Launch Committees are designed to offer support and guidance to new junior faculty as they begin their careers at Michigan.
The goal of a Launch Committee is to provide advice, information and encouragement to new faculty, within a confidential and positive atmosphere. Committees will assist the launchee from the beginning of their first year as faculty at Michigan by regularly meeting with them every other month for one year.
Committee members are identified and invited by the launchee’s department. Each committee has the following members:
- New faculty member (the “Launchee”)
- Department Chair or designee (in the case of joint appointments, two chairs
- Senior faculty member from the launchee’s department, with related research interests
- Senior faculty member from outside the launchee’s department, with related research interests (in the case of joint appointments, from the second department)
- Convener—senior faculty member from outside the department, who has been oriented or assigned to the role by the Office of Faculty Development
This team approach means that no committee member is expected to have all the answers, and multiple perspectives are welcomed.
Areas addressed by the Launch Committee
Each committee focuses on areas essential to the new faculty member’s success. These differ somewhat by field, but typically include many of those listed in Table 1. The discussion and topics should be tailored not only to the field, but also to the new faculty member’s needs. For example, hiring lab personnel may be a central topic over several meetings for one new faculty member while another may not need more than a few minutes on this topic. Committees should have an explicit conversation about confidentiality of information shared in the meeting and agree to treat all personal information disclosed (whether by the launchee or by others) as confidential.
Time commitment of Launch Committee members
Each committee convenes for one hour once every other month. If you have someone that supports your calendar, it is expected that you provide that information to aid in the scheduling of meetings. In addition to the bi-monthly committee meetings, members may meet informally with the launchee, as needed.
Role of the Faculty Convener
The Launch committee Faculty Convener plays important roles: creating and maintaining a positive and supportive environment for the launchee, managing the discussion so that important topics are covered and multiple perspectives are shared, noting discussion topics and areas to return to at the next meeting, and ensuring that meetings are held bi-monthly. The Convener is also responsible for organizing meeting times, taking notes, and following up on action items. Because of this special role, the Office of Faculty Development holds Convener orientation sessions that conveners must attend prior to their first launch committee meeting. As a token of appreciation, conveners receive a small (discretionary fund) stipend at the conclusion of the Launch year.
The Launch committee program is evaluated every year, with input gathered via online surveys. Overall, launchees and senior faculty find that the program helps junior faculty navigate the multiple and ever increasing expectations of the first year, and monthly meetings allow for issues to be addressed as they occur. Department chairs and deans see the program as a valuable recruiting tool, and senior faculty enjoy getting to know their new junior colleagues. These positive evaluations have stimulated expansion of the Medical School program to other Health Sciences schools, which now includes the College of Pharmacy and the Schools of Dentistry and Kinesiology.
Who makes up each Launch Committee?
The launchee and four senior faculty: department chair (or designee), senior member of department with related interests, senior member outside department with related interests, and the convener. When the launchee has an appointment in more than one department, it is sometimes appropriate to add the chair of that department to the committee as well.
Aren’t Launch Committees only for faculty in STEM or lab-based fields?
No. The call for Launch Committee nominations goes out to department chairs for all faculty.
Aren’t Launch Committees only beneficial to faculty needing extra support?
No, Launch Committees are not “remedial.” Launch Committees help all faculty be successful in their new role.
I have been asked to serve on a Launch Committee, but I do not perform research the same topic/field as the new hire. Will I have any useful advice to share?
Absolutely. New faculty have many questions beyond research: how to plan their first three years, navigate interacting with students and trainees, make sense of teaching evaluations, work with staff, respond to service requests, learn about relevant policies, make connections to faculty and resources across campus, find work/life balance, and connect with community resources.
What’s the time commitment?
Launch Committees meet for one hour every other month for one year. Sometimes less, and rarely more.
Will I have to read/comment on drafts of entire chapters, manuscripts, or grant proposals?
Not unless you want to. What’s more typical is for committee members to help the launchee identify scholars (UM or elsewhere) who are appropriate for reading draft manuscripts, grant proposals, and so forth.
What happens after Year 1?
Committee members sometimes meet (informally) with their launchee after Year 1, but that is by choice. Launch Committees are not expected to meet beyond the first year. However, committees should end by putting a mentoring plan in place.
What do “conveners” do?
Conveners attend a one-time orientation with the Office of Faculty Development. They ensure the committee meets every other month (with departmental staff support in scheduling), plan agendas with the launchee, run meetings, ensure relevant domains get covered, contribute their own advice on topics covered, and submit brief meeting summaries to the appropriate School representative.
What benefits do new faculty derive from being launched?
Their questions are answered quickly and certain problems are avoided. They can map out their first three years, build rapport with senior faculty, expand their scholarly network, feel valued by other faculty, and (STEM fields) have labs built and equipment ordered sooner.
Are there any benefits to senior faculty and department chairs?
Yes. It is often deeply rewarding for senior faculty to support junior faculty. It provides a fascinating look at other fields, norms, and subject matter. Professional relationships can be deepened and expanded, in and outside the department. Senior faculty can also learn about practices in other departments, e.g. around teaching or service, that might be useful for their own department. Chairs and senior faculty get a better understanding of new faculty needs. Conveners receive a small stipend. We also hear that prospective faculty find Launch Committees an attractive feature of UM.
My department already has a mentoring program, so why would we need Launch Committees?
Launch Committees ensure a structure of regular (bi-monthly) support and consistent access to department leadership throughout the launchee’s first year. This regularity creates an atmosphere and relationship where concerns across many domains are addressed, and questions large and small regarding success as a faculty member are answered.
For more information on Launch Committees, please contact Michaella Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org or (734) 936 - 6659.