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

Picture: Wits

Picture: Wits

Published Mar 26, 2022

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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.

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In response to these needs, the Wits Centre for Learning and Teaching Development, in coordination with the Research Office, created two programmes aiming to further the development and leadership experiences of early- and mid-career academics at Wits University.

Early-Career Academic Development (ECAD) is a professional development programme that aims to provide holistic institutional support for early career academics with less than five years’ 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.

Mid-career academics go through multiple and complex transitions, that, while being shared markers of academic life, have often been journeyed in isolation with competing priorities on time.

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The Carnegie-funded Enhancing Mid–Career Academic Transitions (EMCAT) programme includes a cohort of 20 mid-career academics and will run over an 18 month period. 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.

Director of Research Development at Wits, Dr Robin Drennan, addressed the cohorts of both programmes on their inaugural days.

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“Universities are only as good as the sum of the academic talent that they house. 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,” Drennan said.

According to Educational Developer at the Centre For Learning, Teaching & Development, Rieta Ganas, 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

“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,” she said.

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