A Different Kind of CAFÉ
Kevin Gannon brings new meaning to the phrase "meet me at the CAFÉ" as he serves up new menu options for the Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence
by Keith Pierce
Stepping into the café with Kevin Gannon, Ph.D. might not mean coffee and croissants, but Queens faculty and academic staff who collaborate with him may walk away energized and full nonetheless. As the new director of the Center for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence (CAFÉ), Gannon hopes to meet faculty and academic staff where they are and take professional development and peer support to new levels.
"The CAFÉ mission is professional development for faculty and academic staff throughout all of the phases of the life of their position," Gannon said. "to be successful, we need to consider every aspect of faculty life – teaching and learning, scholarly activity, research, and service to the university, and make sure we're providing effective support in all of those areas."
Directly aligned with the fourth pillar of Queens strategic framework, which identifies investing in employee development, recruitment, and retention as a high priority, CAFÉ aims to deliver the highest quality support for Queens faculty at all career stages through onboarding and orientation, in-person and online resources, collegial learning experiences, competitive funding, innovative learning spaces and technology, consulting, and collaborative problem-solving.
"The idea of CAFÉ is to help make sure our faculty are introduced to new and meaningful pedagogies, teaching practices and insights from learning science and research but it should be done in synergy with the other kinds of work that faculty are expected to do," said Sarah Fatherly, Ph.D., provost and vice president of academic affairs. "That means promoting a holistic sense of supporting faculty by acknowledging that their teaching is critical here but it's not the only thing that makes them a successful member of the Queens faculty."
The CAFÉ supports the Queens strategic framework by providing and expanding leadership development for current and prospective department chairs and program directors; encouraging and supporting faculty to engage in multidisciplinary research and academic program development efforts that connect Queens to its broader community; and providing professional development for faculty in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
"I think the challenge of this job is to try to meet folks where they are and not add to what's already a pretty complex workload," Gannon said. "I want to see and be seen by faculty – to talk to individual faculty about how CAFÉ can support their work – going to their office or a place where they've chosen which helps me learn the campus but it also gets me out and about. That may mean collaborating with them one-on-one or showing up at their department meetings or working in small group consultations in a much more fluid type of arrangement."
Gannon is an outspoken champion of diversity, equity and social justice whose writing has been featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education and other media outlets. His teaching, research, and public work center on critical and inclusive pedagogy, race, history, and justice.
After speaking with LeAnna Rice, Queens University's assistant vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion who is also the university's first director of the newly formed Charlotte Talent Initiative, Gannon was inspired by the synergy of his vision for CAFÉ and the DEI strategic plan.
"Some of the goals I have for putting this into work in action pretty closely align with what LeAnna wants to do," he said. "I have a few ideas about a series of programming opportunities ranging from standard teaching and learning workshops to opportunities where faculty and academic staff can commit for an entire year to dive deeply into some of the issues surrounding justice and equity."
Fatherly is enthusiastic about what Gannon has already begun doing to help identify and assess meaningful programming that meets the needs of faculty as well as align those needs with institutional priorities.
"Being attuned to and listening to what faculty are saying and even what they want, is extremely important," she said. "Given what Kevin has already demonstrated in his career, I really look forward to seeing how his experience with inclusive teaching and learning, and in leading those kinds of conversations with faculty across a variety of fields and disciplines will begin to advance the university's strategic framework."
The CAFÉ designs, develops, facilitates, and delivers personalized support through one-on-one consultations and practical 24/7 online resources, multi-day institutes and workshops, faculty work groups and more. The CAFÉ website – an internal SharePoint site – is a repository of materials, techniques, ideas, and research that faculty can access at any time.
"We can make it as complicated as we want but at the end of the day, a university is only as good as your faculty," Fatherly said. "Student success, which we all say is mission one, is inextricably linked to faculty success. You're not going to get to success if your faculty aren't flourishing, too."
To learn more about the CAFE, contact Kevin Gannon at firstname.lastname@example.org.