14 February 2020

“Faculty development is crucial for the future of liberal arts colleges”

Professor Vicki Baker from Albion College (US) will be our guest in the first two weeks of March. Specialist in the field of organisational studies and positive psychology, she is also committed to coaching academics in their career. Prior to her visit, we had the opportunity to exchange thoughts with her about liberal arts colleges and educational innovation.

vicki baker

“Now more than ever, we need doctors, business persons, artists, and writers educated in the liberal arts to respond to calls from employers seeking such skill sets”, she notes. “While some Liberal Arts and Sciences colleges are morphing their educational approach, others are holding firm to their liberal arts roots. They realise the importance of developing habits of heart and mind in the next generation of educated citizens. Liberal Arts and Sciences colleges are special places made even more special by the individuals who live and learn there.”

What would you consider the most urgent questions facing the liberal arts?

“Issues of cost, diversity and inclusion, and career readiness are issues staff members and institutional leaders must grapple with and address to the broader audience. We need to make this educational model more accessible and help communicate how and why the hallmarks of a liberal arts education are so valuable to employers and the communities with which graduates hold and seek membership.”

How about faculty development: what is the state of the art there?

“I am passionate about faculty development and see it as a means of supporting institutional and individual thriving. I think the best investment we, as institutions of higher education can make, is in the people we rely on to deliver the educational experience daily. Maintaining a thoughtful, strategic faculty development portfolio that accounts for career stage, discipline, and leadership growth is a wise, and necessary investment.”

You have just published a new book about women’s career development. Can you tell briefly about it?

Charting Your Path to Full: A Guide for Women Associate Professors is really a culmination of research, practice, and consulting from the past ten years. I have, and continue to be, inspired by the individuals who trust me with their career journey.  We all need a cheerleader and advocate to offer support and to provide concrete tools to aid our efforts. “

Working sessions in Utrecht

A silent admirer to Vicki Baker’s work for years already, Christel Lutz, Director of Faculty Development at University College Utrecht, finds inspiration in her commitment to undergraduate education. “What sets her work apart for me is her palpable curiosity and interest in the lives, communities, and impact of individual faculty members in educational development. Last summer, Vicki was the (internet-facilitated) keynote speaker for our faculty retreat. I discovered that her approach resonated with my colleagues as well, and so we jumped at the opportunity to apply for Fulbright funding to bring her to Utrecht and work with us.”

Vicki Baker: “I have found that it's helpful to talk through thinking, hopes, concerns, and plans with someone who doesn't know you personally but who understands faculty life, the associated expectations, and can offer tools and resources to help meet career goals. Everyone can benefit from a career coach at some point in their careers, and that is what I am able to offer during my time in Utrecht.”

From 3 to 12 March, Professor Vicki Baker will host a number of working sessions at University College Utrecht and the Centre for Academic Teaching. Read more about the sessions