Please Pass the Salt: Creating a Collaborative Environment for Adjuncts
Janet Covey Novotny, Online Adjunct Professor, English and Business, Grand Canyon University, Northwestern State University of Louisiana, and Indiana Wesleyan University
Each and every adjunct who has a desire to learn, communicate, care, and share with others can start the collaboration process. First, find the administrator who handles communication with adjuncts. This administrator is the go-to person for learning what is or is not currently being done to bring adjuncts together; additionally, he or she must give permission for you to use the contact information for and formally reach out to other adjuncts. The next best step is to think of a type of forum where adjuncts can meet and greet—both a physical and virtual space. Then, contact an IT professional at your institution for a recommendation to connect with adjuncts electronically.
Bring Adjuncts Together
In an on-campus setting, adjuncts need a place to meet; they need a location set aside on their campus specifically for adjunct interaction. There are so many ways to get adjuncts together where everyone learns, shares, and collaborates together: workshops, webinars, and educational training for and with adjuncts. For adjuncts living near the campus where they teach, they can have potluck meals, recognition banquets, and small gatherings. As often as possible, adjuncts need to be included in an environment to share ideas and collaborate. Additionally, an institution should invite adjuncts to the same meetings and dinners as full-time faculty—and adjuncts need to encourage each other about the importance of being involved when invited.
Adjuncts should also decide what type of virtual area works best for meeting. For instance, some institutions have an online space—such as an online forum—where adjuncts can post and share ideas. However, if there is not a virtual space at your institution where adjuncts can collaborate, try starting a blog or creating a website for adjuncts.
Benefits for Adjuncts
Get creative and ask what other institutions offer adjuncts; benefits for adjuncts vary from college to college. For example, some institutions offer tuition-free or half-price university courses. I taught at a two-year institution in Montana, which required adjuncts to pay union dues or donate the same amount to a chosen charitable fund. The union also required adjuncts to be paid $30 an hour for each meeting attended. Some colleges set aside a specific amount per year for professors to use for conferences and other types of professional development. Currently, I do not currently work for a university that provides any similar funds for adjuncts; however, in Montana, adjuncts were given $300 for in-state professional development and $600 for out-of-state professional development. While funds were available, often they rotated back into the main budget because adjuncts either did not use them or did not know funds were available.
It’s a win-win situation for everyone when an institution invests in professional development training for adjuncts, especially because full-time faculty have meetings and other means on campus to gain an understanding of the college’s protocol. Knowledge is power, and the more each adjunct knows about a university’s procedures, rules, and regulations, the more he or she is able to succeed in their teaching. An investment like this pays off for the institution because adjuncts then need little supervision to handle the courses they are given. Further, an institution’s policies and procedural documentation should be readily available for adjuncts to access online.
The universities for which I currently teach offer on-demand workshops, three-day workshops, and webinars. In my opinion, an adjunct has an incredible opportunity to take any and all of the educational offerings when they are available.
Some universities schedule a banquet for adjuncts and invite them to the campus-wide banquets, as well. Anything an institution can do to show adjuncts that they are appreciated means so much. In addition, it is great for an institution to offer benefits such as free tickets to sports events, plays, productions, and other college functions.
I’m Proud to be an Adjunct
I once made a presentation as a guest speaker at a banquet to honor adjuncts. I made a beautiful fabric letter “A” that I wore on my blouse, and my presentation was titled the “A’s of Adjuncts.” I studied a thesaurus for weeks to come up with words that begin with the letter “A,” and I listed the awesome attributes adjuncts possess. I was just as proud then as I am now to be an adjunct.
I encourage each adjunct to share, care, and reach out to other adjuncts. I do not feel like an adjunct alone on an island. I strive to get involved, and I see the potential of adjuncts collaborating. I would love to invite you to the table to dine with me and, just like when we eat a delicious meal, I would ask you to pass the salt. Come on, adjuncts: let us all get together, collaborate, and pass the salt! It is time to open up to others and collaborate, combine our efforts, and share our expertise and knowledge so all adjuncts involved can benefit.