From the Director: November 2017

November 8, 2017 / By: Dr. Kris Wammer (Director, Center for Faculty Development / Associate Professor of Chemistry)
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Kris WammerIn late October, I was fortunate to attend my first POD (Professional and Organizational Development) Network conference. Being relatively new to the world of faculty development, I felt a bit like I did when attending conferences back when I was a new graduate student:  learning a new vocabulary, meeting new colleagues, and eagerly poring through sessions lamenting how many great topics were offered at conflicting times because I wanted to soak it all in. I came back from the conference simultaneously exhausted from so much learning and energized by all the new ideas I'd picked up - stay tuned for some of these in future columns. One thing I learned at this conference, which was probably more of a surprise to me than it should have been, is just how many resources we have here at St. Thomas compared to many other institutions. I didn't meet anyone at a comparable institution (or, frankly, even many from bigger institutions) that had such a comprehensive infrastructure of support including internal grants, programming, and services. In one particular talk, the presenter quoted Stephen Brookfield (and many in the room nodded; Stephen is very well known in that community), and I offhandedly remarked to a new conference buddy that Stephen gives several workshops a year through Faculty Development at St. Thomas. Her jaw dropped; most places would only dream of having the resources to offer a workshop by a distinguished educational development scholar such as Stephen just once a year, let alone having him available and generously sharing his time and expertise on an ongoing basis. And he's of course just one example of the many talented folks here at St. Thomas willing to help faculty with professional development. I came back newly grateful and proud to be associated with this office and with our institution.

I also learned that one particular struggle that I'm encountering in my new role seems to be universal:  how to gauge what faculty need, and how to offer that programming and support in a way that allows busy faculty to participate. I put out a call in my last column for people to give me feedback about how best to tailor existing or new offerings to enhance participation and got exactly one response (thanks, Brittany!) So I'll try again rather than immediately resorting to a survey (which, in the spirit of full disclosure, I may do anyway...).  Whether you currently tend to engage with the Center for Faculty Development or not, I'd love to hear how we can better support you as a faculty member. Offer workshops at different times? Create new programs that don't currently exist? Bring programming to your location or unit? Please let me know. I'm so excited about the potential we have to offer transformative support for teaching, professional engagement, and faculty life in general, but need input from all of you to make sure we're tailoring that support in a way that maximizes impact.


On a completely different note, you may have noticed that we are slowly beginning to test the capabilities of the new OneStThomas intranet platform. We have not yet completely determined how the new system will affect how we communicate with faculty; there are a lot of new tools to explore, and we are still learning about features and their limitations. We will be sure to communicate what we will be putting on the Faculty Development intranet (available only to our campus community) versus what will be kept on the website (available to the outside world), and we will be letting you know once we have a better sense of how the platform intersects most effectively with our other communication avenues.

Thanks for reading,

Kris Wammer