Read the Books

Current Project: Professor Burnout: Strategies for Identifying, Addressing, and Destigmatizing Burnout in Higher Education (under contract with Johns Hopkins University Press)
As faculty, we talk a lot about how busy we are, overwhelmed, tired, stressed, as if those things are badges of honor in academia. But for many of us, this sense of overwhelm, exhaustion, and cynicism goes far deeper than malaise at the end of a semester or academic year. Just opening up to a few colleagues and posting some preliminary ideas about burnout on Twitter showed me just how many of my peers and colleagues have either themselves experienced burnout or know someone else in higher education who has.

Burnout happens to the best of us. Burnout can also be contagious in a culture that breeds it. But burnout cannot remain hidden and shameful if we openly discuss it. Without language to understand what is happening, faculty experiencing burnout might detach from aspects of their work that used to bring them joy, avoid peers and students to protect themselves emotionally, change jobs, or even leave academia. When this happens, we all suffer that loss.

The book will offer strategies for and permission to deal openly with burnout which can potentially ripple out into higher education culture more broadly. As burnout becomes more visible, we must acknowledge that faculty members are not unraveling; it’s about reckoning with the productivity culture of higher education, how it shaped our understanding and approach to faculty work, and how we can make it better for ourselves, our peers, and those academics and students following us.

Agile Faculty: Practical Strategies for Managing Research, Service, and Teaching, University of Chicago Press, 2017
While change can be slow in academia, Agile Faculty provides a framework that can be used to make steady incremental progress toward your most meaningful professionals goals, the goals that will produce the most value over time for a satisfying career. The book outlines the Scrum framework and offers step-by-step instructions for applying the strategies to managing individual and collaborative research, running committees, mentoring students and peers, (re)designing a course, and improving student team projects.

“Agile Faculty offers a rare thing: a fresh perspective on academic work. Pope-Ruark shares ideas both practical and inspiring, from sprints to scrum boards and the Zeigarnik Effect. Faculty, staff, and students alike can benefit.” — Bryan Alexander, higher education futurist, educator, speaker, author

“For early career-faculty, there is no resource more precious than time. A unique benefit but significant risk associated with academic careers is the autonomy faculty have to allocate their own time. New faculty tend to find this aspect of their work equally exhilarating and intimidating. Agile Faculty is the strategic planning guide early career faculty will find invaluable and mid-career faculty never realized they needed! Rebecca Pope-Ruark adapts Agile project management strategies for use by faculty in their academic lives, helping them to set goals, manage their time, and achieve results. It is the best insurance against stress dreams and imposter syndrome I have seen and I recommend it to all of my colleagues seeking a proactive approach to managing their academic careers.” — Bill Hart-Davidson, Associate Professor, Associate Dean of Graduate Education (College of Arts and Letters), Michigan State University

Redesigning Liberal Education: Innovative Design for a Twenty-First-Century Undergraduate Education, Co-editor with William Moner and Phillip Motley, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020
(from Press website) The future of liberal education in the United States, in its current form, is fraught but full of possibility. Today’s institutions are struggling to maintain viability, sustain revenue, and assert value in the face of rising costs. But we should not abandon the model of pragmatic liberal learning that has made America’s colleges and universities the envy of the world. Instead, Redesigning Liberal Education argues, we owe it to students to reform liberal education in ways that put broad and measurable student learning as the highest priority.

Ultimately, Redesigning Liberal Education reveals how humanizing forces, including critical thinking, collaboration, cross-cultural competencies, resilience, and empathy, can help drive our world. This uplifting collection is a celebration of the innovative work being done to achieve the promise of a valuable, engaging, and practical undergraduate liberal education.

“This book is a treasure trove of innovative institutional examples and forward thinking about ways to increase the relevance and value of liberal education for both students and society.” — George D. Kuh, Chancellor’s Professor Emeritus, Indiana University

“Redesigning Liberal Education explores the urgent question of how to give twenty-first-century students the sort of holistic, transformative learning they need and deserve. At once radically innovative and deeply grounded in the values of liberal learning, the collected case studies and essays offer a provocative, inspiring guide to the best possibilities of change.” — David Scobey, Director, Bringing Theory to Practice

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