• August 13th, 2020

Making a self-reflection in the past 10 years - are you on your trajectory?

The other day a fellow professor and I were philosophising on a number of issues; some very important, and others, not so significant. We zeroed in on the length of a decade, and imagined what colleagues in our fraternity – higher education - would produce if they were asked to assess their progress in the past decade, from 2010 to 2020. Leaving out all other aspects of life of academics, we focused on their core duties of teaching, research and community engagement. Judging academics or asking them to rate themselves objectively against these three broad areas of performance in the past 10 years would produce varied, interesting and disappointing results. Here I shall not bother about disappointing results. I leave it to readers to judge themselves against the models I describe below.
There is no doubt that many academics have made remarkable contributions to humanity through teaching, research and community service.
Some academics have conducted researches and published academic articles, books and book chapters. I know of professors who have published more than 10 academic books in the past decade.  These publications have gone a long way in expanding or extending the boundaries of knowledge in their fields of specialisation. In some cases, they have excelled in the creation of new knowledge. They have also spent years supervising doctoral and master’s degree students.  They have spent the whole decade dedicated to the call of their duty, outstripping the set minimum standardards by far.
It is this cadre of academics that has become the archetype of academia - the model of the academic world. Measure them by any scale of excellence, their results are far-reaching and influential. These researchers played pivotal roles in both the private and public sectors, and on the international scene.  Some of them have been think tanks that have been used in policy formulation and implementation by governments throughout the decade. They have made names for themselves and improved the image of their higher education institutions. They have also contributed to the positive ranking of their institutions. Talking of rankings of institutions, whether it is the continental ranking or world ranking, it is important to note that the research output of an institution contributes greatly to its  standing. The more research publications are displayed, the more visible the institution becomes. So, if the institution has just a few researchers, it becomes invisible and it remains on the lower rungs of the academic ladder.
On the international scene, this breed of academics has had a huge part to play. Their ingenuity and creativity have attracted international higher education institutions. They get sponsorships to go abroad to teach, and to conduct research with other internationally renowned scholars. When this internationalization takes place, higher education institutions experience “the integration of an international or intercultural dimension into the tripartite of teaching, research and service functions,” as Maringe and Foskett (2010) put it. Others became honorary fellows and served in councils of world class higher education institutions.
Furthermore, in the past decade, some of these academics have added feathers in their hats, as they say in English. In just 10 years, some have moved from teaching assist to lecturer, senior lecturer and to associate professor levels. Others have attained full professorship grade having gone through all the steps in one decade. Also, others have held various positions of responsibility as head of departments, deans, directors and leaders of institutions in various capacities. Some have built reputable higher education institutions from scratch.  All these achievements are not mean feats, but deserved and merited accomplishments.
I could go on and on enumerating the achievements of this group of academics, but I want to pose some questions. If you were to take stock of your achievements in your career – whatever career - in the past 10 years, how comparable are they to the ones I have described above? Are in control of the trajectory of your career? Or is it spinning freely?
Make a self-reflection of your career today; it is worthy taking time to do so.

*Professor Jairos Kangira is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia. He writes on his own accord.  Please send comments to: kjairos@gmail.com

Staff Reporter
2020-01-31 08:05:20 | 6 months ago

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