Exploring Faculty Civic Agency and What Supports It. KerryAnn O’Meara, Associate Professor Andrew Lounder , Doctoral Student University of Maryland College Park. Agenda. Background of our Project Conceptual Framework: What is Agency? Methods
KerryAnn O’Meara, Associate Professor
Andrew Lounder, Doctoral Student
University of Maryland College Park
“And I think, you know, after I got to that moment in my career and in my life where I was, I’d finished the book, I’d gotten tenure, I was appointed the Director of [my program] so I was doing kind of program building and curriculum development stuff and at the same time I started having kids and I had a family, and I was really thinking about, “hey, so what am I doing and where do I really want to spend my time? Is this really what I want to be doing?” And I think the kind of combination of being a parent at the same time being at that point in my career, those two things intersected really strongly for me. So, I started asking myself, “Is it really worth it to go back into the archives and spend for me, what’s going to be five or six years, probably more researching and writing another monograph that maybe a handful of people are going to read, or…and I was thinking more broadly. So, “how do I speak to the public? What can I do?” And, you know, I think that combined with the kind of political atmosphere of the moment in the 2000s, 2001, you know, the early part of this decade made me really feel like it’s my responsibility to add something back to the culture as a parent, as a community member, as a scholar, as a teacher.”
Our conceptual framework draws on prior work:
1) What were the most influential factors on faculty civic agency?
2) What did faculty civic agency look like in action?
3) What were some of the outcomes actors attributed to the exercise of civic agency?
Of the 25 individual cases
Merriam (1998) describes internal validity as a means of matching research findings to reality—how well do findings capture these faculty experiences
To strengthen internal validity we used/are using the following strategies:
Our intent or goal is not generalizability but thick description and “transferability”
Individual “Starting Places”
“This is where I grew up,” faculty observed that they had grown up in a city or connected to a place and had wanted to recreate that connection to place in the place of their faculty appointment.
“The first justification was not me, as a professor thinking how to enrich my students. The first line of thinking was how to make the biggest difference to the state. And part of that is just growing a group, a generation of young people who are better leaders and more thoughtful and more connected to problems, and this just seemed like in terms of one effort it had the most effects.”
“I was definitely a product of a working class family. Social class is not something we discuss much in the United States, but for me, I’m very sensitive to issues of power and how people use power to manipulate and to marginalize.”
“And I think also generational. I think my generation, I probably, I’m not a millennial, but I think in some ways the end of generation X’ers are kind of the first wave of folks who begin to think more about, you know, how you solve problems more collaboratively, more relationally, kind of wanting an end to divisive debates. And I think that this kind of approach and pedagogy and seeing higher education as an avenue to do this kind of work is very generational and is very consistent with the way I think about things.”
“Well I was a community organizer for eight years before going to graduate school, in between undergraduate and graduate school, so that was my main source of income for those eight years. And you know, I’ve been very active politically in community development efforts for a long time. It’s very, very easy, and comfortable for me, in fact, more so to go out and work in the community than it is to work on campus.”
Not unlike many married couples describe their first meeting;
“Chance encounters” that started a really important relationship, project or network for them.
Yet participants had placed themselves, “in the right place at the right time” for such encounters and whether consciously or unconsciously seemed to be looking for them.
“I may have to go back farther. I was concerned about getting lost in the ivory tower. I was really concerned about getting deep into the books and the theory and losing sight of what was happening on the ground. After all, my interest is in how to improve neighborhoods and work with people, and I was fearful that if I didn’t keep one foot on the ground that I wouldn’t know what I was talking about, that I would somehow lose my credibility as a teacher. I didn’t think of it so much as a researcher or a scholar, but I thought about it a lot in terms of teaching. I had a hard time envisioning how I could walk into a classroom and teach if I couldn’t also draw from some practical experience. So when I landed at [institution] that was a concern, and the voice I was hearing in the back of my mind was, “Don’t get lost in the research and the writing. Figure out where you’re gonna put your foot.”
“Setting the Table…”
Well-being & Professional Growth through Relationships
“The first is about the relationships with the students in particular. I think in doing this kind of work I develop a different kind of relationship with students than I might if I taught more lecture oriented classes, where they were writing papers. By having these open discussions, by having community partners come into the classroom.”
Seeing outcomes of work:
Associate Professor, Higher Education
University of Maryland