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Further Comments on Faculty Consulting

Tomorrow's Academic Careers

Message Number: 
42

Folks: 

Message #41 on, "Consulting - Needed Prior to Tenure, Not Just After Tenure," generated a number of interesting comments, some of which are reprinted below. 

Regards, 

Rick Reis 

Further Comments on Faculty Consulting 

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From: 

Brent Auernheimer, Chair 
Computer Science Department 
California State University, Fresno, Fresno, CA. 

I agree with Frank Owens' desire that professors have experience as practitioners in their field, but as a department chair at one of Cal Poly's sister institutions I recommend a slightly different approach for new faculty. 

In my experience, consulting during the academic year doesn't work very well. I would much rather see a faculty member focusing on their teaching, research, publication, and service during the academic year (this also means that they will not have to defend accusations, true or not, that they neglect their students or classes). Walking by a faculty office and seeing every Friday crossed out for CONSULTING is a yellow flag for me. 

My advice to new faculty is to take advantage of our nine month contracts and be a practitioner during the summer when we aren't employed by the university. The cool thing about this is that it is relatively easy (in my experience) to find companies or laboratories that actively recruit faculty for summer (or January break) projects. Even cooler, they pay :) NASA/ASEE, AWU, and "difference in pay leaves" can be great ways to connect with industry and applications. With a little care the work can be publishable/patentable. 

Dr. Owens also laments: 

"What I am studying is not engineering and the people teaching me are not engineers. I am learning applied mathematics from research scientists." 

I also agree with this sentiment in general, but even in engineering we need to be careful that what we are doing is "education", not "training". 

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From: 

Jim Yao 
Mechanical Engineering Department 
Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 

I agree that it is important for faculty members to do consulting work provided that (1) it does not interfere with their teaching duties, (2) it is not a routine job and does not compete directly with practicing engineers, (3) it is an application of the particular faculty member's expertise, and (4) it does not become excessive (more than one day each week that is allowed by most universities. 

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From: 

John A. Weese 
Mechanical Engineering Department 
Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 

I concur with Jim's points and I understand Rick's feelings about consulting as a tenure-track, but not yet tenured faculty member. Reasonable management of consulting during the probationary period can add to the tenure portfolio, particularly if the consulting is of high caliber. Caliber, of course, is sometimes in the eye of the beholder and we have to be watchful lest fees begin to warp the calibration of our view.