Field of Science

New faculty, expectations vs. realities

Our department is trying to hire a new faculty member, hopefully one of several new positions to help us recover from a perfect storm of retirements, senior faculty leaving for other/better opportunities, and fiscal delays in filling empty positions. These were all bright, capable people and we scared the everyloving stuffing out of at least one of them. This particular candidate was a powerful researcher in a medical school environment, which means their knowledge of, concern for, and ability to interact with undergrads is about as vast as the Phactor's knowledge of neurobiology. Interesting to note that PZ Myers' institution has a similar problem compounded by geography. Morris isn't the edge of the world, but if you stand on top of the hood of your car, you can see it from there (so says a colleague who escaped Morris). Now part of the problem was a search committee blinded by grants and publications, all well and good, but the university expects us to teach undergraduates as 40% of our job. Outstanding research programs are not at all impossible at our institution, but since it's not the end all and be all of your existence, it is a harder thing to accomplish. Part of the trouble is applicants who have no experience with institutions like ours and therefore unrealistic expectations about the job. But as long as you hang out with people who think having to teach undergraduates is a measure of professional failure, you got a mental problem. My long time mentor has spent his entire long career at a 4 yr undergraduate college and it was a big surprise to many of his colleagues at big-time universities to find out that he had mentored more students into the profession of botany and most of them. It's not where you are but the impact you have.

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