Heather Hartel - 2012 FAC Representative
Division: Undergraduate Adelphi
Hi! My name is Heather A. Hartel, and I have been teaching online for UMUC's stateside division in the Humanities for the last four years. This past summer I participated in the Summer Faculty Leadership Institute which focused on the SEGUE project, and I helped redesign a set of four classes (Living Religions of the World, Religious Traditions of the East, Religious Traditions of the West, Myth and Culture) for the new 8-week session format.
I have been teaching for 17 years, everything from English in an all-girls high school in Memphis to English as a Foreign Language at a university in China to world religions, philosophy and composition at a couple of different online programs for adult learners. I hold a Bachelor's in Psychology and English Education, a Master's in English and a PhD in Religious Studies. I've published some articles on Catholic history in the U.S., as well as a good number of poems. Currently, I teach entirely online and remain impressed by the drive, personal stories, sharp wit and abilities of the busy students with whom I work.
I believe that the role of FAC in maintaining an open dialogue with administrators will be essential as UMUC redesigns its curriculum through the SEGUE project. I also think that UMUC's understanding of its adjunct faculty needs to be updated to reflect the reality of today's adjunct population.
At this summer's Faculty Leadership Institute, I learned about the SEGUE project and how it will completely redesign UMUC's curriculum and programs. In addition, I helped rework some classes according to the SEGUE model and saw first-hand how the process works. I am confident that once this transformation is complete, UMUC students will obtain well-designed degrees with tightly interwoven course requirements.
However, much of SEGUE's organizational energy is directed toward student needs and the educational marketplace. Faculty needs and morale have not been addressed methodically, and reassuring answers to many faculty concerns about the coming changes do not seem to exist, yet. UMUC's future is uncharted territory, and faculty members are uncertain, especially since the change is coming from the top down. I will work to ensure that clear responses to faculty concerns do emerge, and that faculty input on the coming change is taken seriously by the administration.
In addition, while SEGUE's redesign process does currently allow faculty to continue modifying their classes according to their own individual teaching styles, an open dialogue with the administration throughout this transformation is the best way to help guarantee it.
UMUC's official understanding of its adjunct population is out of sync with reality, considering only the traditional adjunct who has another full time job with a regular income and benefits. There is no recognition for the growing population of adjuncts who do not have full time jobs and instead teach part-time for one, two, three or even four different institutions at a time, often lacking benefits. Faculty recruitment materials describe UMUC's adjunct compensation as "competitive...for extra income" and this fails to acknowledge that for many, adjunct pay is their income.
Many signs point to a further increase in UMUC's already large adjunct population. As a first step towards improving the working conditions of all adjuncts, I would encourage the administration to publicly recognize that the traditional concept of an adjunct is no longer universally applicable. As long as administrators believe that each one of their adjuncts receives his or her main income and benefits elsewhere, there is little reason for them to seriously consider making improvements such as pay raises, increased access to benefits, or more class offers.