As part of the team in the Academic Advancement Network (AAN), I write to welcome you to MSU. Whether you are just starting your career as a faculty member or academic staff member, or if you come with much prior experience working in academe, we know you are new to Michigan State—and we want to extend a sincere welcome. We are all experiencing the challenges and uncertainties of the pandemic, which makes moving and re-settling even more daunting than usual. Michigan State is known for a culture of warmth, friendliness, and what many say are “low barriers” to opportunities to meet and interact with colleagues across campus. Even as we approach the fall in new ways, with reduced in-person interactions, and with less serendipity for chance encounters, we hope you will feel the warm welcome from those of us in AAN and many others across the campus.

We have an AAN team that works collaboratively to support the faculty and academic staff at MSU. Within that team, my specific focus is supporting the diverse Academic Career Paths of MSU faculty and academic staff. That is, while much connects academics across their areas of work, we recognize that faculty and academic staff experience their careers in different ways depending on each person’s specific appointment, career stage, and institutional location. Faculty and academic staff also may have varying kinds of responsibilities across the missions of the university in teaching, research, and outreach. AAN provides support as you manage the different roles and responsibilities of your appointment and develop your career path. We also recognize that a professional career is embedded in the complexities of one’s personal life—and thus, scaffolding the success of faculty and academic staff involves supporting colleagues as they manage both professional and personal responsibilities.

As you look toward the start of the new academic year, which we will all experience in new and different ways, I want to highlight three types of resources that will be useful to you, especially over the next few months:

  • Drop-In Conversations:  AAN will be hosting some Drop-In Conversations for open discussion of issues and questions you may have as you get settled and start to explore the university community. These will be posted on the AAN website, and we encourage you to stop by. These open, unstructured, drop-in conversations will be a nice opportunity to get to know some of the AAN staff and others at MSU. In addition, I am happy to connect with you individually, as are the other members of the AAN Team. You will find us listed on the AAN site. The next Drop-In Conversation is on Friday, August 28th at 10:00. See future events.
  • AAN Newsletter: AAN provides a newsletter several times each semester that highlights programs, resources, and people on campus. It is sent directly to all faculty and academic staff. When it arrives, I hope you will take a few minutes for a quick scan to see what opportunities could be helpful to you.
  • Campus Resources: As a Network, AAN connects with other units around campus and highlights resources, programs, and opportunities of interest to faculty and academic staff. In that spirit, I encourage you to review the resources provided by the MSU WorkLife Office. You will find lots of information about resources in the university and the broader community to support you and your significant others. You’ll also find resources specifically focused on strategies to manage pandemic-related challenges. The AAN Newsletter will highlight other campus resources in the coming months.

Over the year, AAN will provide opportunities for you to explore a number of topics related to your work and life at MSU, and your overall career development. Visit our the AAN website regularly for information about topical workshops and seminars, our winter Thriving Sessions that provide guidance about the promotion system at MSU, and our Spring Symposium. Some sessions will be widely relevant to the full community of faculty and academic staff, and others will focus on the specific interests of groups within our faculty and academic staff (such as those at particular career stages).

A colleague with whom I have written and worked closely over the years, Mary Deane Sorcinelli, led the faculty development initiatives at her university for many years. She wrote an article that has been shared widely across the country—one that I would like to share as we start the year. It provides ideas that are very helpful to those starting academic careers and suggestions for those supporting new colleagues. I recommend it to you.

We are very glad you have joined us at Michigan State, and look forward to supporting you in your transition to this community and over the coming years as you pursue the full range of your career interests. We are privileged that you are here with us, and know your contributions will be a unique and important part of MSU’s work. Please be sure to stay connected with us in AAN.

Learn more about academic career paths.