7 Considerations for Potential Faculty

Posted on March 31, 2017 by
Laura Sullivan

It’s not all about the pedigree; faculty behaviors are the key.

We are very fortunate that the College of Online and Continuing Education receives more than 100 adjunct faculty applications a day. Determining the exemplar candidates is my department’s mission. So what are we looking for? Here are our top considerations when reviewing faculty applicants:

 

1. “What will you talk with students about?”

Many years ago a full-time faculty member from campus encouraged me to think about a faculty applicant’s graduate degree as a base requirement. He asked me, “This person has the educational base, but what are they going to talk with students about?” That question gave me the guidance I needed to bring forth well-qualified candidates for consideration.

Applicants are required to have a graduate degree for consideration, but how they’ve applied their education in their careers is key. It’s critical for students to understand the theory or concept, but how those theories are illustrated to show students its practical application is where the magic happens in the classroom. Faculty refer to this as the lightbulb moment, connecting the dots and contextualizing material for their students.

2. Do you express passion for teaching and improving student’s lives?

Recall a time you talked with someone about something they truly loved. They probably spoke passionately, exuded a true admiration, and you could genuinely hear a connection in their voice. That’s what we look for in our adjunct faculty – a passion for teaching, connecting with students and giving them the foundation they need for the next class.

Faculty understand that learning the mechanics of a paragraph isn’t scintillating, but they want their students to master it so they can go on to write exceptional paragraphs for the remainder of their academic careers and beyond. A student may disregard a required reading assignment as outdated literature, but the faculty member that modernizes the context and enables the student to see the relevance of the assignment more holistically as it relates to today’s society gets it.

3. Do you know who our students are and the challenges they face?

If adjunct faculty applicants have the preconceived notion that our students are fresh out of high school, between the ages of 18-22 with their tuition fully paid by mom and dad, we know we’re off to a rocky start. Non-traditional students may face a multitude of challenges during their academic careers. Nothing they can’t overcome, but challenges that faculty should have compassion for:

  1. It’s easy to give a student a zero for not turning in an assignment, but more difficult to ask why they didn’t do the work, and then, “how can I help?”
  2. It’s easy to give someone a low mark, but more difficult to see that a student’s foundational skill might be lacking in a certain area and be willing to work with them on improving it.
  3. It’s easy to write feedback in a straightforward, factual way, but more difficult to thank a student for their work, tell them what they did well and where you’d like them to focus next time, and provide resources on how to do that — all while considering tone and the fact that your feedback could be easily misperceived as criticism to a student’s sensitive ear.

4. The classroom door is always open.  

Our online classrooms are different, and on a much larger scale. The classroom “door” is always open and we can see how faculty interact with their students; we can also provide support throughout the term. We seek those faculty who come from a place of support, not criticism; who guide, not tell; who inspire, not demotivate. Are you okay with having the door open?

Envision a school, a hallway and a classroom. You may see brick buildings and gleaming tiled halls with closed classroom doors, behind which sit students rapt with attention. Faculty have traditionally closed the classroom door and started class — what happens in that classroom is between students and teacher. Administrators might infrequently poke their heads in for an evaluation and to provide some scant feedback.

5. Do you cry “Academic Freedom!”?

We have very dedicated professionals on the academic team who work with subject-matter experts, including faculty, and put a tremendous amount of work into developing a course that aligns with program outcomes, rubrics for each assignment, and textbooks and/or learning resources. For some faculty teaching a pre-developed course, this may seem confining, while for others it is freeing.

We believe faculty bring life to the course. Their disciplinary expertise enables them to infuse their personalities, resources and life experiences in a very unique way. We know that as adjunct instructors, your time is limited. Being able to spend your time with your students, providing feedback and enriching the learning experience is what we want for you, rather than having you exclusively spending your time writing an exam or searching for an assignment that is scaffolded to the one previous. Be free: Teach!

6. An academic partnership based on trust and integrity.

The Faculty Recruitment team takes our role seriously. We seek out what the deans are looking for from a content and behavioral perspective and put forward only those who meet or exceed their expectations. We know that any candidate we submit for consideration may ultimately teach SNHU’s students, and we want that experience to be transformative.

7. This isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay!

As an applicant for any position, you should be shopping your employer as much as they are shopping you. Do you like their mission, support systems, customer base, product and services? Can you see yourself working for them and, more importantly, being valued for who you are and what you bring to the table?

We’re aware (and thankful) SNHU is a desirable place to work and to teach, but this might not be the best environment for everyone’s skill set and expectations. As recruiters we focus a lot on a candidate’s past experiences and how those might relate to SNHU. Do their expectations align with what we offer and with SNHU’s teaching philosophy? For those with whom we don’t move forward, it may be us, not you, so please don’t be offended.

