How One PTer Won a “Strive for Excellence” Conference Scholarship & You Could, Too!

It’s easy to take myths and, by constant repetition, give them the patina of reality. The same thing is happening in higher education. There are these myths about part-time faculty.

Part-time faculty don’t conduct research.

Part-time faculty don’t attend academic conferences.

Part-time faculty don’t care about professional development.

All part-time faculty are “drive-by” professors.

The truth is adjunct faculty do conduct research, they do publish and they do attend conferences. Adjunct faculty win scholarships, teaching awards, Guggenheim Fellowships and Fulbrights, too.

As an adjunct, there are not a whole lot of opportunities for professional development (though the last couple of years there have been more opportunities at my college). I felt like I had been somewhat out of the loop professionally since I had been working from home for so many years. I saw an opportunity to attend a conference, which I hadn’t done since graduate school, and went for it.--Bethany Fitzpatrick (pictured above)
“As an adjunct, I felt like I had been somewhat out of the loop professionally since I had been working from home for so many years. I saw an opportunity to attend a conference, which I hadn’t done since graduate school, and went for it.”–Bethany Fitzpatrick

Bethany Fitzpatrick (pictured left), an Adjunct English Instructor at Northwest Arkansas Community College, was a 2016 Striving for Excellence Adjunct Scholarship Winner. She was awarded the opportunity to attend and speak at a panel discussion at the 2016 NISOD Conference in Austin, TX. Below she answers questions about the scholarship and conference.

To learn more about the 2017 Adjunct Scholarship, click here.

Q.  Tell us a bit about yourself and your adjunct teaching experience.

I have a Masters of Arts in English. I started teaching as an adjunct in 2009 when my daughter was very young. I taught the Early College Experience and another class at one of the satellite campuses for the community college. It was a great way to be able to be a mostly stay-at-home-mom and to continue my career. I enjoyed the flexibility and the engagement with students.

I taught 2-3 sections per semester. The semester that I was pregnant with my son, I actually taught at three locations. I would drive about 20 minutes to the high school campus to teach ECE, then another 20 minutes to one satellite campus, and then to another. It was a long couple of days to teach three sections. When my son was born, I started teaching online so that I could stay home with him. There was quite a learning curve, but I enjoyed it.

I am now back in the classroom face-to-face, in addition to teaching online, and I love it. It has been a great experience for me—having a job that I love, flexible schedule, and time with my children. However, the hard reality is that without more hours and benefits, it’s time for me to figure out where this all leads.

Q.  What inspired you to apply for the Striving for Excellence scholarship?

As an adjunct, there are not a whole lot of opportunities for professional development (though the last couple of years there have been more opportunities at my college). I felt like I had been somewhat out of the loop professionally since I had been working from home for so many years. I saw an opportunity to attend a conference, which I hadn’t done since graduate school, and went for it.

Q.  As an adjunct, did you find the NISOD conference to be a relevant and value professional development experience?

Absolutely! I attended several very hands-on sessions that gave me very specific strategies to engage my students, several of which I have implemented this semester.

Q.  Would you recommend the Striving for Excellence scholarship program to fellow adjunct faculty?

Absolutely! There were so many wonderful, inspiring sessions. It felt invigorating to be around so many committed educators. I came away excited about my profession with new ideas to try! It also gave me a renewed sense of confidence in myself as an educator.

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