Every year at Freshman Convocation – one of my favorite events of the academic year – the incoming class is assigned one of our core institutional values as a theme. For the Class of 2020, that value is inclusivity.
I think this ritual is beneficial in many ways, which is why it made sense to me to mirror it for faculty at the Fall Kickoff. There, I challenged those in attendance to focus on collegiality with a special emphasis on involvement. The two, I think, go hand in hand.
The value of collegiality, which is reflected in collaboration, partnership, a sense of community and teamwork, is very much about becoming involved – with your colleagues, your students, your school and your community.
At Augusta University, we have many opportunities for faculty to get involved. Some are things that are very academic, some are student-centric, some – like athletics – are campus-wide, while others involve the greater Augusta community.
President Keel arrived on campus with a well-documented love of sports and its ability to rally the sometimes disparate parts of a large and expansive institution like ours, and I wholeheartedly share this view. All you have to do is go to an athletic event – say volleyball, where the Jags are currently 5-2 and sitting close to the top of the Peach Belt Conference – and see how that sense of unity and community binds us into one, win or lose.
And then you have the artistic events – gallery openings, lectures, displays, concerts – that are one of the big advantages of being located at a place with the rich artistic traditions we have on our Summerville Campus. As something that is publically displayed and privately appreciated, art is certainly enriching to the collective soul of a community like ours, always prompting us to think more about the world around us. Whether that involves public art like Ed Woodham’s recent talk, the intersection between art and science like last Tuesday’s LASER event, or the musical joys of the Straight A Jazz concert series, formerly Jazz at the G, art is stitched tightly into the fabric of our university.
And then there is our most overt opportunity for community involvement, the upcoming Day of Service, where the Augusta University family fans out into the greater community to help in ways as varied as picking up trash to assisting with an ice cream party at the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home.
Becoming involved in these kinds of activities not only bolsters the sense of community that you have with your school, but also more tightly binds the greater community to you.
It does our students good, for example, to recognize their professors eating at our campus facilities or watching one of the outdoor movies the CREW puts on at the amphitheater on the Summerville Campus. While events like the movies are primarily aimed at students, they are nevertheless a part of the greater campus life, something that has been dramatically enhanced with the addition of those 400 residential undergraduates living on the Health Sciences Campus. And we all have a responsibility to make that life as rich and vibrant as we can.
Digging even deeper, however, there are also opportunities for our faculty to directly lend a hand with student government as well as our numerous student clubs, which are always looking for faculty advisors and other mentors.
The opportunities for involvement are all around us, but sometimes we need to be reminded that they don’t just fall in our laps. Sometimes, we have to seek them out the way people have done with the Randomized Coffee Trials.
The concept of the Randomized Coffee Trials has been getting a lot of traction since it debuted in June, and for good reason. It’s as simple as getting a cup of coffee and as rewarding as making a new friend.
When it was first pitched to me by Dr. Jim Rawson, chair of radiology – who is an innovative, outside-the-box thinker who is also very committed to the idea of taking full advantage of this new university we’ve become – I was immediately intrigued by its potential to bring us together. And it has. As part of Dr. Caryl Hess’ programing at the Leadership Academy, it has proved very popular and very successful, and we continue to see new people sign up each week.
While the Randomized Coffee Trials are the most immediate entry point into Leadership Academy programing, there are several different programs for people with all ranges of ambitions. We as an institution are committed to providing these opportunities because we know that the best way to grow as an organization is for our own people to grow along with it. Speaking from experience, it’s always rewarding to see our faculty slip into roles they might not have considered before.
Perhaps the most immediate impact a faculty member can have on the mechanics of the institution is through our shared governance, whether through the elected faculty senate or the standing committees, all of which are doing important work to further the goals of the university.
I encourage those of you who are not involved to reach out to your fellow senators and committee members and find out where you might fit in.
We’re off to a great start. I was really encouraged and frankly thrilled by the response at the Fall Kickoff, especially the fact that folks stuck around and talked with each other – some all the way until it was time to take down the tables. That kind of commitment in your colleagues is gratifying to me and special to us all.