Plattsburgh State’s own Torrey “Greg” Wuesthoff, an adjunct lecturer in the English department, was selected as the winner of the 2014-2015 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching.
The Chancellor’s Award for Excellence was created to recognize “consistently superior professional achievement and to encourage the ongoing pursuit of excellence,” according to the SUNY webpage. Unlike other awards and recognition that professors and lecturers can earn through PSUC, the Chancellor’s Award is distinguished by the fact that it is a SUNY-wide competition, meaning all SUNY adjuncts are eligible for nomination, provided they submit the proper application and meet the criteria designated by the SUNY board.
Wuesthoff, who has been teaching since the age of 22 and has taught a range courses at both the collegiate and high school levels across the United States and abroad, in places such as London, said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the news and called the award a “reflection of the support of (his) colleagues.”
In regards to his teaching goals, Wuesthoff said he “wants to see students improve” and “help them get better.” Wuesthoff said he urges his students to collaborate and stresses the importance of the humanities, especially reading and writing, which he said “go hand-in-hand.”
To acknowledge recipients, a letter, certificate and a Chancellor’s Award for Excellence Medallion are given to the award winners. In addition, adjuncts that are selected for the honor will be praised through a listing in the college catalogue that will include the phrase “State University Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching.”
In order to become eligible for the award, adjuncts must meet a long list of criteria, with the main requirement being skill in teaching. The nominee must demonstrate clear evidence that they perform superbly in the classroom, maintain instructional policies and respond readily to student needs. Additionally, nominees must also serve in adjunct positions at other institutions as well as having been employed by the nominating campus at the time of nomination. The application process for the Chancellor’s Award, according to Wuesthoff, was “a lot of work.”
“I didn’t know if I had a chance or who I was competing against,” Wuesthoff said.
PSUC English adjunct Richard Aberle, a colleague of Wuesthoff’s, said he was “so happy that the award went to Plattsburgh, and Greg.” Both men attended the University of California at Berkeley and have been strong advocates in bringing awareness to the issues that they and other professors see in the adjunct compensation system.
Despite working in what he believes to be a supportive department, Wuesthoff said he believes it is hard being an adjunct because the pay is so low and the demand is so high.
Adjunct positions are steadily increasing at universities and colleges across the nation, and as of last fall, 40 percent of the instructors were adjuncts, according to reporting from WCAX. SUNY adjuncts are paid $2,250 per class on average.
“We are reaching a point where many adjuncts are saying there’s something fundamentally wrong with the system,” Aberle said. He also noted the importance of adjusting the compensation system, saying adjuncts “need to have our salaries prorated to that of lecturers so we can make a living.”
Despite current issues with adjunct salaries, both men offered similar advice to students who are heading down the path to becoming a collegiate professor in the future.
“Find a field you have a deep interest in,” Wuesthoff said.
Though he said the road to academia is a tough one, Aberle said, “If you’re going to pursue academic life, you better love it — it better be your passion.”
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