Saturday, August 23, 2014


So close! With less than one week to go before the semester commences, the house was (mostly) unpacked, my office was (mostly) in order, and syllabi were (almost) ready to go to the printer. Still so much to do: create a website, order lab equipment, organize my research team, and finalize the first week of class. I could have made significant progress in each of these areas, if not for the mandatory welcome party - three days of university orientation.

Let me be clear. I looked forward to meeting other new faculty and learning something about Jesuit education. (I'm woefully ignorant.) But few faculty - and really, few employees across the board - have fond memories of orientation. And the week before classes begin seemed (and still does seem) like the worst possible time to tear us away from actual preparation, in order to talk about preparation. Logistics rule the planning here, as there isn't another time when new faculty all will be in town and not otherwise occupied. That I understand. And I've taught my own classes before, so I should be able to make significant progress on course prep without orientation.

Yet here are all of the incredibly useful information I learned this week, which would have been even more helpful a month ago:

- How to write and assess student learning outcomes (and that this is mandatory)
- How to use the new online course management system, Desire2Learn (already rebranded  as Brightspace, though no one seems to know that)
- What to include in a syllabus (summary: everything you can think of, or you'll spend the  entire semester answering questions about policies)
- Who my assigned mentor is (another resource for preparing to move!)
- What the tech support center does and does not do/have (no, they don't loan out  PowerPoint remotes; thank goodness for Amazon two-day shipping!)
- How long it takes to get approved to edit your own website (many days, and I don't have  access yet)

In addition, some fun tidbits:

- The faculty union meetings (and its president) are VERY entertaining
- The Provost is new; he started on July 1st (repeat, repeat, repeat....)
- The library administration redirects absolutely every possible topic to the library, its resources, and new student study center (and I do know a lot about the library now)
- The library administration assumes that you come from an institution where you had to pay for interlibrary loan (poor souls who did)
- Time/priority management is on the agenda, but we will run out of time and not discuss it (yes, this happened)

My wish for more advanced notice notwithstanding, I must say that my university did a wonderful job of making us feel welcome and supported. This is a consistent theme here; not a day has gone by that hasn't included friendly offers for help, advice, and/or lunchtime companionship. Even though this often presents a jarring contrast to my previous job environment, the transition couldn't have been more smooth for me. In addition to the move, setting up, and orientation, I even managed to draft 95% of a manuscript this month!

So, am I 'oriented?" Let's see. I know where the campus coffee shops are, and their employees know me. I've been extremely productive in my office - both course prep and manuscript writing have enjoyed significant progress there. My syllabi have been printed, typos and all. (I managed to misspell the first and last names of one TA. Can you beat that?) Still plenty to do before 9:00 am on Monday, but I'm feeling pretty good.

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