Fostering Creativity in Departmental Faculty Meetings

Image by Jörg Möller from Pixabay

Although students, faculty, and administrators are now back on campus at most higher education institutions, the effects of the pandemic loom. Research confirms what many have suspected to be the case: the social isolation caused by the pandemic has left people feeling lonely (Ernst et al., 2022) and disconnected from colleagues (Chaker et al., 2021). Loneliness combined with COVID-19 worry is an especially bad combination, predicting depression and anxiety (Mayorga et al., 2022). The increase in the sheer number of people experiencing mental health issues is an indicator of the magnitude of its effects. Most everyone in higher education knows a student, a coworker, or an administrator who is suffering with a mental health issue. Despite faculty and administration suffering with these issues, providing safe, high-quality, and engaging educational experiences to students and collegial, supportive, and nurturing work environments for faculty members remains the expected norm.

But it is not always clear how to cultivate such environments. From deciding the best communication method and frequency to ensure transparency to balancing faculty workloads in response to enrollment changes, the pandemic has only exacerbated administrative challenges. Experts cannot even reach consensus on how the pandemic will continue to affect our world (Grossman et al., 2021). Uncertainty makes it challenging for leaders to know the “right” course of action with many competing perspectives and needs to consider. In this polarizing environment, chairs and deans still need to meet with faculty, students, administrators, and community members to accomplish all the tasks necessary to have a department or school run smoothly. They often work in multiple teams simultaneously with competing demands to balance priorities. Since the pandemic began, many of these teams have met remotely or virtually rather than face-to-face, creating challenges that did not exist before.  

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