No one is more of an expert on the lives of faculty members than faculty themselves.

It's a knowledge base that the the Office of Faculty Affairs draws on with its Faculty Fellows program. This fall, Aki Ishida, associate professor and interim associate director of the School of Architecture in the College of Architecture, Arts, and Design, became the newest Faculty Fellow with plans to develop a mentoring program for midcareer faculty.

Why Faculty Fellows matter

First-hand experience often informs the work of Faculty Fellows, who take part-time appointments in Faculty Affairs, part of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, to develop policies, procedures, and programs that benefit faculty.

Ishida, for instance, knows that midcareer faculty sometimes get lost in the shuffle. “After they get tenure, they’re often left on their own to figure things out.”

The problem was already on the radar of Vice Provost Ron Fricker and Associate Vice Provost Rachel Gabriele. They'd seen evidence of post-tenure dissatisfaction in the 2020 results from the COACHE faculty satisfaction survey, so the formal mentoring framework Ishida proposed struck a chord.

“A lot of Faculty Affairs’ work has traditionally been focused on our pre-tenure faculty, with programs to help them prepare for and successfully achieve promotion and tenure,” said Fricker. “However, with Virginia Tech’s strategic focus on becoming a top 100 global university, over the past year we have been broadening our efforts to provide programs and support to faculty post-tenure.”

Associate Vice Provost Rachel Gabriele agreed. “Aki’s work fits in perfectly with a variety of programs we are developing to help faculty explore their ‘post-tenure multiverse,’ by which we mean all of the career and professional options open to faculty once they achieve tenure. Our goal is to help faculty at all career stages thrive and succeed, both professionally and personally.”

Ishida will spend the academic year organizing career conversations with other midcareer faculty around topics such as how to develop a dossier for promotion, write a better abstract for a conference paper, and craft a book proposal. Because she's a Faculty Fellow, the mentoring strategies she beta-tests have a chance to spread far beyond the School of Architecture.

“Knowing that the information that I put together in a report won't just sit on my hard drive, but that it will be shared and it may be beneficial to people beyond our school, was important,” Ishida said.

Meet the Faculty Fellows

Ishida joins a group of four other Faculty Fellows, whose projects run the gamut from coordinating academic writing retreats to revamping expectations for collegiate faculty:

  • Patricia Dove, University Distinguished Professor and C.P. Miles Professor of Science in the Department of Geosciences, works with Faculty Affairs and the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science to get more faculty nominated and recognized for prestigious external awards.
  • Monique Dufour, associate collegiate professor of history, leads a faculty writing initiative and conducts writing retreats for faculty.
  • Tracy Rutherford, professor of agricultural, community, and leadership education, is reviewing the status of collegiate faculty at Virginia Tech, including position descriptions and processes for promotion.
  • Madeline Schreiber, professor of hydrogeosciences and associate department head in the Department of Geosciences, researches faculty review processes and promotion and tenure pathways, from assistant to associate to full professor.

Fellows are provided with resources, training in higher education administration, and an opportunity to influence high-level decision-making. For Rutherford, it’s been a prime professional development opportunity. “If you want to change how the university operates, this program gives you access that you don't normally just have.”

Real results for faculty

The Faculty Fellows' projects offer a means for colleagues to support colleagues and positively influence outcomes for professors at all levels. If all goes well with Ishida’s mentoring program, midcareer faculty participants could see tangible results: more accepted papers, more book contracts, eventually more confidence to go up for promotion to full professor. 

Even if midcareer professors simply feel more connected and supported, that’s a win. “Receiving tenure is a significant achievement in your career,” said Ishida. “But that's not the end. I think we should see it as only a beginning of something greater that we can continue to deepen and expand. And that's easier and more rewarding if you are supported by your colleagues.”

Faculty members interested in becoming a Faculty Fellow can submit a proposal to Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Ron Fricker through

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