Faculty Life: Scholarly Service

This section of the community commons addresses issues and activities related to service, one of the three primary areas of engagement for higher education faculty members.  Faculty expectations for Scholarly Service vary depending upon the higher education setting, including the type of institution, the discipline, and the policies and practices of a particular campus and department.  For new faculty members it is critical to serve the department, college, campus, and community in ways that demonstrate a clear commitment to students, programs, the campus, and the professional community.  Balance is a key element in the success of new faculty members with respect to service, since excessive service takes valuable time away from teaching and research responsibilities, but too little service may be interpreted as disengagement.

An integral part of work as a CSU faculty member consists of serving in leadership roles, on committees, and as mentors and advisors.  This involves developing courses, curriculum, and programs, as well as organizing workshops, seminars, and conferences.  Faculty members review proposals by their peers for funding, and manuscripts authored by colleagues for presenting or publishing.  In addition the professional obligation extends to service to the profession and the local community through special assignments and initiatives, membership and offices in organizations, and sharing of expertise. 

One of the most difficult aspects of faculty life is achieving a balance between the teaching, research, and service components of academic work.  There is no one strategy for accomplishing this, but in this section we will explore what veteran faculty do in various settings. We hope that some of their winning ways offer some ideas that work for you.  It goes without saying that there is never enough time to accomplish all of the things professors are interested in doing, so time management becomes an important skill for new faculty members to develop. Perhaps most importantly, when making decisions about what service to get involved with be strategic.  Be certain that the service activities you do engage in move your personal and professional missions, goals and outcomes forward.

The suggestions offered in this Faculty Life: Scholarly Service section do not represent any one point of view, but rather are a composite from a diverse group of faculty ranging from those new to academic life to veterans, from many different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, working in many different sorts of institutions, and coming from multiple perspectives.  These suggestions are intended to begin a dialogue, offer questions to ponder, or outline areas to pursue.  The purpose is to explore workable strategies and helpful tools that offer success in academic life for those with a passion for scholarly service to higher education.

Scholarly Service will focus on seven areas:

Faculty members are the engine for development of curriculum, courses, and programs offered to students.  At any given time, there are multiple layers of updating and rethinking of existing courses, in addition to planning for and creating new programs.  While this more formal development function goes on, there are numerous informal educational events being organized, such as seminars, workshops and conferences.  All of these development activities take place according to short and long term goals outlined in a strategic plan.  Due to its direct impact on students, this sort of service is possibly among the most important for faculty to perform.

Faculty members serve as advisors and mentors in a number of ways as they work with students and colleagues on a daily basis.  Helping students get engaged, make coherent decisions about their education, understand course material, or plan future endeavors is all part of a typical faculty position.  Participation in student, community, and professional organizations or boards deepens the experiences students, colleagues and new faculty members have at a campus.  Across and among campuses faculty members advise and review programs for accreditation and recognition.  This advisory or mentor role is a key responsibility of higher education faculty.

Serving as representatives and in elected offices are further responsibilities of faculty members.  Whether on committees, boards, task forces or governing bodies, participation in the smooth running of various levels of a campus allows faculty members to be engaged with the decision making process.  These responsibilities come at every level, from program to department, to college, to university.  Depending upon the setting, there may be opportunities to serve as program coordinators, team leaders, directors of projects, or department chairs.  These leadership positions take many forms, and can be chances to shape the direction, focus and emphasis of an academic unit.  New faculty members are expected to start small and local as they build their involvement with regards to the level and scope of responsibility over time.

Community leadership is another important component of service by faculty members.  Whether the service is connected to teaching, research or purely as service, new faculty members should think of ways to engage their students and themselves in their communities.  Many campuses have community outreach offices and programs.  New faculty members should think about ways to integrate such opportunities into their practice, while making connections for students, colleagues, and themselves.

