Melissa Bowles-Terry, the new director of the UNLV Faculty Center, coordinates programming to support faculty teaching, research, and career development. She was appointed to the post in March. Bowles-Terry joined UNLV in 2014. She is the former head of educational initiatives at UNLV Libraries and is a tenured member of the library faculty.
What drew you to UNLV?
When I first visited UNLV for my interview, I was overwhelmed with how busy the library was. It was packed with students and there was a hum around the place. I’d worked in several university libraries before, but I’d never felt so much energy in a library! That really drew me in. I was also excited about the way folks in the libraries were engaged in all aspects of campus life. The library was definitely not a museum or warehouse for books, it was a vital part of the educational mission.
You started in UNLV Libraries. How did that work influence your research and work with faculty?
My work in libraries was always about providing resources and building community, which is exactly what I’m doing in the Faculty Center now. And my role at UNLV Libraries had a focus on faculty development, so I was able to develop and offer annual multi-day workshops for faculty who were interested in creating new research assignments for their classes. I loved doing that, and helping faculty implement new ways of teaching research skills was my favorite part of the job.
Describe your current role. How does your work intersect with other areas of campus?
As the director of the Faculty Center, I’m responsible for coordinating professional development opportunities for all types of faculty, related to teaching, research, and career advancement. I’m also working to create community-building and mentorship programs to help faculty connect with one another and with UNLV. I work closely with colleagues in online education, community engagement, Libraries, The Intersection, OIT, HR, the research office, and others to try and bring together the many different campus opportunities for faculty to engage in professional development and connect with each other.
What is the biggest challenge for the Faculty Center?
There are so many pulls on faculty time and attention — we have research and teaching responsibilities, as well as other important things in our lives that keep us really busy. I want to provide enriching opportunities that are worthwhile to colleagues. Programs have to be compelling in order to get faculty attention and interest! That’s a good challenge to have, though, and I’m always open to ideas from colleagues. So if you want to do a program, or if you want the Faculty Center to offer something new, all you have to do is make the suggestion!
How has COVID-19 changed the focus of the Faculty Center, if at all?
We had an immediate need in March 2020, to focus on helping faculty members make the shift to remote teaching. That ended up being the subject of much of our programming in spring and summer 2020, and thanks to our partnership with online ed and OIT we were able to help hundreds of faculty members move online in a hurry. Then of course we had to shift all of our events — book group, mentoring groups, workshops, and panels — to an online format. The overall focus of our programs has remained the same, providing opportunities to connect with colleagues and grow professionally, but it’s definitely a challenge to do that solely in a virtual environment.
What is the biggest misconception you encounter about the Faculty Center?
Not everyone knows that the Faculty Center is for all types of faculty. Administrative faculty, part-time instructors, tenure- and nontenure-track faculty – all are welcome.
How can other areas of campus contribute to or participate in the Faculty Center?
If you have ideas for programs or events that we should offer or publicize through the Faculty Center, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly!
Shortly before the pandemic, the Faculty Center had moved into new space in Beam Hall. As UNLV prepares to return to more normal operations, what can we look forward to in the new space?
We have comfortable armchairs and couches, all with power sources so you can plug in and get things done. We have collaborative workspaces if you want to meet with colleagues and put your project up on a big screen. We have a coffee maker and a microwave in the kitchenette, so you can make yourself at a home with a drink and a snack. A networked printer, a conference room, and more! I’m so excited to see faculty members actually using the space. We’re planning to reopen our doors in July, so I look forward to seeing you all then.
What are some of the signature programs you hope to see grow?
I’m excited about the return of First Friday: Research Collaboration Lunches. We were doing these pre-pandemic and it was really exciting to get UNLV researchers together to share their research projects and discover collaboration opportunities. We’ll be reformatting and restarting that in fall 2021. And of course every spring I love hosting the Best Teaching Practices Expo, and we’re planning to have that event in the Faculty Center next year.
How does your work in the Faculty Center fit in with UNLV’s mission as a Minority-Serving Institution?
Being a Minority-Serving Institution means understanding our students and their needs, and adapting our practices to meet them. For many of us, that involves learning new teaching styles, developing our mentoring practice, and considering how we can all individually contribute to creating an equitable university that serves all of our students. In the Faculty Center we’ve offered many programs related to equitable teaching practices, we’ve convened groups of faculty to take online courses like Cornell’s Teaching and Learning in the Diverse Classroom, and we’re part of a larger campus conversation about inclusive excellence.
What is your favorite thing to do when you are not working?
I love camping and hiking with my family and our friends. One of the best things about living in Southern Nevada is how close we are to lots of national and state parks. My favorites are Cathedral Gorge and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Share something people would be surprised to learn about you.
My first job was feeding calves when I was 8 years old, on the dairy farm in Preston, Idaho, where I grew up and where my family has lived for (literally) a hundred years. I tried all kinds of things to get out of calf feeding because I’d much rather read or go to a friend’s house or even practice the piano than go to the smelly calf stalls; but my brothers and I had to do it every day after school. Now my daughter, Nora, who has lived in Las Vegas almost all her life, loves to visit Grandma and Grandpa on the farm every summer and see all the animals. It’s totally exotic to her.