It is 9 am on a Thursday in January. I am sitting in Joyner Library at ECU with ten other faculty members. We could be working on research in our labs, writing manuscripts at our desks or talking with students about the internship applications they are working on—but those are the tasks for “normal days.” Instead, this select group of faculty members has gathered to discuss the pool of applicants for East Carolina University’s top merit scholarship—the EC Scholar Award. We spend most of the day at this and from the animated discussion in our conference room I can see that each faculty member is excited to be here. For me, this is one of my favorite days of the spring semester. Reading about the talented future ECU students and their dreams to serve and lead at ECU makes this one of my favorite days of the spring.
As faculty members we do a lot varied tasks. When I decided to pursue a career as a professor, I envisioned myself developing meaningful research questions—and pursuing those “answers.” I imagined myself in classrooms, lecturing eager students and exciting them about the study of public parks and their purpose and management. After nine years as a faculty member I do these things everyday—and I love my job. What I didn’t picture in my future, however, are the “invisible things” that faculty members do each day. Writing a reference letter for a standout student and describing her previous work in Costa Rica to the Peace Corp review board. Brainstorming with Honors College students who are looking to develop and understand how to implement meaningful discussions about race relations on our college campuses. Introducing a sophomore Honors student to a faculty member in recreational therapy who is doing work with athletes with disabilities. I had no idea that these activities would fill the space around my research and teaching as a faculty member. But I should have known. After all, my Honors College professor during my undergraduate studies did this for me. And we—members of the ECU faculty—love doing this stuff everyday.
As I sit here reading and re-reading EC Scholar applications, I imagine the energy and ideas they will bring to campus. This morning at Joyner Library I am “meeting” the next cohort of scholars on paper. I am already staring to anticipate just what challenges the Honors class of 2015 will bring to me. I can’t wait.