Adjunct faculty express desire for teaching

Every one of the over 600 faculty members at the University of Indianapolis represents a different story, path and future in academia. Within those faculty members, there are part-time adjunct instructors.

At UIndy, those adjunct faculty members instruct courses that full-time instructors are not able to teach. This is present in nearly every academic department. There are many different reasons for people to come to UIndy to teach as an adjunct.

For Adjunct Professor of English Carrie Burchfield, she felt as though she was just coming back home. Burchfield studied at UIndy for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Since she has been with UIndy, Burchfield has taught Basic English Composition, English Composition and Advanced Composition.

She said that she only teaches one semester every academic year, the full course load required of an adjunct. However, she said she continues teaching at UIndy because of what money cannot give her.

The communal feeling was necessary for Burchfield. Before she began as an instructor, she said she went through a divorce and that it was hard for her. She craved the social and communal aspect that, she said, UIndy delivered. Burchfield said her need for the money had been pushed aside for more human needs that she was made aware of when she was not teaching.

“I reached out in 2015 to UIndy, and that first semester was fulfilling in a way I never felt before. It wasn’t about the money; it was about doing something different, getting out, connecting with people, and doing something I loved,” Burchfield said. “Now, when I don’t teach one semester, I miss the teaching, students, learning and interaction almost immediately after finals are over and can’t wait to come back.”

Following a similar passion for teaching, fellow Adjunct Professor of English Norman Minnick found himself lecturing in the classrooms of academic buildings on campus.

He has taught English and literature classes at multiple institutions in Indianapolis. But, he said what drew him to UIndy, however, was the word-of-mouth he’s heard from previous and existing members of the university.

“…The reputation of students I’ve met who’ve come through here [UIndy] or faculty and peers who I’ve known have taught here, and in other departments, always seem to really enjoy it here,” Minnick said. “I don’t want to speak bad about other universities, but some of them just aren’t as personable to adjuncts, don’t treat adjuncts very well or don’t know one of their adjuncts. I’ve heard good things about how UIndy treats adjuncts, and I’ve found that to be true.”

One of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Debra Feakes’ first decisions was to send an email to all adjuncts in at UIndy, asking them all to sit down and discuss their experience with her, according to Minnick. He said that he saw his gesture as overtly kind and was something he’s not experienced much with other universities.

Adjunct Professor of Education Lorene Sandifur said in her 45 years of teaching, she did not find herself at UIndy under a purposeful circumstance such as Burchfield and Minnick.

She had been teaching at Ben Davis University High School before working under the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship in 2010, now titled Teach (STEM)³ Program. Under UIndy’s Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, she taught and mentored college students to become teachers at local high schools.

“I am greatly concerned about public education and I think it’s important to those of us who’ve been in the field for a long time, to try and help those who are entering the field,” Sandifur said. “I just saw how great the programs were at UIndy, like the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. I’ve never seen anything come [as] close to as good a program as that program was.”

Sandifur said that she has seen adjuncts from many other universities in Indianapolis, and has seen many people join and leave the profession for varying reasons. However, she said that you should never assume anything about them.

“It’s not always about the money,” Sandifur said. “Someone always cares about something. It’s about how you go after it and if you’re ready to commit yourself to teaching. It is a fun profession and UIndy makes it easy.”