The Departmental Gestalt: Fostering Student Major Identity and Program Pride
September 4, 2020
Like many others in the trenches of academia, we’ve chaired, taught, and advised in a small, understaffed, underfunded, and oversubscribed program. While other understaffed and oversubscribed departments limped along, ours notably thrived, resulting in strong student program identity and pride. Key to our flourishing was providing points of unification and solidarity within the department. Though many academics may bristle at the sound of solidarity for fear their independence might be compromised, our commonalities did not threaten our faculty uniqueness and autonomy. It is worth repeating: finding points of shared identity and communicating them to students did not endanger our beloved capacity to self-govern our own academic work. In fact, our students were quick to point out how different we were from each other. To our university’s delight, these fortifying qualities cost neither any money nor additional resources. We evinced our unity in two key ways: (1) having common curricular reference points and (2) displaying interfaculty communication to our students.