For someone who dreams of being a professor, the road to teaching may seem simple; he or she must go to all their classes, graduate with a master’s degree or better in their field, apply to every opening available and then finally make it through the hiring process.
But then what?
For many new hires it can sometimes be difficult to navigate the nuances of campus life.
“How is a new faculty [member] supported by the college?” Kahkashan Shaukat, a CIS Assistant Professor who is currently in her first semester at American River College, asked her hiring committee. “There [are] a lot of culture things going on with every institution, so how does one get adjusted, what are the resources on hand?”
Shaukat says she was thrilled when she learned ARC launched a program to help these new hires along the way. The New Faculty Academy, is comprised almost entirely of individuals within their first year as full time faculty at ARC.
As stated in the welcome letter provided to new members, the Academy, “will introduce you to critical information, resources, and support for your teaching, professional development, campus service, research, outreach efforts and overall student success.”
Initially the NFA was the only one of its kind in the Los Rios Community College District; it wasn’t until this semester that both Folsom Lake College and Sacramento City College made the decision to also invest in the program.
ARC president Thomas Greene is a strong advocate for the program which is a is a huge financial commitment for the college. Not only must they pay for the resources and time the faculty members are required to put forth, requiring many members to teach one less class than the average workload and to attend a weekly class Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.,.
However Greene says he saw the program as a good investment for both the staff and the students; now, NFA is in its third installment of new members.
“We want them to know we are so happy they are here and the college is going to invest in them,” said Associate Vice President of Instruction and Learning Resources Tammy Montgomery. “So while it sounds like there is a lot of money being put into this, when you think of the fact that we are preparing to keep that person for their careers, it works out.”
One of the goals of the NFA is to not only keep an individual for the entirety of their career but to also provide an opportunity for new faculty members to develop a resource and support system.
“It’s about creating relationships and the articulation back and forth, so we create these bonds. And with the cohorts and the bonds and the sharing of resources it’s a pebble in the pond,” said Heidi Bennett, a professor of Business and Computer Science at ARC and the New Faculty Coordinator since its inception.
The NFA is exclusively offered in the fall of each year and requires a yearlong commitment from each of the faculty. Like any other class, it has a sign-in sheet, assigned readings and even group projects.
“The idea of the program is to get to know each other’s disciplines, [and] programs….on this campus,” said Bennett. “I want them to be to be stretched, I want them to be just a little uncomfortable with the level they’re stretched.”
It all depends on the individual, some may just bring an icebreaker to a meeting, or share a teaching strategy. Others may be sharing their entire program, but every member must participate at some level.
Ultimately the goal is to provide a better support system for not only the faculty members but for the students. With professors being more knowledgeable of what the campus has to offer they can point their students in the best direction to nurture their interests, according to Bennett.
“This network for the students just gets bigger and bigger and bigger instead of living in the silo,” Bennett said. “We share the same students why should we not be able to connect that students journey?”
The NFA also endeavors to help the ARC community with a yearly services project. The first year was Books for Break. Each faculty member had to pick a children’s book that held special meaning and to write a personalized message inside for each child. Hundreds of books were donated to the on campus Child Development Center.
The next year’s NFA members wished to initiate a campus food bank. ARC is the only campus in Los Rios that does not have a food bank
“Our model is going to be based on Sac City’s [Community College], they have students lining up,” said Veronica Lopez, a Nutrition Assistant Professor, who was hired in the spring of 2016 and participated in NFA last fall. “I mean there is a need. There is student hunger and food insecurities. We want to eliminate as many barriers as possible and obviously not having food is [a barrier].”
The decision as to what the service project will be each year evolves from the cohorts themselves.
“Their cohort had culinary arts horticulture, nutrition, it was just a natural melding of talent to make this happen,” Bennett said.
“What happens I think is we were all sharing a moment,” Lopez said .
The NFA is providing faculty members with the knowledge and the avenues necessary to bring major changes to the ARC campus.
“We have had faculty on this campus forever who have had great ideas, but you create a cohort with a great idea that is around this campus, the empowerment and the energy that comes with that and the sustainable creativity, wisdom and drive it just like explodes,” Bennett said.
Corrections: The article originally said that the New Faculty Academy was only a semester-long commitment when it is in fact a yearlong commitment.