What we’ve learned is that what you know is excellent, but your behavior with students is really where it counts. A passion for teaching coupled with a compassion for the experiences students bring to the classroom and what they deal with every day helps make teaching more meaningful for faculty and students. If this resonates with you, we hope you will consider teaching for SNHU.

About Laura Sullivan

Laura Sullivan is Assistant Vice President of Faculty Recruitment in Southern New Hampshire University’s College of Online and Continuing Education.

27 thoughts on “7 Considerations for Potential Faculty

  1. Terrific article–I can relate! 🙂

  2. David Williams says:

    I really appreciate your seven considerations. I would add how vital it is that an instructor be a good listener. When students do not do assignments, lab activities, etc. there are reasons. One of the first things an instructor needs to know is where the students are in their learning at the start of a term or a unit. An experienced instructor can pick up on this fairly quickly. If we don’t do this, we risk more frustration on the student’s part as they will have a difficult time connecting new with old knowledge. Yes, all students can learn and be successful with math. I have taught math for many years. I have always been amazed at what students can accomplish if we don’t tell them directly or indirectly they can’t do it. Particularly for those who struggle with math, we need to view what we do as a mission. What we do, in a sense, as instructors for our struggling students, could possibly be thought of as a ministry. Thank you

    • Dr. Shelley Woody says:

      As a K-12 instructor for the last 29 years and now thinking of moving to the college level, I have to state that the seven considerations are a very important aspect of anyone teaching, at any level, and I admire whomever decided to put it in writing. At each step, the instructor gets to learn daily right along with the student because every individual brings such unique perspectives and insight into everything that is taught or expected. Things that I have taught from a curriculum perspective for years sometimes is seen with such wonderful new “eyes” that I look at it in an entirely different way and have to ask myself questions like maybe and possibly? I think that sort of learning keeps us all moving forward and allows us to stay vibrant and avoid stagnation even in things that have been around for thousands of years. Questions to ponder like why and for what purpose generally produce more insight than just the follow directions of previous work. In all the “Common Core” rheteric of newer graduates and the “years of life experience” that other seasoned students may bring with them, it is nice to imagine the possibilities of what might be available with the right conditions to see the meld! Loving the new “generation” where the lines blend!

  3. Bryan McMahon says:

    Hello,

    My name is Bryan McMahon. I am reaching out to you because I am sincerely interested and highly motivated to get involved in teaching online, and SNHU’s philosophy stuck me as something I want to be involved in.

    A number of years ago, I applied online to get involved, and never heard back from the University. I am looking for some advice as how I can make myself more marketable and/or how I can get the opportunity to show my value and skills as an online professor. I am extremely hard-working and dedicated, and believe I could be a great asset to the University if I am given an opportunity. My skills include over 10 years of special education teaching at the high school level, with a concentration in science, mostly biology and environmental science. I have also taught at the adult level for over 5 years at my district, to facilitate adults in finishing their high school coursework. I have a Master’s Degree in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, and have over 60 credits of Graduate Level Education via online learning. Any advice you could give me that would help me to get involved would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Bryan McMahon
    Morris Knolls Regional High School

  4. Suzan McGovern says:

    Thank you for your 7 Considerations for Potential Faculty. Although I did not see this page prior to submitting my application for Adjunct Professor I was delighted to learn that our philosophy’s are 100% in sync (i.e. communicate/ consider as to why student did not turn in assignment). Once I had a top tier student who began failing. She refused to tell me what the problem was and I was very perplexed however finally she agreed to a SKYPE chat (she was in Nigeria and I was in New York). Turns out she was having marital problems and could not concentrate on her studies. I convinced her that I was right there for her (online it is even easier to be available to students than in a brick and mortar situation) and I helped her focus on her studies. I gave her a bit of extra time to turn in over due projects and voila she was back at the top of the class. Very proud of her.

  5. Robin Carter-Priest says:

    I am not a long-term seasoned instructor as I have taught only a handful of classes; however, I LOVE it. I enjoy working with the students and being able to present, sometimes tedious, theory and other material in a way that allows a student to connect or see how “it” fits into their life. I agree, knowing where the students come from is the key to a successful student and instructor. The years of “straight out of high school” has been over for a long time and many students are returning after multiple years supporting and raising their families with a dream to do something more.

    I appreciate your pointers and believe you are going in the right direction.

    Thank you.