Higher education depends upon peer review to ensure quality and adherence to standards.  As a result there is always demand for good reviewers or referees.  New faculty members may get started by providing feedback to colleagues on conference or small grant proposals.  They might build to editing and choosing articles to publish for local newsletters, followed by review of journal articles or book reviews.  Eventually faculty members are in demand as external reviewers for programs, departments and colleges going through improvement processes. Development of a critical eye results from an increasing level of responsibility with respect to review.  New faculty members should seek increasing responsibilities as they hone their review skills. The process of reviewing helps broaden the perspective and skills of the reviewer, and as a result is effective as professional development as well as service. 

A number of advanced opportunities to serve are available for faculty members who are ready to take on another level of service.  These include fellowships or other awards that involve travel to service away from a home campus.  The Fulbright and Rhodes scholars are such examples.  Many CSU faculty members are recipients of such awards.  Other activities may include serving as visiting scholars at another campus, special assignments, or leadership on campus wide or system wide initiatives.

Given the demands on faculty time, and the primary role of a particular college or university, there are some key issues that arise concerning the amount and scope of faculty service that is optimum.  These usually center around prioritization of competing demands.  What counts as scholarly service? What if basic research and preparation of students for the work force competes with social problem solving, activism and criticism?  Do obligations to state and national governments outweigh those to community groups due to the sources of funding for many campuses? In what cases should faculty consultant work count as service for the reward system?  These are the sorts of questions that evoke conversations around the best uses of faculty time.

Whatever the choices new faculty members make with regard to service, the expectation for a consistent and committed pattern of engagement is clear.  Think strategically about ways to serve that move forward your professional goals as well as the missions of your institution.  The more a faculty member is able to overlap their teaching, research and service activities, the more manageable the commitments become.

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Resources for
Scholarly Service

Curriculum Development Updates
Faculty Focus Newsletter, Magna Pub.
Articles on developing lessons, assessing effectiveness of assignments, and general higher education issues.

Academic Programs and Policy
California State University
Flowchart for program approval at the CSU.

Creating a New American University
YouTube, Arizona State University
Explores the plans and process undertaken to create a new campus.

Thoughts on Conference Organizing
Culture Matters, Macquarie University
Blog post describes experiences organizing faculty conferences.

Mentor Tip: Listening Skills
DO-IT Homepage, University of Washington
Tips about being an e-mentor.

Role of Dissertation Chair
Curriculum and Instruction, University of Nevada Las Vegas
Articulates the role and responsibilities of a dissertation chair at UNLV.

Junior Faculty Development Program
College of Medicine, Penn State
Mentoring program to provide a supportive academic environment for new faculty members.

Role of the Faculty Advisor
AIGA student groups
Lists faculty advisor duties and activities.

Subject Listing of Student Organizations
Office of the Dean of Students, Vanderbilt University
Example listing of student organizations

Tips for Taking Effective Meeting Minutes
SMART Technologies website
Offers suggestions for minute taking before, during and after a meeting.

Guidelines for Academic Senate of the CSU
California State University
Responsibilities of each member of the senate and its elected officers.

Responsibilities of Editors and Reviewers
Online Ethics Center (OEC) for Engineering and Research
Modules, cases and scenarios involving the ethical issues that face reviewers and editors.

Tips for Reviewing Conference Papers
M. Bieber, NJIT
How to review conference papers.

Council for International Exchange of Scholars
Details of the scholar exchange program, application information, and deadlines.

Fellowship Special Assignment
College of Arts and Sciences, University of Kentucky
Describes special assignments with external agencies.

Mentoring: How to Mentor Graduate Students
Faculty Guide, The Graduate School, University of Washington
Designed to prepare faculty members to mentor graduate students effectively.

Racial Inequality and Faculty of Color at Elite Universities: An MIT Report
MIT’s Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity
Link to the Report, with blog post commentary.

Faculty Service Roles and the Scholarship of Engagement: ASHE Higher Education Report, Vol. 29, No. 5
Ward, K. (2003). Jossey Bass.
Addresses unanswered questions with regard to the service role of faculty.