Wednesday, 11 January 2012

My News (shameless)

Some time ago "Mount Royal College" became "Mount Royal University". At that time, we had to try to act "university-like" and take on some activities that recognized our contributions. Although we try to promote our faculty according to what they've accomplished, "proper" ranking is part of our transition from C to U. This means establishing a hierarchy.

All faculty were given the title of "instructor". What I liked about that was there was no distinction between educators: you established your reputation and lived with it. We were colleagues and equal in title and pay based on years of service.

I earned a doctorate and although I rankle when called "Mr. Nickle" by students, I don't insist on "Dr. Nickle". It's kind of a quiet amusement when a student emails me with the former salutation (80% of the time looking for a favour like an extension or extra credit). I respond with my full signature text block (Dr. Todd Nickle...). Subsequent emails usually persist with "Mr. Nickle" showing a lack of attention to detail (evidenced by the original issue). As Mount Royal faculty, my PhD didn't give me special standing, and that was - and is - fine.

With the new system, we are now allowed to be recognized as "professor". It's cool, and helpful on occasions when I've been a guest author with other panelists. Being "instructor" in a field of "professors" is awkward. But "professor" isn't always the full title.

Pre-tenure faculty are "assistant professors" (PhD or not) and upon tenure become "associate professors". I think there's work to indicate a different title for non-tenure track folks that isn't a version of "professor", but I don't recall it off-hand ("lecturer", I think).

This year, 2012, marks the first time MRU has had the title "Professor" awarded to certain faculty. It's not a distinction that students would (or should) notice, but it is recognized by colleagues. Like I said at the start of this entry, it doesn't make a faculty member better than another. It should, though, serve to recognize a rigorous process that acknowledges contributions to the field (of education -especially for MRU) and substantial service to the university. For some recipients it includes recognition of scholarship. In all cases the applicant must prove an international reputation. This might include the ability to identify several external (outside of MRU) referees. They evaluate a dossier of the applicant's work and make a recommendation.

My news: I am now a member of the first cohort of (full) Professors of MRU. I'm thrilled and I feel humility-I worry that new ranks will damage our amazing culture here. I must say, in honesty, that it feels good to have what I've done recognized.  I can't control the culture here and I know that I didn't support ranking strongly when it first came up.  I guess I'm a bit of a hypocrite as I'll take the promotion since it's offered!

My news came today when the dean (actually his secretary, my friend Karen) called to ask for me to come in for a meeting. Although I was optimistic about the promotion, I *seriously* hadn't anticipated the substance. I thought it was about plagiarism or maybe a student complaint (I use a lot of "colourful" language because I'm under the impression that it makes me more interesting).

Let me say how classy I think it is to get a welcomed letter pressed into your palm by such a busy person. Dean Jeff Goldberg doesn't have a lot of time in his schedule, but when you're with him, you've got his whole attention. I'd been thinking a lot about the promotion, and this was great.

But what's this fly in the ointment? I still need to exercise more and not all of my students idolize me. I still miss deadlines and think petty thoughts. I've reached the highest level I can think of-for now. I don't think I'll slack off in teaching, but my annual reports are likely to be thinner! I'll have to move on to other goals. Maybe more guitar practice. I don't worry that *I* will destroy MRU culture with this newfound title, but I'm concerned that the new hierarchical titles might.

But I'm thrilled with this recognition all the same.