New Faculty Development Day… watch what you do people!

Today was new faculty development day at my medical school and I’d like to point out a few things I learned that might be of general interest as well as some observations on human behavior that got to me a bit. Rather than doing them all in one post I’ll break them up. So I don’t forget let’s have a little list.

This post is going to be about an observation on human behavior that all young faculty should be aware of. Next we’ll talk about 3 things that I learned today that I think are important for anyone considering a new workplace:
1) Institutional commitment to a diverse workplace.
2) Institutional commitment to research and clinical track faculty.
3) The tenure process.

So, what did I see today that got under my skin?

New faculty development seminars are important things. You learn, right from the horse’s mouth in many cases, what you need to do to be a success in the eyes of those who will judge you for promotion and tenure and how to navigate the resources of your institution in a way that can maximize your time. Due to the topics that will be covered, many of these functions will include talks by a variety of deans: Dean of Academic Affairs, Dean of Research and maybe even the Dean of the entire school. In our case, today we had two Deans in attendance and both of them gave lengthy talks on their particular areas of relevance for our career development. All of this went just fine. People paid attention and asked questions. So far so good…

Our little session today including a luncheon at the end and the Deans were there. One of these Deans happens to be a research colleague of mine because we have worked in the same area of research for several years. This Dean was a bit late to the luncheon so when he finally wandered in and grabbed a lunch he had to look for a place to sit. Most, if not all, of the people at my table had already finished their lunch but were still seated when the Dean came to sit at our table. I wasn’t surprised that he sat with us because he and I generally take a few minutes to chat whenever we see each other and we hadn’t had an opportunity to talk cannabinoid pharmacology yet on this day.

At the very moment that the Dean took his seat, to my shock, several new faculty members got up, grabbed their packets and took off. This is so wrong on so many levels. Allow me to outline why:

1) First off, its rude. Deans are people too and they enjoy personal interactions just like the rest of us. The very least these people could have done is stick around for a bit of small talk.
2) Its stupid. Everyone knew the guy is an important Dean, he’d given two talks in the session for the morning and was clearly introduced as an important figure in the university. Moreover, we had all introduced ourselves at the start of the session when the Dean was standing at the front of the room greeting us. I’m sure he’s not a vindictive person but that’s not the impression you want to leave under any circumstance.
3) Its a lost opportunity. Deans participate in these things because they care and they want to make a difference in your success. Every encounter with any Dean is a GoodThing for you as a young faculty member. It is a chance to point out what you are contributing to the university and how the university is contributing to your career development. Moreover, it is an opportunity to make suggestions to someone with some power to do something to make the university a better place for you and your colleagues.

The end result of the mass exodus was that I got a chance for some extra face time with the Dean. We had a productive conversation on some topics I care deeply about and we also got a few minutes to talk about our shared interests in cannabinoid pharmacology. On the other hand, I was embarrassed by the behavior of some of my fellow colleagues and it was clear to me that the Dean was made a bit uncomfortable by the situation. All you postdocs and junior faculty out there, learn a lesson from this please. Show your Deans some respect when they try to help you out and interact with you. I have a feeling it will pay off for you in the end.

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3 responses to “New Faculty Development Day… watch what you do people!

  1. Your junior colleagues are fucking idiots. They should be embracing every single opportunity that presents to ingratiate themselves with people who have power over their careers. This is just the simplest most obvious form of self preservation.

  2. You know what really got me… most of these people were on research track and this very Dean had just rolled out some new policies from the university to make a bigger commitment to faculty on this track. Fucking stupid! And I’m sure he noted this too.

  3. Thanks for reminding everyone that deans are people too, and not just people but fellow faculty members who might be interesting to chat with. If your only memory of the dean is sitting on the other side of the start-up negotiating table, it might surprise you to hear that the dean is proud of the successes of “his” or “her” young faculty, and wants to hear about what is exciting you. The dean also spends a lot of time convincing other people to be excited about the work of the college (the provost, donors, etc.), and don’t you want the dean doing that by telling them about the great new work being done by new professor X?

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