Thursday, September 28

‘The Great Resignation’ hits Trevecca community

By Grace Beckner

Nine Trevecca faculty members will not be returning for the 2022-2023 academic year. Seven of the nine are women, two being retirees. 

“We had less faculty transitioning from Trevecca over the last couple of years during the pandemic, I think people needed stability in the middle of uncertainty,” said Tom Middendorf, university provost and senior vice president. 

Information released by the government’s jobs report indicated over 20 million people quit their jobs during the second half of 2021.

Middendorf said the university may be feeling the effects of what has been dubbed “The Great Resignation.”

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics released statistics in January indicating 4.5 million people left their jobs voluntarily in November 2021, an “all-time high” since they began collecting data in December 2000, according to the agency.

The movement seems to be hitting the education system especially hard.

In December 2021 the US Department of Labor reported 143,000 workers in the education sector quit their jobs, increasing the number of job openings by 58,000 compared to the previous month.

“There are a lot of opportunities in the job market now, and I do see a pick up of mobility across the country, not just at Trevecca,” said Middendorf.

The total number of education job openings for the 2021-2022 academic year jumped 53% compared to the previous year, with a total of 2.4 million job openings so far.

Elizabeth Nunley, field director and assistant professor of social work, will have served the Trevecca community for seven years in May. She is one of those who are leaving at the end of this academic year, and is aware of the ways her life looks different now compared to when she started teaching.

“This was more of a personal awakening, a new awareness of wanting to prioritize family and just realizing how quickly it all goes by and what matters,” said Nunley.

Nunley plans to grow her small counseling practice she has kept during her time as a professor, which she initially started as a means to supplement her income as a professor. She said keeping up this practice providing therapy to individual clients while teaching has helped inform the ways she shows up for students.

“My practice started growing and I started having to turn individual clients away because I didn’t do both, but as my practice grew I realized this is where my heart is.”

Amanda Greime-Bradley, associate professor psychology and chair of the social  behavioral sciences department, has served in her current position since August 2012, but started out at Trevecca as the counseling center director in August 2009.

“We have grown so much, and even just become more diverse over time, and just because of what my field is I have really seen growth in the student culture of being more accepting of mental health,” said Greime-Bradley.

Greime-Bradley feels both the counseling program and herself has grown tremendously over the time she has worked at the university, but she will also be leaving at the end of the school year.

“A definite challenge is the volume of students that I serve in my classes. It is a beautiful thing, but it is exhausting for me, just with how much grading I do,” said Greime-Bradley. “I want my people writing, but then it takes me hours and hours to grade, so then I’m always behind and people are frustrated, so that has been a challenge.”

She said the decision to make the move from Trevecca was a fast one, and that she  has not been dissatisfied with her time at the university. While burnout related to Covid-19 has caused her to take some time to evaluate her life, it has served as a reminder that she is “free to dream big dreams.”

“In academia they are calling it ‘The Great Resignation’ and it is hitting women a lot, [especially] women who have children,” said Greime-Bradley. “I have a three-year-old and a five-year-old so I have changed a lot since I’ve been here. Been married and became a mama, all the things.”

Greime-Bradley loves working with undergraduate students, but always saw herself working with people who “knew that they knew that they knew” they wanted to be counselors. This longing became hard for her to ignore.

“I felt this dis-ease and I didn’t know what it was. So I started to pray and contemplate, and I started thinking, ‘I get the most joy when I’m teaching counseling.’”

Greime-Bradley will be joining Belmont University as an associate professor of mental health counseling for their mental health master’s program.

“I have really been grieving, like, ‘is this really what I need to be doing? Can I really leave this community that has been so beautiful?’ But this is just the next right thing for me,” said Greime-Bradley.

She said this new position offers opportunity for her own professional growth, flexibility with the time she has to spend on campus, and a lighter work load overall.

Nunley’s reasoning for leaving Trevecca started to form in the spring of 2019 after giving birth to her third child and having to deal with what she saw to be a lack of maternity leave support. After this, she found herself becoming gradually more disengaged.

“There was no maternity leave, and as the result of some feedback that I gave they have a policy now, but it is still embarrassing,” she said. “I just felt really burned after that, and I think it gave me this clarity of how hard I was working for not fair or equal pay, and also that is taking something from my family, my soul.”

Nunley said she realizes the university is not making “conscious oppressive decisions towards women or mothers, but that is not an excuse, the impact is still there.”

Nunley said she is looking forward to growing her private practice, and is excited to spend more time with her family and reconnect with things she has had to let go of and sacrifice. 

“Time outdoors, time with God, time with friends, just time to breathe, is probably higher on my list than growing my practice,” Nunley said. “I trust that that will happen and it will be great, but just having some space is the biggest priority.”

Nunley said social work is a field where professionals need to be connected with themselves and their limits. This is something Nunley sees herself modeling for her students in her decision to transition to full-time practice, as it felt inauthentic for her to instruct her students to do something she was not doing herself.

“Social work is a field where we are constantly having to be present with our own experiences, like, ‘are we burning out? Are we hitting our capacity? What do we need? Are we taking care of ourselves?’” Nunley said.

Middendorf thinks there are many reasons faculty might think about transitioning to other opportunities now. He said burnout can be a part of it, but he sees opportunity in general as a major factor.

“There are more opportunities now than there have been in many years,” he said. “There are also opportunities to increase pay with a transition because there is demand in certain areas.”

There is potential for good for the Trevecca community when undergoing so much leadership change. Middendorf cites the integration of new ideas, curriculum and teaching styles into the university’s academic environment as just a few examples.

“This is part of being a healthy educational institution and advancing the institution,” said Middendorf.

Middendorf said he is looking for new candidates to fill the nine vacant teaching positions who possess “strong Christian testimony that is in congruence with the Nazarene faith, excellent education, quality teaching experience, and a love for students.” 

“These four qualities are foundational to our hiring processes with faculty,” said Middendorf.

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