Have you ever made of list of what you love about your job? It is a recommended activity for career seekers and brings to light what drives you to seek a particular job. (By the same token, writing down what you do not like helps to clarify if you are indeed in search of the right position). Here are some of my favorite aspects of academia and how I experienced them this past semester.
I have been working as Interim Coordinator for the newly-relaunched Teaching Across Borders (TAB) program in Undergraduate Programs in Education (UPE) at the University of Calgary. This program will enable students in their third semester of the BEd program to spend 10 weeks abroad volunteering in schools while getting to know another culture, language and school system. They will be supported by the Teaching Across Borders Coordinator and their online instructors. This support will help them to have a successful experience abroad and return to Canada to take part in their third semester practicum in a Canadian school. I am excited to be a part of this program and will post more about it as the program unfolds. For this post, I would like to focus on the three most-rewarding aspects of the role that I have worked in full time this past fall.
1. Variety – I have had an office on campus as a student, but having set up an office for Teaching Across Borders, I was also able to set up a schedule that involved a variety of activities everyday from office work, research and writing that had me sitting in front of the computer working in a relatively solitary manner, to meetings of all sorts (TAB-related, service to UPE or my educational discipline specialization area (EDSA)) to workshops and meetings around campus to educate myself or make arrangements for Teaching Across Borders. In addition, I taught one course, mentored a new instructor and collaborated with a colleague on creating a video for future iterations of the course.
2. Collegiality and Team Work – I am an extrovert, so I thrive on being around people. Thankfully, I have interesting, dynamic colleagues that I enjoy working with. These people serve as mentors in the areas of teaching, research and academia in general. For example, the above-mentioned video involved helping to prepare an interview of a visiting scholar who was very accommodating and presented interesting, important work in an accessible manner. My collaborator is the team lead for the course, who balanced her goals as the interviewer with my goals as the videographer, while also being sensitive to the interviewee. It was a very positive experience with a steep learning curve for all of us. Some of my mentors also include staff whose roles provide support for the TAB position. I created content for a TAB webpage that involved o the staff of the Communications Office who advised me on how to set up the content, physically put it together for me and then created publicity for the program and the website by having me in to do a QuickChat Interview.
3. Research and Writing – Keeping a regular, on-campus schedule facilitated my research and writing. I set aside regular blocks for both and even participated in an on-campus academic writing group. I caught up on study abroad and intercultural communication research. I revised and resubmitted two articles, one of which has now been accepted. I also co-wrote a grant application for the TAB program. The focus of an instructor’s research and writing is curriculum development. I see a great capacity in the TAB coordinator position for research that will inform the program.
Reflecting on this role, I see these three aspects of academia as ones that make the work rewarding and worthwhile. While academia is not the only career that offers these three aspects, I consider these aspects as important to sustaining the work that is done at universities.