An Invitation to Lead: Using the Symposium Model to Engage Faculty in Campus Initiatives

Wednesday, January 22, 9:00 AM–5:00 PM (lunch provided)
Marriott Marquis
Washington, DC 20001
Held in conjunction with AAC&U’s 2020 Annual Meeting

Leading in times of change requires new models of engaging faculty in the planning and implementation of campus initiatives. As Watson explains in AAC&U News (2018), “Recognizing the change agency role of faculty development, senior leaders should work to leverage CTLs to accomplish academic change and consider models that incentivize or reward broad faculty participation.” Our team has been leading this type of work using a symposium model, based on the Academic Affairs Faculty Symposium used for over 25 years at the University of Georgia, to provide faculty opportunities to make recommendations about big campus issues (e.g., the role of SoTL in tenure). We describe our use of the model for broadening faculty participation in campus change initiatives and for providing avenues for collaboration. Our primary goal is to guide participants to plan a symposium for their campuses so that faculty are able to take a larger role in leading change initiatives.

A common complaint among faculty is the initiative fatigue they feel, which is often the result of top-down initiatives. Symposium encourages a meet-in-the-middle and lead-from-the-middle model in which faculty, staff, and administrators are asked to engage in meaningful work in ways that support campus priorities. Morris (2008) explains that symposium is “a ‘problem-solving and social interaction model’ with the brainstorming of problems and solutions under the umbrella of a topic” (p. 68). We view symposium as a tool for organizational change that encourages and supports faculty participation. Kezar (2015) describes several facilitators of organizational change, and a number of these are built into symposium. These facilitating factors include aligning the initiative to a campus priority, capitalizing on passion, engaging in shared leadership between faculty and administrators, and empowering people to act.

This institute is relevant to higher education administrators, CTL directors, faculty, and other campus leaders who are looking for ways to invite faculty to lead in times of change.

During this full day institute, participants will:

  • Learn about the symposium model and how it has been used to increase faculty engagement in change initiatives;
  • Discover ways to connect the symposium model to campus priorities;
  • Plan strategically to broaden involvement and prepare participants to succeed in the work, given various campus contexts and culture; and
  • Leave with a draft symposium plan to take back to their campuses.

There will be short presentations throughout the session, but the majority of workshop time will be devoted to planning activities, facilitated in small groups by our team members. We will provide example agendas, symposia invitations, ideas for logistical planning, and symposium prompts, as well as a planning guidebook with individual activities for participants to complete as they create their draft symposium plan.

During this day-long institute, participants will:

  • Consider the characteristics of effective educational development units, through a guided series of image-based and inductive exercises
  • Discover and apply a strategic planning process for a new or newly reimagined CTL, which will include a range of examples from a variety of campus contexts
  • Consider a series of guidelines helpful for developing responsive and research-based educational development initiatives in their own contexts
  • Leave with ideas, connections to leaders in the field whom they can contact after the ODI, and suggested resources to consider at their own institutions.

This session is based on a model of CTL leadership, which highlights key POD Network values, particularly evidence-based practice, collegiality, and inclusion.


9:00 am Introductions and Plan for the Day
9:30 am Large group discussion: Challenges in engaging faculty to lead change
9:45 am Presentation: Symposium’s essential elements
10:15 am Break
10:30 am Story: How Symposium Created Excitement and Urgency around a LEAP Campus Plan (UWG)
10:50 am Small group discussion: How can you get a seat at the table?
11:20 am Story: Creating Collaborative Department Cultures & Chairs (DU)
11:40 am Facilitated small group discussion: What do you need to create a sense of urgency about?
12:00 pm Lunch
12:45 pm Large group discussion: Settling on a symposium topic
1:20 pm Facilitated small group discussion: What outcomes do you expect and what will you do once participants meet them?
1:45 pm Presentation: Nuts and Bolts—Who gets a seat at the table and how do you prepare them for the work?
2:15 pm Facilitated individual work: Draft your plan—topic, participants, preparation
2:45 pm Round robin pitch:  1-minute share of your idea
3:30 pm Presentation: Follow-through—the only way to make it stick
3:45 pm Facilitated small group discussion: How will you make it stick?
4:30 pm Where do we go from here? Questions & Answers

Kezar, A. (2015). Scaling and sustaining change and innovation: Lessons learned from the Teagle Foundation’s “Faculty Work and Student Learning” Initiative. New York, NY: The Teagle Foundation.

Morris, Libby V. (2008). Faculty engagement in the academy. Innovative Higher Education, 33(2), 67-69.

Watson, C.E. (2018, March). Centers for teaching and learning, academic change, and institutional zeitgeist . AAC&U News. Available online: academic-change-and-institutional-zeitgeist