Recent events had me thinking about PSU’s level of internal community engagement. In the past few weeks, I attended a first anniversary session for faculty, the monthly College of Arts and Sciences (CLAS) Research Brown-Bag, Second Thursday Social Club, my monthly Drop-in Provost Sessions, the Administrative Briefing, a “First Thursday” at a Pearl District Gallery featuring work of faculty in the Arts, and our Winter Symposium.
While a number of faculty and staff participated in these events, attendance was minimal. Even the Second Thursday Social Club that attracts about 100 faculty and staff each month reflects a small percentage of our total PSU faculty and staff.
Increasing Faculty and Staff Participation
Each of these events and other PSU events are occasions to learn about each other, the university, the challenges ahead, and opportunities. I have asked some faculty and staff why the attendance is low at many of these events. The response is often that people are “too busy.”
I get it. There are not enough hours in the day (or night!) to accomplish everything. I understand we all need to make choices in our professional and personal lives as to how we spend our time. However, there is a case to be made for greater faculty and staff participation at campus events. They are opportunities to create community; add quality and joy to our working environment; expand our knowledge; and learn more about each other.
Making time for campus events is like exercise. We know it is good for us, but we do not do it unless we make it a priority.
For those who could not make it, here is what you missed:
First anniversary session for recently hired faculty. As second- and third-year faculty, you were not able to share the positive and challenging aspects of your first-year experiences and provide suggestions on how to make improvements for fellow faculty members.
Monthly College of Arts and Sciences (CLAS) Research Brown-Bag. You missed World Languages and Literature Professor Steve Thorne’s presentation, “Rewilding Learning and Communicative Action.” The 12 of us in attendance were treated to a terrific presentation. Professor Thorne’s interdisciplinary examination of semiotic ecology and linguistic complexity demonstrated the sophisticated interactions that occur in online gaming. His application of research to his pedagogy and his humorous delivery made me think: Who would not want to take a class from this faculty member?
Second Thursday Social Club. You missed opportunities to find out about the new grandchild of a colleague, a research grant a faculty member received, views about topics and comments at the last Faculty Senate meeting, and what kind of beer someone likes.
Monthly Drop-in Session with the Provost. You would have participated with a half a dozen colleagues engaged in a conversation about how we can address issues students have raised about inclusive and culturally-responsive pedagogy, course content, course materials and classroom climate. There was not agreement on everything, but the conversation resulted in some new perspectives and directions.
Administrative Briefing. You missed hearing about the completion of our Strategic Plan, PSU day at the Capitol, the Ballot Measure, the FY 17 budget process, and a chance to meet our new Vice President of Global Equity and Inclusion, Carmen Suarez.
First Thursday in the Pearl. Although not a PSU-sponsored event, First Thursday in the Pearl is an opportunity to see the work of our Art and Design faculty in a public setting and to learn about their scholarly activity.
Winter Symposium. Less than 10% of our fulltime faculty and staff attended the January Winter Symposium. You missed out on faculty, staff and student panels addressing academic breadth, equity, global awareness and well-being. You were not able to be in on the start of the conversation the Faculty Senate is having on “What it means to be educated in the 21st century.”
I do not want to come across as overly critical. There are many campus events and I understand no one can be at every one. Teaching, meetings, department events, students, family and other obligations prevent attendance. I also recognize the campus community contributions made by our colleagues who give of their time to service on committees and the Faculty Senate. These are important forms of engagement.
Nevertheless, I am struck by the low attendance at so many campus events that have the potential to bring faculty and staff from different disciplines and units together. I think we are missing important opportunities to get to know and interact with our colleagues, exchange ideas, foster interdisciplinary collaborations and learn from one another.
I am interested in your ideas on how we can increase faculty and staff participation at campus events. Please share thoughts below.