The Foundation for a Career in Higher EducationPosted Oct. 5, 2010
During a more than three-decade career in higher education, Dr. Jane Applegate has been a first-hand witness to the changes affecting universities and their students. But as an educator of future educators, she also has a unique perspective on the needs of an often overlooked group — faculty members.
“The funding for higher education keeps going down and down, and that forces universities to find resources in other ways,” she says. “Faculty members must pursue grants and contracts to support their scholarship. And the requirements for faculty members to publish their work has increased tremendously.”
It’s a different world from 1978, when Applegate graduated with her doctorate from Ohio State.
“There no longer is the requirement that you must just be a good teacher in the classroom,” she says. “Faculty work is much more demanding than it was when I began my career.”
That career began in the late 1970s with the Ohio Department of Education, working with the state’s colleges and universities to adjust their curricula to match new teacher-preparation standards. It was through that assignment that she became acquainted with Kent State faculty members, who encouraged her to apply for a new assistant professorship. When she was hired for that first teaching position, Applegate found a surprising support system.
“As a beginning faculty member at Kent State, I felt that I had almost a built-in family,” she says. “I felt that there were many people there who wanted me to succeed.”
Those included Dick Hawthorne and Joanne Schwartz, who served as deans of what is now known as the College of Education, Health and Human Services; and longtime faculty members and philanthropists Jo Anne and Richard Vacca. Hawthorne became a mentor in the realm of teaching, while Schwartz taught the young professor about administration, and the Vaccas encouraged her research and publications.
“I think the public doesn’t understand that faculty members are more than teachers — that our job is to contribute to our profession. In the beginning of one’s career, you’re pressured to do research while you are really learning how to do it,” Applegate says. “If you’re lucky, in your Ph.D. program, as I was, you may have the opportunity to publish an article or two. But when you become a faculty member, you’re expected to write on your own, in addition to your teaching and your service to your college and your profession.”
With so many colleagues rooting for her success, Applegate achieved the position of professor, before moving on to deanships in the College of Education at both West Virginia University and the University of South Florida. Today, she’s still at USF as a professor in the Department of Secondary Education, where she teaches, writes and works with graduate students — “all the things I wanted to do from the start of my career,” she says.
It’s because of the career foundation she received at Kent State that she has provided a bequest in her estate to endow a professorship in the College of Education, Health and Human Services — a key but underfunded component of the Centennial Campaign.
“Much of our private fundraising is in direct support of our students, whose education is, of course, our greatest priority,” says Dr. Robert G. Frank, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “But faculty support plays a key role in the quality of our institution. It allows us to attract industry-leading professors, increases our ability to engage in path-breaking research, and frees our faculty to be academic innovators and entrepreneurs. All of which, in turn, provides our students with a better educational experience.”
As Applegate nears retirement after a lengthy university career, she understands the importance of faculty support — and she’s giving back in order to help future professors have a Kent State experience like her own.
“Kent State taught me what it meant to be a productive faculty member and scholar, and also taught me about university administration,” she says. “So, in my gift to Kent State, I’m hoping to provide that little extra that a beginning faculty member might need to get her research off the ground — to give her a good start.”
This story originally appeared in the Fall 2010 issue of the Kent State Magazine.