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May 2015


Collaboration and celebration: A successfully revised new member program
Cynthia Eaton


sarah gutowski
New member coordinator Sarah Gutowski asks, "Why not remind everyone that it’s our union, made up of faculty and working for the faculty, that makes this kind of celebration and collaboration possible? These projects are possible because the union negotiated, and continues to build and defend, the contract that created this kind of workplace." (photo by Kevin Peterman)

Collaboration. To co-labor. To work together.

Because the word collaboration captures the very essence of unionism, it's fitting that college-wide new member coordinator Sarah Gutowski highlighted the smart collaborations between and among a variety of FA members in the inaugural FA new member discussion series. Gutowski chose to center the series on helping new members shape their career paths at SCCC with purpose, efficiency and confidence.

The series began in September with three junior faculty sharing some hindsight on their first year at SCCC. Among the many smart suggestions shared by panelists Misty Curreli (Sociology, Eastern), Jason Ramírez (Theater Arts, Grant) and Nick Giordano (Political Science, Ammerman) came suggestions about how to organize one's workday so as not to feel burned out, how to resist making assumptions about students and how to keep current with your discipline.

Later in the fall, "The Long View" panelists advised newer faculty on how to plan your career at SCCC. Bill Burns (English, Ammerman) suggested that faculty look at their personal, college and professional geographies and analyze how best to align them when determining where to put their energies. Because Burns loves horror and science fiction films, for example, he has developed a special topics course on them, created a student sci fi club and does Professors on Wheels presentations about them. Gutowski walked participants through the process of writing a letter to your ten-year self: where do you want to be in ten years? Identify those goals and establish a schedule by which to work toward them.

     call for proposals
We want to bring meaningful, relevant discussions to new members and the campus community in the 2015-16 year. So, if you’re a mentor or a recently hired faculty member, we’re interested in your ideas and/or your participation in the discussion series.
If you have an idea for a panel and would love to see the program feature your topic, please send us the idea even if you’re not really interested in being on the panel or organizing the panel yourself. We’ll do the dirty work for you and try our best to produce the panel or workshop with the right faculty and resources.
If you would like to be on a panel, we’re even happier.
Just let us know by emailing As with the blog, we’re interested in any and all proposals.

This spring the new member discussion series delighted a packed room by spotlighting several unique faculty collaborations. On the Eastern campus, for example, Joe Napolitano (Biology) and Meredith Starr (Visual Arts) worked together so that Starr's Drawing II students had access to the insects used by entomologist Napolitano in his classes so they could draw them. The results were stunning both in terms of student enthusiasm and their resulting artistic efforts. On the Grant campus, Sue DeMasi (Library) collaborated with Alyssa Kauffman (Communications) to bring to life a play, which DeMasi had written during a recent sabbatical, that relies on oral histories of the Great Depression.

Gutowski's new member initiatives are invaluable to an academic union, as they keep us mindful that our members truly are at the heart of why the FA exists. The new member program serves an inherently useful, incredibly practical service for our membership.

"As a writer," Gutowski says, "I know that the habit of keeping process notes—the act of reflecting on the creation of a draft—can be essential to an important revision and even prompt new and different work from the writer. The act of mentoring is very similar; as a mentor reflects on her acclimation to the college community or her own progress toward promotion, the mentor may gain insight that benefits not only her mentee but also her own future endeavors at the institution. The mentee, in turn, gains instant community and varying perspectives, not just in his department but also across disciplines and from people with varying interests, job titles and levels of experience."

Gutowski's methods by which to share these important and necessary reflections, including the new member blog and the new member discussion series, have proven popular with both new and experienced faculty. She has plans to grow both.

"Our faculty are involved in so many interesting and vibrant projects at the college—why shouldn’t we celebrate them? Why shouldn’t we collaborate more in these relatively informal discussion sessions?" she asks. "It’s really easy to become jaded or bitter when it’s the middle of the semester and we’re frustrated and feeling alone, buried under stacks of grading or committee work. Why not share the load in interesting ways, like collaborative teaching or interactive cross-discipline classrooms? Why not share with our colleagues ways in which we can do this and make teaching more rewarding for everyone involved? Why not help our colleagues avoid mistakes we made or encourage them to share in our successful practices?

And why not remind everyone that it’s our union, made up of faculty and working for the faculty, that makes this kind of celebration and collaboration possible? These projects are possible because the union negotiated, and continues to build and defend, the contract that created this kind of workplace."

call for writersThe FA’s new member blog, The Undercurrent, is looking for faculty, new and not-so-new, to help sustain and diversify the (should be) weekly blog.
If you're a veteran faculty member or a recently hired faculty member who has just survived his or her year as the new kid on the block, we’re interested in your contributions. And by contributions, I mean 500 to 1,000 word posts about anything or everything that 1) surprised you about working at SCCC, 2) confused you about working at SCCC or 3) excited you about working at SCCC.
Posts don’t need to be humorous or even written that eloquently (eloquence is hardly the editor’s forte, either). However, they should be anecdotal—telling real-world experiences you’ve had at the college—and designed with the intent to be helpful to an incoming class of new faculty. What do you wish someone had told you when you first arrived here? What was the most useful advice you were given? What worked well and what didn’t? What would you change if you could do it all over again?
Those faculty who are interested in gaining some low commitment, high visibility college-wide service should write to You can indicate whether you’d be interested in writing regularly, several times a year or just once on a specific topic. We’re interested in any and all proposals.