A Conversation Between Faculty Development Leaders: Natalia Timuș and Diane Chapman

Portrait of Natalia Timuș and Diane Chapman

Faculty development leaders Natalia Timuș, head of professional development at the Center for Active Pedagogy at the University Côte d’Azur, France, and Diane Chapman, Executive Director and Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Development with NC State’s Office for Faculty Excellence, recently sat down to have a conversation about the similarities and differences between their jobs.  The full conversation facilitated by Maria Gallardo-Williams, Senior Faculty Development Specialist with the Office for Faculty Excellence is below or you can listen to the full conversation here.

MGW: Welcome to our discussion today. I am Maria Gallardo-Williams from the Office for Faculty Excellence at NC State and I have two very special guests today that are going to have a conversation that I think is going to be relevant for many of us. I am going to start by asking them to introduce themselves. Diane, would you like to go first? 

DC: Sure, thank you Maria! I am Diane Chapman and I am the Executive Director and Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Development here at NC State, in the Office for Faculty Excellence.

MGW: Thank you. And, Natalia, would you like to go next? 

NT: Sure, my name is Natalia Timuș. I am the Head of Professional Development at the Center for Active Pedagogy at the University of Côte d’Azur, France.

MGW: And Natalia is at NC State as a Fulbright-Schuman Fellow. I would like to start by asking her: What made you decide to come to NC State for your fellowship? 

NT: Thank you Maria. Indeed there are many reasons. The first reason that made me choose NC State as my host university is the fact that my home university and NC State are somehow similar from the point of view that they are both public universities, dedicated to the enhancement of learning and teaching through faculty development and support. So, when I contacted Dr. Chapman – Diane – I discovered that we also share similar professional paths. We are both educators and faculty in our careers. At the same time, we are both faculty developers, and interested in research, and evidence-based research to support faculty and to ensure the success of the learning process. I just felt that there was a match between the two of us. Also, what inspired me was the fact that Diane and the team here at the Office for Faculty Excellence were very open to innovation. I learned that a new Certificate was being considered at that time, in 2019, when I got in touch with Diane, a Certificate on Inclusive Teaching, which interested me very much and was very close to my research project. Diane’s suggestion that I could actually enroll in this course and experience the unique collaborative design and the practical implementation of this Certificate also represented a unique opportunity for me, which I accepted and I decided to choose NC State and Diane as the host for my Fulbright. 

On top of that, I must say that the first time I heard about NC State was from my French colleagues from Skema Business School. Actually, Skema has a US campus, located on NC State Centennial Campus, so that meant that my home university already had some partnership with NC State and that facilitated my contact with NC State. 

And, of course, there is a personal story to it. Apart from the professional project this was a big personal project for myself and my family, as it was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for the whole family to synchronize the professional and the personal journey for this kind of mobility. My husband, who is an economist, has a co-author at NC State and we have been working for a couple of years on exploring different opportunities of synchronizing our research leave, ensuring the opportunity for our two daughters to have the mobility that would allow them to be immersed in the English language school system. Needless to say, this Fulbright project allowed us to make this personal adventure possible, and for our two daughters to be integrated in the Wake County Public School System. 

MGW: Thank you! And, Diane, you were a Fulbright Scholar yourself, do you want to tell us a little bit about that experience?

DC: Sure, I was a Fulbright Specialist with an assignment in Kosovo. I think it was about 4 years ago now, and it was amazing. I got to spend about 3 weeks with the Faculty of Islamic Studies, which is a university there that is a Muslim university, and my assignment was to help their faculty modernize their teaching strategies, so it was right down my alley, just an amazing opportunity. I basically worked with their faculty over the course of 3 weeks to learn about new teaching strategies, and to get to know the faculty, get to know their students, I got to work with the students a bit, I got to partake into a lot of the different culture, because it was a completely different culture. I didn’t know much about Kosovo before I went,  there wasn’t really a lot of information online about Kosovo before I went, so it was a great learning opportunity. It is quite  a different position to be in a primarily Muslim country, and it has a very high unemployment rate, which means it’s a diaspora, so most of their citizens work in other places and send money back to the country and there’s not a lot of places for graduates of universities to go, so it’s just very different than we are here in the US, and a lot different problems to grapple with there. The experience was really, for me, a once-in-a lifetime experience too, working with such wonderful faculty in a wonderful place that doesn’t get a lot of notice. 

