Celebrating Professional Track Faculty at the Fourth Annual PTK Symposium
By: Dylan Lewis
On February 24 and 25, the fourth-annual Professional Track Faculty (PTK) Symposium took place virtually on Zoom. This two-day symposium featured speakers, workshops, and networking opportunities for PTK faculty all held in concurrent breakout sessions split between three Zoom channels throughout both days of the symposium. A group of PTK faculty, with support from the Office of Faculty Affairs, organizes these annual symposia to address topics of interest to the professional track faculty on campus. In addition to the various sessions, the symposium also included opening remarks by Provost Jennifer King Rice and a welcome video from President Darryl Pines. The keynote address was delivered by John King, president of the nonprofit The Education Trust, former US Secretary of Education, and Professor of the Practice in the College of Education. According to attendees of the event, it is hard to capture the energy of the symposium and what it means each year to an important constituency here at UMD.
The event was emceed and organized by Lee Friedman, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and Chair of the Symposium’s Organizing Committee. Friedman noted that one of the most important functions of the event is promoting the work of PTK faculty members and offering meaningful professionalization. He said, “my participation in the symposium over the past four years has allowed me to expand and grow my professional skills perhaps more than anything else that I've done in my time here. So from a personal standpoint, my experience with the symposium has been very rewarding.”
The various sessions offered support and information to faculty across UMD, focusing on important topics such as anti-racist pedagogy, environmental sustainability practices, finding funding opportunities, writing DEI statements, community engagement through service learning, and more. Coming up with topics is not easy but having a wide range of topics is an important component for an event of this scope and scale, which takes almost a full year of planning to organize. This year the symposium placed emphasis on three main topics: anti-racist pedagogy and DEI work, navigating PTK contracts and promotion policies, and fostering community and collaboration. All three topics correspond nicely with the university’s new strategic plan, unveiled this past February.
While the symposium is open to everyone at UMD regardless of rank or affiliation, the emphasis is certainly on connecting PTK faculty to the many resources available to them here at UMD, discussing the challenges they face as PTK faculty, and celebrating their accomplishments. Friedman said this was largely the subject of Provost Rice’s plenary address and President Pines’s introductory video. Rice “spoke about the importance of PTK faculty at the University and how integral we are to the strategic plan, and where we fit in.” Because 69% of faculty here at UMD are PTK and other non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty, they are a highly diverse group of scholars in terms of their professional obligations and day-to-day operations, so it is meaningful that both President Pines and Provost Rice notice and acknowledge the contributions of PTK faculty to making UMD great.
Since the event was held virtually like last year’s symposium, it was widely attended and more accessible than the in-person PTK symposiums have been in the past: over 250 PTK and TTK faculty, administrators, and staff signed up for sessions. Heidi Bulich, Associate Director for Faculty Initiatives in the Office of Faculty Affairs, said that being online has made a noticeable difference in being able to offer an accessible option for attendees. Many PTK faculty have long commutes to campus or still work remotely, and many do not have contracts that account for service or research opportunities and can not attend these meetings as a result. The organizers are considering these accessibility concerns as they begin to plan next year’s symposium, which they hope will be back to an in-person event.
Another symposium resource that is available and asynchronously accessible are a series of lightning talks dedicated to many of the topics covered in the symposium’s sessions, which can be found here: https://faculty.umd.edu/2022/video-library. The videos are only about 5 minutes long and focus on the symposium's three main themes: Anti-Racism / Diversity, Equity, Inclusion; Work Smarter, Not Harder; and Building Bridges - Developing Connections & Collaborations. Attendees were encouraged to watch these videos at their leisure during lunch breaks since they resonated with the topics covered in the symposium’s concurrent sessions. For example, if an attendee went to a live session on navigating PTK contracts, they could watch a lightning video about DEI statements later.
Both Bulich and Friedman noted that this is not an exclusive event and that all members of the UMD community are welcome, including administrators, TTK faculty, and graduate students. Perhaps next year’s symposium will bring even more people to take part in these important conversations!