Seeds of Innovation: Cultivating Faculty Success | College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences
March 7, 2024

Seeds of Innovation: Cultivating Faculty Success

In the dynamic realm of higher education, fostering a culture of innovation and empowering faculty success is essential for institutions to stay at the forefront of academic excellence. Recognizing the pivotal role faculty play in shaping the educational landscape, many institutions are increasingly investing in structures and programs that support and amplify their innovative endeavors. UNT's College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) has recognized the significance of supporting faculty development, exploring the benefits of such programs, the challenges faced by educators, and effective strategies for the college to provide the necessary backing for their faculty's groundbreaking work.

Strategies for Supporting Faculty Success

Faculty development encompasses many projects and endeavors aimed at enhancing community and culture, thereby contributing to UNT's overall mission. Whether it's the development of innovative curricula, the pursuit of cutting-edge research, or the implementation of novel teaching methodologies, faculty success drives progress and elevates the experiences for students. By supporting these initiatives, institutions not only foster a culture of creativity and intellectual curiosity but also position themselves as leaders in educational innovation.

To unleash the full potential of faculty-led initiatives, CLASS must proactively support and empower its faculty members. This requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both structural and cultural barriers while providing the necessary resources and incentives for innovation to flourish.

While faculty members are eager to embark on initiatives that push the boundaries of conventional education, they often encounter challenges that can hinder their progress. Limited resources, time constraints, and a lack of institutional support are common obstacles faced by faculty members striving for success in their careers. Recognizing and addressing these challenges is crucial for institutions aiming to create an environment where faculty can thrive and contribute meaningfully to the advancement of knowledge and pedagogy. One key strategy is to establish dedicated support structures and mechanisms specifically dedicated to faculty development.

Appointing a dedicated person to oversee and guide faculty development can provide a centralized and strategic approach. This person will serve as a liaison between faculty members and administrative bodies, ensuring effective communication and fostering understanding. Dr. Steve Wolverton will transition from his current role as Department Chair of Geography and the Environment to Director of Faculty Initiatives in CLASS. Dr. Wolverton will work with faculty members to help them with career development and planning. He will also build opportunities for mentoring development. The focus of this role is to connect people to people and provide a supportive environment for faculty in their journey within CLASS at UNT.

"I am excited that Dr. Wolverton will be leading faculty development initiatives in CLASS," said Dr. Holly Hutchins, Vice Provost of Faculty Success. "Our Faculty Success team looks forward to collaborating with Dr. Wolverton in helping our CLASS faculty soar even higher! He has been instrumental in co-leading Faculty Success' Crucial Conversations training for our faculty and academic leaders, so I know he will bring the same level of intention, care, and enthusiasm to his new role."

"Steve is an exceptional colleague who strongly advocates for faculty development and is incredibly collaborative, making him an excellent partner in Crucial Conversations training," said Dr. Sanjukta Pookulangara, Professor and Chair of Merchandising and Digital Retailing. "Working with him has been a highly productive and enriching experience. I can state with full confidence that Steve is committed to supporting faculty and their well-being, ensuring a conducive environment for growth and development."

"I've had a wonderful and generative experience working with Steve on the CLASS Distinguished Scholars Series," said Dr. Anna Hinton, Assistant Professor of Disability Studies and Black Literature & Culture. "He shared my same goal to celebrate CLASS faculty's outstanding and innovative work."

Supporting Professional Development Opportunities

Investing in faculty development programs, workshops, and training sessions equips educators with the skills and knowledge needed to spearhead innovation and creative works. Providing avenues for continuous learning enhances faculty members' ability to contribute meaningfully to their respective fields. Dr. Wolverton will hit the ground running with early career and mid-career planning workshops in 2024-2025.

Recognition and Celebration

Acknowledging and celebrating faculty success creates a positive feedback loop. Publicizing achievements not only enriches faculty members' lives but also highlights CLASS's commitment to innovation, potentially attracting top talent and fostering a culture of amplifying human potential while propelling transformation.

In a rapidly evolving educational landscape, CLASS is prioritizing and supporting faculty development that better positions community members to adapt, thrive, and lead. By investing in the creative potential of the faculty members, CLASS will not only enhance their academic reputation but also contribute to the broader advancement of knowledge and the enrichment of the educational experience. As CLASS and UNT continue to undergo transformation, nurturing a culture of innovation becomes not just a strategic choice but a cornerstone of sustainable success. With the expertise of Dr. Steve Wolverton, CLASS faculty will be part of a community to better help students and make an impact.


Written by: Molly Davenport, Sr. Communications Specialist for CLASS