The first has to do with a study of job satisfaction among pre-tenure faculty members that was recently released by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE), a 160-member consortium based at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. As has been described recently in both The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed, the University of Illinois was identified as an institution that rates highly overall for its treatment of junior faculty members, and especially well for the way it enables junior faculty members to find a good, healthy balance between the demands of work and the maintenance of home life outside of the University. In this category, in fact, the University of Illinois was singled out as one of four institutional exemplars representing best practices among doctoral/research institutions.
This is not specific to the English department per se, but I would like to think that we do our part to contribute to campus's generally humane work environment. We hire fantastic people when we get to hire, and so there is nothing more important to the long-term well-being of our department than our ability to foster talent and to help people develop satisfying lives and careers here. What the COACHE study makes clear is that our local, departmental efforts in this regard are indeed well supported by a larger campus culture aimed at making it possible for faculty members to flourish.
My second news item has to do with Richard Powers, who was awarded one of this year's Liberal Arts and Sciences Alumni Awards at a lovely Alumni Association event a month or so ago. I'm linking here to the account of the event in the most recent LAS newsletter, and here to the biography of Powers associated with this story.
Nobody who lives and works around the English department needs to be reminded of how wonderful Powers is or how lucky we all are to have him as a colleague, but more far-flung readers of this blog will certainly enjoy the capsule biography of Powers and also of the three other impressive LAS alumni award winners. This is the third year running that there has been an English alum among the college's annual alumni awards, and each year I have been very honored and humbled to attend the Alumni Association event and to represent my department in the presence of such amazing and accomplished people.