I suspect the title of this little essay might catch the attention of many, which is exactly my intention.
Think about what went through your head when you first read the title. What thought immediately came to mind? Was it long breaks? Was it summers off? Was it tenure? Was it academic freedom? Was it teaching a “handful” of classes each year? Was it paid sabbaticals? Be honest.
If you thought about the things listed above, you were way off base. Sure, those are by-and-large the things which are often cited to make it seem like teaching at a college is some cushy job, but they do not reflect reality. From what I can, tell breaks and summers “off” are frequently spent on scholarship, improving teaching and preparing for the upcoming term or year. Furthermore, the more I see of higher education, tenure and academic freedom are not all they are cracked up to be and in some ways may confine faculty members in ways that we don’t really want to talk about. I think being a faculty member is not only very demanding but is only getting more demanding as student and institutional expectations change.
So, what is it that I envy about faculty?
- I envy that they are able to build deep, engaging, and lasting relationships with the students whom they teach.
- I envy that they have the time to build these relationships because they are able to work with students over a four-year period of time.
- I envy that they are the ones who “flip the switch” and help students find their way .
- I envy that when I attend an alumni event, invariably it is about faculty members whom graduates have questions.
- I envy that they are able to combine their gifts as teachers and scholars with their passion for their field.
You might be asking yourself, what’s up with all of this envy? Let me explain a little bit.
One should know that my envy is a healthy combination of admiration and downright jealously (perhaps a little regret, too), but I thought envy might be the best attention grabber.
To be honest, though, I decided to write about this because it’s something I’ve had on my mind for many years and I think my thoughts might resonate with other higher education professionals, particularly admissions and enrollment professionals.
Here are a couple of thoughts that might put my envy into context.
- Recruitment never ends and relationships suffer—I think it is harder than ever before for admissions and enrollment counselors to develop meaningful counseling relationships with prospective students. Volume, market clutter and the need to manage multiple communication streams makes really getting to know prospects unmanageable. Furthermore, because recruitment never ends, admissions and enrollment professionals are frequently recruiting multiple classes simultaneously. All of this means that it’s harder to establish relationships and it feels more and more like “as soon as we get them in the door, they are old news and we are on to next year’s students.”
- Admissions and enrollment work is often accidental, rather than fulfilling a passion—Unlike a member of the faculty who is pursuing their passion in life, most admissions and enrollment professionals I know stumbled upon the profession (and subsequently, passion) accidentally. One has to learn to love the profession and to be more effective, but there’s no standard professional development track and certainly few life-long dreams of being an admissions officer!
- The student can get lost in data, trends, scores and the profile—Faculty have daily face-to-face contact with real living students and can see growth (or lack thereof) first-hand. As a senior enrollment professional, I don’t have the same opportunity to interact with students. While there are meaningful interactions with student workers and the occasional invitations to speak to classes about management, marketing or planning, I don’t have the regular contact with students that faculty members have. Instead the type of planning I programming I am responsible for more often views students as groups and cohorts with certain credentials or interests and I then work to develop strategies to work with students as members of those groups. (I am grateful that I work somewhere where during the selection process each applicant is carefully considered individually). The work at the senior level of admissions and enrollment work creates some distance from students. Faculty members don’t have this distance.
This is not a “woe is me” essay. It’s just honest. I know my role and understand the nature of my work. My job is to ensure there is sufficient revenue to support the budget plan. My job is to be involved in continuous recruitment in an effort to keep up in a cluttered and competitive marketplace. My job is to consider macro trends and groups, while not losing sight of the individual student. And, don’t get me wrong, I love my job.
My job is to make sure the faculty have the best students to teach.
My job is nowhere nearly as cool as the job of a faculty member and I am envious. However, I know my work is important nevertheless and if I am not effective those faculty I envy won’t have as many interesting students to teach.
W. Kent Barnds a.k.a @bowtieadmission