Crowdsourced: Part-Time Faculty & Professional Development

Helping the careers of those off the tenure track.

February 27, 2014

The University of Venus community of readers and writers is one that we all value tremendously. Often, we will bounce ideas around via email, Facebook, or Twitter to get input on a particular situation. We’ve decided to start sharing these “conversations” via our blog.


Last week, the following question was posed to the group - I am working with my team to design some professional development opportunities for our part-time adjunct instructors. As we know, the needs of these instructors are very different and I think they deserve different opportunities. I would really welcome your suggestions on what to offer.

Mary Churchill: I think a program on how to start your own consulting business should be the first thing you offer but that might be incredibly controversial...

Lee Skallerup Bessette: I think the first thing to do for whatever PD you offer is to either a) pay a stipend or at least b) feed them. Preferably both.

Also, networking and putting them in contact with people on campus in admin offices and people off campus would be a good thing as adjuncts rarely have time to network. So even if it isn't the "subject" of the PD it would be good to have people there that they can meet.

I think that's a good start. It's Boston area so everyone knows how to get in a union... ;-)

I would say as well that they should "know their rights" as adjuncts. What are they supposed to have access to? What about the new healthcare law? I think adjuncts probably all know how to teach well, but the larger institution remains a mystery.

Gwendolyn Beetham: I have *lots* of thoughts about this - as you may have guessed.  

I am actually in the process of developing a couple of roundtables on 'feminist perspectives on contingency' for the NWSA conference this fall.  Through that effort, I've met a lot of folks from around the country (and in PR!) who are working on various sides of this issue (i.e. some are heading departments that use a lot of contingent faculty, some are adjuncts themselves).  One person in particular - Letizia Guglielmo - (contact info below) is working on an edited collection on the topic - you should definitely contact her!

Another thing I would suggest is to check out some of the union websites & see what different schools are offering. For example, at Rutgers, part-time lectures had access to a professional development fund (http://rutgersaaup.org/members/part-time-lecturers) which might be an option in your situation. The adjunct project at CUNY is also great (http://cunyadjunctproject.org/)

Bonnie Stewart: Well, you stole my thunder by getting to the consulting suggestion right out of the gate!

I think a lot depends on the individual...for some, a meta-conversation about "navigating career in the contemporary university" might help frame what's changed from even ten/fifteen years ago and break down some of the assumptions of meritocracy while framing alt/ac, consultancy, and part-time paths.

You could also focus on the kinds of non-disciplinary skills and experiences that your institution is likely to value over the next five years (whether student affairs or recruitment, or online teaching) and help people become more literate in these areas…

Itir Toksoz: Although I am far away, geographically and academic systemwise now, having worked in the US as an adjunct during my last years gives me an idea of what it may be like feeling stuck where you are. My advice would cover several layers:

  1. Be aware of options within academia and ways to reach to them. Some people may not even know what kind of jobs may be open to them in their current institutions other than teaching and they should be informed about these opportunities. Not as these opportunities present themselves such as when the University looks for an employee for so and so department but even before that as options the adjuncts will be able to perceive as an opportunity when they see one.
  2. Know alternative areas outside of academia which can employ them based on their education field and expertise.
  3. Be creative about the niches in their field and learn to conduct feasibility studies before jumping into a new business of their own.

Liana Silva: Jumping off of Itir's suggestion #1, a webinar on networking might be useful. We've been discussing this at Women in Higher Ed too.

Another thing that's a little more practical: retooling their cv either for another academic job or changing it to a resume. I know a lot of academics struggle with that, and providing a webinar on that for adjuncts would be great.

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe: I think a workshop on website development would be a terrific boon to anyone who is working across organizations and possibly consulting on the side etc.  In one day, everyone could leave with her own page, which in turn would promote her professional profile within the academy and beyond.

Janni Aragon: I've enrolled in several webinars in the last year or two and have enjoyed them all. One consistent way that UVIC assists adjunct faculty is travel funds for conferences. Then, we do offer workshops related to professional development.

I think helping adjuncts with promoting their work is a great idea: work on resume/cv, e-portfolios (websites), blogging and other systems/network assistance. The other thing is networking events. A former Academic Women's Caucus Chair offered a lunch and learn for adjuncts--this worked as a "thank you" and networking event.

I agree with others that food or coffee should be served at the event. If you are going to ask adjuncts to attend an event or offer one, offering coffee or lunch is always appreciated and might entice more to attend. The thing that I hear from others lots: make it worth my time.

Readers, please share your thoughts in the Comments section below!


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