Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Year in Review: My life as teacher and director

A friend asked me recently if - when I began teaching at Syracuse University - I thought I would become the director of its library and information science program...and the answer was "no!"  In 2001, teaching graduate students was something I was going to do for a couple of years.  But then, I kept doing it part-time and then...well...I realized that it was what I really wanted to do.  But be the program director?!  It wasn't until Dave Lankes became the director that I saw something that I wanted to do and so here I am.  [BTW Dave and I are like "two peas in a pod" as well as like "ying and yang."  It can be quite interesting, especially for the students!]

My SU officeTeaching - I now teach four different graduate courses over the course of an academic year, two each semester.  In addition, I co-teach the graduate gateway course in the iSchool, with several other faculty members.  Teaching dominates my weeks during the academic year.  Besides class prep and time in the classroom (or on the computer for my online classes), there is time grading assignments.  Grading assignments is not something that goes quickly, so when you multiply the time for each student's assignment  by the number of students in the class, and then by the number of assignments in the class, it can be overwhelming.  Yet it is the feedback on assignments - whether individually or en masse - that makes a difference, so all of those hours sitting, reading, and commenting are worth it.  (I do have to remember to get up occasionally and exercise, as well as get another cup of tea!)

Directing - Add to the hours of teaching the task of directing the program, which is not a trivial task.  Which is more important?  That depends on the moment - literally. Some days are filled with meetings, emails and tasks that must be done then in order to keeps things - recruitment, marketing, course scheduling, new initiatives, etc. - moving forward.  And there are evenings when I come home with the best of intentions to grade papers, only to be faced with a slew of emails that need to be answered. My colleague Dave Dischiave says that email is not communication tool, rather it is a to-do list because every email requires an action.  True.

[By the way, my school does not have departments, so no one has the title of "chair."]

Jill, Nick Berry, Loranne Nasir, Colin Welch & Topher Lawton. Photo by Sara Kelly Johns
Jill & LIS students at NYLA 2012
What does the director do?  What don't I do!
  • Meet and communicate with prospective students.
  • Get involved in admission and scholarship decisions.
  • Meet and advise current students.
  • Write letters of recommendation.
  • Hear complaints and hear words of praise.
  • Arrange...stuff.
  • Run and attend meetings.
  • Email...about...stuff.
  • Meet with prospective employers.
  • Explain the program to....
  • Assist with course scheduling.  (This is more work than you think!)
  • Represent the program/school at events/conferences. Juggling conference attendance with teaching is an interesting act.
  • Oversee accreditation related activities.
  • Care about...everything.
  • In the face of all adversity and disenchantment, stay calm and try to smile.
  • Try to maintain a home life and stay healthy.
The last is important to mention because academic institutions do not have a start or end time to their days.  Things are happening all the time (literally) and that often translates into long days (and weeks).  I learned from Kenny Crews the importance of engaging in activities where you cannot do work at the same time.  Thank goodness then for bowling, gardening, canning, and walking.

The March Toward 2015 - For every director, chair or dean of an LIS program, the re-accreditation of the program is a huge responsibility.  Our next review is in 2015 and it has already been on my mind since I said "yes" to this position.  Look at my to-do list and you'll see tasks that are tied it.

I'm not sure where to put those that are critical of LIS programs (and who isn't), a hint...understand the accreditation activities that the program is involved in, whether that's ALA or NCATE (which is changing to CAEP) or something else.  Can you turn your criticism into a help as the program prepares for re-accreditation? Yup, that will get their attention!

Aldo LeopoldAs I look ahead to 2013 - two years before 2015! - I see a full year in front of me...teaching, conferences, admitting new students, graduating current students, meetings, email, and more. (Can you say accreditation tasks?) Hard to believe that in May, I will be one of the people to shake hands with our graduating LIS students as they walk across the stage.  Yes, another duty of the director and one that I will do with great joy! In the end, it is seeing them graduate, land jobs, and become members of the profession that makes everything else worthwhile.

Here is hoping that your 2013 is as full, challenging and rewarding as I believe mine will be!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have kept pretty busy this year! I want to thank you for all you do for the students. You really go above and beyond as professor and director of our program from conferencing with students for the planning, marketing, and assessment course to hosting chat sessions for distance students when it comes time for course selection and planning; you give this program your all. I look forward to shaking your hand at graduation in May!