New faculty orientation at Indiana University Bloomington typically involves in-person events and workshops to introduce members of the cohort to each other and campus leaders, and make their transition as seamless as possible.
But with the guidelines prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs has had to be creative with orienting new faculty to campus and making them feel welcome.
Eliza Pavalko, vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, said the office is trying to make sure that incoming faculty have the information and resources they need to succeed at IU. Equally important is providing opportunities for community-building and connection, she added.
This year, new faculty orientation was redesigned to feature four main events, all conducted via Zoom, with additional materials and recordings of the events in Canvas:
- Human resources workshop, conducted Aug. 6.
- Welcome and resources showcase, conducted Aug. 12.
- Workshop with the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, Sept. 11.
- Workshop on diversity and inclusion, Oct. 9.
The office has parceled a series of longer in-person workshops into several shorter virtual workshops. Those who are unable to participate in real time can view them at their convenience after the event has taken place.
IU Human Resources created a special presentation for the Aug. 6 workshop, highlighting campus resources and ensuring that new faculty know where to find more detailed information as they need it. Cyndi Eskine, executive assistant and special events coordinator in the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs, has created a one-stop clearinghouse of materials from each event that can be accessed through Canvas at any time.
Other programming for new faculty will involve some social events conducted in small, outdoor formats or online.
Beth Gazley, associate vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, said they're making an effort to keep the Zoom workshops less formal and more fun.
"One of the things we're doing is an intentional effort to make things warm and friendly," she said. "In person you can see smiles and joke around, but virtually you have to work harder at that."
For example, icebreakers helped the new faculty members get to know each other during the welcome and resources showcase. Periodically, they were divided into small groups in breakout rooms and given tasks to complete, such as determining the number of languages spoken among them or how many colleges and universities they represent.
"I feel there is a real effort to create community," said Rhi Johnson, an assistant professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese who came to IU in June from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Johnson said the efforts to introduce new faculty members to each other have been helpful; she's recognized some members of her cohort in other Zoom meetings.
"I definitely feel that I'm starting to get connected," she said.
Several other events have been planned or are in the works to help new faculty feel welcome and get to know the campus better, said Kim Geeslin, associate vice provost for faculty and academic affairs. "Virtual Coffees with Vice Provost Pavalko" are in the works. As safety guidelines allow, the office hopes for some future outdoor, socially distanced events that bring new faculty together in person to see Bloomington's beautiful campus.
A "Wave at the Provost" event is planned Sept. 22. New faculty can drive in to a location to chat with IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel through the car window and receive an IU-themed welcome bag.
While the ability to connect one-on-one with other faculty is limited in the online workshops, the use of the virtual platform to share information has worked well, said Vasti Torres, who returned to IU after stints at two other universities. Torres is a professor and the department chair for Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in the School of Education.
"The presenters give the participants a chance for a question-and-answer session through the chat function, so that everyone has a chance to get the information they need," she said. "Personally, I like to scroll through the screens to see who is there so that hopefully I will meet them at some point."
The resources showcase featured a welcome from Robel and three IU vice provosts: John Nieto-Phillips, diversity and inclusion; Jeff Zaleski, research; and Pavalko. The event served as a virtual picnic that took the place of an in-person event typically held behind the DeVault Alumni Center.
Representatives from the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society, La Casa/Latino Cultural Center, IU Libraries, Counseling and Psychological Services and the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design also spoke at the welcome and resources showcase.
The Sept. 11 workshop featuring the Office of the Vice Provost for Research will walk new faculty through the external grant process, compliance responsibilities and internal grant opportunities, Gazley said.
The Oct. 11 diversity and inclusion workshop will feature representatives from the Office of Institutional Equity and the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion. It will include discussion about roles and responsibilities, and topics such as Title IX, Geeslin said.
Johnson said she appreciates the multiple, shorter orientation workshops instead of one long one.
"I don't feel overwhelmed by the amount of information they are throwing my way," Johnson said.