February 2009 Issue Volume 37 Issue 2

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Two New DRG Services to
Help Sociology Departments

by Margaret Vitullo, ASA Academic and Professional Affairs Program

Sociology departments and their chairs are facing new challenges during these difficult economic times. Many departments must find ways to build and maintain strong and vital programs while working within even more budgetary constraints than in the past. Moreover, at a time when advice is most needed, department chairs may find it difficult to identify an appropriate source from which to seek advice and counsel. Professional authority, confidentiality, and resource dependence can all limit a chair’s ability to request advice from other department members, former chairs, the dean, and even chairs from other departments. Similar issues may arise for directors of graduate studies and faculty charged with leading department-wide projects, such as developing assessment plans.

In response to the changing needs of sociology departments around the country, the ASA Department Resources Group (DRG) is offering two new services: off-site consulting and a pro bono mentoring service for department chairs, directors of graduate studies programs, and other department members who want to increase their effectiveness in their departmental positions.

The Department Resources Group is composed of 50 sociologists from universities, colleges, and community colleges around the country who are experienced and trained in consulting with sociology departments. Coordination for the DRG is provided through the ASA Academic and Professional Affairs Program (APAP). For many years, DRG members have conducted external reviews, lead workshops, conducted trainings, and facilitated retreats for sociology departments. The two new DRG services are designed to meet the needs of departments with limited resources for bringing consultants on campus, and to help sociologists who are taking on new organizational roles within their departments.

DRG Off-site Consultations

As the name implies, an off-site consultation takes place primarily through phone conversations, web-based video conferencing (such as Skype), and document exchange, although it may involve some face-to-face meetings when the opportunity arises, such as during regional meetings or the ASA Annual Meeting. The professional consultation is designed to support a specific project or activity within an institutional department, program, or division. The length of the consultation is negotiated by the consultant and the hiring institution and depends on the nature of the project or activity.

Examples of projects or activities include: development of an assessment plan, curriculum revision, and a new graduate program or certificate. DRG off-site consultations cannot include mediating departmental or institutional conflicts, or acting as an advisor on personnel decisions. Payment for services is on an hourly basis, negotiated between the consultant and the institution, with a recommended rate of at least $75/hour. It is anticipated that institutions seeking the assistance of a DRG off-site consultant will be those that cannot afford to bring a DRG member to campus or for which a longer-term interaction would be more productive.

DRG Mentors 

The DRG Mentors Program is designed to provide one-on-one support, feedback, advice, and coaching to sociologists to help them increase their effectiveness as actors in a particular institutional role, such as department chair, division coordinator, or graduate studies director. The purpose of the mentorship is not to help individuals with their own publication or teaching. The DRG Mentors program is a volunteer, unpaid effort. Meetings with DRG mentors generally take place through phone conversations, email, and video conferencing. The length of mentor relationships is negotiated on a case-by-case basis, but typically extends over six to 12 months.

The program is proving to be popular; the APAP office has already begun receiving requests and is setting up DRG mentorships. This does not surprise Anna Bruzzese, Chair of Sociology and Philosophy at Los Angeles Pierce College, who said, "The institutional roles that the mentees in the DRG Mentors Program take on are often full of challenges that may be problematic to discuss with others in the person’s workplace, due to politics involved, for example. Having an outside mentor, someone who has successfully navigated a variety of complex situations, can be invaluable in terms of encouragement and inspiration." logo_small

For more information about DRG or the new services, contact Margaret Weigers Vitullo, Director of Academic and Professional Affairs Program, at (202) 383 9005 x323 or vitullo@asanet.org.

 

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