Keep Checking In

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We’ve had the good fortune this calendar year of welcoming two new faculty to our department, both of whom are newly-minted PhDs. Having fresh f aces to interact with has added energy to our department while also making us all a bit more aware of how important it is to “check in” on one another. 


As we met in our opening-day department meeting I reflected on my first faculty meeting as an assistant professor on the tenure track in 2007. Diversity in hiring has been a priority of my community college for some time now. On that day in 2007, however, I was one of only two female faculty in a department of 15. Sixteen years later our department of 18 full-time faculty includes seven women and six people of color. We are the most diverse department on campus and our students notice. Increasingly they see themselves reflected in their teachers and that is meaningful. So many of our students are first-generation college students and seeing a diverse faculty provides them with examples of who they could become. They look to us as examples for their professional careers and to share with us the challenges they are facing as students and human beings. 


I sent texts to our new faculty members a few days into the school year just to “check in”: how is it so far? What challenges are you facing? One commented that they were having trouble asking for assistance from our wonderfully helpful administrative assistant because in their head they were “still a graduate student.” We chatted about this transition from student to faculty, which gave me an opportunity to think about my own experiences so many years ago.


As we start this new semester, check in on your colleagues – young and old, new and seasoned. Yesterday one of our younger faculty members stopped by my office to ask how my semester is going. The “ask” gave me an opportunity to vent about a frustrating interaction with a student and I felt noticeably lighter when the conversation ended. 


So this year, as always, whether it’s online in the Macmillan Community or in our brick and mortar offices, we as faculty can be amazing allies and support for each other. Keep your doors open and remember to keep checking in.

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About the Author
Suzanne K. McCormack, PhD, is Professor of History at the Community College of Rhode Island where she teaches US History, Black History and Women's History. She received her BA from Wheaton College (Massachusetts), and her MA and PhD from Boston College. She is currently at work on a study of the treatment of women with mental illness in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Massachusetts and Rhode Island.