Which Way to the Water Cooler? Finding Time to Network as a New Adjunct

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millerBy Melissa Miller, Ed.D., M.Ed.

Networking has never been a challenge for me. In most jobs I’ve had, I have easily made friends, been able to connect with colleagues, and enjoyed co-teaching and research relationships with other educators. As a New Adjunct, however, I’m simply finding it hard to get to know other adjuncts. I’m not sure if it is scheduling or the nature of the position of an adjunct, but it is hard to move beyond the surface greetings and housekeeping issues that come with the position. Then again, what exactly am I looking for with my colleagues? Is this not defined because I am new to the game, or will I settle in to networking relationships as my experience grows?

As a new adjunct faculty member, how do we find time to meet, network, share, and collaborate with colleagues? Certainly there is the option of connecting online and via e-mail. But this doesn’t solve the problem of that personal connection that I miss from working with colleagues, sharing an office or lounge space. AdjunctNation blogger Erik Hanson wrote in his entry titled “Getting ‘Known’ (and NOT in the Infamous Sense of the Word)” about navigating shared office spaces among adjuncts. We become like ships passing in the night, without face-to-face, real time connections. So how do we, as adjunct faculty, find the time to connect at work with other adjuncts? I assume this will come with time because I have observed that veteran adjuncts have a network of relationships and collegial relationships. As new faculty, we are still balancing the many plates we have spinning – other job assignments, family, research, writing. Plus our teaching schedules are varied, which puts us on campus (or online) at different times.

As part-time faculty, we are disjointed and disconnected in many ways. Our time is carved out and spoken for at various times during the day. Do we have to plan or schedule time for collegiality? Shouldn’t that be spontaneous and natural? Well, this is already done and the name of it is professional development and faculty meetings. But we all know how those sessions tend to go, right? (As a matter of fact, I wrote my doctoral dissertation about how teachers become disengaged from professional development and how to improve this.) We attend because we have to and we participate, meanwhile we are thinking about papers to grade, lectures to plan, and the list of other things we could be doing. But our time here could be spent cultivating relationships with other adjuncts and staff, getting to know others and their research interests and areas of expertise.

As a new adjunct, I resolve to make the effort to get to know the people I share a title with, the other adjuncts, both novice and veteran, who are in this same boat as me. I need to make it a priority, like I do with lesson planning, research, writing, and grading. If networking and communicating can’t or won’t happen naturally and spontaneously, I need to help it along. I can do this by reaching out to other adjuncts on campus, attending and being fully engaged in professional development and faculty meetings. What has worked for you?

About the New Adjunct: Dr. Melissa Miller completed her Ed.D. with an emphasis in Teacher Leadership from Walden University. She holds a M.Ed. from Mary Washington University and a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Virginia Tech. Dr. Miller’s professional and research interests include adult and online learning, professional development, and literacy. Presently, Dr. Miller works as an adjunct instructor and an evaluator, while also enjoying her role as a wife and mother.

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