DWN Faculty Panel Reveals Lessons for All Working Women

On April 25, the DePaul Women’s Network hosted “Faculty Service Opportunities and Career Development Panel.” DWN Communications Team Member Laura Durnell recaps and reflects upon what participating in the event taught her.

Laura Durnell

Right before the DePaul Women’s Network’s final event of the 2013-2014 year, The Atlantic published an article called “The Confidence Gap.” In the article, authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman presented evidence that showed women in the workforce shortchanging themselves through not pursuing opportunities or broadcasting accomplishments simply because of a lack of self-assurance.

DWN’s event reflected the issues mentioned in the article. “Twenty percent of full professors are women,” said panelist and English Professor Anne Clark Bartlett, who also serves as Special Assistant to the Provost for Innovation and Academic Planning. This revelation regarding women in academia also relates to the number of women in the workforce outside the Ivory Tower who do not often pursue or hold positions of leadership.

Even though this panel was specifically marketed to full-time faculty on the tenure track and focused on the role service plays in tenure decisions, much of the advice presented also applies to adjunct faculty, DePaul staff and all women in the workforce. Overall, the panelists provided advice and suggestions about taking initiative, strategically planning activities, and being thoughtful with time commitments regarding work advancement—all activities that would not only help build careers in and outside academia, but also build confidence.

During the panel, the accomplished and inspiring panelists used those effective strategies to discuss the role service plays in tenure decisions. The panelists also shared their stories and advice about the best way to plan and participate in service. Roxanne Owens from the College of Education, who now serves as Chair for the Department of Teacher Education, said she has served on some committees she didn’t want to, but serving allowed her to get her name out to her department and DePaul.

“But don’t be a martyr [with volunteering],” Owens warned. “Yet if you agree to serve on a committee, show up!”

Mona Shattell from the College of Nursing, who is now Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development, said service has given her opportunities to serve on committees outside of her nursing field and to better get to know DePaul and its students. For example, she served as the faculty advisor to the DePaul Women’s A Cappella Chorus.
When she started on the tenure track, Shattell said she looked at her career goals and didn’t join a service opportunity unless it matched her goals, emphasizing, “It helped me write my narrative and align my service.”

Like Shattell, Bartlett made her service align with her goals. Until she received tenure, Bartlett devoted most of her service within her research concentration of medieval literature, specifically medieval women’s literature. During her early years on the tenure track, Bartlett organized conference panels in her field, participated in professional organizations, and spent the rest of her energy and time on research and teaching. Once she became an associate professor, Bartlett began serving on university committees, including a stint as the Faculty Council President. However, Bartlett believes a lot of service early in a professor’s career can be “a disaster. Service opportunities are always going to be there.”

Slightly disagreeing with Bartlett, Judy Bundra from the College of Music, who is also Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, encouraged professors on the tenure track to grab the service opportunities that are available and to pick ones that have a wide impact. “To not do any committees university-wide is not wise,” said Bundra. Since her adjunct days, Bundra has risen to the rank of associate professor and served as a Faculty Council representative and department dean.

Maggie Oppenheimer from the Economics Department in the College of Business echoed other panelists in stressing the importance of making contacts within one’s own field as well as at DePaul. “Get on conference programs or organizations,” Oppenheimer said. Through her service inside and outside DePaul, Bundra said she “got her name out” as well as DePaul’s.

Regarding collegiality and reputation, all of the panelists advised not just signing up for service but truly fulfilling the responsibility of serving. “It’s not in the handbook, but being a good colleague and doing your share is important,” Oppenheimer said. Current Faculty Council Chair and College of Communication Professor Michaela Winchatz agreed, mentioning the frustration regarding the noticeable absence of others when the same people repeatedly volunteer and other faculty lay low.

As important as service is, Owens cautioned tenure-track faculty members from using service as a way to avoid research. In a post-panel email, Owens wrote, “I believe people need to contribute to the university, their college, their department and their professional community through service activities—but they also need to be aware of when they are overcommitting themselves to service as a way to avoid something they might struggle with a bit more (such as writing).”

Finally, one such piece of advice that any academic and professional can embrace came from Shattell via Twitter: “Keep your CV not only up-to-date but up to the minute!”

Read more about the Twitter conversation during the panel in our Storify recap.

Laura Durnell is a member of DWN’s Communications team and is an adjunct in the Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse Department at DePaul University.

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