New CFDE director encourages faculty growth

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Sep. 25, 2013

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Pamela Scully, director of Center for Faculty Development and Excellence. Emory Photo/Video.

As the new director of Emory's Center for Faculty Development and Excellence (CFDE), Pamela Scully is both clear-eyed and optimistic about the changes now shaping the landscape of American higher education.  

The future of the liberal arts, the growth of online education, funding pressures it's all part of an accelerating public dialogue around the role of universities in the 21st century, and one that Scully welcomes in helping Emory faculty develop their roles as researchers, teachers, authors and mentors.  

Scully stepped into her new role on Aug. 1, succeeding Steve Everett, who was named dean of the College of Architecture, Design and the Arts at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  

An acclaimed professor and former chair of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and a professor of African studies and former director of the Institute of African Studies, Scully began her work at Emory in 2004.  

In some ways, Scully sees her appointment as a natural outgrowth — as an educator and author, she's benefited from the kinds of opportunities and faculty enrichment that CFDE has to offer: participating in the CFDE's Academic Leadership Program, teaching a University Course with CFDE support, and last year serving on the Commission on the Liberal Arts (CoLA), in addition to her work with campus governance groups.  

Emory Report caught up with Scully recently to discuss her vision for CFDE:  

What drew you to your new role as director of the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence?  

What I like about this role is that it combines engaging ideas with putting those ideas into practice in a way that really supports faculty and advances the academic mission. I like the fact that there is a practical aspect of this job, too, in terms of helping people get money to support teaching projects or thinking through ideas about how to promote scholarship. We have many programs that can help with that.  

So, in part, I have been genuinely interested in this kind of work, but this also seems to be a particularly interesting time.  

Why now?  

I think it is a really critical time in the history of higher education in America — and indeed, I think, the world — which is both challenging and maybe scary, but also exciting. And so I saw being head of CFDE as a vehicle for really helping us all wrestle with important questions. What does it mean that there's now online education? What does this mean for teaching in a residential college environment? What does it mean for our work with graduate students? What does it mean in terms of the possibilities for research?  

Do you step into this role with specific objectives?  

The good thing is there are excellent existing programs. And I do want to say that the staff of CFDE are just a pleasure to work with. Donna Troka and Allison Adams, who are both associate directors of CFDE, run a very good operation, which frees me to think about more "meta" ideas.  

So my objectives are to continue what is already being done and also to make this changing landscape of higher education a focus for CFDE. That's something I want to introduce into the conversation. And some of that will be done in conjunction with CoLA, because we're wrestling with similar issues.  

I like ideas, and I like being able to see something done with them.  

What plans do you have on the horizon?

We have just put out a call for an Academic Learning Community on "The Changing Landscape of Higher Education." We will be meeting once a month for this academic year, starting in October. We hope to bring faculty from all over the University into conversation about what we see happening in higher education, how we understand it, and how we might really articulate what Emory has to offer.  

Given that we have a larger international student body, what does this mean for faculty, for our teaching? How can we be inclusive in ways that still allow us to meet our goals as educators? I'm working with the Office of International Affairs and the Office of Undergraduate Education to start an Academic Learning Community on teaching an international student body. It's a discussion group that meets once a month for any interested faculty who would like to think through these issues, really a forum for us to explore.  

I'd also like to develop a focus on mentoring, in both a more conversational way, but also with explicit programs. Deb Houry, current head of Faculty Council and University Senate and head of the Academic Leadership Program, is helping us focus on this issue in CFDE. I'm particularly interested in linking junior faculty across schools, partly to help with research — increasingly, showing you're doing cross-school work helps you get grants — partly to create a greater sense of a cohort. We're also beginning to look into doing specific mentoring in cooperation with the School of Medicine, possibly the School of Nursing and Rollins School of Public Health. One of my goals is also to make sure that CFDE really does serve the faculty of all of Emory.  

You've credited Emory's Academic Leadership Program for preparing you for your new role. How was that influential?  

The Academic Leadership Program is now under the auspices of CFDE and that's a change. It's a leadership program designed to help develop individuals from within Emory University for leadership positions. Two faculty are selected from each school and participate for a calendar year. It's a small group that meets once a month and are taught things like how the university budget works and what leadership in a university looks like, as opposed to a business model.  

One of the best things was the opportunity to meet with top leadership, talking with them about the major challenges we face. The group is then split to take on a special project. The meetings became a highlight for me. I loved coming to them, and loved meeting people from across the University.  

Speaking of change, your office is preparing to move?  

At the moment, CFDE is housed on the sixth floor of the 1599 Building (on Clifton Road). Sometime this fall, we're moving to the library. If you go into the Woodruff Library and keep going straight, we'll be on the right. It makes sense to house a center like ours in the library. There will be spaces for people to work, appointments for consultation. It's a nice space.  

What excites you about the coming year?  

With a new provost, the Commission on the Liberal Arts being reinvigorated, with the focus on making students' residential experience more infused with academics, and the sense we might have the kind of resources, really, to help faculty, it's a wonderful time to be taking this position.  

I see the CFDE as part of a broader move at Emory to really make sure we are being as articulate and thoughtful as we can be about what it is that we can do at Emory with a fantastic undergraduate college, a residential experience, and excellent teaching and research faculty. I see CFDE as very much part of that conversation— to be clear-headed about what we do and sure of who we are so we can participate in this changing world.