Monday, January 31, 2022

In a January 19, 2022 Chronicle of Higher Ed opinion piece, “The Great Faculty Disengagement,” Kevin McClure and Alisa Hicklin Fryar observe that in response to the grief, losses, inequities, and violence caused and exposed by COVID, some people are resigning, but many more are disengaging. In their research, they found that “people need to feel safe, valued, and confident that they have the resources to do their jobs.” These are the essential “conditions for people to flourish.” In the absence of these conditions, we see “less creativity, less risk-taking,” fewer “big and bold projects,” and a diversion of passion, energy, and leadership to spaces where people can find meaning in their work.

Reconsidering what matters

In the past two years, the staff members of the Obermann Center have witnessed the grief and exhaustion of our colleagues. The emotional depletion is rooted in multiple sources: COVID, systemic racism, the plights of those who are parents or caregivers or living alone in the midst of both, and the ongoing anxiety of climate change, to name several. We also have seen the ways faculty, staff, and students are reconsidering what matters as they contemplate the future. We featured one poignant example of this in our recent annual report via a video interview with a visiting Fellow-in-Residence who bravely changed the focus of her sabbatical research to better align with what the moment was calling her to focus on.

Our mission at the Obermann Center is to support the University's research mission—we interpret this as research writ large—and to encourage creative cross-disciplinary collaboration. This moment strikes us as an important one to pause and listen as you tell us what will help you to flourish in your arts practice, scholarship, and research. Like many of you, we want to absorb the hard lessons, clarified values, and shifting sense of where our time and talents are most needed. We want to better understand what you need to re-engage in your work.

Gathering your ideas

We have put together the following survey as one method for gathering the ideas and reflections of members of our campus. We hope you’ll find a few moments to share your thoughts with us about the work of the Obermann Center—even as we continue to wrestle with health, environmental, and social justice crises. We promise to pay careful attention to your thoughts about what we as a Center are doing well, and what we can do better to support research on our campus more inclusively and equitably.

The survey will be live from Monday, January 31 to Monday, February 14. Thank you if you're able to give time to this task. In the latter half of February, we will move into hosting Zoom focus groups, led by members of our advisory board. These will provide an opportunity to expand on the thoughts you share in the survey. You'll find a way to sign up for a focus group at the end of the survey.

We are listening and open to change as we continue to work with many of you virtually and, we hope very soon, in person. Thank you for helping us to make the Obermann Center a valuable resource for your work and that of your colleagues across our educational community. 

Take the survey