Programs and Services
A letter to my colleagues about what you will get from the LT&ITC Faculty Fellows Program.
I first attempted to complete the Faculty Fellows (FF) program in 2018-2019, my first year at MTSU. I unfortunately did not finish because acclimating to MTSU took up a good chunk of my time. I feel like I’m still acclimating, even though I’m nearing the end of my third year. But since I have been successful in this current attempt at completing the FF program, I’ve been thinking about the opportune time for a new faculty member to take part in the program. My department has a few new faculty members, and I’ve been mulling over what I will tell them about the program. At the same time, I’ve been examining my motivations behind my participation. To that end, I think it would be useful for me to write this reflection in the form of a letter to my new colleagues.
Dear new MTSU faculty member,
I write detailing my experience participating in the 2020-2021 Faculty Fellows program, and I hope to convince you that participating in the program is worth the time and effort. While you can be creative with where you log your participation in the program in Digital Measures, and while you might think T&P folks reviewing your file will think this is impressive, they won’t. In fact, they won’t even mention it. So don’t sign up if you think it will look good in your file. Instead, do it because it leads to things that look good in your file. In other words, the FF program is the mechanism that shows you how to achieve the things that will look good to your T&P committee, including better teaching, a focused approach to research, and a network to find engaging ways to serve.
The workshops, along with a revision of your teaching philosophy and a consultation on your curriculum design, work hand in hand to cultivate a reflective teaching practice. The required workshops (4) typically focus on teaching with a wide range of topics. Looking back on my workshop reflections, I learned about designing accessible content, using asynchronous discussion posts more effectively, implementing imaginative approaches to reflective learning, and using all the features of zoom in effective ways. I typically leave these workshops in a reflective mood, evaluating my current pedagogical approaches and thinking about ways to incorporate new ways to engage students. How will this help you when it comes time for review? Course redesigns and professional development have their own tab on digital measures; in addition, the hope is that this attention to pedagogy will manifest in better teaching. Student experiences should deepen, and that will result in stronger student evaluations that reflect your attention to student learning.
The faculty development plan (FDP) expectation encouraged me to look carefully at my research goals and the steps I had mapped out to help me reach those goals. In fact, writing the FDP made me realize that I had not mapped out steps - I just had ephemeral goals (PUBLISH!) and no concrete ways to reach them. That can happen in your first few years as a faculty member. The pressure to meet T&P research expectations can be crushing, even if you’ve been publishing your work for a while. Having a writing and publication pipeline is important, as is carving out time each day to write. But more importantly—and this is what the FDP helped me with—was identifying clear and measurable writing goals. Doing so resulted in a reframing of a nebulous, yet stress inducing expectation and made it seem doable. Of course it’s doable - you’ve been writing about your research for a while and you just have to keep it going. Failure is not an option, so use the resources available to you, including the LT&ITC faculty writing retreats and writing groups.
Finally, the FF program supports your service expectations and goals as well. While there aren’t explicit discussions and workshops on service, the program offers ample opportunity to meet faculty members from across the institution. This is where you can find out about service opportunities that you may not have known about before. And how could you know about them? We are typically cloistered in our own departments and programs and rarely do we peek out at other people doing similarly engaging work in other spaces on campus. Equally invaluable is learning about the different programs and initiatives on campus that might align with your teaching, research, and service goals, and this learning happens in workshops and in informal interpersonal communication with other participants throughout the program.
My big takeaway is that you can learn from my mistake of attempting the program too early. While I’m sure there are faculty who participate their first year or two and do so successfully, I argue that you’ll get more out of the program if you are grounded a bit in MTSU culture, including program and university-wide expectations. You’ll be plugged into the needs of MTSU’s students and therefore value how teaching workshops can help you create engaging learning experiences that are targeted to meet MTSU students’ needs. You’ll know your writing process and thus be able to use the FDP to identify where you need to reinforce these processes so that you can meet your targeted research and publication goals. You’ll meet a community of scholars and teachers who model reflective practice. All of these things will give you the energy needed to get you through the tough third year and prepare you for the next few before you go up for tenure. I guess it’s fair to say that in the end, my timing worked out perfectly.
