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New programmes to enhance leadership in early- and mid-career academics

- Wits University

The two programmes ‘are stepping stones to launch and develop the careers of academics’.

Early- and mid-career academics face a number of career challenges as they create an academic identity and transition through the stages of the academic hierarchy.

These range from teaching effectively in large classes, assessment and integration of technology, establishing a research niche and funding as well as establishing collaborative partnerships across disciplines, national borders and with business.

In response to the needs of early-career academics, the Wits Centre for Learning and Teaching Development (CLTD), in partnership with the Research Office run the Early-Career Academic Development programme (ECAD) and the 2022 ECAD cohort has recently been enrolled.

A new collaboration between CLTD, the Research Office and the Transformation and Employment Equity Office, has resulted in the Enhancing Mid-Career Academic Transitions (EMCAT) programme, and the pilot programme has begun.

Wits launches two programmes to enhance leadership in early- and mid-career academics.

“Following the Diversifying the Academy report by the Centre for Diversity, it was obvious that there was a gap in Wits’ offerings to academic staff and that a programme was needed for mid-career academics transitioning from senior lecturer level to associate professor,” says Dr Antonia Wadley, Manager of the Carnegie Diversifying the Academy Programme.

“ECAD received such rave reviews in the report, we knew we needed the expertise of CLTD and the Research Office to design such a programme.”

Early-Career Academic Development (ECAD)

ECAD is a professional development programme that aims to provide holistic institutional support for early career academics with less than five years of experience in higher education.

The cohort of 50 academics will spend a minimum of 70 hours within the programme, and receive an award of R15 000.

Participating in this program will provide academics opportunities to clarify career pathways and goals, build essential leadership skills, and think strategically about individual priorities and how these fit a broader strategic context.

Importantly, academics in this programme will also build a network of colleagues from across disciplines and other Wits areas, and learn from the experiences of academics at a variety of levels from across Wits.

The pilot EMCAT cohort

Mid-career academics go through multiple and complex transitions. While these transitions are acknowledged as common markers of academic life, they are often journeyed in isolation with competing priorities on time.

The Carnegie-funded EMCAT pilot programme includes a cohort of 20 mid-career academics and will run over 18 months. During this time, the academics will undergo leadership training in teaching, research and academic citizenship.

The programme will also help each academic create a personally-relevant transition plan supported by an academic portfolio writing retreat. The dialogue, conversation and networking opportunities through Communities of Practice and small group mentorship sessions further serve to enhance critical agency.

Dr Robin Drennan, Director of Research Development at Wits, addressed the cohorts of both programmes on their inaugural days. “Universities are only as good as the sum of the academic talent that they house, said Drennan. “These early- and mid-career programmes are a stepping stone to launch and develop careers of academics that will be powerful in the contribution that they make to the creation and sharing of knowledge.

“By nature, academics are selected because of their ability to conduct research, not on a basis of teaching and learning or an awareness of academic citizenship”, says Rieta Ganas, Educational Developer at the Centre for Learning, Teaching and Development. “We are trying to break free from the age old divide between research, teaching, and academic citizenship. Our shift towards cohering these three roles, will propel Wits into the next 100 years.”