Fishing in the Academic Senate's McElligot Pool

Nursing Faculty
Chair Faculty Recognition Committee, Santa Barbara City College

Have you ever read "McElligot's Pool" by Dr. Seuss? A young boy named Marco is chided by an old farmer for choosing to fish in a particular pond. The farmer says:

"You're sort of a fool! You'll never catch a fish In McElligot's Pool! You might catch a boot Or you might catch a can. You might catch a bottle, But listen, young man..If you sat fifty years With your worms and your wishes, You'd grow a long beard Long before you caught fishes!" (Geisel, p. 27)

But Marco isn't dissuaded-in his optimism he thinks of all the possible fish he might catch..anything from a "thin fish", a "stout fish"' a "short fish" or a "long drawn out fish" to lobsters and whales "all thrashing their tails."

The Hayward Award-The Stanback Stroud Award-The Exemplary Program Award-what do these have to do with McElligot's Pool?? In a way, they are similar to the possibilities that Marco imagined.

You can be like that old farmer or you can be like Marco, the optimistic young man, when you receive announcements about award opportunities from the State Senate Office; either way, you and your faculty have a choice to make. It's quite simple-do you ignore the call for nominations, saying "we'll never win anyway" or do you choose to put forward the name of a colleague (or program)? Hopefully, seeing the success of a process used at one college-a process that could be adopted on other campuses, will encourage you and your senate to respond more optimistically to those announcements.

Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) has long held a commitment to recognizing faculty colleagues for their hard work, dedication to the college's mission, and exceptional performance in serving its students. In response to this commitment, the SBCC Academic Senate established a Faculty Recognition Committee-the primary purpose of which is to identify potential opportunities to acknowledge faculty excellence in performing their job responsibilities and participating in campus leadership. The Faculty Recognition Committee is composed of representatives from each of the twelve academic and instructional support divisions on the campus. Although information regarding award criteria and timelines is published campus-wide via e-mail, broad faculty representation on the committee ensures access to specific accomplishments of individual faculty members and/or programs in each division.

Recognizing that there are many discipline-specific award opportunities-opportunities for which individual departments are most aware of potential recipients, the Faculty Recognition Committee has chosen to focus on awards that are general in nature and for which a larger number of faculty might be eligible, such as those sponsored by the Academic Senate and the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT). In addition, SBCC established an "SBCC Faculty Excellence Award" to recognize the contributions of one faculty member (full- or part-time), during each full month of the academic year (6 awards per year). The college also selects one faculty member to be the "Annual Faculty Lecturer"-the campus' highest faculty award.

Based on criteria and due dates published on the Academic Senate and ACCT websites, the committee establishes a timeline each fall semester. Calls for nominations are issued early and committee members are encouraged to solicit nominees from within their own division as well as campus wide. They may actually prepare the nomination or ask someone who works more closely with a potential candidate to prepare the written nomination. Although in an ideal situation, an individual's nomination would be kept secret, the committee has found that asking individuals for a copy of their CV and/or other data has ensured more complete and accurate information for inclusion in letters of nomination.

Documents are collected by the chair and shared electronically with committee members a week prior to the meeting. Before voting, committee members review award criteria and discuss materials provided to the committee; however they adhere firmly to a rule that decisions be based only on what has been submitted in writing-this practice has encouraged submission of higher quality materials. Decisions are made by secret ballot and submitted to the chair, who does not vote. In the event of a tie, the committee discusses candidates again, to clarify questions before a second vote is taken.

Subsequently, committee recommendations are sent to the SBCC academic senate for endorsement (or in the case of the ACCT Award, to the Board of Trustees) before nominees for state and national awards (or recipients of local awards) are notified. Following endorsement by the appropriate group (academic senate or board of trustees), a campus wide congratulatory e-mail is sent out. Committee members then work with candidates to ensure that all required information is complete, well-written and submitted to the local academic senate secretary, in accordance with the specified deadline(s).

The Faculty Recognition Committee also sponsors a reception at the conclusion of fall semester Flex Week to honor the individuals who were nominated for state and national awards as well as faculty selected to receive SBCC Faculty Excellence Awards during the coming academic year. Highlights of each individual's accomplishment are shared and nominees for state and national awards as well as recipients of local awards are presented with a certificate acknowledging their achievements. This event is well attended by faculty, administrators and members of the Board of Trustees and stimulates additional nominations in subsequent years.

Although the process described isn't all that unique, it has served the SBCC campus well. A quick look at the college website indicates that in recent years, seven SBCC faculty members have received the Hayward Award, one received the Stanback Stroud Award, four programs received Exemplary Program Awards (with several others receiving honorable mention), and three faculty have been awarded the Pacific Region ACCT Award-one of whom received the national ACCT Meardy Award.

The same level of excellence exists on all of our campuses-what's needed is a systematic approach to seek nominations and follow the process through to submission! Instead of ignoring those announcements from the Academic Senate office, why not adopt Marco's attitude, as he says..

"Oh the sea is so full of a number of fish, If a fellow is patient, he might get his wish! And that's why I think that I'm not such a fool

When I sit here and fish in McElligot's Pool!" (Geisel, pp. 52-54)

Great opportunities do exist in the Academic Senate's pool of faculty awards. Encourage your colleagues to drop a line. You may be surprised with the result!

Geisel, T. S. (Seuss), (1947). McElligot's pool. Reprinted in: Schulman, J. & Goldsmith, C., (2004) Your Favorite Seuss. New York: Random House.