by: Jamie L. Frye
Whether your first year as a faculty member was last year or 20 years ago, we can all recollect what it was like to start juggling multiple expectations as a faculty member and not knowing how to do it well. There’s no doubt that many of us felt as if we were navigating these uncharted academic waters single-handedly. But why grapple with common first year questions and uncertainties alone when there are numerous people right here at JMU with great insight to share? That’s why the CFI developed Peer Orientation & Development Groups (a.k.a. PODs) to support early career faculty in their first year at JMU.
POD groups are led by two early career faculty members who devise a monthly agenda to help support first year faculty. Faculty members who attend these groups are provided with the opportunity to take a break from their daily “to do list” and to think about the overview of their beginning career. In these meetings, individuals develop their personal/professional mission and vision, determine their professional strengths and weaknesses as they develop their academic self, determine how they can best document their professional growth, and learn about services on campus that can best support their development. PODs also help members learn about community opportunities (social or professional), network with new faculty to discuss current challenges (such as time management and how to increase productivity), or how to deal with common academic challenges (such as plagiarism, ethics, or difficult student mentalities). Taking time to think past their next lecture and to consider what they want their career to become enables faculty to start taking the beginning steps toward those goals. As many of us know, it’s those initial steps in our careers that get us grounded and pointed in the right direction. While formal opportunities to mentor are advantageous, so are informal opportunities. I encourage us all to seek out a new faculty member to say hello and to see how their new position is faring. If we remember anything from our first year, it is definitely those people whom were kind enough to offer answers to our questions, provide sought after advice, and to just give us a friendly smile!
If you are a new faculty member and would still like to join a POD Group, please check to see if a scheduled POD time works for you.