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Even a diamond needs to be dug out and polished

I have often referred to myself as the head cheerleader for NC State University (a nice job to have last night in the RBC Center.  Go Pack!)  I’m proud to be part of the university and I want everyone to know about it.   I suppose that’s what you might expect from a dyed in the wool PR and marketing guy.   Despite their great work, many faculty members are not as outgoing as I might be and that may not do them well within the institution or among their peers in higher education.  At least that’s what Dr. Sastry Pantula thinks.

Pantula is Head of the Department of Statistics and President of the American Statistical Association and he and Steve Townsend (Director of Communications, College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences) have been talking about PR and publicity.  Dr. Pantula might not be the head cheerleader, but he recognizes the importance of individual recognition among faculty members and he shared that recognition with his group recently.  Here’s what he told Steve about a recent article he read:


I enjoy reading Gary Olson’s articles in the Chronicle.  I have shared  the following with our junior faculty.  I appreciate what you and the Dean do with the Scope magazine and Scope Academy also.  I know the more I know about our faculty’s accomplishments, the easier it is for me to help make opportunities for them. Even a diamond needs to be dug out, and polished 😉

Here are some common ways that new faculty members might begin to make themselves known in their disciplines:

Introduce yourself. After hearing an especially good conference presentation or one that is relevant to your own strand of research, go up and meet the presenter. It’s a simple way to begin building professional relationships with fellow scholars. Occasionally, these short introductions turn into substantive discussions about common research interests. I have even witnessed such a chat result in the presenter’s inviting the young scholar to contribute to a edited volume, join a research project, or participate in a panel presentation.

Talk to editors. Introduce yourself to the key journal editors and book publishers in your discipline. They play a pivotal role in who and what gets published, and it is best when they can associate a face with a manuscript.

Offer to serve as a manuscript reviewer. Not only is that good experience, it also helps you stay current in your field because you are reading the most recent research well before it is published. A bonus is that if you earn a reputation with journal editors as a thoughtful and judicious reviewer, they will be more likely to trust your judgment when you submit your own manuscript. You might also approach a journal editor and offer to contribute a review of a new scholarly book. Especially if you have not yet published your own research, writing a book review is an excellent way to break into print.

Volunteer to review conference proposals. Contact the organizer of a professional conference in your discipline and offer to serve as a proposal reviewer. As with manuscript reviewing, this is a superb way to remain current with the latest research while building valuable professional relationships.

Make friends in your disciplinary society. Introduce yourself to officers of your professional organization and ask how you might become more involved in the organization (chairing important committees or running for election to the executive board, for example).

While networking is how your peers learn about you and your work, it is in your interest that people outside the campus are aware of it, too. The dean I mentioned who was frustrated by her faculty’s reluctance to help publicize their research was attempting to use local and regional news media to familiarize the public with her faculty’s accomplishments and lay the groundwork for effective fund raising. Here are some tips so that you as a faculty member can help in the effort:

Inform your department chair first. Always let your department head know of your recent accomplishments. The chair should be at the forefront of publicizing faculty accomplishments to the institution and beyond.

Keep your media liaison informed. If your institution has a well-developed advancement operation, then each department will have a designated liaison responsible for passing on news of faculty accomplishments to the institution’s public-relations department. The professionals there will then notify the appropriate news media. Always let your liaison know when you win awards, secure important grants, or have other accomplishments that will reflect well on the institution.

Or talk directly with the public-relations office. If your institution does not have an advancement liaison, then you can always pass on news directly to PR. Most universities publish faculty accomplishments in an internal newsletter and select certain accomplishments for even wider coverage.

Sure a few academicians go too far in the self-promotion department. But being too shy may well hold back your progress in becoming a player in the discipline.

In short, it is who you know (and who knows you) that counts—but that’s a good thing.

Gary A. Olson is provost and vice president for academic affairs at Idaho State University and co-editor with John Presley of “The Future of Higher Education: Perspectives from America’s Academic Leaders” (Paradigm). He can be contacted at golson@isu.edu.  http://chronicle.com/article/It-Is-Who-You-KnowWho/63560/

Right on Dr. Pantula

Passion Rules!

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