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President's Message: The Good Citizen and the Glue of the Academe

Posted By Peng Hwa Ang, ICA President, Nanyang Technological U , Monday, November 21, 2016
Peng Hwa Ang, ICA President,
Nanyang Technological U

Lately, I have been thinking about what it means to be a good citizen in the academic world. And I have yet to finish thinking.

Perhaps it is because of my seniority or age; perhaps it is because of my role as president of the ICA. Whatever the reason, I find that when I discuss with junior colleagues on how to get ahead in their career, one area that is often overlooked is that of being a good academic citizen.

Bruce Macfarlane of Hong Kong University says it more elegantly in The Academic Citizen: The Virtue of Service in University Life (2007) when he described academic citizenship as "the glue that keeps academe working." Macfarlane lists the following surprising and long list of service in the citizenship. The list is long when written out; surprisingly, I have many colleagues and friends who do all of them:

  • curriculum design
  • supporting junior colleagues
  • pastoral care and mentoring
  • organising conferences and seminars
  • evaluating for funding bodies; serving on editorial boards
  • participation in committee meetings and appointment panels
  • writing reference letters
  • serving on boards of academic associations, and
  • public engagement and outreach
  • What struck me about the above list is that we cannot succeed on our own. We do not publish in our own journals. We do not invite ourselves to our own conference. We cannot write our own reference letters for promotion and tenure.1

    A larger issue is that an association such as the ICA relies on members stepping up as good citizens.

    I will continue my incomplete thoughts in another column. For now, go forth and be a good citizen.

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