Community building

The university is a community of scholars. My background in community studies reminds me that this cannot be taken for granted, however. Even those who have been affiliated with a university for many years may have a hard time responding to questions such as those in the Great Colleges to Work For surveys. For those new to an academic career at the university, life can be overwhelming and personal and family sacrifices are not uncommon in order to meet the demands of teaching, research, and service while on the tenure track. A sense of community may also be prevented by such a culture as working in silos and complicated by such a reality as distances between campuses. On the other hand, information technology has created a new universe, i.e., the second or virtual world, which gives rise to a new type of online community. The virtual world, however, can be as wild as the real one, and the information can be overwhelming even within the tight structure of a university. I tend to put myself in faculty’s shoes and my recent experience transitioning to Pace helped me to appreciate all the potential difficulties. It’s easy to find things by checking the website index, though you need to know something exists and can spell the name in the first place. For the numerous unknown things, they may remain mystery for a long time, only for one to regret later not taking advantage sooner. I’m not a tech dummy and have been fortunate finding things out through various meetings and connections, but I have to admit that there are still a lot of things out there that I’ve not learned. Is it possible to shorten such a learning curve for all in the scholarly community, particularly new faculty, in terms of the information and resources they need most to survive the challenges and succeed in their pursuit? Borrowing the idea of a “one stop” service for students, I got a group together with the strong support of our CIO to brainstorm how we may compile in one place resources useful for teaching, research, and service while providing a professional social space for faculty as scholars through forums and blogs by eliminating the distances between campuses. The project, called Pace University Academic Commons (or Faculty or Scholars’ Commons) is a collaborative effort of ITS, CTLT, Library, University and College/School communication specialists, and faculty. Such a cyberspace is currently being created by a team led by Joe Seijo at CTLT. The plan is to construct, with faculty guidance, a robust yet user-friendly site, also for faculty to foster collaboration and interaction with their peers of diverse backgrounds in a desirable virtual environment. The team has recently decided to switch from WordPress platform to Microsoft SharePoint and the latest work has not yet been made public. However, I invite faculty colleagues to take a look at the template at the old site http://academiccommons.pace.edu and let us know what you think. The team needs your guidance, and your suggestions will be greatly appreciated by all!

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