June 2019: Chair’s Committee Retreat

Dear SPS Faculty,

            Last week the Academic Directors attended a two-day retreat at Tarrytown Conference Center to take a step back from the day-to-day tasks of running programs. In addition to conversations we had on improving operations, we focused one part of the discussion on our role as faculty at SPS.

            One highlight that stood out for me is our role as faculty first and academic directors as a second appointment. Of course, if we look at our contracts we can see that this is what it states. However, if we really consider the implications of what that means then it requires a shift in our priorities and how we focus our time.

            It is important for all faculty members to understand how we are supposed to be allocating our time and in turn, how we are being evaluated. There are a finite number of hours and we want to be effective in ways that matter. For those with status of Lecturer (and Senior Lecturer) the three priorities are teaching, practice and service. For Professors of Practice (and Associate Professors of Practice) the priorities are practice, research, teaching and service.

            Looking at these priorities tells a story of where the majority of our focus should be. Faculty Affairs has been doing good work in providing sessions to develop our teaching effectiveness and much more. Going forward, I will be working together with them to assemble information that will clarify and prepare faculty for how to strengthen performance on all aspects of how we are being reviewed. It is important to make this process as transparent as possible and to provide support for faculty.

            In addition, within Academic Affairs we have been speaking about individualized career development plans for faculty. In this way, faculty members will have a clear path for what we need to do to progress our careers. This is an ambitious plan and will take some time, but as long as this is the intention it will happen.

            In doing all of this we will address questions of what it means to have teaching excellence, being thought leaders in our fields, conducting meaningful research and providing service in support of SPS and Columbia University? We look forward to your input. Please let us know your areas of interest and concern and how you might like to contribute.

Thank you,

Beth Fisher-Yoshida