Retirement can be both an exciting opportunity and challenging concept for any NC State Faculty member and perhaps for any and everyone! The twofold opportunity / challenge dichotomy rang loud and clear in an Office of Faculty Development (OFD) program where several recently retired faculty shared their experiences. My purpose in attending and interest in learning about retiring from a university is based on several faculty ombuds office visits where I heard from some faculty members who had concerns about the retirement process. The question on my mind was, and still is, how to create an “all win” situation where a faculty member can phase out of a successful academic career while also meeting the needs of a department – this would be the all win!
At the OFD program, one faculty member explained that they spoke with their department head about a year out and came up with a plan that worked for all involved. This was indeed an all win! On the other hand, I’ve heard from faculty that did not feel comfortable saying anything about retiring for fear of being isolated from their department, or for “losing” control of ongoing work and plans for finishing up items, or from feeling that nothing was owed due to current treatment. They gave their department a minimum period of notice and, while they put as much in place as possible, they also left it to the department to figure out the “what next” in many areas.
Additionally, for faculty members, their professional and personal life is often so tied together that the idea of leaving the university is fraught with fear of the unknown. Thus, there is a range of support for faculty and staff who are thinking about retirement including a great Ready to Retire program here at NC State that goes over the nuts and bolts of retirement. And, while the logistics matter, I’m still more interested in the the planning and really the potential for “joint” planning that could go on between a faculty member and their department head. And, while there can and are “legal” issues that could arise around a retirement discussion, it also does not need to be that type of conversation. Instead, could a department set up a joint retirement planning process that would seek to meet the needs and interests of a faculty member along with the department? Can there be a way to normalize conversation about retirement so that it works for all concerned?
So, I’ve posed the question and I believe the answer is in the experiences of faculty that have or are in the process of retiring. What is your story? How did it go? I’d like to collect retirement (and leaving the university) stories to find out what folks believe are the best practices so that these can be shared with a broader audience.
Give me a call and share your story!