Showing Up Is Half The Battle
In a recent lunch conversation one of my fellow new professors (not a librarian) remarked that they were surprised how rarely they see other new faculty at important university events. There are about four or five of us out of about 30-40 new faculty who bump into each other quite a bit (1-2 times per month) and we almost never encounter the other new faculty members.
To us this is both perplexing and worrying. As new tenure track faculty members there is a lot of pressure, people need to setup and start research, publish a certain minimum amount of times, prepare new teaching materials, serve on committees, present and attend conferences, and try and maintain some sort of work-life balance. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and we often do. In spite of the crazy whirlwind of being first year tenure track faculty my colleague and I have made the time to attend several campus events.
Why you should be involved on campus:
People from every major college on campus will review your folders when you go up for tenure.
Do you really want their only impression of you to be from those folders?
Someday you will stick your foot in your mouth. You will do so badly, likely at the worst possible moment.
If people know you and your work they are more likely to look at it as an anomaly and not a regular occurrence.
University officials, especially at large universities, keep track of who attends their events.
Do you really want to be that professor no one ever sees at anything? A lot of the events I meet my colleagues at are sponsored by the Senior Vice Chancellor of the Office of Research, the Chancellor of the University, or the Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs. Now I don’t know about you, but my colleague and I feel that it’s a very good thing to have these people see our faces on a semi-regular basis in a positive manner at events which they think are important.
Collaborators, Co-teachers, and Friends
Eventually you will want or need on-campus collaborators for work, you’ll probably also want people to hang out with after work the odd Friday, or people to hang out with over pizza and some movies. It will be very difficult to identify who you should collaborate with, or who you want to be friends with if you never get out and meet your colleagues.
Your tenure track position should be a career not a job.
Not being involved in the campus community makes you seem more like an office worker than a tenure track faculty. Being a faculty member is not just about academics, publications, and presentations, it’s about service and the sense of community within your college or university.
I’m not advocating going to every event you’re invited to, that would be impossible. Every campus has a variety of activities and professional development workshops available. In general my problem is not finding something to go to, but deciding which events are the highest priority to go to. You should be able to make at least 2-3 campus events per month with very little strain on your schedule, if you can’t take 3-4 hours a month to be part of the campus community you should ask yourself if what you’re doing is really that important, that vital. If the answer is yes you might want to talk with your chair about restructuring your time or possibly lightening your duties, and re-examining your priorities.