Review: Good Start: A Guidebook for New
Faculty in Liberal Arts Colleges
W. Gibson, Roanoke College. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, 1992.
by Victoria Voytko, Graduate Student Associate, TRC and Department of
his 25 years of experience as a university teacher and administrator,
Prof. Gibson has created an informative and practical handbook for the
novice academic interested in teaching at a liberal arts college. Good
Start is designed to provide a comprehensive overview of the small
college experience from the perspective of new and rising faculty members.
Prof. Gibson begins by advising newly-minted Ph.D.s on the ins and outs
of securing a good teaching position at a liberal arts college. He offers
practical advice on (1) how to select institutions suited to your talents
and ambitions, (2) how to convince a favored institution to hire you,
and (3) how to secure the best terms of employment once an offer is made.
These initial chapters of the book are informed by Prof. Gibson's conviction
that researching the specific needs, expectations, and institutional eccentricities
of a prospective academic employer is crucial to a candidate's success,
especially in today's tight job market. Of course, many of the strategies
effective for negotiating with liberal arts colleges will also work with
sections of Good Start aim to equip new faculty members with the
skills necessary to survive in the distinctive institutional culture of
the American liberal arts college. The relative importance of teaching
and research to tenure and promotion decisions is given thorough consideration
by Prof. Gibson, with a consistent emphasis on practical matters--such
as the degree to which student teaching evaluations affect institutional
decision- making. Specific strategies for developing these crucial teaching
skills receive, deservedly, a considerable amount of attention as well.
In this portion of his book, Prof. Gibson is once again most adept at
pointing out the personal and professional hazards that beset faculty
members in the early years of an academic career.
In the final
chapter of his handbook, Prof. Gibson takes the long view and considers
life beyond tenure, advising his readers on how to maintain the professional
edge that makes a secure teaching career consistently interesting and
challenging. Though the natural audience for Prof. Gibson's book is made
up of job candidates and untenured faculty, his discussion of the mature
phase of a teaching career is wholly relevant. By taking this longer perspective,
Good Start offers the sort of complete picture that fledgling academics
need when attempting to get their teaching careers off the ground and
plan intelligently for a successful future.