explores collaborations at retreat|
By Matt Kelly
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.
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
at the University might work against interdisciplinary work. Faculty
to account for time spent teaching,
researching and applying for grants, so time
devoted to an interdisciplinary course may be counterproductive to advancement,
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.
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.
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
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.
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
initiatives with traditionally black universities and increasing
and funding. Smith, who delivered the report from the discussion
group, suggested that faculty have a designated space on
Grounds for members
departments to socialize.
also is promoting the idea of creating a diversity officer
position at U.Va. There may be many diversity
efforts in various
but he said
people outside these areas may
never become aware of them. A diversity officer could
coordinate these efforts.
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
service has on tenure and if seeking a mentor would
make a new faculty member appear weak, said Anda L. Webb,
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
the institution. “The tenure clock competes with
the biological and family clocks,” she said, adding that young faculty
members will take different pathways.
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
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.”