In the rhythm of the academic year, mid-November frequently seems to drag. Shortening days and colder temperatures signal the approach of winter (itself a challenge for many new students and colleagues from warmer climes). Often we feel “stuck” only partway through the projects that seemed so exciting back at the start of the semester. And the term’s end and holiday break still seem a long way off.

I was recently reminded that this stagnation hits especially hard for new colleagues and first-year students. Too frequently they interpret the feeling as a personal failure—“my fault that I’ve run out of enthusiasm and momentum”—when in reality it is a common phenomenon.

How can we keep moving through these doldrums?

First, it helps to formally take stock of one’s progress. What has been launched? What has succeeded? What new habit or technique has been incorporated? (For me this year one such effort has been using Twitter to share bits of the academic campus experience.)

Feedback invited

Academic Planning Framework SharePoint site

Open Forum for Campus Community

Monday, Nov. 18
1–2:30 p.m.
Havasupai A/B, University Union

Second, this is a great time to think about the big tasks that have not yet moved along. To which of these might you recommit, perhaps with some adjustments, in order to make progress by the end of term?

Third, take the opportunity to make something better, even if only by expressing an informed opinion or taking a few moments to offer feedback. Right now, you have two big chances to make your voice heard. Faculty members are being asked to provide feedback on the campus work environment through the COACHE survey. Thus far, more than one-third of our faculty colleagues have responded, but we are hoping for a much larger percentage by the time the survey closes in January 2014.

And in the Provost’s Office we are asking for your thoughts on academic planning. What should we consider when we look for promising new directions or programs? What practical considerations lie behind planning for resources and investment of faculty and staff time? You can check the progress of these discussions at the initiative’s SharePoint site (accessible by all NAU faculty and staff), and drop into the open campus forum being held Monday Nov. 18.

Thanks for your thoughtful insights in these matters. Take a moment to give an encouraging word to a colleague, a student or yourself!