Saturday, March 23, 2013

What Do They Do Besides Teach?

When I was a graduate student I remember wondering what my professors did when they weren't teaching. They only teach twice a week and only a few hours per course, so.... Sounds like a pretty sweet gig, huh? Well, most of us are not wading through snake pits, avoiding booby traps or discovering ancient artifacts like Dr. Indiana Jones. Or, are we?

There are definite perks to working as a prof including not being subject to a 9-5, 8-4 or any regimented day-to-day schedule. With that kind of autonomy comes the need for a great deal of drive and self-discipline in order to be considered "productive" in the field.

Productivity is defined by activity in three areas: teaching, scholarship and service. Teaching makes up approximately one third of the responsibilities of the average tenure-track professor, scholarship and service make up the other two thirds. Tenure is granted to professors who demonstrate the university's requirements in all three areas. At DePaul, all tenured or tenure-track professors are evaluated each year  by their departments on these areas with formal reviews taking place during the 2nd and 4th years. Visiting and adjunct professors are evaluated annually as well. On average, tenure-track professors "go up" for tenure in their 6th year, a process which involves presenting an extensive portfolio for review by the department, college and university.

Here's a brief look at each area:

I. Teaching. Teaching is inclusive of activities beyond time in the classroom or online such as course development, design, planning and of course, grading. When teaching a new course, the time spent in preparing for that course is more involved than for one that the professor has taught multiple times. Reviewing of teaching evaluations is an important part of this area so that improvements can be made to future courses. Advising of students is also included as a teaching activity.

II. Scholarship. Scholarship includes activities that build out the professor's research agenda. Such activities are reading, literature reviews, research design, data collection, data analysis, writing, editing and presenting at professional conferences. Grant writing falls under this category too. If you ever want to know what topics your profs are currently researching, writing or presenting on, just ask - there are often opportunities for graduate students to get involved!

III. Service. Service is a very broad category. Activities can include everything from attending or chairing committee meetings to organizing college wide events to providing uncompensated consulting services to schools or agencies to holding an office in a state or national organization. Often professors will choose service activities that complement or enhance their work in the areas of teaching and scholarship. Interested in what service activities we are doing? Again, just ask!

As with all jobs, there are a multitude of administrative tasks that are not included in any of these areas such as report writing, paperwork, budgeting, responding to emails, phone calls, etc.

Ideally, professors budget their time evenly between all three areas but sometimes it can be challenging to maintain productivity in all three on a consistent basis. Some professors spend their non-teaching days during the week on scholarship and service while others utilize breaks for intense writing and researching; everyone has their own system.

Oh, and personal lives? Yes, we have those too! The bottom line is that tenured and tenure-track professors worked hard to get their positions and we want to be doing what we are doing. In many cases we make much less than we would in the field, so just because we have advanced degrees doesn't mean we are making "the big bucks." We're also not perfect, as I'm sure you've discovered. Being a professor necessitates constant growth, openness to feedback and a willingness to change and innovate.