FacultyEnlight

RECREATING A FACULTY CULTURE

If you’re wondering what a faculty culture even is in these modern times, don’t feel alone: Clubs, partnerships, and in-person scholarly conversations are so seemingly rare these days, many new professors aren’t even aware that they once existed. Though we’re living in a digital age, has the need for in-person collaboration among college staff become even more important?

When there is a lack of teamwork among faculty, students can sense the discomfort; it doesn’t go unnoticed. And in a world where universities are competing even more with online education opportunities, shouldn’t a sense of togetherness be a priority? Instead of eating lunch at their desks, faculty, alumni, and more could benefit from a common meeting place, whether for snacking, collaborating, or just getting to know what’s happening around school. A real faculty culture can be mutually beneficial—but it takes effort.

Just a few decades ago, having a company culture was virtually unheard of. These days, many entrepreneurial companies have been pushing their fun game times, snacks, and interactive spaces. In an age when people work from home or feel imprisoned in their cubicles, many newer companies are pushing to make their employees happy while developing loyalty.  So what about in the higher ed world? The notion of having a place on campus for faculty, employees, and more to mingle and interact actually isn’t new.

Take the Berkeley Faculty Club, which has been around for more than a century. It’s considered a secluded retreat, lunch and dinner club, meeting place, and more for faculty, admin, staff, alumni, and even community members. Taco Tuesdays, intimate concerts featuring students, and more unite the faculty and give them a place to unite. Less successful was The Rossborough Inn, an old University of Maryland faculty club that no longer functions as anything but an office.

Of course, in-person meetings and collaborations are not always possible. Many faculty are part-time, teach online, or simply aren’t able to get the information they need locally. An online community could be an answer when it comes to faculty teamwork and collaboration; it simply doesn’t exist yet.

It’s not just a “club” that teaching communities are looking for. It’s a sense of camaraderie, an ability to make voices heard, and ways to problem solve as well. From community colleges to private institutions, higher education establishments nationwide are working to build a better culture. Virginia’s Patrick Henry Community College worked to change their low student engagement by promoting professional development with hands-on group work. As student outcomes improved, this type of faculty training was made mandatory. Pierce College in Washington got its faculty to bond and progress with a week-long course on ideas for teaching improvement. Successful completion resulted in salary increases—and the students started doing better, too. Happier and more-inspired teachers most certainly results in happier students.

"We want to have people live, work, and play around the university, so we have to provide the kinds of things that attract them," said one university consultant. To help mend a broken system, faculty culture is something professors and staff simply must work for together.