Some Reasons for Faculty to Think Ahead
- and some recommendations for helpful departmental policies and
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
DEPARTMENTAL POLICIES AND PRACTICES
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?
- 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
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.
DEPARTMENTAL POLICIES AND PRACTICES
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
* The scholarly activities of individual
faculty members should be considered as they contribute to the
health of the department.
- 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
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.
* why does this have to be done now
* to whom will it make a difference (the so what
* how will you know it is making a difference
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?