The SoTL Advocate

Supporting efforts to make public the reflection and study of teaching and learning at Illinois State University and beyond…

What SoTL Has Meant to Me

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Written by: Kathleen McKinney, Outgoing Cross Endowed Chair in SoTL, Illinois State University

On June 30, 2016, I will fully retire from Illinois State University as well as from the many roles I have played within various institutions, my discipline more broadly, professional organizations, formal and informal collaborations, and the field of SoTL.

Similar to many others, I will leave with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am ready to hand over the reins to the very competent and qualified Dr. Jennifer Friberg, the incoming Cross Endowed Chair in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University. I am ready to not be the ‘responsible one’ in terms of initiatives, budgets, planning, education, persuasion, development, grants, meetings, PR…related to SoTL on campus and, often, elsewhere. On the other hand, I will miss the “work” and, especially, the people. Thus, though officially retiring, I am beginning two collaborative SoTL writing projects that I will do without any official affiliation: an invited paper on what those in Psychology might learn from SoTL in Sociology (with Maxine Atkinson and Tyler Flockhart) and an edited book on Conducting and Applying SoTL Beyond the Individual Classroom (with Jennifer Friberg). Yes, it can be hard to completely let go of ones work and identity!!

In a brief blog post such as this, I can’t really begin to describe what SoTL has meant to me over the last 30 plus years or so but I would like to highlight seven areas of positive impact of SoTL on my life. Through this reflection, I am hoping blog readers will get a sense of the potential value of SoTL to their careers, their lives, their institutions, their discipline and their students, and be encouraged to increase their own involvement in SoTL now and in the future. I hope others will be as lucky and as blessed as I have been to have these amazing experiences, opportunities, and outcomes.

  1. Collaborations and Relationships, new and old, exciting and creative with colleagues, students, and administrators at my institution, in my discipline more broadly, at the Carnegie Foundation, and in ISSOTL and other organizations.
  2. Opportunities to make a positive difference (I hope) in teaching, learning, faculty careers, and students’ lives in my discipline and institution, and beyond.
  3. Chances to learn many new things about SoTL, teaching, learning, research, other disciplines, faculty development, and administration.
  4. Chances to work with amazing students on SoTL projects, in class, in the office, in student organizations, on others’ SoTL grants, and in the student voices movement of the SoTL field.
  5. Successes and achievements in a joyful career filled with meaning, status, advancement, choice, and autonomy… full of intrinsic rewards (and, yes, certainly some extrinsic ones as well).
  6. An identity, a self-image, a sense of who I am and who I want to be.
  7. Opportunities to travel in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia… and to network with others in other cities and nations who do, support, and share SoTL.

I want to conclude by thanking many people. I didn’t experience or achieve these things on my own; it was all about advice, assistance, collaboration, and relationships. With a few exceptions, I won’t name individual people as there are far too many and I would not want to miss anyone. But I am eternally grateful to the colleagues, staff, and students in these groups or networks:

  • Colleagues in the American Sociological Association especially the Teaching Learning/SoTL movement, the Section on Teaching and Learning, the other editors, reviewers and authors of Teaching Sociology, and the many sociology colleagues in SoTL around the globe. And a special thanks goes to Carla Howery…lost to us far too early.
  • Staff at The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching especially during its decade focus on and support of SoTL, as well as my cohort of Carnegie SoTL scholars.
  • Faculty, staff, students, and administrators at Illinois State University. And a special thanks goes to Robert Walsh…also gone far too ‘young’.
  • K. Patricia Cross for her insight and future thinking about higher education, as well as her support of the ISU Endowed Chair in SoTL.
  • Colleagues in the International Society of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

I look forward to working on my new SoTL writing projects, to hearing about future trends in SoTL, and to seeing the successes of other ‘SoTLlers’, in every discipline and around the globe, and their positive impact on teaching and learning in higher education. I urge readers to take advantage of the amazing challenges and opportunities of SoTL in their careers and lives!




One thought on “What SoTL Has Meant to Me

  1. Pingback: Thank you, Kathleen! | The SoTL Advocate

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