Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Being Valued and Appreciated by Your Academic Institution

I have had quite a few conversations at the end of this semester with faculty of different ranks.

During the conversations, one of the topics that consistently emerged is that the faculty member felt that their contributions were not sufficiently recognized or valued, despite their efforts and hard work.

I tried to pick my colleagues up and cheer them on but now that I am thousands of miles away in beautiful Sweden, where I consistently get my muse, I feel that the topic is of sufficient importance to write about on this blog.

Especially at the end of the academic year, there are always many celebratory events such as banquets and award ceremonies in which recognitions such as teaching awards, research awards, and even service awards are noted. Some of the accolades are "local" in that they are given by the school in question, such as, in my case,  the Isenberg  School of Management, for example. Other recognitions are at the university level, which are done elegantly at our annual UMass Amherst Honors Banquet, where also national and international awards are noted that recipients have received during the year.

Sometimes I wonder whether with all the emphasis on rankings in Business Schools, are we forgetting the human element?

As we chase the rankings, are we steering research in directions that faculty may not be fully passionate about? If a journal is not on the identified list for your program to publish in, does that mean that you will turn down opportunities or feel that a publication in only an A level journal (since it is not Premier) does not matter? A colleague of mine stated that this is how he felt.

I know from citations to my own work, that my books are highly cited as are articles that are not in premier journals although I have published there. And now -  a colleague at ASU, with whom I am working on organizing a very cool symposium, let me know that  on Google Scholar I hit an i10-index of 50. This means for those of you who are wondering, that 50 of my publications have been cited 50 or more times, which is pretty good, I am told. That in itself, is gratifying, even if this will not affect any ranking but, then again, it may when it comes to a school's reputation. Better to have faculty whose work is cited, I would think.

Faculty (as employees) want to feel valued and appreciated and there are concrete ways in which this can be accomplished.

I wonder why it may be hard for some administrators to give public acknowledgments, private thank you's, and even kind words in passing as to the work that faculty do. Of course, this holds not only for research but also for teaching and service. An institution is built on all who are part of it and faculty are the foundations.

Under a previous administration, something known as an Exceptional Merit Award was initiated at UMass Amherst, whereby every 3 years a faculty member could apply (or, better yet, be nominated) for this award, which entails an increase (which can vary) in one's base pay. In order to get this award, one needs substantive national and/or international accolades.

When rules of the game change, I can always go back and recall that, under two different Provosts, I received such an Exceptional Merit Award. Such a university recognition does give you some lift under your wings and is a concrete recognition.

Of course, I tell my colleagues that even if you don't feel appreciated by your immediate school or college, excellent work does get recognized (sooner or later) and one should just continue doing great work that one is passionate about. 

I, specifically, laud professional societies such as INFORMS (Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences) for support of research of their members and their other professional activities through communities and various awards.

Do send a colleague a congratulatory note, and copy it to administrators, if a colleague has published an article that she or she is very proud of. Do the same if a grant is received or even a student comments to you on how much he or she enjoyed a professor's class. In being driven to Boston Logan last Wednesday using UMass Amherst's Meet and Greet service, I had a great driver who is a Math major (so, of course, the conversation was fabulous). He spoke about a colleague of mine in Finance that was his favorite professor even though he is considered to be very tough. I sent an email to my colleague telling him about this.

Do acknowledge work well done and an interesting paper or achievement by a colleague at a meeting of the department or even school and, most definitely, do it also individually!

Or, as I sometimes do, even write a blogpost with congratulatory messages for notable recognitions. I do this for faculty and students. This helps to get the news out and will build a positive community.

Administrators have their own challenges and sometimes they may just forget or be focused too much on their agendas and initiatives to spread the good word about faculty. It does not hurt to remind them!