Supporting WSU faculty after retirement: Wayne State University’s Emeritus Academy
As Arthur F. Marotti, Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus, contemplated retirement at the end of the 2009-2010 academic year, he faced a conundrum. Although he hoped to remain professionally active after retirement, Wayne State lacked the resources to aid the continuing professional activities of any retiree. Those faculty who did retire and remained professionally active had little to no university support. His dissatisfaction with this situation led him to draft a proposal to establish an Emeritus Academy at Wayne State, which was subsequently founded in 2015 and found a home on the third floor of the Tierney Alumni House at the intersection of Woodward and Ferry. From this location, the Emeritus Academy maintains a robust program of offerings that provide a platform for the university’s retired full-time faculty to engage in research, scholarship, and creative activity.
Today, the Emeritus Academy has 188 members, most of whom are former faculty who retired as tenured professors, clinical faculty, senior lectures, or lecturers. In addition, three affiliate members were once faculty at Wayne State but retired from other universities. Following the mission statement established by Professor Marotti during the creation of the Emeritus Academy, these members publish research and participate in colloquia, community outreach, and other various activities that make academic contributions to their institution, to the profession, and to the community. As a result, the Emeritus Academy is not only for the benefit of retired faculty, but also for Wayne State and the Detroit metro area.
Research support is one of the most important ways that the Emeritus Academy members continue their professional careers. Members can apply for limited funding to subsidize their research and travel costs as they go to conferences, meetings, and archives for research or fieldwork that results in conference presentations and published articles, books, and book chapters. To help the members share their research, the Emeritus Academy has sponsored or co-sponsored many one-day or half-day conferences and invited lectures on topics such as Memory, Reinventing Academic Retirement, and Modern Japan in a Global Context. These conferences include presentations from current and retired Wayne State faculty members from a wide range of departments as well as faculty from other universities.
The members of the Emeritus Academy also offer their professional services to the university, enhancing its standing as a research institution through their publications and their professional service to scholarly journals, presses, and organizations. Some of these publications include Frances Trix’s monograph Urban Muslim Immigrants in Istanbul: Identity and Trauma among Balkan Immigrants (2016), and Margaret Winters and Geoffrey Nathan’s short monograph Cognitive Linguistics for Linguists (2020). They also participate in the intellectual life of the university by regularly serving as judges for undergraduate and graduate research competitions, offering grant-writing workshops, and lecturing in courses on a part-time basis.
In addition, members spend time mentoring students and faculty on a more intimate level within the faculty members’ home departments. Working with the Honors College, the HIGH program, and other campus programs, member of the Emeritus Academy advise students on graduation preparation, professional schools, and career planning. They mentor Wayne State faculty as well, especially non-tenured junior faculty who are early in their career. For example, members have helped with grant and book proposal writing, article and book preparation, and professional development.
Wayne State’s location in Detroit offers a terrific opportunity for Emeritus Academy members to give back to the community. They engage with the local community through lectures and community organizations. For instance, several Emeritus Academy members have served as facilitators for community meetings held by CitizenDetroit, a foundation-funded project. Other members have given mini-courses and lectures at local institutions and taught courses at local centers.
The goals of the Academy have not been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While they have had to cancel many of their in-person events (including their annual social gatherings), the Academy has continued to hold colloquia, conferences, book-group meetings, and life-writing group meetings via Zoom. Over the past year, Emeritus Academy members have published 5 books, 7 book chapters, and 78 journal articles, and they have presented 55 papers or lectures while continuing their service to professional organizations.
In the future, the Emeritus Academy hopes to continue growing its membership as well as enhancing its contributions to the university and surrounding community. When the pandemic is over, the Emeritus Academy plans to host an interdisciplinary conference on the topic of Creativity in the Arts and Sciences, and to hold in-person sessions of its colloquium series and its book and life-writing groups. As the Emeritus Academy pursues its mission through these activities, it will continue to play a vital role in the university and the Detroit area.