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'Improving the Academy' through Scholarship (cont.)

Hines, a former veterinary assistant, took an unconventional path to the academy. During her years of teaching veterinary technology at Argosy University, she found herself doing ad hoc faculty development, a field that Hines had so little experience with that for a while she thought she had invented it. She also thought that, since she was teaching, she should probably get a college degree. She completed a B.A. in Educational Psychology at Metropolitan State University, and that whetted her appetite for more.

Loosely defined, faculty development is the collection of activities by which an institution supports those who teach there. Hines chose it as her calling, planning to one day use her doctorate to launch a consulting career in the Twin Cities. During her time as a doctoral student, Hines also took a position as Executive Assistant to the SMU Chancellor, Brother Louis DeThomasis. She denies that this gave her a view of the university from the ground up — “I just saw the tips of the blades of grass” — but it did reinforce her commitment to continue to work within the Saint Mary’s community.

The topic of Hines’ 2007 doctoral dissertation, An Investigation of Faculty Development Program Assessment Practices, was not as broad as she had intended. She wanted it to be a nationwide, quantitative examination of how universities assess their own faculty-development programs. Instead, she says, it ended up being a qualitative study limited to schools in Minnesota. However, two years after completing of her doctorate, she received a grant to repeat her study nationwide by interviewing directors from 33 mature faculty development centers. It was a sally into a field where few had trodden, and Hines was gratified to see that her scholarship (here, and in subsequent articles and presentations) has reaped benefits beyond personal satisfaction.

“The fun part is that other researchers are using these studies as rationale for improving their own [faculty- development] programs,” she says. “There’s a much greater interest in rigorous evaluation now.”

After completing her doctorate, Hines was offered a half-time position in faculty development here at Saint Mary's University, with the other half of the job being program development. In the latter capacity, she developed or redeveloped five Saint Mary's University academic programs, including Allied Healthcare and a graduate certificate in Addiction Studies, before replacing program development with a half-time professorship in the Ed.D program three years ago. Keeping faculty-development assessment in her focus, she has published steadily throughout her career, including giving annual presentations for the national association Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education (POD) and designing an online seminar and white paper for Magna Online Seminars.She has been approached by Stylus Publishing to write a book on faculty development evaluation. Hines has worked out a rough draft and is now field-testing her approach.

She is a disciplined writer who will often devote three hours a night to research and thinking about a piece when she’s in her “research mode.” Through what Hines describes as “systemization, time management, and passion,” she has streamlined other parts of her life to make scholarship fit. (Also, she adds, “I don’t watch TV.”) It’s all worth it, in her view.

“The rewards are incredible — and humbling,” she says. Humbling? Well, it turns out that “peer review” can be a harsh process. “But you just stand up and try again.” It helps that she has found a scholarship “buddy,” someone who’s just a few steps ahead of her, who can collaborate with her and help keep her moving even when she feels stuck. “My advice to everyone is, don’t try to do it alone.”

Hines pauses. “Scholarship is an obligation, but it’s also a privilege,” she says. “Once it’s in print, that’s a footprint that can’t be erased.”

Read Hines' most recent article, "Evaluating faculty development: Looking at the past to improve the future," which was published in Axis: Journal of Lasallian Higher Education.

Rebecca Ganzel

This article is the first of the SMU Author Series, a column highlighting SMU faculty, staff, and student publications.

 

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