Teaching part-time can be isolating. If you’re an adjunct instructor and you want to get more involved in your department or at your institution, ask yourself:
Why am I seeking more involvement?
- Do I want to receive more information about ongoing initiatives?
- Do I want to participate in decision-making processes?
- Do I want to network and raise my professional profile?
- Do I want to increase my engagement with the institution as a whole?
Here are some actions you can take for each of these reasons for seeking more involvement:
- Attend Meetings Remotely: If your schedule makes it hard for you to attend department meetings in person, or if your time for attending would not be compensated, turn to technology. It is incredibly easy to participate in meetings remotely, now that the device in anyone’s pocket can be either a speaker phone or a recording device. Ask if you can phone into department meetings, or if your faculty colleagues can record the meeting for you to listen to later.
- Sign-Up for Group Emails: Ask your department chair or dean to copy you on any group emails they receive from upper administration and forward on to all of the faculty on their team. This will alert you to campus-wide initiatives and give you a better sense of your institution’s priorities.
- Collaboration and Observation: If your institution does not have a formal mentoring process for adjunct faculty, look for opportunities to collaborate with other instructors who teach in your discipline area. You could observe a colleague’s class, or ask a full-time faculty member to sit in on your class and chat about it afterward.
If you want to help shape decisions, consider these factors first:
- Know the Governance for Decision-Making: What is the governance structure of your institution? Do part-time faculty work under a union contract? If so, your union leadership will be able to advise you about appropriate avenues for you to participate in decision-making. For example, there might be a designated seat for a part-time faculty member on important academic committees. If adjuncts are not unionized at your institution, find out what structures exist for part-time faculty participation on committees or other cross-discipline work teams.
- Figure Out the Organizational Structure: Who is the leader of your academic team? Do you have a department chair? Do you report to an academic dean? Reach out to your team leader, either in person or via email, and ask to participate in any initiatives or ongoing projects that could benefit from your part-time faculty perspective.
- Understand Your Department Curriculum Culture: What is the process for curriculum development in your department? Does each instructor design their own courses, or is it a team effort? Ask your colleagues about opportunities for collaboration around course design.
If you’re interested in networking or building your professional profile, you might want to try:
- Connect with Your Colleagues on LinkedIn: Update your LinkedIn profile, then search for colleagues at your institution and invite them to join your professional network.
- Look for Opportunities to Share Your Scholarship: Your institution might have a speaker series or another recurring event where faculty present their scholarship to the campus community. Find out who organizes these events and ask about becoming a presenter.
- Ask About Upcoming Hiring Opportunities: It never hurts to ask your chair or department lead (after you’ve established your reputation at a particular institution) if they foresee any upcoming available full-time positions or leadership opportunities that you can apply for.
If you want to feel more involved at the institution as a whole, consider taking on one or more of these actions:
- Sign-Up for Professional Development: Participate in professional development opportunities as often as your schedule allows. Attend workshops or presentations by invited speakers, and sit next to someone you haven’t met. If your institution has a process for compensating adjunct faculty for participating in professional development, be sure to take advantage of that benefit every academic year.
- Take the Lead: Become a club advisor for a student organization. Campus clubs need staff advisors, and you might find the perfect match for your interests and energies.
- Watch Out for Hiring Opportunities: Monitor all-staff emails for invitations to participate in campus-wide efforts such as hiring committees for campus administrators.
- Keep Student Issues in Mind: Read the student newspaper or other student-produced media at your institution. Learning what the students currently care about, and where their needs aren’t being met, is a great way to get ideas for how you could help make a difference at your institution.
The dual constraints of limited time and compensation can discourage adjunct faculty from engaging more on campus. But adjunct instructors are a hugely important component of the institution as a whole, and their perspective is critical in all campus-wide conversations.