Thursday and Friday of this week I spent at the Big 10 Academic Alliance training for Departmental Executive Officers (DEO). There are many things that I learned from my
colleagues at this meeting. It was really useful to brainstorm with other departmental leaders about ways of moving our departments forward.
One thing we talked a lot about is how do we get things done when everyone begins to protect their time and say no. A recent blog post from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity talked about how to say no to requests. It is good to protect your time so that you can be successful and in a community there are chores that need to get done. Some of the chores are enjoyable while others are dreaded by most of us. Still we need to take turns doing them and saying no to these over and over again distance you from the rest of the community. The very next week the same blog had to comment about the emails and comments received explaining how it is a bad strategy to say no too often and can hurt early career professionals. At the DEO meeting we talked about the tension between being a participating member of a community (department) and protecting your time so that you can accomplish your goals.
Strategic service or thinking of service as one chapter in the book of your career is some of the advice given by the blog cited. I like both of those ideas. Can you use these tips to develop a significant role in our community without overwhelming yourself? I encourage students, postdocs, staff, and faculty to serve in ways that additively make a story that tells who they really are as a community member. The students in our department applying for the NSF-GRFP this year are really working on these narratives. These service opportunities directly lead to demonstration of your broader impacts. I have always been drawn to issues of mentorship, others to outreach, some want to encourage the more social aspects of departmental life. The key is to find something you authentically like and then do something significant within that realm. If you continually serve your passion, you will soon have a coherent story to tell about your service that may lead to other opportunities that could help multiply your efforts.
So the question of the week is, what will you build with your service?