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Rob Muthiah

Hi, Chad,

I think there's a lot of wisdom in what you've said. I think I myself felt too overwhelmed up front to take on university-wide committee work (my context is a grad school connected to a univ.), though that certainly would have helped me make more connections throughout the institution. I'm doing some of that now (6 yrs in) and find it interesting to cross paths with people from other disciplines. Some of it may be a personality thing -- I think I tend to make sense of the whole picture by holding back and trying to take it all in, while others make sense of it by diving in and feeling their way through.


Chad Bauman

Thanks Rob,for the great post! In addition to what you've said, I found it greatly beneficial, in my first years, to be very involved in committee work across the university. Service gets a bad rap sometimes, and faculty rightly protect themselves from over-involvement in it. That said, early and widespread service work, if one can handle it, provides an excellent education in the ins and outs of the institutions, the political opportunities and faultines, etc., etc., which allows new faculty members to participate more and more confidently in the kinds of conversations you describe.

Rob Muthiah

Hi, Tony,

It's nice to know that others have shared something of my experience! Maybe some of us will always be a little quieter, trying to discern the web of relationships you referred to. Maybe the goal isn't for all of us to boisterously jump into the fray -- that seems to privilege one cultural approach to group participation. Just musing. I can relate to the temporal gap you mentioned between starting on the faculty and taking ownership -- it did require a couple years or more for me to feel like I took root. I enjoy feeling that rootedness now and hope I contribute constructively from this place.


Rob Muthiah

Hi, Richard,

I appreciated your words that "for a contribution to be powerful it need not be forceful" -- a great reminder. I find my default view to be that those with the quickest most assertive answers must have the most influence; your words are a good encouragement for me to continue my own work of re-framing how influence is distributed.


Richard Ascough

Hi Rob,

Thanks for your thoughts. You rightly emphasize that new and/or young faculty members have much to contribute. For a contribution to be powerful it need not be forceful. Someone once told me that real leadership takes place when colleagues come to you for advice or look to your lead during meetings, not through the acquisition of titles or administrative positions. In my experience of many and various meetings this rings true. Even the young, quite, reflective person who only contributes occasionally but significantly to conversations can come to wield great power and influence. And it doesn’t take long for others to respect and look to such a person for guidance during meetings. Now that I am in the “Chair’s” position at such meetings, I am grateful to those who speak up and help guide the conversation and especially take ownership of the direction the institution is going.


Tony Finitsis

Hi Rob,
Thank you for your blog post. That’s exactly how I felt when I fist arrived at my institution: lost in a sea of colleagues, in a part of the country I had never been before. Being from a different country myself, I too was anxious about “picking up the cultural norms of a new setting” as you put it. My first faculty meeting (and probably a couple more) were vastly an exercise in silence, listening, and trying to discern the web of relationships as they were unfolding in front of me.
Having confided my trepidations regarding proper manners and behavior in one of our Wabash seminar leaders, she told me: “You may be perceived as respectful, but I am not sure they will respect you for it” (God bless you Dianne!). This comment certainly propelled me to reevaluate my strategy and be a lot more involved my second year.
As for the comment of your colleague, it’s so true. I remember one of my junior colleagues sharing it with me –in exasperation- over a disagreement the two of us had with a senior member of the faculty. It’s obvious -in hindsight- but I think during the first year we all spend most of our energy trying to figure out where it is we landed. I think the: “but I’m the one who’s going to have to live with this decision” is the signal that we have taken root. And yes, there was a temporal gap for me between point A and B.

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