Emeritus Scholars pilot program inspires retired faculty involvement
CLEMSON, South Carolina – Renovated office space and the launch of an emeritus faculty involvement program – Emeritus Scholars – has brought new life to the Emeritus College at Clemson University.
When Dwaine Eubanks, professor emeritus of chemistry, was named director of the Emeritus College in May 2016, he knew the statistics about Clemson emeriti faculty.
Of the class of professors who retired in the 2016-2017 academic year, 33 are still living in the Clemson area and have collectively contributed 837 years to Clemson University. Overall, Clemson has almost 800 emeritus faculty members, and 90 percent of them still live close by.
“When they retire, they don’t all go play golf,” Eubanks said. “They’ve been in academia their entire professional careers – that’s what they do. Their brains are so active when they’re working, and frequently, there’s no place for that outlet in retirement.”
Partnered, too, with existing research on the mental decline of workers when they go into retirement, Eubanks wanted to reimagine the Emeritus College to support faculty involvement well into retirement age.
“Often, faculty don’t want to retire because they don’t want to lose their faculty space – their office, their labs, their computers. So, if we have a place for them to come, to use a computer and have a space of their own, then that will entice them to stay involved in the university, but still move into retirement,” Eubanks said.
The renovated Emeritus College, located on Westinghouse Road in Pendleton, has 11 faculty work stations, a lecture hall and storage space for faculty projects. Each work station is equipped with a desktop computer that includes all of the software found in the Clemson University computing system. Emeriti faculty also receive prime, front-door parking spots at the Emeritus College, which shares building space with Clemson’s Regulatory Services.
“It’s taking some time to inform all the faculty that this is here now, because we’ve only been in these offices since the beginning of September,” Eubanks said. “But, the ones who have come to use it think it’s awesome, so it’s just a matter of spreading the word.”
Aside from providing a space for retired faculty, Eubanks also hopes to facilitate the continued contribution of faculty members to their departments through the Emeritus Scholars pilot program in the College of Science.
The program will use the knowledge base of emeriti faculty to meet the needs of current faculty and students in the departments of chemistry and mathematical sciences, the first two departments invited to pilot the program.
The idea was met with excitement from Dean Cynthia Y. Young of the College of Science, and both department chairs Chris Cox and Bill Pennington – of mathematical sciences and chemistry, respectively. The pair can already envision where Emeritus Scholars would be most valuable in their departments.
“For math, Chris Cox could see Emeritus Scholars being particularly helpful with calculus courses,” Eubanks said. “A lot of math courses are prerequisites to courses in other majors, so if you can’t pass calculus, you can’t go on in engineering or physical sciences. So, for students struggling in mathematics, Emeritus Scholars can tutor them.”
Pennington, on the other hand, can picture Emeritus Scholars helping the research efforts of students in the department of chemistry, particularly seniors conducting undergraduate research.
“Some of the emeriti want to jump in, roll up their sleeves and get back in the lab, while others would like to help young faculty and students prepare presentations, proposals and scientific publications,” Eubanks said.
After the Emeritus Scholars program is assessed by both departments, Eubanks intends to demonstrate its merits to departments across the entire university.
With continued support from the Provost’s Office and the administration, the Emeritus College hopes to inspire emeritus faculty to stay involved in their departments in whatever capacity they can during retirement.
“Outside of academia, people may love their jobs, but they seldom stay in them for 40 years. They move on,” Eubanks said. “But these emeriti have stayed. They’ve touched thousands of students’ lives, and have helped the university tremendously.”