Most teachers would disagree with the old saying that "those who can, do; those who can't, teach." For most adjunct professors, in fact, the opposite is true: They are hired to teach because of what they can do in their field. Stephen Goodyear has been an adjunct for the past nine years, teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. In the fall, he will also teach at Augsburg College for the first time. Goodyear's first career was in corporate marketing and communications, and he was a certified trainer in crisis management and media skills. A "corporate vagabond," he moved from Phoenix to Hong Kong to Austin with Motorola Corporation. Although each move represented a promotion and a step up the career ladder, "I don't choose to do that anymore," Goodyear said.
During hiring process for the job that brought him to Minnesota, he made it clear that he planned to continue teaching. Goodyear said, "Progressive employers embrace that. It makes their people better, and it puts them in front of young professionals, getting to know them in ways that others don't." As for the colleges where Goodyear teaches, he said that his broad base of marketing experience is an advantage for teaching "anything marketing -- strategy, communication, research." In the 2011-12 school year, he taught 15 credits, which is roughly the equivalent of a full-time class load, although as an adjunct Goodyear doesn't have the research and committee requirements of a full-time professor.
"I've learned a lot," Goodyear said. "Students often teach me as much as I teach them. The students are very present online -- they know the Internet in a way I don't. Students are very quick to ask 'why?' I have to think through whether the traditional ways I've looked at things are the right way."
Teaching experience has also given Goodyear insights into the Gen X and Gen Y population that is moving up in the workplace. "The differences are fascinating," he said. "Older generations prize focus. The younger generations can multitask -- read a book while texting and answering their email -- and do all of it reasonably well."
Although Goodyear's plan was a hybrid career of 75 percent consulting and 25 percent teaching, the mix continues to be closer to 50-50. "I love the teaching," he said.
How was your corporate training experience different from the teaching you're doing now?
When I was doing training, I was a subject matter expert in dialog with my peers. It was very interactive. I strive for that in teaching, but sometimes it's easier said than done. The best classes are the ones I spend moderating discussions, and I think the students would agree.
Adjuncts are sometimes seen as the bottom rung of the academic ladder. Does that bother you?
It's a reality. I have not committed my career to higher education. The tenured professors have done research that I haven't. I'm comfortable with my ability to deliver value based on experience. That augments what tenured professors bring to the classroom.
What kind of person can succeed as an adjunct?
You have to be a bit of an extrovert and enjoy people. You have to feel like you have something to contribute and a willingness to keep learning. You know there are people who would be wonderful at this and aren't doing it.
Poll: What would you choose as a way for you (or your husband) to deal with a midlife crisis?