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New Faculty Program Furthers Culture of Care at CSUSM

By Brian Hiro

When Betina Scott saw that Cal State San Marcos was looking for a person to launch a new program to support faculty at the university, she explored the job description with curiosity.

The position sought someone who’s a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). Check, thought Scott.

Someone who had been on staff and understood both the academic and administrative sides of CSUSM. Check and check.

Someone who had built programs before. Check.

“As I read the proposal, it felt as if the position was made for me,” Scott said. “It was one of those perfect timing things. This was very much in alignment with who I am and the work that is important to me.”

Scott is now the director of Faculty Advocacy, Care, Engagement and Support (FACES), a program started this fall that’s designed to enhance the professional success and workplace experience of CSUSM faculty by connecting them with resources, providing supportive services, and advocating for them. Indeed, it’s a hand-in-glove fit for Scott, who possesses an LCSW degree as well as a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW). She had been a full-time lecturer in CSUSM’s Department of Social Work before spending the past year as the interim director of ACE Scholars Services, the university’s innovative program for former foster youth.

The faculty who wrote the proposal for FACES, Scott said, intended for it to be modeled in part as the faculty version of the student-oriented Cougar Care Network. Besides offering supportive services, resource linkage and crisis resource coordination, FACES will provide departmental, community-building workshops to address faculty incivility, care-based professional training, advocacy for equity for faculty of color, and faculty-to-faculty coaching.

“FACES can be considered the emotional, feeling side of the Faculty Center,” Scott said. “The Faculty Center provides services aimed at improving teaching and learning, engaging in research, navigating the tenure process, and assisting with grant writing. FACES will strive to provide care, advocacy and at times emotionally supportive services to faculty as they navigate the complexities, challenges and concerns they may face in academia.

“It is very difficult to be your best self, to bring your best to the students, if you are not OK emotionally, not feeling supported or valued as a contributing part of the university.”

Just as FACES offers services not covered by the Faculty Center, it’s also different in a significant way from the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through the Office of Human Resources. The EAP provides brief counseling services to employees, while FACES is more focused on confidential consultation, care coordination, psychoeducational trainings and workshops, and crisis response for faculty.

FACES grew out of a movement that followed the Poway synagogue shooting by a CSUSM student in April 2019. After that horrific incident, Jewish faculty and faculty of color reported being threatened both on and off campus, and there were other racially charged episodes that occurred on campus. As a result, a committee of faculty members was charged that fall with writing a proposal for the creation of an institutional faculty support initiative.

“Following the shooting, there were a number of questions: What do we do for faculty and staff when there’s a crisis? How do we help them to heal, feel safe, and process these tragic and traumatic events?” Scott said. “It’s about safety, not only in the sense that we feel physically safe coming to campus, but also that we feel emotionally safe. It’s important for faculty and staff to have a space to share experiences, process fears, express needs, and trust that the university is going to hear them, validate them, and do what’s possible to support them.”

The original idea for FACES predates the arrival of President Ellen Neufeldt in July 2019, but Neufeldt elevated it as a university priority as part of her mission to establish a lasting “culture of care” at CSUSM. FACES completes a trio of programs in that vein, along with the Cougar Care Network for students and the Staff Center – also new this fall. Scott emphasized that FACES serves all faculty, including part- and full-time lecturers as well as tenured professors.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, FACES is a virtual center for now. With a limited budget and staff, Scott already has begun building and leveraging connections around campus to assist with getting the program up and running. She plans to use her fundraising and grant writing experience to secure additional funding for FACES down the road.

Scott has started running workshops and working with faculty on issues related to incivility or non-collegial behavior, as well as anti-racism efforts within departments. And though FACES was conceived of and proposed before our current moment dominated by a devastating pandemic and heart-wrenching racial strife, it might as well have been designed for this world – and the fear, anger and anxiety that accompany it.

“It’s almost as if this is fortuitous, because who knew that all this would be happening in our country, in our world right now?” Scott said. “The people who are educating our students must be healthy – physically, mentally and emotionally. If not, this will trickle down to our students.

“FACES is right on time and just what our campus needs in this trying period.”

Media Contact

Brian Hiro, Communications Specialist

bhiro@csusm.edu | Office: 760-750-7306