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Narum's Notes

Some Reasons for Faculty to Think Ahead

- and some recommendations for helpful departmental policies and practices.

A. Deadlines

There are certain inflexible deadlines connected to stages in the scholarly career: deadlines for requesting a sabbatical, for assembling a portfolio for review and tenure, as well as for submitting a grant application.

    In addition being similar in regard to inflexible deadlines, these opportunities are alike in that they require work that will take much time: from the point of realizing an idea to the point of translating that idea into a finished project (sabbatical plan, tenure portfolio, proposal, new course, etc.). It helps to look ahead, and not be caught without a plan in hand.


    * Someone should have a formal time line (or informal mental picture) of potential major opportunities for individual members of the department at various career stages
    * The department should consider assuming collective responsibility for the achievements of individual members of the department. (One course release in a timely fashion, for example).
    * Develop a common understanding about how sabbatical plans, grant applications, and other scholarly activities of individuals fit into larger goals at the departmental and institutional level; this can create a stronger sense of community. A three-year departmental calendar?

B. Planning

  1. Even a sketchy look into the future can reduce time and energy (and dollars) spent in accomplishing what needs to be done to meet any kind of deadline with a substantial, carefully-considered, provocative, and competitive set of materials.

      This look into the future might help identify what is needed to achieve professional goals: an article in a peer-reviewed journal, a new language skill, a new piece of equipment [and the skill to use it], a connection to a learned library or a learned colleague here or abroad, a bibliography, assistance from a senior student in developing a bibliography, etc. As these are identified, a multi-year plan can be developed to accomplish mid-term objectives toward achieving larger professional goals. This multi-year plan should reflect self-awareness of how one gets something done (last minute, through a mulling-process, alone, with lots of people around, etc.)..

      In many cases, the very process taking hold of an idea and taking time to examine it from a very of perspectives (yours and others) is beneficial. Time spent at the early stage of the process pays dividends at the end. The most time consuming part of a plan– developing, examining, and reshaping an idea– can be fit into all sorts of odd hours, once the process has begun.

      This is the point in planning where one can identify the cast of characters who can help, over the short- or long-term: departmental colleagues, institutional grants officers/research or budget officers, librarians, colleagues from graduate school with similar interests and commitments, students, etc. The process of developing and implementing an agenda for professional growth should not be done in isolation from colleagues– but rather within the community of scholars.


      * Departments could set aside regular time during the annual series of departmental meetings to have individual faculty members present ideas about their projected scholarly activities (short- or long-term). Comments from departmental colleagues, "...I wonder if you've thought of...," can be helpful in shaping and reshaping an embryonic idea, and in making connections that may strengthen the final product (sabbatical application, new course or lab, etc.).

      * Most often in today's world, such attention is given to pre-tenure faculty, helping them to secure the resources and support needed to become a strong member of that particular academic community. Mid-career and senior faculty might also benefit from structured assistance, in the context of emerging and persisting departmental goals. Younger faculty might be assured time to establish a research agenda; senior faculty encouraged to take the lead in mounting new curricular endeavors.

      * The scholarly activities of individual faculty members should be considered as they contribute to the health of the department.

  2. A look into the future, considering potential deadlines/opportunities and identifying the ‘what, how, and when' of meeting those deadlines can lead to a better understanding of how the project might be disassembled and reassembled to be perhaps more feasible and perhaps more competitive, with the potential that different parts of the project can serve multiple purposes.

      You have a book in mind, building perhaps on your dissertation or emerging from questions raised in your senior seminar. One chapter might be submitted to a refereed journal, presented at a professional meeting, included in your r&t portfolio– and serve as the evidence of the quality of your work in a request for support for time to complete the book. This ‘taking-apart' of a project, challenging and interesting as it can be, also helps solve the problem of not-having enough time all at once. In many instances, major projects seem overwhelming because they are. But, when they are taken apart and undertaken in stages, the work proceeds more easily...and gets done. Never write something that will only be used once; good boiler-plate should be easily accessible.
    • In addition to taking the project apart, developing the proposal in stages is another approach that works for some, particularly if regular time is set aside over an extended period to wrestle with answering the questions.

        Create document on your computer that poses the standard ‘to-be-addressed' proposal questions.
         * what do you want to do
         * why does this have to be done now
         * to whom will it make a difference (the so what question)
         * how will you know it is making a difference
         * how will others know?

        At regular stages in this development process, put on the hat of the reviewer, asking:
         * have I made the case for significance
         * does the prose, the design of activities/experiments suggest the quality of my work?



    Proposals: How to…

    Preparation of the Research-Grant Application: Opportunities and Pitfalls

    Selected Reviewer Comments

    A Proposal Development Checklist

    Advice for Submitting a CCLI Proposal

    Proposal Writing

    Some Reasons for Faculty to Think Ahead

    What Deans (and Development Officers) Can Do

    What Development Officers Can Do

    What Faculty Can Do

    Writing Winning Proposals


    Narum's Notes Categories

    Grants Administration

    Public Policy

    Proposals: How to…

    Other Notes


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