A little help here...?

Finding the right balance among faculty roles is difficult, particularly at colleges and universities that prioritize teaching. As a former dean, I have helped faculty juggle those responsibilities, creating space for their scholarship. As an editor, I am helping scholars at different types of institutions stand out as they formulate their ideas into publishable manuscripts.



A recent column in Inside Higher Education made the case for supporting faculty scholarship at teaching-oriented institutions. Such colleges and universities are often regional public institutions, community colleges, or small liberal arts colleges. In these types of institutions, there is usually an expectation for scholarship—and it can range from a little to a lot—without much actual support for it.


In their column, Aubrey Westfall and Dana M. Polanichka make the case for faculty scholarship:


Rigorous and sustained research informs policy responses to health, economic and political crises, and it critically contributes to debates over truth. For individual scholars, research productivity is not only central to career advancement, but it also provides solace and regeneration amid personal strain and increased workload. A vibrant scholarly community supports faculty morale at a time when more and more faculty members are considering leaving academe.


The authors recognize that many institutions do not have the money to support faculty research and publication. They offer suggestions for low-cost or no-cost strategies to encourage writing and scholarship. These range from writing groups, to writing retreats, to “faculty success summits.”


In my experience as a dean, even teaching-focused institutions have small pots of money meant to encourage faculty to publish. This may be a departmental budget, a collegewide faculty development fund, or union-negotiated support. One institution I am familiar with even called a small-grant program the “faculty publication award.” It is meant to help scholars to finish an article, book, or chapter, and to submit the work. (Publication wasn’t required, but it was a frequent outcome.) The funds (less than $5,000) could be used for various purposes, and some faculty used the money to hire an undergraduate researcher or an outside copyeditor.


Teaching oriented institutions with a scholarship expectation rarely have the people on staff helping faculty to publish. Faculty are somehow just expected to know how to do it, as if writing a dissertation magically opened the doors to journals and presses. Deans and CTL Directors are often focused elsewhere (on teaching), and department chairs may be senior scholars whose own publishing careers are long past. Even university press editors don’t have a lot of time to work with scholars to develop their work the way they used to.


This often leaves faculty to look for support outside their institutions. That is, if they think they are allowed to do so. Some faculty think they can’t get help from outside their own institutions, unless it is through an approved grant competition. But it’s mostly not true.


One of the first things I heard from a university client was “I didn’t know this kind of help was available.” Talking to educational development colleagues around the country confirmed my belief that some faculty think getting outside help is somehow “cheating.” Reader, it isn’t. Developmental editors, indexers, copyeditors can all help faculty conceive, complete, or promote their work, while not impinging on the scholar’s own original work.


If you’d like to talk to me about your work and how a developmental editor can help, go to my contact page and request a free thirty-minute consultation.


Read the column by Aubrey Westfall and Dana M. Polanichka, here.

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