Campus Famous

Here is a problem that I have. Or, maybe, here is something that is true about me that I wish were not true: I want to be famous.

I actually don’t want to be an actual celebrity, but I want to be well-known on my campus; I want to be campus famous (it is worth knowing that I work at a liberal arts school with roughly 350 faculty members).

In and of itself, this is not bad. In fact, it may be good. This stems from the fact that I feel a strong sense of community and I want to nurture it. To do this, I want to build bonds with a lot of people. But even with people I don’t have a bond with, I want them to know who I am. This is useful, since I feel like I have skills that other people might find useful (just as I have people on campus that I seek out when I have a problem that needs to be solved).

But the problem comes in in actually becoming campus famous. The easiest way to do this to do a lot of service. This is because it is very easy to get to work with people outside of my department in doing service, but very difficult to do by teaching or research.

Now I actually enjoy doing some amount of service, I indubitably do my share of service, and I think that much of it is worthwhile. The problem comes from the fact that it is very tempting to keep increasing the amount of service I do. The more service I do, the more people I meet. The more people I meet, the more relationships I build on campus. The more relationships I build on campus, the better the campus is and the happier I am at work.

Part of this is that I want to be a good employee, and doing service is part of that. I also take pride in my school and want to see it reach its potential. I should do enough service to help make these two things happen. But I should not do more than that simply because I want to be campus famous; that is just ego. Doing service just to feed my ego does not align with my goals. I need to be aware of this when I make decisions.

Finally, here is some news that is less related than it initially seems: I recently agreed to be on a campus-wide committee to assess our “Common Curriculum.” But I thought of writing this post before I was even offered a place on this committee, and so I was very mindful of my desire to become campus famous when I accepted. Also, I think that this meets my goal of “Continue to try to improve my teaching.” Having goals is an essential part of good teaching, and assessing them is also important. This is a couple steps removed from how I normally think about my classroom, but I think that I should learn about what we, as a college, are trying to teach our students (and how well we are doing it).

So I am pretty sure that this isn’t just me trying to be campus famous.

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6 Responses to “Campus Famous”

  1. Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist Says:

    I like the phrase. I think it would have been a more succinct way to articulate my thoughts when I was on the tenure and promotion committee talking about the qualifications of a “full professor.”

    I agree that the “campus famous” people do a ton of service, but they’re also quite well respected. There does have to be a balance, but if everyone strove for this, the service overload wouldn’t happen, right?

    This committee you’re on, is it for a revamp or assessment or something else? I remember when I was a student there (grad in ’93) we called it the “flag curriculum” because we had to get all those flags in. Do you still have that?

    • bretbenesh Says:

      Hi Andy,

      “I agree that the “campus famous” people do a ton of service, but they’re also quite well respected. There does have to be a balance, but if everyone strove for this, the service overload wouldn’t happen, right?”

      Yep. I do think that there is a middle ground—I could (and do) do enough service without doing as much as I would do if I dedicated myself to being campus famous.

      “This committee you’re on, is it for a revamp or assessment or something else? I remember when I was a student there (grad in ’93) we called it the “flag curriculum” because we had to get all those flags in. Do you still have that?”

      It is technically for assessment, although I think that everyone knows that this is headed for a revamp. We did away with the “flag curriculum” right before I arrived in 2008 (sometime between 2005 and 2007). We aren’t too happy about the change, so there is quite a few people who want to change it. My committee is the first step in figuring out whether we should change it (I think, anyway—I haven’t actually done any work for the committee, and I might be making a bad assumption here).

      On Fri, Oct 4, 2013 at 10:27 PM, Solvable by Radicals

  2. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    The “campus famous” people on our campus are mainly those whose research contributions were so stellar that they were in the news all the time. Those who do service get know to others who do similar service, but not so much outside that circle. Those who teach well get know to a lot of students, but not so much to the other faculty.

    People can also become “campus famous” by being eccentric: by dressing differently, by refusing to knuckle under to ridiculous bureaucratic mandates, or by being churlish at faculty get-togethers. Some of these approaches would result in being admired, some in being detested. (Some both)

    Think carefully about what you want to be famous FOR, then go after that without worrying about whether or not it makes you famous.

    • bretbenesh Says:

      Thanks for the comment. I hope it was clear from my post that, while my instincts are to become campus famous, I do NOT think that this is the best idea for me. So I am trying to heed your advice; I just need to be very deliberate about deciding what I should do, since my instincts don’t always point me in the right direction.

      On Sat, Oct 5, 2013 at 8:40 PM, Solvable by Radicals

  3. Joss Ives Says:

    I think if you make your personal definition of campus famous to be “well-known and well-respected” you should be fine. I think that you are in a similar position to my own (at my previous small institution) where you have probably started to build a reputation for using non-traditional, yet thoughtful teaching practices. I found that my campus fame was starting to build when I would be asked to deliver workshops or present on these topics.

    • bretbenesh Says:

      I like your definition, although I have found that the best way to become “well-known” is to do a lot of service.

      Workshops on teaching would be a very nice way to do service, though.

      On Thu, Oct 10, 2013 at 3:04 PM, Solvable by Radicals

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