One of my favorite parts of the two faculty study tours I’ve been on is simply a chance to get to know my colleagues better, and to create the connections that make the busy life of a professor a more fulfilling one. Yes, we connect with students in the classroom, but students graduate and move on, and rarely do we see them again. (Admittedly, I am active on social media, and connect with students there — and truly enjoy hearing from alumni and seeing what they’re up to.) But a lot of our faculty have been around for a long time (it was with some resistance that I admitted to myself that indeed, after 9 years, I had entered the ranks of “senior faculty”), and it’s the connections we have to one another that keep us coming back to new faces every semester and keep us grounded in the University as a whole.

I am the only person from the College of Science on this trip. (Two others from my college were a part of the trip to Cuba.) It could give me a position as an outsider, except that I have tried to establish and keep open connections with other colleges — though the fact that the college with the majority representation has accepted me (and one other from yet another college) is clearly a part of this as well.

On both trips, I have found myself struggling with the ideas of fairness and morality as they apply to another culture, and as a scientist, I have found intellectual growth in discussing these questions with colleagues from other disciplines. While this may not advance my research agenda in any direct way, it helps me to grow as a human being, as a colleague, and as a member of the Benedictine community.

I am envious of the stories of more senior faculty of a faculty dining room that once existed on campus, where faculty could break bread together on a regular basis. (I would like to see something like this return in the future in some way or form — maybe not a dedicated dining hall, but perhaps a lunchtime in one of the rooms in the cafeteria, on a weekly or monthly basis.) But at least on these trips, it’s easy to find company for a meal. Sometimes it’s a big meal with everyone present, other times it’s only one or two other people. But it’s an exploration of a new culture with colleagues, and the building of bonds that can last a career…

The building of connections between our colleagues and colleges may not be a measurable deliverable, but it is a side benefit that can last much longer than the memories of the students we talked to in the last week, or the signs on the campuses we visited. And yes, there were connections made with colleagues at those partner schools, but those aren’t the people we will see every day as we hand a classroom off to the next person for the next class, or that we might need to discuss important campus issues with in the coming months. And yes–sending faculty to other countries is a costly way to create camaraderie, but the shared experiences it generates cannot be replicated on campus where classes, meetings, and family commitments get in the way.

This cannot be the only reason to send faculty abroad, clearly. But it should be counted as a strong benefit, if unintended.

Finally, I am grateful to the colleagues I have travelled with for their collegiality and for their willingness to put up with a scientist in their midst. Thank you.


Just some of the people I’m grateful to get to know better through this China excursion, in a hutong in Beijing.


1 Response to “Camaraderie”

  1. 1 Martin Tracey
    May 27, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    Important and beautifully put! Building relationships with colleagues certainly was a major benefit of the trip to Cuba (I know that firsthand) and it clearly has been in China too.

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