Beginning Well: Advice for New Faculty Members

For those of you who are new faculty members, we offer this collection of articles gathered from The Well and the Emerging Scholars Network to help you thrive in your new role. But no matter where you are in your tenure, we hope these articles will encourage you in your calling to teaching and scholarship.

From The Well:

by Dorothy Boorse
"So in case you need to hear it, in graduate school or even in the middle of your career, here is my reminder of the reasons we choose the academic life."
 
by Anna Plantinga
"Is academia a frivolous waste of time when we could be telling people about Jesus, or is there a deeper significance to a life of learning? And if learning is worthwhile on an eternal scale, are some questions more worthy than others?" Anna Plantinga reflects on these important questions.
 
by Debra Sulai
"Christianity says that not only do we not have to go it alone, we can’t possibly do so, nor should we. It flatly contradicts the academy’s founding myth of the direct relationship between success and individual merit." Debra Sulai explores the spiritually damaging nature of self-reliance in academia.
 
"We do not meet to do ordinary work when we come to the classroom. Instead, like every other square inch, it is holy, heaven-crammed ground." A professor reminds us of the holy quality inherent in the daily work of teaching students.
 
by Francis Su
The Well links to Francis Su's acceptance speech as he was awarded the Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished Teaching of Mathematics. Su says, “I want to talk about the biggest life lesson that I have learned, and that I continue to learn over and over again.  It is deep and profound.  It has changed the way I relate with people.  It has reshaped my academic life.  And it continually renovates the way I approach my students.”  
 
by Anne Pharr
"I hope to be newly equipped to fulfill my responsibilities as a faculty member in higher education, not as one who anxiously fears being 'found out' as an imposter, but as one who is willing to live — and at times talk about — my convictions with steady confidence and humility." English professor Anne Pharr considers the gifts and benefits of revealing one's religious convictions honestly — even in the face of scorn.
 
by Carmen Acevedo Butcher
"Worry and love fuel my prayers for each student. I pray, from my first years of teaching at The University of Georgia during grad school through my many years of teaching here at Shorter, that every class will become a learning community in which students see each other as fellow humans who experience difficulties, talents, struggles, and triumphs."
 
by Carmen Imes
Carmen Imes begins her days of scholarship and work with this prayer. 
 
by Bob Trube
"The practice of attentiveness not only makes us more aware of the presence of the Lord throughout our day. Prayerful attentiveness can also be a critical element in our scholarship. Many times over the years, we’ve seen the Lord illuminate thorny research problems as we’ve prayed for his insight into his created order."
 
by Christine Jeske
“Humiliation is the dread of every scholar. As I start a new job as a professor, I’m finding that the best way to avoid humiliation isn’t what you’d expect...” One part of Chrissy Jeske's series on her experience as a new professor.
 
 
The Well's mentor team offer their best strategies for preparing to start a new school year.
 
I am deeply lonely. How can I connect authentically as an academic with women in my church?
 
There are so many travel options, but I have other responsibilities too. How do I choose?
 
Are there unique ways for a Christ-follower to deal with stress in the academy?
 
What are some best practices for establishing office hours as a female professor?

Dear Mentor: Finding Time for Friendships?
How can I make friends as a busy professor in a new community?
 
Mapping Your Academic Career: A must-read for new (and seasoned) professors
by Christine Jeske
"When I read Gary Burge’s book, Mapping Your Academic Career: Charting the Course of a Professor’s Life, I kept thinking, 'This person understands.' He understands why a new professor’s self-confidence can bounce like a slinky with a single word of affirmation or criticism from a colleague or teaching evaluation." Professor Christine Jeske shares some of the gifts she has gleaned from Gary Burge's recent book for faculty at every stage.
by Lisa Diller
"When I started my first job as a professor, I quickly realized that ten years of higher education had not fully prepared me for my day-to-day tasks. How was I expected to handle student complaints? When did people at my teaching institution make time for research?...Are you looking for a mentor? Here are the take-aways I see from my own experience."

Mentoring: Forming Your Crew
by Debbie Gin
How do you picture a mentor relationship? Debbie Gin offers a few different models to consider when investing time with a mentor. This is the first of a two-part series. 
 
by Patty Kirk
"Every semester, at this time, I reconsider this whole business of grading papers. On the one hand, despite all the scholarship to the contrary that one of my colleagues says proves that students never read what teachers write on their papers, I’m certain that the only way for them to improve their writing is to get an honest response."

Grading Angst
by Anna Moseley Gissing
"God calls me to teach faithfully, to invest in students, and to care about their writing competence, especially as it allows them to lean into their specific ministry callings. But my own worth and identity do not hinge on the work of my students." Anna Moseley Gissing explores the depths of our reactions to the process of giving out grades.
 
We asked Karen Swallow Prior to address the topic of plagiarism. She came back with this piece, instructive to writers and graders alike.
 
by Stephanie Magdalena White
"I’ve started taking about two minutes to answer these questions every time I sit down to work for even an hour, and I’ve been amazed at how useful they are." 
 

And for faculty members who are also parents:

by Marcia Bosscher and Katharine Hayhoe
"The most important thing I would say is that there's no right choice. The right choice is whatever's right for you. For me, being a mother is incredibly important, but being a scientist, especially studying an issue like climate change that affects us all over the world, that's really important to me, too." Katherine Hayhoe shares her personal experiences of bringing a child along to conferences.
 
by Elizabeth Corey
Reading this article at First Things (who graciously allowed us to reprint this section and then link to the original article), I was impressed with Elizabeth Corey’s deep understanding of the situation faced by many women struggling with the desire for both a fulfilling career and a fulfilling family life. 
 
by Jennifer Woodruff Tait
"...it features nineteen essays about what it means to be a mother in the academy, and how the academy can do a better job of supporting the calling to combine motherhood with the calling to be a student and teacher." A beautiful essay describing the challenges of being a mother in academia.
 

From The Emerging Scholars Network:

The Scholar’s Compass is a wonderful series of devotionals launched by ESN written by and for academics. Some of these devotionals are particularly relevant to faculty:

Professor W. Brian Lane tells the story of how he came to see teaching physics as a way of seeking God's glory. The first piece in Scholar's Compass, ESN's devotional for and by academics. 
 
Bethany Bear on some virtues she learned from teaching ancient Greek texts. 
 
Chemistry, Creativity, and J. R. R. Tolkien. 
 
Kelly Seaton encourages academics as they start the new school year. Part of a series.
 
Literature professor Angela O'Neal explores creativity and faith through her knowledge of literature. 

by Beth Madison
"That got me to thinking—what if I had it to do again? Would I change anything or not? And if so, why? I realized there were some very important things I would’ve changed about my time in graduate school and as a young professor..."
 
by Kevin Birth
Tips on managing the new and increased pressures that come with a faculty position.
 
by Paul Yandle
Paul Yandle meditates on how the experience of teaching shows him more about God, even in those moments when a student’s response is not what the professor was hoping for. 
 
by John Hundley
Our vocation is the specific realm — workplace, department, milieu — into which we bring God’s kingdom.
 
by Nicholas Wolterstorff
“What advice can I give to you whose sights are set on becoming Christian scholars? My first piece of advice is that you get clear on what you understand by the project of being a Christian scholar.”


To see our curated list of articles for new grad students, head over to Beginning Well: Advice for New Graduate Students.

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