Help me help us: Motivating Our Peers 1

Vice President

"There are three kinds of people: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who say, `what happened?' " 2

It's autumn again and time to locate volunteers to serve on the many varied and critical college and district participatory governance committees. If you are a faculty leader, you may be tasked with ensuring that committees are complete. There are strategies in motivational theory that can remind us how to light those fires; and there are resources about volunteerism that can suggest how and why people volunteer. But we can also turn to one another for advice, to other faculty leaders across the state.

At our annual Faculty Leadership Institute in June, local senate leaders gathered to learn about the academic senate, to network with other faculty leaders and to build their leadership skills. In one lively activity, we did a kind of "speed dating" and institute attendees moved from one Executive committee member to the next who led them in a brief brainstorming session on an array of senate-related topics. The topic assigned to me was "How do you motivate faculty to participate in governance activities?" We got some terrific suggestions from the senate leaders, including the following. Perhaps some will simplify your task.

  • Go to each department meeting (or send someone else) to recruit and tout the committees, their charges and benefits of serving.
  • Ask each senator (or committee member for standing committees) to bring a guest once or twice in the year. (Each one, bring one.) They can see first hand what the group does.
  • Match the topic of the committees with people's interest or skills areas. For example, for the college's equity and diversity committee, find people with an interest or background in multiculturalism.
  • Be sure you make regular presentations, such as an orientation to the senate or an overview about shared governance, for Flex day, for new faculty orientations, etc. Be sure everyone understands the role faculty play outside the classroom, and why faculty service is vital.
  • Develop a culture of service. Work with the union, administrators, staff development, department chairs and the senate to make your college a place where service is expected, welcomed and appreciated.
  • Show the benefits of service-to individuals, their department, their students and the college.
  • Consider some extrinsic incentives to serve-e.g., committee members get out of doing some evaluations, or develop professional growth incentives with the union.
  • Rotate service within the department. That way people are more likely to sign up, and they know it is not a lifetime commitment.
  • Make sure that all committees are well run and that meetings are not a waste of time. Volunteerism drops off when groups are less than effective.
  • Work with department or division chairs or deans and ask them to provide you some potential names.
  • Limit the negativity from grumpy colleagues who denigrate service.
  • Look at newer faculty who have not yet become involved in much committee work, and inspire them.
  • Honor those who have served; provide some public recognition.

Ultimately, there is no participatory governance if we don't participate! So it is incumbent upon all of us to ensure that all our committees have the necessary faculty representation. This fall, you might ask yourself how you might help to identify colleagues to serve.

1 A website about volunteerism offered a number of quotes about volunteerism, including "Help me help us." (

2 Attributed to Casey Stengel. Submitted by Sue Staggs, State Director, Tomorrow's Leaders Today, Texas, USA (