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Assembly gives professionals and professional faculty a voice

  • PPFA
    PPFA  The members of the Professionals and Professional Faculty Assembly's executive committee include (left to right) Mary Molineux, president; Judy Corello, member-at-large; Dot Osborne, chair of the policies & administrative issues committee; Elaine McBeth, member-at-large; Maria Elena Pada, chair of the elections committee; Pamela Mason, chair of the academic issues committee; and Wendy Webb-Robers, secretary. Members not pictured are Jobila Williams, vice president/president-elect; and Bobby Reis, chair of the technology committee.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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After several years of hard work and advocacy, William & Mary's 460 professionals and professional faculty members now have an assembly to make their voices heard on campus.

The Professionals and Professional Faculty Assembly (PPFA) was established in 2008 to provide opportunities for professionals and professional faculty to advise on issues affecting them and to contribute to the College's planning and decision-making processes.

Mary Molineux, PPFA president and a Swem Library reference librarian, said that the need for the assembly had long existed, especially considering that similar groups for classified/hourly staff and faculty members were already in place.

"Our group needed a voice in an organized way, so that was the main driving force," she said. "We wanted the opportunity to contribute ideas and suggestions, especially for policies that affect professionals and professional faculty."

Work to form the assembly began in earnest in 2006. An initial volunteer executive committee, comprised of professionals and professional faculty from a variety of College departments and with support and advice from Provost Geoff Feiss, worked diligently to craft a constitution and bylaws. In September 2008, the Board of Visitors approved the establishment of the Professionals and Professional Faculty Assembly, and the first meeting of the assembly took place in December.

"The Professionals and Professional Faculty at the College are key contributors to the quality of what we do here," said Feiss. "Their work is critical to our libraries and counseling centers, to IT, development, student affairs, admissions -- in fact in every academic and support unit on campus.  Their dedication and professionalism deserve a substantive advisory role in the many decisions we make every day that relate to campus priorities and policies."

The assembly includes 21 elected members from offices and departments across the College community, including development, athletics, admission, student affairs, information technology, multicultural affairs, the Schools of Business, Education, and Law, and others. The assembly has also established four standing and three ad hoc committees, which include academic issues, elections, policy and administrative issues, technology, communications, professionals and professional faculty handbook, and strategic planning.

In this, its first year, the assembly members are focused on educating themselves about the policies affecting professionals and professional faculty; creating a handbook of those policies; and communicating with W&M's professionals and professional faculty members to learn about issues and concerns of importance to them.

"For me, that's the number one goal," said Molineux. "We've got to learn what we need to know. I'd love for all of us on the 21-member assembly to become well versed on what being professionals and professional faculty means and what new roles we can play on campus.  Our ultimate goal is to find ways that professionals and professional faculty can best help the College achieve its goals."

One of the big projects the assembly is working on is the creation of a professional and professional faculty handbook.

The handbook will "compile into one place the policies and procedures that apply to professionals and professional faculty," said Lee Foster, chair of the PPFA's ad hoc communications committee and director of leadership gifts and foundation operations for the Development Office.

Foster said the handbook will be key to helping professionals and professional faculty members develop a "sense of identity."

That sense of identity is particularly important because some professionals and professional faculty members on campus don't even know they fall into that category, said Molineux and Foster.

"We need to figure out how we can help everybody in the group know what it means to be a professional or professional faculty," said Molineux.

Foster noted that she was thrilled to hear the administration and staff of the College referred to as the heartbeat of the institution during this year's Charter Day ceremony.

"I think in many ways that is a great description of what the staff does here, but there's not always a broad visibility and understanding about professionals and professional faculty and what they do," she said, adding that she hopes the PPFA will help change that.

Though just a few months old, the assembly is already making contributions:  at the request of W&M's Strategic Planning Steering Committee, the PPFA developed suggestions for the College's strategic plan. The PPFA formed teams for each of the six Grand Challenges, created a wiki on which ideas were shared, and held a general meeting of all professionals and professional faculty to gather ideas. The PPFA was also represented at the College's Legislative Day in Richmond and at Charter Day.

The PPFA is also currently writing its goals and objectives. For that project and others, the PPFA will continue to seek input from all professionals and professional faculty as well as from all W&M community members. For professional and professional faculty members who are interested in the PPFA, more information may be found on their Web site.

One of the PPFA's goals is to develop camaraderie and networking opportunities among professionals and professional faculty.

"The neat thing was that I heard from a lot of assembly members that (the strategic planning process) really brought them together," said Molineux. "They were suddenly in these teams of people with whom they wouldn't normally have contact ... and they started to hear each other bring to the table very different perceptions, priorities, and issues, and they just learned so much from it."

Molineux said that the experience has developed in her a new respect for the "quality of people we have here on campus."

"It's been very invigorating," she said.