SUNY New Paltz is, without a doubt, a school that emphasizes educational programs. The importance of higher education, experience and repertoire is even more so instilled on its faculty.
With a requirement for professors to be working toward or maintaining tenure, the Educational Studies and Leadership department hosts Junior Faculty Writing Groups every week.
On Thursday and Friday afternoons, the junior faculty from various departments are welcome to gather, much like a study group, to work on their personal projects. Junior faculty members Shannon McManimon (humanistic/multicultural ed) and Chris Albi (history) have been hosting this group for over a year now.
“We have snacks available and work quietly in a shared space in the Student Union. On Thursday and Friday afternoons, faculty have a place to come write quietly together and to enjoy social support and encouragement,” said Director of the Faculty Development Center Sarah Wyman.
Mirroring students, they are using this time to gather in an environment that encourages their personal scholarship and passion projects, demonstrating how connected the faculty is and how dedicated they are to bettering each other.
“For me, this group is important because it can be difficult to find time to focus on writing/scholarly activity, as it often has longer timelines and few deadlines,” McManimon said, “We know when we need to teach, when we have grading to return to students, and when we have meetings. It can be easy to prioritize those things over writing, so setting aside time each week ensures that I will focus on my scholarship and give it the time and importance it deserves.”
“Grading papers alone in an office can be very isolating for faculty members. Many have moved far from home to take this prized job,” Wyman said, “Sometimes we discuss our projects with each other at writing group. We may even seek editorial feedback, just as students do when they go to the Center for Student Success.”
Having this arrangement is both inspiring and useful in many ways. Especially since this writing group in particular is not limited to a specific discipline, it offers solely a quiet space with productive energy.
“I personally have had several writing groups that have helped to hold me accountable: knowing that other people are expecting me to be there helps me to show up for this work that is often more solitary than other kinds of labor we do,” McManimon added, “Sometimes, at the beginning, we will share what we are working on or a goal. Voicing this goal can help us to hold ourselves and each other accountable. It can also be interesting to hear even just a snippet of what people are working on in other fields.”
By facilitating a time and place for its faculty, SUNY New Paltz works to ensure everyone is on par with their requirements, without the pressure to do it on some self made time.
“It is essential that when we hire new faculty, we support their success,” Wyman said, “This means making sure they understand how to survive and thrive as professional academics.”
“SUNY New Paltz is a top institution, and much is expected of your professors, even outside the classroom,” Wyman said, “If you see one looking stressed, ask them how it’s going. If you inquire about their projects, you will probably have a long, enthusiastic answer. Professors generally love to talk about their scholarly work; passion for their topic motivated them to spend many years in graduate school preparing to succeed in the field and meet you in the classroom.”