This story originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of IDENTIFY.
Story by Ryan Gavin
Photos courtesy April Langley and Kiruba Krishnaswamy
The UM System Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion supports scholarships for the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity’s Faculty Success Program. This is an intensive virtual bootcamp where academics work directly with a coach and small group of other faculty to implement the skills and strategies to maximize their success. Provided through the NCFDD, the program is for advanced post-docs, tenure-track faculty and tenured faculty who are looking for coaching and peer support to propel their research productivity and work-life balance to new levels. Two Mizzou recipients have shared what the experience has meant to them.
Chair, Department of Black StudiesAssociate Professor, English
When I started my Faculty Success Program plan a couple of semesters ago, I was hoping to revise a conference paper into an article. Following the FSP program — and learning so much about time management, prioritizing my writing and research time, creating a plan of action for achieving my professional goals, as well as the community of small groups of peers and coaches across the nation, and a couple new colleagues I met locally — has been challenging at times, especially during my first semester as chair.
By the end of the first FSP, I had reached out to new mentors and potential sponsors, taken the advice of FSP program and asked others to read my draft. The comments they offered were amazing. And, something incredible happened: I spent so much time writing and researching that the article became a few draft chapters. This summer, I was actually able to fine tune, and revise and I currently have a draft of my next book — the one I hope will move me from associate to full professor.
I’ve written three chapters, an introduction, conclusion, and preface with tons of notes. I’ve actually increased my writing productivity to an average of 10 hours a week, and I now have a writing buddy I meet with over Zoom at 7 a.m. nearly every morning. I’ve a well-articulated strategic plan for the completion of this book, and I’ve also spent time working on a second book project. I’ve completed an introduction which I sent to a peer to read.
Although, it’s not always easy to prioritize research as a woman of color tenured professor, FSP has taught me how to better manage those resources and time I have. I’ve also began holding my junior faculty accountable to their strategic plans, and they have began using strategic plans to work with their grad assistants.
The point I want to make here is that FSP has been an invaluable resource, one that I wish I had access to sooner, but one that I am extremely grateful to have been supported by the Division of Inclusion, Diversity & Equity and the College of Arts and Science. It has been important to me to actually network with other faculty across the U.S. who share some of my same concerns, women of color, white women, first generation, and others who have common experiences, and also to be in groups with other “long in the tooth” associate professors working toward promotion.
Assistant Professor (Sustainable Food Engineering), Department of Bioengineering and Department of Food Science
Just getting into the FSP made me feel like I’m not alone — there are so many people like me with all these questions. And I learned that there are no dumb questions because someone might have the same question as you. There are people who have overcome these struggles, and if they can do it, so can you.
Every week, there is an open module, and you can learn at your own pace — watch the videos and learn from that. The strategy plan was very helpful. With so many things to do, it helps you to see what is important. As a non-tenure tenure-track professor, you get so many things like research and teaching, how do you find time to allocate what is most important to help you reach your goals of tenure? There was also one particular module that says it’s not only about work, it’s important to have balance with your personal life. Little things, but it makes a big difference because you can forget when you’re loaded with so many things.
Connections with the group vary person to person. Unfortunately with my group, it was during summer and a lot of people were also traveling for things like conferences. But we know that we are connected with folks in different parts and that we can reach out to them.
My recommendation in pursuing this program is to find a time that works well for you. You want some options. Once the group is formed, then you can’t change your time slots. I picked a day during the week and it was difficult with meetings, but find some time you can dedicated to it. Also having the time allocated for yourself is very helpful.
I would definitely recommend this program to anybody considering it. The modules are good and then they have good resources. The website is great, and you can use the online tool to find a buddy to write and accountability buddies so you can get people who are similar to you to work with you. They’re doing their project, you’re doing yours, but it’s someone you can talk to, which is a unique feature.
I wish there were more programs like this. I appreciate the vision to come up with this because there were no programs like this here. Experience it, it will be really good!