65 is the new 40: Emeriti in educational development

This video was prepared for the STLHE 2021 Ottawa conference which took place online June 7-11, 2021.

Centres for Teaching and Learning are facing increasing financial pressures, with growing scope and requirement to lead institutional change initiatives. At the same time, demographics are shifting, with academics – many of them educational leaders – reaching retirement age. These senior faculty have commitment, expertise in leading change, diverse networks, and institutional memory. We propose one model to engage retirees, so that they remain connected with the Centre, and can help to bring about change. The process is grounded in the theory of distributed leadership, building on the concept of a hub with connections (Blackmore & Castley, 2005; Mårtensson & Roxå, 2016), and on the idea of a continual career cycle, with connections between people at different stages of their careers, encouraging mentoring across boundaries. We will share the benefits, challenges, and lessons learned that may be useful to other institutions.

The University of Windsor’s Centre for Teaching and Learning has established a Teaching and Learning Senior Fellowship (SF) position – an initiative to engage retired faculty, and through them, to expand diversity, impact and networks. It is an approach to also recognize late-career educational leaders.  SF’s work with the CTL staff on planning activities such as workshops, teaching dossiers, GA and TA training, faculty mentorship and events designed to support faculty development, teaching excellence and culture change.  The position is an invited renewable position of usually 2-3 years, with a small stipend of $1000 and formal institutional recognition.  

Criteria for Selection

  • Educational leaders who have initiated change to improve teaching in higher education
  • Connected to networks of faculty as well as students within the institution
  • Helpful, empathetic, active listeners who are friendly and supportive
  • Other-focused – able to help CTL help others
  • Passion driven (the labour substantially outweighs material benefits)
  • Experts in an area that would benefit the Centre and University
  • Collaborative in their approach, and experienced in collaborations
  • Curious, open-minded – willing to learn new things, take risks, and be personally flexible
  • Able to share perspectives from the faculty, and to share different perspectives constructively
  • Experienced working with the Centre so that they have an understanding of the goals, ethos and approaches
  • Well connected to the institution, and able to share ‘Institutional memory’

Summary of Benefits

Benefits to the Centre an Institution

  • Maintain institutional memory, and connection to incredible educational leaders
  • Efficiently using all resources as the efforts complement the Centre’s employees
  • Labour and institutional knowledge is supportive and beneficial especially in precarious times
  • Help navigate the tensions between online and live delivery of teaching
  • Intergenerational exchange – provide insights, data and experience in times of transition
  • Liaison in facilitating communication between the professoriate and the educational developers who support them – being retired provides a unique position to do this
  • Mentoring within the CTL employees – experience as institutional leaders and act as mentors
  • Helpful to the CTL Director in checking ideas, discussing ideas with someone outside the Centre and as leadership mentors

Benefits to the Senior Fellows

They appreciate the opportunity to: 1) Grow and learn, 2) Connect and network, 3) Give back.  

  • Continue to engage in research, teaching, and service aspects that they love, including enriching SoTL learning, and trying new things
  • Formally keep their connections with the campus and connect and engage internationally through the work with the Centre
  • Feeling needed, useful and able to contribute back to the institution they love

Summary of Challenges and Lessons Learned 

  • Finding people before retirement to ensure continuity before they leave
  • Ensuring that the people invited will embed well within the Centre
  • The need for an initial orientation and understanding of CTL’s mandate and function
  • Regular meetings of the Director with SF’s, and between the SF’s to encourage the development of ongoing projects
  • Ensure SFs are part of regular staff meetings
  • The importance of having opportunities to share their expertise and be involved in collaborative projects so they can connect with staff, faculty, and students and feel part of the unit quickly
  • Logistical issues such as, retirees having access to university email and the library, and arranging a physical space for Senior Fellows to use within the Centre to engage with each other, as well as the CTL team – a place to meet, with a computer and phone. The issue of funding to cover the cost of parking for senior fellows who come to campus for weekly meetings.
  • Importance of being aware of the institutional context. For example, being conscious of and consistent with HR and Collective Agreement and union expectations.

Resources List

Blackmore, P., & Castley, A. (2005). Developing capability in the university, Staff Development 

Forum,ILRTLeadership Foundation for Higher Education, London. http://sdf.ac.uk/cms/wpcontent/uploads/2016/07/developing-capability.pdf

Mårtensson, K., & Roxå, T. (2016). Working with networks, microcultures and communities. In D. 

Baume & C. Popovic (Eds.), Advancing Practice in Academic Development (pp. 174-187). New York, NY: Routledge.

Thody, A. (2011). Emeritus professors of an English university: How is the wisdom of the aged used? Studies in Higher Education, 36(6), 637-653.DOI:10.1080/03075079.2010.488721

Johnson, T. (2013) Leaving a legacy: Driven by diverse factors, retiring academics are leaving their mark in varied – and often surprising – ways. University Affairs. https://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/leaving-a-legacy/

Erika Kustra

Dr. Erika Kustra joined the University of Windsor as the Director of Teaching and Learning Development, Centre for Teaching and Learning in 2008. She is the Past-Chair of the Canadian Educational Developers Caucus (EDC), on the Board for the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education's (STLHE), and has been in educational development for over 20 years, beginning part-time in 1997, full-time in 1999. Erika completed her post-doctoral work in physiological psychology at McMaster University, and was an educational developer in the Centre for Leadership in Learning there for ten years. She has taught university-level small and large classes with undergraduates, graduates and faculty using a variety of active learning methods including discussions, inquiry and problem-based learning, labs, and demonstrations. She co-authored guides on Leading Effective Discussions, Learning Outcomes Assessment and Educational Developer’s Portfolio; and publishes on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, educational development, and teaching culture. She is leading a multi-institutional SSHRC grant exploring teaching culture. Erika was part of a collaborative team that won the Alan Blizzard Teaching Award, and has received the Leadership Award at the University of Windsor.

Dr. Veronika Mogyorody is the founder and past coordinator of the interdisciplinary Visual Arts and the Built Environment [VABE] program associated with the University of Windsor's School of Creative Arts, and the University of Detroit Mercy's School of Architecture. Recognized for her educational leadership, Dr. Mogyorody has been honored with a 3M National Teaching Fellowship and awarded the Brightspace Teaching and Learning Innovation Award. She is currently a Teaching and Learning Senior Fellow at the Centre for Teaching and Learning.

Erica Stevens Abbitt

Erica Stevens Abbitt is Professor Emerita, School of Dramatic Art, and a former director of the University of Windsor’s Humanities Research Group. She is currently a Teaching and Learning Senior Fellow at the Centre for Teaching and Learning.

A graduate of McGill, Stevens Abbitt worked as an actor in Canada, the US and Britain before completing a doctorate in theatre studies at UCLA.

Her writings on girl culture, politics, pedagogy and feminist performance have been featured in theatre journals and texts, including The Theatre of Naomi Wallace: Embodied Dialogues (Palgrave 2014). She is passionate about mentorship, interdisciplinary exchange, and the importance of liberal arts education in contemporary society.

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