I had previously defined what I thought it meant to be a faculty member as being involved in the university community in order to maintain an open environment for accepting new ideas. In this way the faculty member can help a higher education institution improve the quality of education and, ultimately, improve society. While I still believe this is part of what it means to be a faculty member, information covered over the course of this semester has broadened my idea of what the roles and responsibilities of a faculty member are.
To be a faculty member means to be able to effectively balance the position’s research versus its teaching responsibilities. This balance is sometimes difficult because a faculty member’s research duties are more likely to be of immediate benefit to the faculty member’s career and reputation than are duties related to guiding students through teaching. When an effective faculty member does conduct research, he or she investigates meaningful and new topics, even if it takes a long time to complete, instead of publishing many articles of little significance or originality in order to lengthen one’s publishing resume.
Our course’s discussion of the “publish or perish” issue relates to this tension. I believe that in order to be most effective, faculty members should try to worry less about “publish or perish” and not forget to put time and care into their lesson plans, lectures, and their students’ assignments. Putting an equal focus on teaching duties will help the faculty member grow their higher education institution from within by creating a more knowledgeable and engaged student body. In addition, a faculty member should act as a mentor to individual students, in particular advisees. This mentorship should provide professional guidance and training, and should prepare students for life after graduation.
The ability to create an open culture of learning is another large part of what I believe it means to be a faculty member. This can be accomplished on several levels. In the classroom I believe an effective faculty member should engage students to share and discuss ideas between themselves so that issues can be looked at in new ways. When possible, the faculty member should ask students to apply lessons and themes from course material to current and relevant topics.
Materials for this course have shown me that creating an open culture within an academic institution goes beyond what I had first thought. This concept should also apply to creating an open and respectful environment among faculty members, department heads, students and advisees. For example, it is a faculty member’s role to stop academic bullying in higher education at all levels.
Finally, I believe to be a faculty member means to try, improve and engage with their community. When possible, faculty members should try to attend and participate in community forums, guest lectures, or discussions on relevant topics. This can help improve how others in the community think about different topics and make decisions. When faculty members engage with the community, it also highlights the import role higher education institutions play within each community.