Teaching and superstars

Hope my mom and dad don’t read the story in the Akron Beacon Journal this morning about the “superstar” faculty members who are being hired at Kent State. I guess we can paraphrase Garrison Keillor: Kent State — where all the faculty are “superstars.” Uh, not quite. Here’s the story.

It seems that the university administration has hired and awarded tenure to a new professor in the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising: Vince Quevedo. That prompted an unfair labor practice charge from the faculty union at Kent. It’s a long story. Trust me. But here’s what’s interesting to me from the standpoint of communications.

The Beacon Journal story reports that Steve Michael, the university’s associate provost for diversity, said that Kent State makes extra money available to hire “rising stars” or “superstars” who can help to elevate programs nationally. I don’t know anything about Professor Quevedo. Maybe he merits the “superstar” title and the big money and instant tenure that goes with it.

But apparently the rest of the faculty in the fashion school are not quite as enthusiastic about Quevedo, and the article indicates that the fashion advisory committee passed on hiring him two times previously.  Carol Biliczky is an excellent reporter. I’ll proceed on the belief that all this is fair and accurate. And the point of this is not to look at the qualifications of Professor Quevedo for this position.

The point is I believe there is a lesson or two here from the standpoint of communications.

First, I give Michael credit for stepping up and commenting on the story. But there are a lot of different audiences involved here. And if Quevedo rates “superstar” status — what’s that say about the rest of us who apparently didn’t? Or don’t? And what’s it say to others who are applying for faculty positions at Kent? Words matter folks. And you really do need to know in advance of an interview what you want to say — and why.

And one more thing. I understand that it is important to attract the best faculty possible. And I imagine that involves offering some more than others. Here’s another paragraph from the Beacon Journal article:

He [Michael] said the extra funding helps to expand the diversity of candidates, which in addition to women and African-Americans, can include white men in nontraditional fields like nursing.

Fair enough.

Yet to paraphrase the great American philosopher Willie Nelson: Momma, don’t let your babies grow up to be … PR teachers like Rob Jewell — nonsuperstar.

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5 responses to “Teaching and superstars

  1. I believe the wise Bhudda once said “Words have the power to destroy or heal” (but then again I’m just a non-superstar – what do I know)

  2. Jennifer Kramer

    Rob,
    While you may not classify yourself in “superstar” status, your students sure do, since they’ve voted you as an Outstanding Educator on more than one occasion!

  3. Jen,

    Thanks for your very kind comment. Maybe there is hope for all of us nonsuperstars.

    And to Scooter, Wonder if there is a club we could join? Probably would have a lot of members.

  4. Shelley Prisco

    There is too much emphasis placed on “superstars” nowadays. It’s all just fluff. What people need to focus on is educating students to be ethical and passionate about their chosen fields. The hell with being a “superstar.” I can’t stand that label. It doesn’t mean anything after everything dies down. The obsession with image debilitates the reputation of an organization and the minds within. This is nothing but a popularity contest. How mature is that?

  5. Shelley,

    Thanks for the comment. And I agree with you. Clearly every organization — university, business, whatever — wants to hire the best “talent” available. At a university, in my opinion, the key is to have classroom instructors who can encourage students to learn and then help them succeed.

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