POD Network News

POD Network News
Spring 2017


In March 2017, I began my term as POD Network President, working in close collaboration with President-Elect Cassandra Horii and Past-President Kevin Barry. Over the past year, in preparation for the transition, I asked many Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) staff to suggest priorities for the POD Network. One of the most frequently-named needs centered around the inclusion of new members. For many, this concern was driven by good circumstances – the addition of new lines or renewal of positions for CTL staff who are advancing in their careers. However, as reported in a previous issue of POD Network News, there has been a sharp increase in the number of job postings in the field, which has been a pressure point for some centers. Equally importantly, based on the importance of diverse perspectives in collaborative organizations, it is critical that we intentionally build pathways to our profession through individual invitation and partnerships with other national organizations.

My entry into the field, probably like many of you, was serendipitous. I took a class on faculty development with a luminary in the field, Dr. Connie Cook, and soon she captured my imagination about the profession and hired me to work part-time at the University of Michigan’s CTL. This class was an extraordinarily fortunate life event for me. However, although “luck” and “serendipity” are key themes in many of our narratives, reliance on fortune is not a strategy to ensure that the POD Network is reaching out to a wide group of potential future educational developers. How can we continue to highlight the sense of fortune that many of us feel from being in such a meaningful profession – but for the next generation, also construct new narratives of intentional mentorship and outreach?

Last year, during a Core Committee meeting, the POD Network’s board of directors identified “nurturing and mentoring” and “intentional mentoring” as key functions of our organization. To this end, the POD Network developed a new series of short articles, which outline evidence-based approaches and personal narratives for new professionals in the field. The first piece focuses on getting started in an educational development career, aimed at graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. The next installment in the series will focus on pathways from a faculty career to a small college CTL director. Additionally, in a complementary initiative, the Membership and Professional Development Committees are planning a mentorship initiative to build pathways within the profession. This development is responsive to data from the 2016 POD Network Membership Survey that the vast majority (83%) of respondents found it “important or essential” to have a career mentor, yet less than half of our members can identify one. Possibilities include mutual mentoring communities and traditional mentor/mentee matchups.

In service of outreach and professional growth, the POD Network is focused on building bridges to other educational organizations. For many CTL directors, assessment is a growth area (Beach, Sorcinelli, Austin & Rivard, 2016); we are pleased to begin a collaboration with the Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education (AALHE) to build reciprocal contributions in our annual meetings. Relatedly, STEM is another growth area in the field (Bartholomew, 2016), and the External Partnerships and Outreach Committee would like to invite POD Network members to participate in the Learning Spaces Collaboratory. Finally, we look forward to working with the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) – a survey designed to promote positive outcomes in faculty recruitment, development, and retention – to inform efforts on our own campuses to support collegiality and inclusion through evidence-based practice, key POD Network values.

Intentional invitations to the field can also start in small ways on many of our campuses. Over the past year, my center’s staff started an educational development reading group – including CTL field trips and web-based informational interviews – with a small group of graduate students interested in the theory and practice of the field. I am certain that not all will go on to work in a CTL – some are pursuing advising, others K-12 teaching, and yet others, faculty and research careers. However, I do hope that all will go on to be allies to their own CTL or to higher education more generally, which we deeply need in this day and age.

I look forward to hearing your own ideas about how your CTL engages in this important work, or other ways that the POD Network can better cultivate pathways to the profession. Please email the POD Network Executive Committee at executive@podnetwork.org.

Thank you,

-- Mary Wright

Beach, A.L., Sorcinelli, M.D., Austin, A.E., & Rivard, J.K. (2016). Faculty development in the age of evidence: Current practices, future imperatives. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Mary Wright is the director of the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning at Brown University. She served as Chair of the POD Network Finance (2013-15) and Graduate and Professional Student Development (2009-12) Committees, and she was on the Core Committee between 2012-15.