MGW: Thank you Diane. Now that you guys have been working together for a little bit, I have a question for both of you, and I am going to ask that you take turns answering it. Maybe Natalia wants to get us started with this: Do you think that your jobs are similar? And, if you think they are, can you explain how they are similar? 

NT: Sure. Yes, indeed, this was one of the main reasons why I chose to collaborate on my Fulbright project with Diane, the fact that we share similar professional backgrounds and interests, starting with the fact that we both teach and we both stay in direct contact with students within the higher education system, which allows us to be practitioners and at the same time allows us to develop and select good practices from our own experiences, and then build on that through our research and, later on, policy recommendations, and see the change happen both within the scientific community through our input, as well as at the policy level within our institutions. I remember during one of the first meetings with Diane, she explained to me what exactly consists of her role here, as the Executive Director of the Office for Faculty Excellence, and as an Associate Vice Provost and I found a lot of similarities with what I am currently doing at my university. 

As you might know, in Europe we do not have a similar administrative structure of a higher education institution, we usually have the President and the Vice President. In our case we have a Vice President for Education with whom I work closely on these initiatives, but especially related to international partnerships. I have been asked to join the Vice President in various expert group meetings at the European level or within the newly established European university initiative, which is called Ulysseus, which comprises six partner universities, including my home university. My role is also to promote and to generate new initiatives with regards to faculty in general, faculty leadership, but also globalization or internationalization of higher education, as well as to promote more top-down reforms  that were decided by our university governance and through our Center for Active Pedagogy, which is a bit similar to the Office for Faculty Excellence, to implement those reforms in a traditional way, a top down way, through faculty training, through faculty support, either individually or collectively.

DC: Well, I think my role is very similar to Natalia’s, and I think for a lot of the reasons that she just mentioned, actually. I think we are both dedicated to helping faculty succeed. Whether it be in their teaching, whether it be in their research, I think at the bottom that is a core similarity in both our work. I think how that plays out is we are both dedicated also to student success through the faculty. So, I think that plays out in both ways, and around that we are both involved in influencing and suggesting policy around those things, to help make those things happen. 

Natalia, you talked a little bit about how some of the reforms that you put in place, and for us the word might be initiatives. We have a lot of initiatives that come from the top down, but also can come from the faculty up, that we are charged with putting in place and trying to figure out how to make them work, and that’s a large part of my job. It’s figuring out how to make those initiatives work for our faculty, how to make them really tie into faculty success, and to make them meaningful if we are asking our faculty to participate in these things. I think another aspect of my work that I hear coming through strongly in Natalia’s discussion would be the need to facilitate and be really supportive of partnerships with others, to make the work happen. We are both from areas that don’t have huge faculty development budgets or staff around it, so the majority of both our work, as I see it, is through partnerships with others, and that’s how we do the majority of our work. So, a lot of my role is to foster those partnerships and those relationships with others, to make sure that we do great things for our faculty. And, working with Natalia is one of those ways of fostering a partnership, especially in the areas of inclusive teaching, intercultural teaching, international teaching, and global types of issues, something that we haven’t dealt with very much in the past.  

MGW: Thank you both so much for talking with me today, I really appreciate it, and I can’t wait to see what work is going to come out of your partnership. I will stay tuned, and maybe we will talk later about the wonderful things that you are doing together, so thank you so much to both of you!

NT: Thank you!

DC: Thank you Maria!