Third Annual PTK Symposium Celebrates UMD PTK Faculty Members

March 25, 2021

Article by Jaime Williams PTK Symposium Banner

This year, the third annual Professional Track Faculty (PTK) Symposium, which is a one-day event with speakers, workshops and networking opportunities for PTK faculty, was held virtually on February 26, 2021, with sessions running from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The steering committee started planning for this year’s virtual event last spring and designed the event based on input received from previous symposium evaluation surveys as well as suggestions from PTK faculty all over campus. This year’s topics ranged from leadership to achieving excellence in teaching, research, service and administration. To keep things organized and easily accessible, the sessions were separated into three different zoom channels that the attendees were easily able to transition into and out of. Since it was a virtual event, it was accessible for far more PTK faculty than in the past: 281 PTK and tenure track faculty, administrators and staff signed up.

“The symposium planning committee, which is made up of PTK faculty from all over the University, selected the speakers and topics [for this event]. We have members from many departments, in a wide range of roles (i.e., teaching, research, extension, administration), so the group was able to identify speakers and subjects that benefited our PTK folks from lots of different jobs in different departments,” Heather McHale, co-chair of the steering committee and Senior Lecturer/Advisor, Institute of Applied Agriculture, stated. There were a total of 12 breakout sessions, which included negotiation, practical anti-racism (in both teaching and research), confronting rank-based bias and more.

The event was emceed by Katherine Sharp, Associate Clinical Professor, School of Public Health, with opening remarks from President Darryll Pines and Interim Provost Ann Wylie. The plenary session included videos by three PTK faculty members who shared their experiences as PTK faculty at UMD.  Marico A. Oliveira, former Assistant Research Professor in the School of Public Health and currently the Assistant Vice President for Academic Technology and Innovation within the Division of IT, and Executive Director of the Teaching and Learning Transformation Center within the Division of Academic Affairs kicked off the plenary session. Dr. Olivera, the 2020 Winner of the President's Medal, shared his remarkable professional journey at UMD and important lessons he learned along the way with the audience.  These include, “do what you love”, “seek partnerships”, “face your challenges” and be “ready to serve”.  Dina L.G. Borzekowski, Ed.D., a former associate professor on the tenure track at Johns Hopkins and now a Research Professor and the Director of the Global Health Initiative and Research Professor in the School of Public Health is an expert in health communications, who told the audience why she loves being a PTK faculty member at UMD.  First and foremost, it has allowed her the flexibility and the freedom to pursue her own passions.  She is able to research what she wants to research and to pursue the funding that helps her reach her goals.  She appreciates the professional opportunity UMD gave her when she was appointed the Director of the Global Health Initiative. In that role she has been able to advance her career and has an incredible opportunity to help UMD students, faculty and alumni travel abroad and build collaborative partnerships.  Dr. Borzekowski is an expert in how young people use media and media’s impact on children and adolescents. She has worked in 32 countries, and has enjoyed a long affiliation with the children’s program Sesame Street. The third PTK faculty member who was featured was Thomas R. Holtz, Jr., a vertebrate paleontologist who is a Principal Lecturer in Geology, as well as the creator and Faculty Director of the College Park Scholars-Science & Global Change program.  He shared how he achieved work/life balance as a teaching faculty member who is a researcher in “real life”.  Although Dr. Holtz did not train to be an educator, let alone teach undergraduates, that is how many know him inside UMD. Outside UMD, he is not well known as someone who teaches, rather, he is known as a dinosaur researcher and an author. He  works with colleagues around the world, digging up bones, gathering data and incorporating it into new research. He brings these 2 very important parts of his life together by finding opportunities to incorporate his career into his job and his job into his career.

 Katherine Sharp said that what made this year’s symposium special was that “this year’s theme [was] ‘Celebrate. Grow. Connect.’ [The event marked] the five-year anniversary of the Provost’s charge to all departments/units that PTK be re-categorized (if needed) into one of the new PTK title series and rankings that best fits their job duties and level.” The new PTK title series was approved by the Senate in 2014. The same Provost’s charge also included a directive for all schools/colleges and departments/units to create Appointment, Evaluation and Promotion (AEP) polices so PTK faculty were clear on their path for promotion. AEP Guidelines were approved by the Senate in 2015. “These are things we [celebrated] at this year’s symposium in addition to recognizing that we still have a long way to go to achieve parity with Tenure Track (TTK) faculty on campus. This year’s symposium [was] also the first that we [had] our president as keynote speaker. We are so honored that Dr. Pines [joined] us.”

Heather McHale added, “this is a time of great change for the University, and I think this year’s Symposium [embraced] that, while celebrating the gains that we have made toward valuing our PTK people.”

McHale wanted the University of Maryland community to understand that this event was not only special, but important, because “PTK faculty are a huge part of the UMD community, and the Symposium [allowed] them to meet one another, share resources and network. We have PTK faculty in every kind of job imaginable at UMD, but it’s rare for us to get to spend time together in that way.”

Sharp hoped that all attendees were able to “recognize and celebrate PTK faculty’s accomplishments and contributions to the university’s mission, learn a new skill or strategy that will propel their work and/or professional development further and connect/reconnect/network with other PTK faculty and maintain those connections long after the symposium.”

McHale said her favorite part of the symposium was “seeing the broad range of roles held by PTK faculty—it’s a showcase for jobs, ideas, and passions in every walk of life you can imagine. It [was] also very exciting for this year to have the participation of campus leadership by both UMD’s President and our interim Provost.”

“Attending breakout sessions and meeting new PTK faculty I did not know [was my favorite part],” Sharp added.

Even though the PTK Symposium is directed towards PTK faculty, it was free and open to anyone in the UMD community to attend.

The symposium was created by PTK faculty with the help from the Office of Faculty Affairs, and support of academic units throughout the University.