is special assistant to the vice president of institutional advancement at Queens College, City University of New York, and executive director of the University of Venus blog and nonprofit. She is currently writing her first book: Fantastic Reading: Comic Books and Popular Culture.Read Mary's entries
Tag Archives: Faculty
March 3, 2011, 3:47 pm
I live in a house filled with magic. Our six-year-old son is obsessed with Harry Potter and although he knows that magic isn’t real, he still secretly hopes that it might be. We look for the sparkle in his eyes when he gets excited about being able to read, when he figures out how things work, when he learns and discovers. The most inspiring faculty members I know have the ability to create that kind of magic in their classrooms.
This basic humanity is missing in discussions of the corporatization of higher education. On a personal level, I find it difficult to connect with the corporate analogy. It is alienating, sterile, and ultimately…masculine.
I view teaching and learning as a series of human interactions that, at their best, become a series of magical moments of discovery shared between students and professors. When I think of a magic show, on the other hand, I visualize a …
February 23, 2011, 3:44 pm
With Michael Brown
Mary: Mike, while I agree that we need to prepare students for a “fluctuating job market,” I do not believe that universities should be wholly responsible for this preparation. Although students may approach higher education as a form of career preparation, are professors really the ones who are best equipped to prepare them for their next jobs? Obtaining a position requires much more than coursework or the credential of the degree. Most often, it requires on-the-job experience, the ability to interview well, the strategic use of well-made connections, etc. These skills are not typically the purview of college professors, and I think it is a mistake to expect faculty to prepare students for jobs in this manner.
The primary role of a university is in providing education through teaching and learning. If our teaching is determined by what employers want today…
February 9, 2011, 1:43 pm
When defining the value of education, faculty must focus on teaching and learning—what I view as the core of education. Critical thinking should be at the center of teaching and learning, and professors should be ruthlessly focused on finding ways to keep criticism alive in the classroom. Regrettably, the support for allowing professors to focus their teaching on critical thinking varies tremendously from institution to institution and by college and department within larger institutions.
As an administrator, when I define the value of education, I am obligated to focus on more than teaching and learning. To do this, I must trust that the faculty is doing its job and I must also support them in doing so by facilitating an institutional culture that values the teaching of critical thinking. Too many of our colleges and universities are failing to do this. Instead, we are witnessing a…
February 4, 2011, 4:10 pm
Written with Mary Churchill
Mike: I think that we need to talk about what we mean when we discuss “education.” We began this blog by making the distinction between the institutional setting of education and educational values and associated practices (teaching, for example). I want to return to the questions surrounding values and the practices related to those values.
By “education” we are ordinarily referring to a set of values tied to self-development and citizenship. This is a fairly conventional definition, but it needn’t be dismissed because of that. The question of what education is for is getting lost in debates over costs and benefits, the management of educational corporations, and the evaluation of courses by measures of “outcomes.” That creates a predicament. To get too caught up in these ostensibly “value-neutral” concerns means that we are losing the…
January 31, 2011, 6:15 pm
Written with Michael Brown
Mary: Mike, I’d like to finish up the conversation we started last week about eliminating courses from a department’s curriculum.Courses are often the domain of specific faculty members. For others in a department, to suggest that an active course isn’t valid and should no longer be offered can seem to suggest that the faculty member who unofficially “owns” that course — he or she developed it and usually teaches it — is in some way an easy professor.
Mike: You’re suggesting that eliminating a course can be seen as disapproval of the professor who teaches it and, I assume, can harm the collegiality that allows a curriculum to operate coherently. I suppose that happens sometimes. But a curriculum established as a major and as a continuing topic of departmental discussion rather than as a series of courses taken one by one can minimize the sense a…
November 10, 2010, 12:03 pm
Written with Mary Churchill
Mary: Mike, why is it so difficult to get a new course approved? If professors are unable to negotiate the resources necessary to support a new course, then perhaps the support isn’t there, perhaps it has not passed the departmental “peer review” process. I view the creation of a single course to be the purview of departments and programs. Many of our practices assume that academics are objective, but this is clearly not the case. A department has its own self-interest in mind and the more powerful members of the department (typically the senior faculty) will support initiatives that confirm and maintain their own disciplinary practices. This practice extends to tenure and promotion as well.
There are always ways of getting around the department. When I’m walking across campus or having lunch at the faculty center, professors will engage me in…
November 4, 2010, 4:15 pm
Written with Michael Brown
Mary: Participating in conversations on the issues we face in higher education is a crucial step in fixing what’s broken and creating solutions. Many bloggers have a strict practice of refusing to read and/or respond to comments from readers. That non-engagement is mostly in response to the negative and sarcastic tone taken by many who comment. I have found that constructive feedback is more likely to be shared via e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter by readers who prefer to avoid the uncivilized fray of the public-comment sections of blogs.
I understand that, but such silencing is regrettable.To quote the ProfHacker bloggers:
“We are committed to fostering an environment characterized by generosity, creativity, and (as corny as it might sound) kindness. Comments on this blog are an important part of creating that environment, and this comment policy
October 28, 2010, 11:27 am
Mary: Thanks to all who shared our first post via email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. We are thrilled to see the enthusiasm for this conversation. The Chronicle tweeted — “What makes blogging different from academic writing?” - which was a provocative teaser! But it drew people in. Readers messaged me their interest in that conversation and our first comment came from Ana Dinescu, a PhD student in Europe, who is interested in getting senior faculty members like you, Mike, to blog — it seems like a natural extension of the face-to-face conversations many of us enjoy as academics.
However, not all of us who work in higher ed are necessarily academics…
A few years back, I was helping my dean run a strategic-planning retreat. Most of us at the retreat were administrators, and I said something about how we were all at our institution because we…
October 25, 2010, 11:12 am
Mary: I thought it probably made sense to introduce our new blog with a story about how and why we decided to start this project and how we arrived at the name – Old School, New School.
This past January, I started a collaborative project with a group of GenX women in higher education. We created the University of Venus blog as a way to build community and offer a place for the next generation of leadership in the academy to give voice to their experiences and to share their ideas about changing higher ed. One crucial element missing from that conversation has been the sharing of experiences from those who have come before us, those who can shed light on how it used to be (old school), the changes they have experienced in higher education over time, and their visions for the future.
When The Chronicle of Higher Education approached me over the summer, I decided to take the…