Professors are the most valuable resource of any university or college. Many say that they are the university. Programs on purpose and values without faculty are missing the essential ingredient.
Yet professors may feel unprepared to ask questions of purpose and values with undergraduates; they may also have doubts about the appropriateness of these questions for a university; and finally, many may be uninterested in areas outside their discipline.
Therefore, efforts to involve faculty should be strategic and aimed at their needs. Here is advice on involving faculty:
- Study the culture of your faculty and learn what motivates professors on your campus. You need to understand how they are rewarded and the pressures they face. You need to show this understanding in the way you structure your programs.
- Design events with faculty in mind. Along with funding and institutional will, creativity is your greatest asset. Don’t make their involvement an after-thought by giving them a marginal role.
- Create experiences that enhance faculty life -- on their terms -- in significant ways. Any hint that participation is an additional burden will hurt your chances for success.
- Fill the need scholars have for inter-disciplinary conversation. Research universities with specialized divisions make it difficult to interact with peers from other departments. Create cohorts from across the institution instead of isolated participants.
- Invite critique and doubts. Professors need to use their critical reasoning skills in the activities. A sense that criticism is not welcome will become a reason to skip the program.
- Win the support of your President and Provost. Their backing will show the program's importance to faculty.
- Secure ample funding. Your budget will determine if you are able to make the program appealing. Intangible incentives alone are usually not enough to attract interest from a broad cross-section of faculty.
- Build programs that are meaningful and dynamic yet also respect faculty time. Do not create programs that require a never-ending commitment; have clear finish lines that give others a chance to get involved.
- Play the role of host. Use the opening moments to welcome participants and give an explanation of the purpose of the event.
- Enjoy! This is challenging work but worth the effort.