Accomplished musicians, film directors, and researchers walk among us.
They are just some of the approximately 900 part-time faculty members at Concordia, a small group of whom had their hobbies and side-professions highlighted at the first-ever Part-Time Faculty Research and Creative Works Showcase last week.
“The various displays and presenters that are here today will give the university community a glimpse of the wealth of experience and knowledge the part-time faculty brings to the classroom,” Dr. Rama Bhat, vice-provost of academic relations, told those in attendance. It was Bhat who originally proposed the idea for such a showcase, while Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association president Maria Peluso was credited for bringing it into action.
Thirty-nine faculty members put their work on display in the Library Building atrium last Friday, drawing the attention of other faculty and a number of students sporadically throughout the afternoon. Attendees could watch films, look at photographs, or simply speak to professors about their exploits beyond Concordia’s classrooms.
“There’s not a lot of people here but almost everybody who walks by stops to see,” said music professor Craig Morrison. “It’s not hundreds, but it’s dozens and almost everyone is very interested, so it’s gratifying […] and it’s a chance to be one-on-one.”
Morrison, who displayed many of his own music CDs and a few of his books, commended the event for recognizing the achievements of part-time faculty who, he said, really do bring a lot to the table at the university, despite their lack of job security.
“Part-timers persevere, and a lot of us are very active in our fields,” he said. “You can just walk around the (atrium) and you can see people are really involved at a very high level, some people at a world-class level.”
According to Peluso, many of these part-time faculty members are professionals in their fields, have had their work showcased in academic journals and museums and have even been the recipients of many awards. All of these practical and professional experiences enhance their teaching and consequently the learning experience of their students, she continued.
Provost David Graham continued in this vein, noting that while part-time faculty teach 40 per cent of courses at the university, those in fine arts and JMSB actually teach closer to 60 per cent. In these two faculties, he said, part-timers are relied upon to bring specialized knowledge, skills and real-world experience which make it “possible for Concordia to offer a range of courses and teach a range of skills that could not otherwise be offered or taught.”
But for Graham, their scholarly contributions were not the focus of the event. “This showcase, to me, is about uncovering one of Concordia’s best kept secrets,” he told the crowd. “Which is that, although we tend to think of part-time faculty in the classroom, so many of you do a wealth of things outside the classroom.”
Most of the work exhibited seemed like a logical expression of the part-time faculty members’ knowledge: a music professor who performs and records albums, a political science professor showcasing his numerous books and text contributions on various political subjects, etc. However, there were also a few surprises.
Francine Jones, a professor in the department of marketing, was showcasing her watercolour paintings at the event, a hobby she said none her students are aware of.
“A lot of the part-time people have hidden lives, alter egos that they pursue,” she said, when asked about the showcased works. “I’ve come to the conclusion that most people who are active and quite interested in a particular field of study or area of expertise probably have a number of other dimensions that could feed off that same trunk.” Jones added that in her case, art and marketing are linked in many ways, like advertising.
Both administrators and faculty members expressed their approval of last week’s event and the university’s provost and president mentioned in their speeches that they hope and expect that the event will become an annual one. Bhat, for his part, offered one reason for why this should occur.
“Sometimes we take things for granted and an event like this is necessary to remind ourselves what wealth and what resources we have.”