USM Faculty Commons

Notes from the Faculty Coordinator

September/October 2014 Notes Judith Spross

Past Notes 



Notes from the Faculty Commons Coordinator (September/October 2014)

Hello, colleagues,

The academic year is well underway—I am later than I expected with my “Notes.”  I have gotten out of my own way and am glad to outline what we expect to accomplish.

We live in an uncertain and challenging time, what Meg Wheatley calls "The Era of Many Messes" (2005). Both she (2005) and Mehaffy (January, 2014, ) affirm the collective sense that there is no really good map for what is going on now in higher education. Wheatley recognizes this uncertainty and writes about how to create resilient and adaptive organizations. Drawing on science and understandings of ecosystems she believes organizations can become creative, self-organizing systems that are adaptive and responsive, requiring a rethinking of our traditional structures. She is a proponent of listening in community to understand problems and generate creative and effective responses to the new challenges we face in this "era of many messes."

Wheatley describes a consequence of this era as thinking and deciding within a "spiral of paradox" in which abundance and poverty (whether material, organizational, decisional or spiritual) coexist. Similarly, Parker Palmer describes this situation as the "tragic gap" by which he means "the gap between the hard realities around us and what we know is possible — not because we wish it were so, but because we’ve seen it with our own eyes." ( ). Palmer cites the poet Wendell Berry who believes that "big problems are solved by a million little solutions."

I think of the Faculty Commons as being one of many “little solutions” that can be undertaken at USM to help to sustain our community as we move through yet another challenging year. The “little solution” is an acknowledgement that as we live through the challenges, we need opportunities to come together whether it is to learn, to grow, to problem solve or to give and receive support as we carry out our responsibilities. I will say just a bit about last year and then preview what you can expect this coming year. 

A Look Back

In Academic Year 2013-2014, the faculty and staff involved in getting the Faculty Commons up and running sponsored or co-sponsored 60 events, established a small space in the Glickman Library to facilitate programming for small events and collaborative activities, and created a website that disseminates information, archives resources related to events and programming, and promotes our scholarly and creative work. As I mentioned in one of my Notes last year, the Faculty Commons had become a clearinghouse and communication vehicle to promote faculty development, faculty work, collaborations, and other related activities of interest to the USM community. None of this work could have happened without the support of a small group of faculty, David Nutty and Glickman Library staff, Monique Larocque and Susan Nevins in the Office of Professional and Continuing Education, Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh and staff in the Office of Research Administration and Development, Graduate Assistant, Hilarie Fotter, doctoral student in school psychology, Provost Office staff and staff, Angela Cook and IT staff, CTEL staff and faculty in many academic and administrative departments.

What's Ahead for 2014-2015?

Last year was focused on programming in a variety of areas, with most of the support coming from our partners. We learned a lot about what worked and what didn't and this has informed our plans for this year, which will be more focused. Programming will occur in four main areas: Title III activities, Metropolitan University Activities, faculty development (for new and experienced faculty), and promoting and celebrating our community's work in scholarship and teaching.

Title III

The Title III Grant, entitled First-Year Success through Experience and Strength, or First STEPs ( supports activities designed to increase the retention rate of first-year students and the four-year graduation rate.  The four major activities are aimed at building partnerships among faculty and staff throughout the university and between USM and community stakeholders and supporting faculty development and collaborative activities, and implementing high impact educational practices. In AY 2014-15, Activity III, supporting faculty development, is focused on the establishment of Faculty Interest Groups (FIGs) and a symposium in March 2015 (look for more information in my November Notes). The first call for FIGS went out in August and the announcements of the first FIG groups will be made later in October. In addition to these initiatives, a key component of the grant was implementing StrengthsQuest ( in early courses (30 courses this year). We will be doing a series on StrengthsQuest for interested faculty.  An introduction is planned for October 7 via Polycom which will be followed by two more sessions (Strengths I and Strengths II) to be offered on each campus. The Title III team is working closely together and I encourage you to bookmark the Title III web page to stay up to date on all the interesting things this grant is making possible for us.

Metropolitan University Activities

We are partnering with the Metropolitan University Steering Committee as they plan a series of activities. Stay tuned for an event with a featured speaker in December and a series of events in the spring which will focus on USM faculty and researchers engaged in research, scholarship and creative activity.

Faculty Development

There will be a few activities focused on new and seasoned faculty. In addition to ones that we are planning to sponsor, there will be opportunities for departments that support our efforts to help students succeed share information with faculty in a series called: What’s New? Learn More…

I will focus on two initiatives here and inform you of others as we put them together. I am very grateful that Samantha Langley-Turnbaugh has agreed to facilitate writing for publication group. The purpose of this group is not how to write well but to stay on track with a writing commitment you have made to yourself so that you can meet your professional goals by sharing your progress and getting support when you may feel blocked or uninspired. The group will meet the third Tuesday of every month over lunch in the Faculty Commons (10/21, 11/18, 12/16, 1/20, 2/17, 3/17, 4/21, and 5/19).  To learn more and RSVP (nice but not required) see the description at  

Through the Faculty Commons, we will be offering a program for new faculty that Professor Donna Cassidy had developed for new faculty in CAHSS—a deeper look at elements that were part of the Welcome Orientation that was held on September 19, 2014.

In addition, please consult our events page as faculty share their work and help us learn. For example, Heidi Parker, Dan Jenkins and I, along with some students are offering a Title III event on October 7 and Lenny Shedletsky and Jeff Beaudry are offering an online seminar on October 15.

Celebrating our Work

Stay tuned to our events page as we reprise some of our successful events of last year: Geriatric Careers Awareness event in early April during which our experts in gerontology scholarship can share their work as we apprise the community of opportunities in this field, partnering with the Office of Research Administration and Development for the annual Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity Celebration and other celebrations. As you know, President Flanagan has reinstituted the USM Author’s Wall—covers are already on display in the Glickman Library.

Faculty Commons Space—Third Floor Glickman

The FC space is for you: a gathering space for sharing, collaboration, reflection, incubation, and innovation. To access it you can request a swipe access card from the Circulation Desk. This space has been redesigned so that the smaller office is a cozy, quiet hangout space. The larger space is designed for programming but can also be used for hanging out. We are putting the finishing touches on this. In addition to events sponsored by Faculty Commons, we hope this space will be used by those preparing for presentations—wanting to do a dry run, for example—or trying out an idea, experimenting with some new software, or convening a user’s group. We anticipate that Faculty Interest Groups will also be using and scheduling the space. We are working out the details of how to schedule the programming space—once an event is scheduled in there, it is designed to be self-service—computer, monitor, and soon, an LCD projector.

Since school started, I have been delighted to see groups of faculty at work on some project or other. More information will be coming your way. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I am generally in the FC space for some part of the day—I will be posting regular hours on the FC website. I would be happy to listen, discuss or otherwise learn ways in which the Faculty Commons can support our community as we change. 

Your participation, help and input are welcome

To help with Title III activities and other aspects (website, orientation etc.) of continuing to develop the Faculty Commons, we anticipate enlarging the small group of faculty who have gotten us this far. Please send an e-mail to or fill in the form on the FC website


Judy Spross, PhD, RN, FAAN



Mehaffy, G. ( 2014, January). Peril and Promise in a New Age: Discussion on the Changing Landscape for Public Comprehensive Regional Universities. Lecture from the University of Southern Maine, Portland, ME.

Palmer, P. (2013, August). Parker Palmer on standing in the tragic gap. (video and interview transcript). Retrieved from

Wheatley, M.J. (2005). Finding our way: leadership for an uncertain time. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehlers Publishers, Inc.



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