Altac Working Group

The Altac Working Group component of the UNC Altac Project is sponsored for 2013-15 by the UNC Institute for Arts and Humanities.

The Working Group spent 2013-14 exploring the contours and needs of Carolina’s altac community, looking at specific components that a robust altac support and development program here should include, and discussing particular matters that would need to be addressed for such a system to be put into place.  We are also looking at other efforts in development at other universities that might provide inspiration for what Carolina could do.  Examples of questions and issues we are considering include:

  • What sorts of support UNC “altacs” already have, and what they identify as their most important needs.
  • How to build the program in a way that does not simply amount to overburdening an already-busy cohort of employees.
  • How to build a program that is flexible enough to account for the variable needs of the many very different administrative offices in which “altacs” work.
  • How to expand existing support structures to facilitate administrator-scholars’ research, publication, and teaching. While many or most of these support structures are already in place for full-time Carolina faculty, they are extremely variable in the degree to which they are presently available to professional Ph.D.-prepared staff.
  • How to design workload management, compensation, reward, and advancement structures that account for administrator-scholars’ scholarly and teaching work in contexts in which administrative responsibilities must and do come first.
  • How to address the issue of professional advancement.
  • How to incorporate administrator-scholars who are teaching and doing research into departmental and university-wide faculty governance structures.
  • How to extend the benefits of what might be learned through such a program to enhance career preparation and advising for UNC graduate students who might aspire to altac positions.
  • How, and at what levels, to fund an altac support program, which would include questions of teaching and/or research stipends, staff support, and other factors.  We would also like to explore the prospect of securing outside funding to start such a program.
  • How to design a program that is flexible enough to accommodate administrator-scholars’ varying levels of interest, desire, and ability to continue their scholarly work and teaching. It would be ideal, we think, to offer altacs a menu of opportunities and pathways out of which they could assemble individualized work plans that accommodate their unique needs and interests as well as the needs and imperatives of the administrative positions into which these scholars are hired.

By building a thoughtful system for developing and nurturing its altac administrator-scholars, Carolina has a unique opportunity to design a nationally significant, visionary, innovative program that advances the university’s academic mission while also making more efficient and effective use of existing resources, responding to calls for greater accountability and stability in teaching, addressing issues related to contingent and fixed-term faculty, fostering public engagement, advancing creative solutions for graduate education and the Ph.D. career crisis, retaining valuable and highly capable administrative employees, and, not coincidentally, given the group’s demographics, building a cadre of professional women leaders for academe.

As co-creators of the Altac Working Group, Anne and Donna invited additional alternative academics at UNC to join the group for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 years.  We have met nearly monthly throughout both years.  At some of the meetings, UNC faculty and staff, as well as others with relevant expertise, have been invited to speak with the group.

The specific projects we’ve worked on so far, and the related documents and materials we have created, may be found on our Projects and Documents page.

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