  6. Barbara Hengstenberg says:

    This article is incredibly insightful and helpful. The reasons I teach? Passion, compassion, inspiration, and a desire to learn. Bringing materials to life is one of the most creative aspects of teaching, and listening to students with an open mind and compassion is so very rewarding. Spot on! Thank you!

  7. Marguerite Page says:

    Great advice (and read)!

  8. Tiefa Jones says:

    I appreciate your insight! This is the new direction of teaching and learning with an instructor-learner connection. I am excited about the future of distance learning!

  9. W D Owens says:

    I appreciate the article. I can identify with all that has been written, especially since I received my graduate degree on line. I really liked the instructors from those classes that were good listeners and were willing to take time to help when I came across a more difficult discipline in those classes and needed extra explanations.

  10. Jill Edwards says:

    I have tears in my eyes as I finish reading these 7 considerations! Wow!! I am a retired educator who misses the classroom daily. My philosophy of educationwas then and remains today: These student don’t give a darn about how well I know my subject. Each one is sitting where I once sat; teachers helped me–now, I can pour my heart and soul to help each one to the best of my ability to succeed. I was not a traditional student; I can relate to many students. I had everything against me; I have had an awesome, fulfilling life in education. It is my desire to inspire others to learn, succeed, and better their lives!

  11. Raeleen Schutte says:

    “I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma” Eartha Kitt

    I am an adult learner and completed both my Undergraduate and Graduate degrees non-traditionally. I understand the challenges we face all too well and know that sometimes students are tired, frustrated and question their ability to continue. Having instructors who can relate to and recognize the individual needs for flexibility and motivate their students to forge ahead is important.

    Several people on my team attended SNHU and I have seen first hand the quality of the education they received. A couple of these folks would not have been able to achieve their goals of obtaining a college degree if not for SNHU. These are bright motivated folks who needed a chance to shine and they were given that chance because of the possibilities afforded them through online learning.

    I would be proud to be a part of a community that embraces the unique needs of all learners and to help others be able to exceed their own expectations.

  12. Thank you for sharing the 7 considerations; they are reminders of the humanity that binds us. My understanding, and practice, is that learning is a shared experience–everyone brings something to the table. I may bring professional and academic experiences and knowledge but students, in turn, bring rich, diversified and engaging experiences of their own that make our classes that much more productive. I love my profession! My students come from all walks of life; from the traditional high school graduate to Police Academy’s cadets and seasoned law enforcement officers; to second career seekers and everything in between. I could not be luckier to be exposed to such tapestry of fascinating individuals for whom I have the utmost respect and whose lives, it is my hope, I can positively impact through my teachings.

  13. Kim Wozencraft says:

    Thank you for the advice and insight, and the many thoughtful response posts.
    I can appreciate that dedicated professionals work on course development. Having taught online, blended, and classroom courses, I’ve found that online course design and layout is essential to running an effective course. Good course design frees up time for online engagement and individual attention for students who may be struggling.
    Entry #3 also resonates for me. It’s extremely rewarding to work with a variety of individuals of various ages and from different backgrounds. I teach because I like to learn, and I love it when students teach me something new or offer a viewpoint I was previously unfamiliar with.

  14. Really good article! I found the third consideration to be very relevant, as adjunct faculty members are challenged with connecting to students via online, indirect means. However, the connection is critical, in my opinion, to facilitate the student’s understanding of course instruction and success within the course room. Since there is minimum, relative to classroom instruction, face to face communication, adjuncts should hone their communication skills to promote the student engagement. Thanking the student for the assignment submission, following up regarding missing or less than adequate assignment submissions, or making yourself available at the student’s request are opportunities I have promoted, and from which I, and my students, have benefitted.

  15. Shena M says:

    Thanks for sharing the 7 Considerations..Such a insightful post!

  16. Corinne Thomas says:

    Thank for the 7 considerations. I found them extremely refreshing! Inside and outside of a classroom/educational setting I believe we have to meet others where they are in life, respect our differences, and consider another’s position. Compassion, listening, understanding, and just taking the time to build a solid rapport tends to motivate positive communication and outcomes.

  17. John Maguire says:

    I would only teach a course designed by someone else if I saw the course in advance and knew that it met my standards. This is especially important when teaching writing, a most difficult skill to teach.

  18. I have always said that one of the most rewarding aspects of being an educator is when you see that light bulb turn on over a student’s head and that you know they are getting it and that you have been an asset to them in that process of discovery.

    Having been an online student and an online instructor I have experienced this learning system from both directions. Online course delivery is a major factor in the future of education. Though there is a technological interface and method of delivery, it is up to the online instructor to humanize the experience and make the online classroom feel friendly, welcoming, and like home.

