Adjuncts & Scholarship: An Interview


by Olivia Baxter

Sherry Engstrom, an Adjunct Humanities Instructor at the College of Lake County, was a 2016 Striving for Excellence Adjunct Scholarship Winner. She was presented the opportunity to attend and speak at a panel discussion at the 2016 NISOD Conference in Austin, TX. Sherry talks about the importance of scholarship to adjunct faculty, her participation at the NISOD conference on teaching and professional development. Sherry attended the 2016 conference thanks to the financial support of Cengage Learning. The company is offering adjunct faculty paid trips to the 2017 NISOD Conference (covered expenses include airfare, transportation to and from the airport, lodging, and conference registration fees.) which will take place May 27-30, 2017 in Austin, Texas. To learn more about the 2017 Adjunct Scholarship, click here. Submissions are due Friday, December 9th!

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

SE: I am currently an adjunct in the Humanities department at College of Lake County, IL. I have also taught Speech and Theatre here and elsewhere. My adjunct career started when I was fresh out of graduate school. I continued teaching until I got a full-time job in secondary school, a job which ended in the recent recession of 2008.

I came back to adjunct teaching at that time, about 8 years ago, and now consider this my career. To supplement my income, I work in a lab at a second community college in Wisconsin, as I live in the state line region between the two states.

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

Sherry Engstrom teaches as an adjunct at the College of Lake County.
Sherry Engstrom teaches as an adjunct at the College of Lake County.

SE: I was inspired to apply for the scholarship because I very much like teaching teachers! I started doing it at my recent full-time job in coordinating a Gifted Ed. program in K-12, and continued teaching teachers here at College of Lake County where we have a very strong and inclusive professional development department.

I had a very positive response to the last class I taught on creating a successful group project, so thought I’d try that as my scholarship entry.  I have taught 4 classes here at the College of lake County that I think would make for relevant and successful session topics at the NISOD conference.

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

SE: I was very gratified to be able to attend the NISOD conference, where I met many great colleagues including staff members from Cengage and NISOD. I would love to attend again, so I plan to submit another Striving for Excellence scholarship application this year. The conference was highly useful; all the sessions I attended were excellent. The adjunct panel in which I participated – sponsored by Cengage and NISOD – was a resounding success, as evidenced by the number of questions and the liveliness of the conversation.

I value professional development in many ways, and the NISOD conference was one of the best – if not the best – professional development event I have ever attended.

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

SE: Absolutely. It’s crucial and logical to include adjuncts in all aspects of our profession, and it seems a great effort was made at last year’s NISOD conference. I know that my fellow adjuncts are as professional, committed and deserving of all professional development opportunities as our fellow full-timers. In fact, I have already told several adjuncts about NISOD and will continue to do so.

The scholarship program is a wonderful opportunity because many of us lack the resources to pay the full fees ourselves. I very much appreciate the opportunity and I hope the Striving for Excellence series and scholarship program continues and expands.

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