Contextualizing the Degree

In Note #3 Warner mentions that Crow will abandon ASU for more pay, and to avoid repercussions from decisions made so far – especially if any affect accreditation and program approvals. While there is MUCH to discuss in relation to the 5/5 load ASU has foisted on their Writing Instructor faculty I want to focus here on this note as this is an uncommon discussion.

To contextualize, I am a lecturer at a small AZ school. During grad school I wasn’t a TA, but an employee of the university and adjunct faculty at a community college I think this uniquely prepared me for my current role, and helped my career, but it was a round-about way to faculty. I’ve been exposed to departmental politics within the university, and been responsible for my own curriculum, but had little experience with ‘departmental service’ as conceived by most tenure-track and tenured faculty.

This past year, the rhetoric area of my department has focused on learning objectives for our Master’s program, the course flow to ensure students meet the learning objectives and are uniquely prepared for the career path they hope the courses will lead them on. After approval of courses by our area, the department, and the various approval committees on campus, we implemented some positive changes. We’re now working through the undergrad courses.

As these projects (departmental service) were assigned to various members of the rhetoric area (we take turns yay!) I felt uniquely underqualified for this type of service. As a grad student I picked my own program, but never considered the larger picture. How do all the courses fit together to design an overall degree? As we worked through these learning objectives, course objectives, assignments, and degree design, senior tenured faculty from my area helped when needed. Importantly, they made suggestions for future committee participation to ensure I learned the overall picture – something suggested for tenure-track (of which I am not), but NOT required.

So, back to Crow. I feel my current experience of super helpful faculty suggesting ways of understanding approval and accreditation are important. I really want to emphasize here – these committees are not required. I could serve on departmental committees that never allow me the opportunity (or force me) to learn the overall flow of approvals, how Liberal Studies fits into the vision for a bachelor’s degree from NAU. How the lower division grad courses fit a vision for what a master’s from NAU means. So I’m assuming there are large numbers of faculty members who have never served on committees at ASU that expose them to this broader thinking. Which means, Presidents can make sweeping changes and then jump ship before the fallout. Presidents can focus energies on enrollment with no thought to who will teach those students because they can simply rely on dollar figures to support their statement – because faculty haven’t seen what it takes to educate that many students.

As I read the comment hypothesizing Crow’s future path I wonder why we don’t discuss the impact of President’s, Deans, Chairs, and Faculty on the vision of an institution, and the support (or lack of) for that vision. If it weren’t for the series of events in my early career I wouldn’t even know to consider these questions!

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