By: Alison Staudinger
When I started working at DU in January of 2021, people kept telling me it was a “relational campus.” Privately, I thought, “Aren’t they all?” but in my three years here I’ve come to appreciate the deep importance of relationships both to understanding DU and to the possibility of institutional change. And now that I’ve started a new position elsewhere, it’s the relationships, and how they interlaced meaningful work together, that I’ll miss.
The Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs functions so well with hardly any staff because of the efforts of faculty leaders like the Fellows, Coordinators, and Resident Scholars who commit their time and brilliance to lead initiatives on mentoring, chair and director development, workload equity, teaching excellence, writing support, and data governance. I learned so much from this group- as well as the Co-PIs on MERISTEM, DU-s NSF-ADVANCE grant, and the faculty in FAAD and CAB— about the power of peer leaders to shape a campus culture, and to support each other as they grow.
I’m so proud of the work we’ve done to work towards building a culture of respect for Teaching and Professional Faculty, led by Laura Sponsler, which was recognized in the 2021 Delphi Award, and continues through the Path and Purpose Leadership Cohort and the TPF brain trust, who will continue their work advising VPFA on supporting TPF this Winter and Spring.
Even as we celebrate the research wins that lead to our reclassification as an R1 institution, we hold on to our core values as teachers, which for me have been expressed in two of my favorite projects: the work of the DATs to expand how teaching excellence is valued, as well as the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Faculty Fellows program led by Kayoung Kim which invites faculty to ask meaningful questions about student learning in their classrooms. It’s inspiring to me to see the amazing teaching that faculty from all ranks and series engage in at DU.
I also ended up learning so much from the Workload Equity related projects, both by serving on the Workload Equity Committee and leading the DEAPs effort at department based change. I look forward to collaborating with faculty at my new institution to make visible and valued invisible labor, especially learner focused teaching and mentoring.
If there are things I wish I’d had a chance to work on more, one is certainly expanding support for faculty as they near and move into retirement. DU has such amazing emeriti and retired faculty who could serve as mentors for students and junior scholars alike. I also wish that I knew the trick to breaking down some of the divides between faculty and staff at DU; so many of us staff have relevant experience and expertise (and PhDs!) but aren’t always seen as part of the academic community. As I move back into a faculty/admin role, I hope to work on this problem in my own context.
In all of this work, I am deeply grateful to both VPs I had the pleasure of serving under. Founding VPFA Kate Willing is brilliant, creative, and visionary, and her articulation of a path for Faculty Affairs kept us orientated towards core values and meaningful commitments that improve the faculty experience. Jenn Bellamy took the reins in Spring 2023 deploying her own strategic superpowers aimed at institutionalizing equitable policies and practices, while building processes for collaborative change..
I am so grateful for the collaboration of Terese Rainwater, project manager in title but all around wizard in actuality. The VPFA Graduate Assistants were always a joy to work with and mentor. And I already miss my friends and collaborators in the OTL, led by the beautiful brain and heart of Leslie Alvarez, who has taught me so much about leadership. Thank you all for supporting me and helping me gain the skills and experiences I need for this new role in Alaska, where I hope to also build meaningful relationships around important work.
Alison Staudinger is now serving as the associate dean of the school of arts & sciences at the University of Alaska-Southeast. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 9077966485