Taking Time for Tea
Afternoon tea was a constant theme flowing through the six major novels penned by English novelist Jane Austen, and the centerpiece for a recent gathering of Governors State University faculty.
“Welcome to Chez Maimon, where we enjoy a tradition of high tea and good conversation while we make new friends,’’ said GSU President Elaine P. Maimon to about 55 guests at the annual Faculty Tea. Husband Mort Maimon was a gracious co-host.
In the intimate setting of the Maimon home, faculty from all four colleges, university administrators, and trustees mixed and mingled while enjoying finger sandwiches and tasty treats, sharing ideas and ideals.
The annual gathering, in part homage to President Maimon’s beloved Austen, intentionally breaks with traditional meeting venues to create spaces for new and veteran faculty members to connect.
Newly tenured faculty were congratulated and received white roses, while newly hired faculty received a warm welcome.
Faculty Senate President David Golland first attended the event two years ago as newly tenured faculty in the College of Arts and Science’s Division of Humanities and Social Sciences. He said the annual event is a privilege to attend.
“I’m honored to be invited to play an active role, as Faulty Senate President, in mentoring junior faculty members,’’ Golland said.
Following a social hour, guests were summoned to the living room where some relaxed on a sectional sofa and others stood nearby. Colleagues introduced themselves, discussed aspirations, and summed up their impressions or experience at GSU in one word.
“Catalyst” is the word Shannon Dermer, Interim Dean of the College of Education, chose to describe how she imagines GSU. “I’d like to think of myself and GSU as a catalyst to make things happen.”
Guests nodded in approval but Trustee Carney A. Barr cautioned that “funding” is also necessary for most action. He said he was hopeful for an increased allotment following a recent state budget crisis.
For two years, GSU operated without funding, and leaned on “innovation" to survive, said Student Trustee Linda Coleman who continues to look for innovative approaches to accomplish goals.
Incoming faculty, excited for such a rare audience with senior faculty and administration, used their one word to express how they felt.
“I’m really surprised and grateful,’’ said Wonsuk Cha, Assistant Professor, in the College of Business. “Not many presidents would invite new faculty into their home, I feel welcome here, and the food is wonderful.”
Steve Sharp, Assistant Professor in the College of Education, described the university as “friendly.”
The one-word descriptions formed a telling linguistic pattern that captured the university’s history and spirit, said President Maimon. An English professor by profession, President Maimon hyphenated two words to form one that described the GSU student— “new-majority:” first-generation students, students of color, returning adults, and veterans.
“These students have been our focus for 50 years. GSU was way ahead of its time in 1969. We educated the new majority before they were the majority."