2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 9:15 AM


BAIR, E. Scott, Geological Sciences, Ohio State Univ, 275 Mendenhall Laboratory, Columbus, OH 43210, bair.1@osu.edu

A faculty retreat can be an effective yet daring way to address difficult issues that arise in academic departments. Whether the issues deal with developing a hiring plan, restructuring curricula, or coping with budget cutbacks, a retreat can flesh-out ideas, resolve conflicts, build consensus, develop solutions, and foster collegiality. A retreat focuses faculty energy on specific goals, which can shorten the problem-solving process. An effective retreat requires a well-defined purpose, detailed planning, mechanisms to provoke and facilitate discussion, and camaraderie. On-campus retreats have the advantages of low cost and accessibility but maybe rife with interruptions. Off-campus retreats provide isolation but maybe costly. Snack foods are important. Fudgesicles, bubblegum, old-time candies, and expensive decaffeinated coffee are recommended. Comic relief can be provided by showing a movie at lunch or dinner. “Horse Feathers,” the 1932 Marx Brothers parody on college life, is wonderful. Nerf balls help alleviate anxiety and pacify pugnacious participants.

Faculty should feel comfortably uncomfortable in the retreat surroundings. A game to randomly divide participants into groups promotes discussion and splits up coteries. Designating a senior faculty member as spokesperson for each group enables untenured and demure faculty to express opinions in the group while remaining anonymous to the whole. Before the retreat, distribute a statement of purpose, list of goals, and a journal article to read that deals with the issues at hand. This provokes preliminary discussions and early venting of pent peeves. Designating a “Scribe” to take notes on poster paper, which is then placed for all to view, enables the facilitator to keep the discussion moving. Divide the goals into tasks. Focus on each task for a specified time, allowing sufficient time for questions, discussion, and ideas. Combining the small groups into larger groups after the initial tasks are addressed promotes compromise and helps build consensus. In the summary session with all groups, construct five, or fewer, concluding statements that address your goals. Afterward, write and distribute a brief report. This enables you to add your insights and prevents future revisionist views from distorting the actual outcome. Above all, have fun together.