Thursday, November 01, 2007

I'm Staying Because ...

There has been a good bit of kerfuffle on some of the blogs I read, around junior and senior faculty perceptions of each other, particularly focused on junior faculty who leave one position for another. My initial take on that is to say -- well, duh! Of course any faculty member is going to be hunting for the best possible position for themselves. That "best" may mean best pay, best geography, best colleagues, best job fit, best housing market, best two-body position, best whatever. When I took my position, Footslogger and I agreed that we would give it two years, and if we were not satisfied, we would go elsewhere. Five and a half years later, we're still here.

However, it's not my intention to add any fuel to that fire; flames enough are blazing away! I want, instead, to give a description of one of the reasons I'm still here: my department research group.

My department members are in the interesting position of hailing from different disciplines, all related by a common thread. Thus, although we have some things in common, we have very different ways of looking at life, work, the world, education, etc. We do all get along, though we don't always agree.

For the last year and a half, we have made it our goal to improve the research productivity of all members of the department (we have all have a similar teaching/research/service and advising load: 65/25/10. Here's what we do:

  • Friday is research day (we all teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays). That means we don't schedule meetings on Fridays.
  • We meet every Friday at 8:30 AM for coffee and breakfast downstairs in the student union, where we keep track of both short-term and long-term research goals to help keep each other accountable for meeting them.
  • Every semester we go off for a research/writing retreat. We book rooms at a cheap but classy hotel, we write all afternoon on a Thursday and most of the day Friday, emerging occasionally to report on our progress, get help with roadblocks, and eat meals (so far, we've been able to do this on the department's dime).
  • We celebrate our publications and give credit to the "Department Research Group."

All in all, though I think that I would have been almost as productive without it, the research group provides the kind of support and accountability that many of us need to get work done.

Having these goals, meeting in these ways, helps us to be collegial, to feel that we are not along, and is part of why I decided to stay here. I know that not everyone enjoys the kind of collegiality we have (and we haven't always had it!). But to those senior faculty who have been griping about junior faculty leaving them in the lurch, I say, maybe it's because your environment is not conducive to collaboration and collegiality.

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