– Miguel R. Olivas-Luján
During the eleven years that I have been working at Clarion University, the Partners retreat has been one of the events that has helped me “reconnect with my inner instructor.” For a day or two, some of the most engaged and experienced colleagues on campus share their practices, techniques, and recent pedagogical findings from their disciplines in a structured and actionable fashion. Not everything is immediately applicable in my own classes, but much of it is. Also, the fact that many of my fellow faculty members take time from the last days in their summer break to attend, present, participate, or simply listen and entertain pedagogical ideas, practices, and outcomes, helps me change from my May to August mindset of “full-time researcher and part-time instructor” (when I teach summer courses), to “full-time instructor and part-time researcher and committee member” (for the numerous tasks that take place during the nine-month contractual year for faculty).
During these workshops, we share experiences, commiserate, and excite and inspire each other to serve our students better. Sometimes, ideas that had crossed my mind have already been applied by a colleague, and their successes (or failures) are more easily applied (or avoided) in my courses. Other times, we try new technologies, new techniques during the workshop – and I quickly realize if they are not likely to be helpful in my class. This vicarious learning saves me time, effort, and even anguish when I can foresee that my students would feel as impatient of certain innovations as I had felt when we tried them in the retreat. We share new websites, discuss old and new theories, rediscover ideas during these brief events, and save each other weeks of work while designing better ways to be more effective instructors and members of our departments and colleges.
Outside speakers were conspicuously absent this August – except Eric Zeglen, who Skyped in from the Dixon Center – but they help us realize that many sister institutions around the country are experiencing similar hardships to those we face, and help us recognize that many problems are created or solved by our own limitations or abilities. Recently published books and articles used and referenced during workshops also give us a broader perspective and occasionally provide solutions applicable to our own setting (again, missing in 2016 because of the financial crisis we are going through).
This year, when I read that “no support had been provided for the workshop” by our current administration, I could not help but feel disheartened, demoralized. If they only came (like many of their fellow administrators have often come) and joined our discussions, they would realize the strong ROI (Return on Investment) that this workshop has for its attendants, their students, and their departments.
I was very pleased when I learned, during the final hour of the event, that Computing Services had decided to offer support for some of the expenses associated with it. I hope that other support units in the university continue to identify and back these activities that so strongly benefit the heart and soul of what we do at our university.
Miguel R. Olivas-Luján is a Professor with the Management & Marketing department. University Instructor since 1994 and frequent recipient of the Researcher of the Year award of the College of Business and Information Systems, he is chair-elect for the Management Education & Development (MED) division of the Academy of Management.