Guest Speakers Can Be A Life Saver For A New Adjunct

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mcbrayer By Kathy McBrayer, M.Ed., SPHR

Many say that weekends are a time to “rest up” for the coming week. Rest up, really? While I get a little down time, the majority of my Saturdays and Sundays are used to “catch up” from the previous week. Especially as an adjunct professor — weekends are for syllabus work, grading papers, reviewing the latest business news (I teach in the business school), and answering student’s emails. That doesn’t even count the things that I need to address in other aspects of my professional and personal life: consultant, writer, researcher, mom, and wife! And recently, I was feeling the weight of too much to do and too little time to do it.

When I first started adjunct teaching over a year ago, the variety of tasks I was involved with was exhilarating to me. I had just completed a 20+ year corporate career and was eager to start my own consulting business and teach university students. However, a few months into the routine, I found the diversity of my tasks a challenge. I was tired! So in keeping with my “take charge” personality, I began to cut out any “extras” that I was doing in an attempt to keep up with my timeline-driven to do list. (And yes, I hate to admit it, but that even included some of the “extras” I was putting into my adjunct teaching.)

That was a mistake. Over the weeks, as I spent much energy just getting by, I began to lose the thrill of the business world around me. For example, in the corporate world, I was involved in mergers and acquisitions; now I just taught the theory and practice behind it. A topic that once inspired me to reach new business heights was now just a chapter in my current class textbook. How had I gotten to this point? What was I going to do about it?

Thanks to a strong cup of coffee and a confronting conversation with a good friend, I realized, strangely enough, that I needed to “work” my way out of it. By constraining some of my activities, I had actually stifled my creativity and passion: two factors that I think make me a better professor and consultant! My remedy? Seek out relevant, real-life business situations that pertained to the material I was currently teaching. Translation: bring in a guest speaker.

Since I was scheduled to teach a session on mergers and acquisitions, I headed out to conduct an interview with a pilot at United Continental. The topic: how the merger between United Airlines and Continental Airlines was going, as perceived by a target Continental pilot. Two hours passed like two minutes! No textbook could compare to the stories this pilot with 20+ years of experience shared regarding the combination. Culture challenges, union differences, pilot tenure positioning…these stories once again brought business theory to life! I couldn’t wait to share my learning with my students.

By inviting something new into my world I gained additional insight and forced a breath of fresh air into my routine. It was just the energy boost I needed. I guess I’ll still be using my weekends to “catch up.”

I’m okay with that, and I suspect that my students are too.

About the New Adjunct: Kathy McBrayer is currently in the dissertation phase of her doctoral studies in Organization and Management at Capella University. She holds a M.Ed. from Texas Woman’s University and a B.A. in Business Management from Northwood University. Ms. McBrayer’s professional and research interestsinclude human resource issues that arise during major change initiatives, such as outsourcing and mergers and acquisitions.  Presently, Ms. McBrayer works as an adjunct instructor and manages her own consulting firm.  She enjoys cooking, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

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