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Dec 6, 2007

Something uplifting

A colleague told me last week, “Why don’t you write something uplifting in your blog; this is the holiday season.” What she meant to say was that many of my blogs read like litanies of problems and complaints. You read them and think the guy is working at a horrible place full of problem. Of course, she is right. The blogs are intended to share my world with my colleagues, and my brain works in such a ways as to focus on problems, and their solutions. This can present a somewhat skewed picture, so let’s count our blessings.
First, STE is generally a very happy place. We all are a bit overworked and sometimes cranky. However, our little group has a tremendous amount of good will and good energy. Simply put, most people do not walk away from problems, and embrace new things. Every time we accomplish something, I have a funny feeling: is this all it took? A complete list would be boring to read, but just a few things: we finished NCATE program reviews this fall, and working on the State review; we revised out biggest program twice; we have a new and growing teacher preparation program; our Doctoral program is revamped, and growing, our off-campus offerings have doubled, we agreed to learn on-line and hybrid pedagogy, our people get grants and publish books and articles… Anyway, this is not a newspaper, so no more bragging, although this could go for another page or two. I guess the kick I get out of all this is connected to the sense of agency. Hope others experience this too. There is nothing worse than knowing something should be done, and not being able to do it. Conversely, the knowledge that if we agree to do something, it can and will be accomplished, this feels really good.
Second, we are a very collegial group. I would love to claim credit for it, but cannot. My colleagues have made a collective decision to get along and become one cohesive community, and they carried it out. Considering the history of typical academic mergers and splits, plus some unfortunate past personality clashes, our School is a remarkably professional and cordial group. This demonstrates that any community has cultural mechanisms of healing. While there are clearly differences in opinions, they rarely grow to become interpersonal conflict. For example: my own proposals and ideas are just as likely to get voted down as they get to be supported. And this is, of course, OK with me and everyone else. At the same time, I am proud to say, I have no enemies. Moreover, there is very little animosity among my colleagues.
Collegiality is very important; so important that pre-tenure faculty cite it as more important than compensation in job satisfaction. Court consistently recognize the lack of collegiality as a valid reason for termination of employment or tenure denial, even if it is not specifically spelled out in contracts and tenure and promotion documents (references are available upon request). A lot is at stake with collegiality; not just warm and fuzzy feelings, but life or death of an institution. A lot of my colleagues understand it better than I do, and we try to keep this place friendly and collegial.
Thirdly, we have some of the best jobs around. Even though faculty and staff are relatively underpaid, our jobs are not boring; they include a lot of intellectual and emotional stimulation. Tons of people would like to be where we are now, so we should really feel fortunate. Thos who complain about working at a university most likely have not really tried anything else, or have forgotten.
So, let’s reflect on what we have, and what we have achieved. This will help us develop an ambitious view of what could be yet achieved. Or as Randy Bachman said and Al Gore repeated, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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