The University Record, April 10, 1995

Brownlee: ‘Don’t accept status quo of over-busy lives’

Brownlee: 'Don't accept status quo of over-busy lives'

By Mary Jo Frank
University Relations

Moguls have always lived over-busy lives. Now all of us are in that situation without similar compensation, observes Paula Brownlee.

Speaking March 31 at the Center for Education of Women's 30th anniversary conference "Women: Transforming Higher Education," Brownlee said, "We don't talk about the overburdened reality of our overburdened lives."

President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) and the mother of three adult children, Brownlee talked about the need for men and women in academia to balance their professional and personal lives.

"We can no longer ignore the complex reality of the whole life. Life is, after all, interdisciplinary," she said.

Many graduate students and junior faculty spend long hours working to demonstrate their commitment to academe. Too often they confuse quantity of time spent in the office with quality. The appearance of work is not necessarily work, she added.

Noting that people make time for things that capture their interests and energize them, Brownlee said, "We must recognize the need of our colleagues to discover time in their professional lives. Let us not accept the status quo of over-busy lives."

The structure of home lives is changing, and institutions are not responding to those changes, she observed. "As long as the two are kept separate, we can't make progress."

She described one AACU program designed to bring more balance to the lives of future faculty members.

Noting that for years Ph.D. students have been educated deeply, but very narrowly, Brownlee said the goal was to produce the best students. However, a decade ago, a group of liberal arts professors told the AACU that these new faculty recruits were not equipped to take on a typical faculty workload.

To help provide more balance in their training, the AACU designed the Pairing Future Faculty project, which pairs graduate students from large research universities with faculty mentors from liberal arts colleges so the graduate students can learn to be effective faculty members. Currently 300 graduate students are in the program.

Brownlee, who served as president and professor of chemistry at Hollins College for nine years before becoming president of the AACU in 1990, was identified as "one of the most effective presidents" in a 1986 study conducted by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

Founded in 1915, the AACU is comprised of more than 630 public and private colleges and universities whose presidents, deans and faculty members are active participants.