  19. Jacqueline T. Jenkins says:

    Wonderful! Ms. Sullivan, this article hit home for me. I concur. I appreciate you taking the time to share what Southern New Hampshire University is considering in their prospective adjunct faculty. Professionals who are passionate about what they are teaching and the student population.
    According to my research, Southern New Hampshire has a wide array of quite interesting disciplines and courses. I was excited when I saw the line up on your website. This, really, motivated me to want to become a part of the team at this great University. I get a good impression that students are valued here and that they are well engaged in learning. Thank you for making a difference in the community.

  20. Andria Wade says:

    great read… 7 considerations are very valuable pieces of information. Might want to add as faculty we need to listen to the students.

  21. Patricia Hall says:

    Ms. Sullivan,

    I appreciate your sharing of the 7 considerations for potential faculty. Similarly to someone above, I did not see this until after applying for an adjunct position.

    Having taught at the University of South Florida for several years, I was involved in several discussions regarding the value of academic freedom vs consistency across courses to ensure standards in teaching and learning objectives/outcomes for the several hundreds of nursing students across cohorts. The faculty agreed that standard assignments and rubrics would be established in all nursing courses with some flexibility remaining in areas such as on line Discussion Board and Post Conference topics. This standardization and limited flexibility seemed to work well for most. Serving as adjunct faculty at a new university, I would greatly appreciate working from a course established and developed based on SNHU standards in the interest of time and efficiency.

    Although I have been accustomed to engaging students face to face in the clinical setting, I have also conducted total online instruction in pre-licensure and post-licensure courses at USF. Students are not dissimilar to patients who require a unique plan for success: it is satisfying to promote their successes.

    Thank you for sharing these considerations so potential faculty can decide whether they can be successful at SNHU in order to promote SNHU student success as well.

  22. Benjamin Finley says:

    Thank you for these clearly-conceived faculty considerations. As teachers in academia, we all face some unique challenges in not only delivering quality course content, but in many cases simply helping students stay in school and make progress toward a degree. Here in Oklahoma where I have taught at the university level for 12 years, the traditional model of higher education is facing a very uncertain future. This is primarily due to a string of state revenue shortfalls and a volatile economy that hinges on the price of a barrel of oil. This trickles down to our students in the forms of hikes in tuition and fees, as well as cuts in state funded financial aid initiatives. In light of this, it’s very encouraging and exciting to be potentially involved with such a refreshing alternative to obtaining a degree. Great job, SNHU!

  23. Christopher Conley says:

    these are good and a must read for any instructor, teacher, or trainer

  24. Nita G says:

    Thank you Ms Sullivan for this incredibly helpful and frank article about the seven considerations for potential faculty! It’s good to know what the college’s expectations are, than to wonder. As mentioned in an earlier comment, I too came across this page after I had applied for a faculty post. As an adult learner as well as an instructor, I understand the challenges of students and learners as well. As an educator, I truly believe that the main goal of education is to be able to transform and improve the students’ lives. Online education at SNHU gives everyone a chance to do just that by giving them the flexibility in time and money.
    As studies show, most people tend to remain in the same social classes that they are born into. To change this, the challenge to the instructors is, to help the students achieve success by addressing the root cause of their challenges and boosting their confidence. Thankfully, the predeveloped courses and guidelines by SNHU, takes a load off the instructors’ shoulders who are then free to just teach. I enjoy interacting with students and I have often seen that students learn a lot from each other. I would be proud to be a part of such an institution!

  25. Anthony Baker says:

    As a first generation college student, who didn’t attend college until he was 40 years old, all seven points resonate very close to home. In my experience as a student online and in a traditional setting, I found those teachers who could connect “knowing and doing” and who were clearly passionate about there subject matter made a better connection with their students. This included students who may have found specific courses (in my case accounting and statistics) very challenging. It was the efforts of these teachers who made the difference for many like myself who may have considered “throwing in the towel”. As a one who now is the the teacher of leadership, I see these seven points within the study of leadership. As Coach K (Duke University Basketball) explains in his book on leadership, he sees himself as a “leader who happens to coach.” I believe exceptional teachers are ones who see themselves as leaders who happen to teach.

  26. Reginald Bruno says:

    I enjoyed reading the seven considerations. As a non traditional student for most of my adult life, I connected well with these. Any person considering employment with any institution of higher learning can benefit from the information herein. Thank you for sharing this information with us- your stakeholders.

    VR,
    Dr. Reginald M. Bruno, LCSW, MCAP, BCD, FACAPP

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