Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Spring 2013 update

Hello WFCers, and happy 2013!

Having started my term as chair of the WFC last summer, I wanted to give everyone an update on what we accomplished in summer and fall 2012, and what we’re looking forward to in the coming semester.

We did quite a bit of networking / socializing in the past few months.  In July, a group of WFC members and their guests got together at Bozeman Pond for our first-ever “bookluck” party – everyone brought food, drinks, and books to trade, and it was really fun to catch up with each other outside the regular school setting.  Of course, being July, a lot of people were on vacation, so we might re-consider the date if we decide to hold another summer party like this.


In September we learned that former WFC chair Jessi Smith (and her team) have been awarded a five-year, $3.4 million NSF-ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant, which targets the advancement of women in STEM and SBS fields in a way that transforms the university as a whole in terms of equity and diversity. This is excellent news for everyone at MSU, and I anticipate hearing a lot about the impact that this award has on gender issues within the university -- it should be truly transformative, as the name suggests.

In late October, we hosted our annual fall luncheon, introduced the new Steering Committee members, outlined the broad agenda for the year, and solicited ideas and volunteers for the subcommittees that are doing the majority of the “behind the scenes” work for the year.  We feasted on MSU catering, but the nuclear lemonade was sorely missed…

The members of the expanded Steering Committee – who represent TT and NTT faculty from across MSU – are:

Graham Austin – chair (Business)
Beth Burroughs – past chair (Letters & Science)
Meta Newhouse – incoming chair (Arts & Architecture)
Sarah Allen – Education, Health & Human Development
Sheila Bonnand – Libraries
Jennifer Brown – Engineering
Lauren Cerretti – Graduate school
Yoshiko Colclough – Nursing
Irene Grimberg – Science & Math Resource Center
Mary Leonard Education, Health & Human Development
Lucy Marshall – Agriculture
Christine StantonEducation, Health & Human Development

If you’d like to take a turn on the Steering Committee – or help the WFC in any capacity – we’re always on the lookout for energetic and creative people who want to serve!

In other fall news, the newly-formed constitution and bylaws subcommittee began the process of making the structures and functions of the WFC official.  It might surprise some of you to learn that since our inception, the WFC has not had a sanctioned set of rules or procedures.  This wasn’t due to an oversight, but rather by design, allowing the Caucus to “find its level” organically during its early years.  As such, we’ve been able to identify the strengths and opportunities of the group, as well as revise and refine our membership and leadership structures.  We’re now at a point that we have large enough membership, visibility, and authority on campus to make formal policies both necessary and beneficial.  The constitution and bylaws subcommittee will continue to work throughout the spring to write the new charter, and we’ll need members’ help when the time comes to ratify it.

Also during the fall, MSU Family Advocate (and former WFC chair) Sara Rushing drafted two family-friendly work policies to include in the collective bargaining process that AFMSU and the administration will work on this spring.  The two areas that the policies address had previously been identified by WFC members (and others) as being particularly important to improve both equity and quality of life for all MSU faculty:
(1) Standardizing the option to stop one’s tenure clock for a year, due to the addition of a family member (such as through the birth or adoption of a child), and
(2) the establishment of a sick leave donation pool, which can be used to supplement sick leave for those employees who haven’t accrued enough sick leave to cover a medical absence
 
During December’s “dead week,” we had another social gathering, this time in the Helen Copeland Gallery.  Lots of people were able to attend, and the mingling was delightful, thanks to the beautiful setting, delicious food, and a really fun ice-breaker that party planner extraordinaire Meta Newhouse put together. 

At the December party, we announced that Laura Black (associate professor of management) is the winner of this year’s WFC Distinguished Mentor Award.  The university will recognize Laura’s substantial and ongoing contributions to MSU’s vitality and success at the Spring Convocation on January 10.  

Other WFC members who are receiving University-level accolades at Thursday’s Convocation are Bethany Letiecq (the Betty Coffey Award), Jessi Smith (the Cox Family Faculty Excellence Award), and Linda Young (the Anna K. Fridley Award for Outstanding Teaching).  Congratulations to all of you!

In keeping with her mentoring spirit, Laura Black has generously offered to facilitate two workshops for us this spring on writing narratives about one's work (for retention, tenure, promotion, and/or annual reviews).  Each workshop will be limited to 8 participants, and Laura insists that everyone bring student evaluations, previous annual reviews (especially critical ones), and other stuff that causes us angst.  Participants will also need to bring their own laptops, since these will be work sessions. She proposes that one workshop be scheduled for late March (following spring break) and another for early-to-mid May (after the end of the semester, but before people leave town for the summer).  Each workshop will last approximately 2 hours, and Laura promises that attendees will learn to appreciate their “crap,” and to love the magic of the subordinate clause.  If you’re interested in attending one of these workshops, please email me (gaustin (at) montana.edu) and let me know which date you’d prefer.

This coming spring, the programming subcommittee will use suggestions from you to put together more of what we hope are stimulating, exciting programs that will help keep you connected with your female colleagues, while nourishing your creativity and productivity.  We hope to focus significant energy on programming that ties into President Cruzado’s “Year of Engaged Leadership” initiative.

We’ll have more to discuss at our spring meeting, which will be on Monday, March 4.  Save the date!

Thanks for reading, and happy spring semester!
Graham

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