The title is not particularly catchy. None of mine usually are, to be honest, but at least in this case, it is accurate. Without further (or any, really) exposition, let’s get down the heart of the matter: universities offer many services that appear to be underutilized. I want to talk about this a little bit and then I want to hear from you; specifically, I want to know whether you use the services offered by your university and why.
Perhaps a little more exposition is necessary. My university offers a lot of different services, some of which are free, like TA/new instructor training seminars/workshops, and some of which cost some money, like grant editing. Often times, university employees and students make use of the services just by default (see mandatory training, the nice grant officer that has to run the grant submission site, etc). These services, I expect, are somewhat taken for granted, sort of like the ingredients of a cake to someone who doesn’t bake: I don’t know what makes the chocolate cake so great, but boy do I enjoy the finished product.
So given that so many services are taken for granted, I would not be surprised that many potentially helpful services are widely underutilized. For example, many different programs offer grant writing training workshops and teaching workshops. For people early in their career, these can be particularly helpful. However, these workshops and training sessions are usually not particularly well attended and I have some trouble seeing why.
The most obvious explanation is that we are all busy and who has the time. That’s definitely true, but it also follows that here an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It doesn’t help when you have zero ounces of everything. It’s also hard to think more long term when the near future is so peppered with deadlines and stressors. I don’t know about you, but get me in a high stress situation and I get weird temporal tunnel vision.
But even if people could make these workshops and training sessions and utilize the services to the full extent possible, is the university advertising these services enough? Given the huge amounts of email people get daily, I can’t imagine that a weekly flier of “look what’s available and going on now” is going to catch anyone’s eye. So what can be done to maximize awareness (ugh what a heavy word for such a light topic)?