by Todd Ramon Ochoa, IAH Associate Director, New Faculty Program
How might the IAH extend broad-ranging innovative and interdisciplinary conversations to newly arrived faculty at Carolina? This is the question we asked ourselves recently as we set out to plan a pilot year program for new faculty in the arts, humanities and qualitative social sciences. Our goal, as ever, was to enhance scholarship at UNC by providing resources to help develop faculty exchanges across the University.
UNC is large, and finding faculty with whom to share ideas and collaborate outside of one’s home department can take months, if not years. Beyond a one-day orientation at the beginning of the semester there is little at UNC to help new faculty build a professional and intellectual community on campus. New faculty quickly find their way to the library and classrooms, but meeting people and building collaborative relationships is often left to chance. The New Faculty Program at the IAH hopes to take some of the serendipity out of this crucial aspect of university life through a year-long series of events to bring together new faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The New Faculty Program is open to faculty members who have arrived at UNC in the last three years, across rank. A reception in September introduced new faculty to one another, and we subsequently engaged in a conversation structured around the topic of “UNC arrival stories.” A month later, we followed the reception with a trip off campus to Chatham County. We took inspiration from the much-loved Tar Heel Bus Tour, which once-upon-a-time drove new faculty all over the state to connect them with communities and projects throughout North Carolina. Our morning spent at Piedmont Biofuels and the Abundance Foundation in Pittsboro brought a group of new faculty in contact with multifaceted and diversified sustainability projects in Chatham County. The value of introducing newly arrived people with the broader community in which they live is undeniable, and though our outing was one day instead of five, the trip was well worth the effort.
Well beyond building a cohort of new arrivals to UNC, the New Faculty Program is designed to connect new faculty quickly with existing scholarly communities. In November, two dozen IAH Fellows and other distinguished Carolina faculty will join new faculty for a dinner in Hyde Hall, where we hope to facilitate conversations around matching collaborative and scholarly interests.
In February 2014, we will host an iteration of the New Faculty Microtalks that were so successful last April. Once again, new faculty will take turns giving brief (5-7 minute) presentations on their scholarly interests and work in progress. The roster of speakers and topics will be different, but the high level of energy and engagement in the room will, we trust, remain unchanged. A further conversation and semester-end celebration in April will conclude the program.
Our goal is that the conversations that emerge over the course of the year will speed the introduction of new faculty into the University, just as they will allow established faculty to meet new colleagues whose arrival on campus they might otherwise have missed. The energy new faculty bring to campus should be felt and given the opportunity to make itself felt. We hope the New Faculty Program will help make this so.