By: Brian Uriegas, EdD
Stephen F. Austin State University
“Start with the end in mind.”- Stephen Covey
Navigating through the world of higher education can seem like a daunting task for many new faculty members. Along the way many obstacles present themselves, especially as it pertains to time management. Whether it is an assistant professor trying to make associate and tenure, or an associate professor trying to make full, effectively dedicating the appropriate time to service, teaching, and scholarship can often include navigating potholes on the road to success.
Covey’s quote is applicable because when we take a trip we usually chart our course prior to leaving. Sure, potholes often show up when we are not expecting them, but having a destination allows us to properly navigate those potholes and adjust our course as needed. We seldom just get in the car and drive without knowing our route or destination.
This applies to the world of higher education in much the same manner. Without a plan we risk hitting the potholes that can consist of not understanding requirements for research and publication, being unable to say “no” when asked to take on more and more tasks, and placing the teaching aspect of our jobs lowest on our list of priorities. By properly planning for the end goal we hope to achieve-tenure, promotion, etc.-we allow ourselves to know exactly where the checkpoints to our destination are and to properly set the timelines that will be necessary to reach that destination as scheduled. Then, when and if these unforeseen potholes surface, we are able to make the necessary deviations from our charted course to avoid or address these potholes while still staying on the necessary timeline to reach our destination.
So how do we chart the course to our destination? How do we proactively work to remove the potholes before they can impede us on, or prevent us from, reaching our destination?
Here are some recommendations from fellow educational leaders:
-Organization is key. Review the job expectations and quantify what they mean, especially if there are no clear recommendations for publications. Then, backwards plan from your goals to figure out the necessary milestones to achieve those goals. –Sarah Straub, EdD, Assistant Professor, Stephen F. Austin State University
-Set semester and yearly goals that will help you make progress toward tenure/promotion. Don’t say yes to everything, choose the opportunities that mean the most to you. Starting early is the key! -
Mychelle Hadley Smith, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of North Texas at Dallas
-Follow your passion. When you are just starting out, you are making a name for yourself in your area of expertise. Don’t wait for somebody else to step up. Step up yourself and be ready to take on many different roles. Remember that you are a lifelong learner always. -Lori P. Kupczynski, EdD, Professor of Education, University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
-We encourage tenured faculty to be as genuinely supportive as they are able to their less seasoned colleagues and share with their colleagues “the ropes” —the unspoken “rules” of the department, college, and university. -Juliann Sergi McBrayer, EdD, Assistant Professor, Georgia Southern University
As for my own recommendation?
-It is ok to use someone else’s map as a guide but chart your own specific course. You determine what is the best route to take to your destination. Only you know your specific strengths, interests, and abilities as well as how they align with reaching your career goals.
I have been fortunate to have received mentorship and advice from colleagues of all levels and backgrounds and while I value all of it, I have had to make the determination as to how to apply that advice to my specific goals, strengths, and abilities.
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”-Stephen Covey