10 July 2024 • Faculty Building Community Across Higher Ed By Andrew Wickenden '09

Provost Sarah Kirk highlights strategies for building community and support systems among faculty.

New publications by Provost and Dean of Faculty Sarah Kirk offer a range of tools and advice on cultivating a supportive network of colleagues in academia.

A Toolkit for Mid-Career Academics: Cultivating Career Advancement, published this spring by Routledge, features a chapter by Kirk and her coauthors, “Building Community, Confidence, and Capacity for Advancement and Leadership through Regional Inter-Institutional Peer Alliances.”

The book is tailored to mid-career faculty, who “are the backbone of the college and university workforce,” as the publisher notes, “yet they face myriad challenges that hinder career satisfaction and advancement.”

With a variety of practical career development tools for individual faculty and institutions as well as academic consortia, the book addresses two key questions facing mid-career faculty: “what’s next" and “how to navigate.” The resources, tools and strategies form a “‘pocket professional development mentor’ to help create more inclusive and equitable programming at multiple levels.”

In The Department Chair: A Resource for Academic Administrators, also published this spring, another article coauthored by Kirk details the ways in which peer mentor networks across institutions can facilitate faculty retention and professional development.

Through the Office of the Provost, Kirk is working to build peer support within HWS for faculty at the Assistant and Associate Faculty ranks with Associate Professor of Music Katherine Walker, who is serving as the New York Six Mellon Academic Leadership Fellow and Special Assistant to the Provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Kirk is also in conversation with deans from the other NY6 Liberal Arts Consortium schools to develop cross-institutional peer networks. Meanwhile, Associate Provost Nick Metz has been working with Colby College’s Senior Associate Provost Jim Sloat to develop peer networks for emerging leaders at primarily undergraduate universities.

Kirk joined HWS as Provost and Dean of Faculty in June 2021, after serving as Associate Provost and Professor of Chemistry at Willamette University in Salem, Ore. As chief academic officer and dean of the faculty, she is responsible for the planning, development and delivery of educational programs and services at HWS. She works with the faculty on curricular management and operations, supports faculty initiatives and development, and supervises academic support offices and centers of the Colleges. Kirk holds a Ph.D. and master’s degree in organic chemistry from the University of California, San Diego, and a bachelor’s in chemistry from Whitman College.