– Dr. Erica Cirillo-McCarthy, Department of English & Director, The Margaret H. Ordoubadian University Writing Center, 2020-2021
I pride myself on seeking feedback from others so that I can continue to find ways to grow in all areas of my life. While I make time to solicit feedback from others, I have not taken enough time to slow down and complete my own self-analysis. The LT&ITC Faculty Fellows Program allowed me to step back from the constant waterfall of tasks, projects, and commitments associated with earning tenure to pick up some tools to help me gain a better perspective on what I am doing and ultimately what I want to do. – Dr. Keonte Coleman, School of Journalism and Strategic Media, 2020-2021
Now that I have finished the program, it is nice to look back and evaluate what I have gained. I have learned about the different types of support MTSU offers their faculty. I now feel confident moving forward to my mid-tenure review next year because I know where to focus my energy and how I am going to achieve my goals. This has truly been a great experience! – Tony Rodriguez, Art & Design, 2020-2021
Overall, my experience in the 2019-2020 LT&ITC’s Faculty Fellows program was fantastic. I really enjoyed the opportunity to have a formal program to assist in the transition to MTSU, the support of a knowledgeable, experienced, and willing team, and a flexible but solid structure of expectations and deliverable products. Throughout the course of the program, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the administrative and academic structures at MTSU, the expectations of tenure-track faculty, and the opportunities for faculty development available on campus. I especially appreciated the flexibility of the program while at the same time having clearly defined requirements and goals. Most importantly, this program provided the support necessary to be able to produce both a Teaching Philosophy Statement as well as a Faculty Development Plan, with guidance and tailored feedback. Being in my first year as a tenure-track faculty member, making the time to create these products would have otherwise continued to fall down the priority list, but with the structure and support of the program, I was able to not only dedicate time to work on these important products, but also receive fast, valuable feedback to further develop my TPS and FDP. – Dr. Alan Campbell, World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, 2019-2020
I am very glad I participated in the Faculty Fellows Program. I expected very little and assumed it was an opportunity to check boxes, but I was pleasantly surprised. I found new resources for self-improvement and a way to connect across the University community. I am excited to continue the process and stay active. Thank you for designing and implementing this program. – Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, Health and Human Performance, 2019-2020
Before arriving at MTSU I had 12 years’ experience as a full-time faculty member and over 7 years’ experience as a program director. I’ve participated in many professional development workshops and have managed a few programs that required a great deal of preparation and coordination. All of this is to say that I come from a place of experience when I say that my experience with the LT&ITC in general, and with the Faculty Fellows program in particular, has been superb. Not only that, you all have convinced me that it’s possible to teach an old dog new tricks. – Dr. Jon DiCicco, Political Science and International Relations, 2019-2020
These opportunities to bolster my knowledge and thus my confidence have engendered a greater sense of both agency and connection to the university community. Open to contingent faculty, the program provides access to the synergy and collegiality that the LT&ITC facilitates. Participating in the program has also enabled me to claim responsibility for my professional development and to view my FTT appointment as an important stage in my career path. Finally, this effort to empower faculty to achieve their pedagogical and professional goals has an important philosophical component: The LT&ITC provides a space for teachers to teach teachers about teaching. This alliterative statement best encapsulates how the LT&ITC’s Faculty Fellows program has supported my belief that education should be a collaborative, democratizing process of teaching and learning. – Dr. Jennifer Pettit, History, 2019-2020
If our questions and uncertainties are any basis for generalization, there remains
a need at MTSU for consistent and effective professional mentoring, periodic progress
reviews and support for formal faculty development plans. My participation in this
FLC will help to make me a more effective mentor to junior faculty in my department.
While I am already a veteran of college-level as well as departmental promotion and
tenure review committees, my exposure to procedures and issues from other departments,
thanks to this FLC, will assist me in future deliberations and policy recommendations.
– Dr. Michael Fleming, Department of Recording Industry, Mid-Career Faculty Development FLC, 2014-2015
I especially appreciate hearing the various perspectives and experiences from the
different faculty members as we discuss ways to foster and build a true "learning
community" at MTSU. We are all at different points and places in our careers, and
this has greatly enriched our conversations. As our mission states, we should foster
an environment conducive to learning and personal development, and I witness this
in our meetings.
– Dr. Terri Tharp, Elementary and Special Education Department, Faculty Development Campus Civility FLC, 2012-2013
On a personal note, participation in the FLC has allowed me to focus on my own behavior
with respect to civility. Although I did (and do) not believe I have an issue with
incivility, it was revealing to realize that many seemingly innocuous behaviors may
be considered uncivil by others. Worse yet, the offending behaviors are very likely
to never be called to my attention, propagating the problem. It has been a richly
rewarding year, to say the least. I am now far more conscious of the insidious ways
that incivility can be expressed, and I take a more active role in controlling it.
– Dr. Tony Johnston, Agriculture Department, Faculty Development Campus Civility FLC, 2011-2012
The GTA Teaching Certificate program is designed to provide Graduate Teaching Assistants with a structured experience that prepares them for classroom and laboratory teaching. The program allows you to develop and document your classroom teaching and teacher development activities and it provides you with several self-reflection and consultative feedback opportunities. It also provides several documents that can be included in your professional and teaching portfolio.
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