What was your initial reaction after finding out you were selected to be the new dean of faculty?

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Tamara Beauboeuf: Thrilled and really honored by the opportunity to do what I think is really important work. As I understand it, the dean of faculty is somebody who is responsible for 220 peers who are trying to become the best teacher, scholar, citizen that they can be, and this is a person who recognizes that, apart from staff, faculty are the longest serving people on the campus. The faculty spend their whole careers here, sometimes 30 to 40 years, and that is a lot of time for growing, developing new curiosity, and the dean of faculty is mindful of how people give some of the best years of their lives to this institution in order to help advance it in it’s mission. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to support the people I identify with the most, which is my peers. I have been here for almost 20 years, and have a longstanding interest in how we grow and I’m just thrilled, I keep saying thrilled, but thrilled to have the opportunity to support the people who I think are the backbone to any institution, but particularly this institution.

TDP: What do you hope to accomplish as dean of faculty?

TB: Well, I have some particular areas of focus. I think there’s a parallel between what we do in terms of programing for students and what we do for faculty. So, as I understand it, in Student Life the focus has been on first-year student. It’s only recently that we have realized sophomores need attention too. The faculty parallel to this is that we spend a lot of time with faculty in the first six to seven years. We offer them mentors, give them a reduced loads, and reach out to them consistently, and then you get tenure and then we say, alright good luck. So, much of the work I want to do will be focused on tenure, the longest most uncharted time of your career. Morale is also an issue I would like to address. Morale comes from the idea of belonging at large. The Vice President of Academic Anne Harris has talked about belonging as a campus value and faculty feel they need to belong as much as anyone else. If there is something institutionally that we are doing that doesn’t help faculty that we see them and value them I feel like that is something we have to address.

TDP: At the faculty meeting last week you mentioned how a lot of your research is about faculty development. Could you elaborate on this?

TB: Three years ago I met two women in a women’s leadership organization. We realized, as mid-career faculty, post ten year, our campuses were not sufficiently supporting people like us, other mid-career faculty. We have engaged in research to try and figure out what career-year faculty experience and how institutions can be more responsive. What this research has helped me realize is that there is an obligation that institutions have to create pathways for their faculty.   Being a faculty is always trying to find ways that we can bring all those changing entities together for the best sort of outcome for all three, the curriculum which is living, institution which is changing, and the individual faculty who is a lifelong learner.

TDP: How do you think your research aligns with the role of dean of faculty?

TB: I realize even more so that the post ten year period has to be a priority. We have to look at the life cycle of faculty from the time of hire until time of retirement/separation. We have to own the whole thing as an institution. The research is motivating me to think about how do we pay attention. I would like to see a web page where faculty research and accomplishments have a permanent place. Some place where you can see what faculty do and what drives them. And when I say morale, I don’t want to say people are depressed, I just think we could feel like this is a place that makes us feel good and that this is a place that engages in care. Care is the most heroic thing you can do. This web page would be one way of showing care. Faculty put at least half of their work into teaching, we can’t forget what a generous investment our faculty are making. They put a lot of the energy, resources energy, and care into growing students and I don’t want us to take that for granted as an institution.

TDP: What was your motivation for creating cross-disciplinary faculty writing group?

TB: It has been one of my real places of joy in the last year. We are teachers first and we’re scholars, and there is a synergistic relationship between those two things. The things that brought us to graduate school, the things that excite us are the things that an institution wants to give room to. The writing group has been a weekly opportunity for faculty to come together and share what they are doing. This positive energy is something we have been able to tap into in the weekly writing groups. Starbucks is just a good place. It is a third space that isn’t home, it isn’t work, but a new environment where you can be seen in your fullness, where people care about you as you present yourself. Not having it on campus has been a key to it’s success.

TDP: Do you have any plans to increase faculty attendance at monthly meetings?

TB: It might be something the dean of faculty can get insight into if it is tied to morale, some faculty don’t really feel like they belong or matter to the institution. Working with Dr. Harris and the incoming faculty development coordinator we might think about what is behind the low turnout, and why don’t faculty feel this is a space that they find useful to them. There are reasons behind the disengagement and we don’t know. So, I am curious about what could be pushing faculty away from this venue. I don’t know if I am right in this, but I think it is something we have to put some thought and action into because it not a healthy sign.