Collaboration also can come in the form of senior faculty members mentoring junior faculty members and answering their various questions, from the professional to the routine, such as what impact committee service has on tenure and if seeking a mentor would make a new faculty member appear weak, said Anda L. Webb, assistant provost for management and budget.

“Feedback from your colleagues is not mentoring,” Webb said. “How do we ensure that they get the right mentor?”

Interdisciplinary collaboration may act as a challenge to the University’s culture, but a new generation of faculty also will provoke change, said Dr. Sharon L. Hostler, a professor of pediatrics.

Teachers from Generation X are looking at family issues and personal goals rather than life-long loyalty to the institution. “The tenure clock competes with the biological and family clocks,” she said, adding that young faculty members will take different pathways.

“People remain when they feel valued and see progress in their careers,” said Marva A. Barnett, professor of French, who spoke on mentoring and the Teaching Fellows Program as tools for retaining faculty.

The retreat itself was a matter of collaboration, with senate members from different disciplines discussing issues, Chairwoman Childress said. The executive council will review the notes from the discussions to determine if there are issues that the senate should pursue. “I think some of the members heard things here they were not aware of. That’s always good,” she said. “I hope these conversations can start the wheels turning.”


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