Adjunct lecturers who travel are also known informally as “road warriors” or “road scholars.” They are temporary staff with no guarantee of permanent or regular employment. Sometimes, there’s not even a guarantee of income if class enrollment falls below a minimum threshold. Needless to say, there are no employee benefits, vacation time, sick leave, healthcare, or other perks.

Introducing writing to piano class, presented at Hawaii Strategy Institute, Windward College, March 2014

Why would anyone entertain the idea of such temporary, part-time employment with no guarantee?

I went into adjunct lectureship the summer of 2000, when I had a lull between jobs. The idea came from my mother. She had been pushing for me to do something with my PhD for years. So I looked for such an opportunity in London where I was living at the time.

My mother thought a university environment would suit me well. “Imagine standing up there, lecturing to a room full of eager and attentive students. They all have to listen to you,” she said.

As wife of a professor, my mother recalled the prestige and status being associated with my father, who, incidentally had “adjuncted” at various colleges and high schools in Taipei even while he was teaching at National Taiwan University. My father had also some two dozen books published under his name — many of which are now out of print.

Once I started teaching, I noticed the absence of a boss — a supervisor. In industry or other fields and job functions, there’s always a boss you have to report to, one from whom you ask permission, one who approves or disapproves, and one who appraises your performance.

My father had a difficult time transitioning from his lectureship jobs to a translator on shift work in a 24/7 environment with the pressure of a supervisor, an editor, and deadlines. He had to get used to having a boss. I, on other hand, revelled in having no boss.

Actually, it’s not entirely true. The boss is the client — the student who pays to get educated. In some classes there are student feedback forms at the end of the term. In some cultures, students always give positive or neutral feedback. In others, students only write if they have something to complain about. It’s the complaints that get you to meet with the head of the department or academic dean, i.e. the person who has a say over your contract and pay. Otherwise, you are the expert in your field — and no one can “tell you what to do.”

My very first course required that I design it. Not having ever developed a course before, I turned to my neighbor, a specialist in designing online courses, for help. It was a subject I knew nothing about — the psychology of multimedia — hence, the motivation to learn and teach it. Thirteen years later, I heard a writing teacher say to a class of educators: “the person who learns the most in the classroom is the teacher.” Indeed there’s no better way to learn than having to teach it.

For someone who loves to learn and take classes, teaching seems a natural fit. Since 2000, I have taught as an adjunct lecturer at undergraduate and MBAs level nearly every single year, always part-time, always temporary, always with the risk that the class might be cancelled, always doing something else full-time. Teaching has always been a part-time gig for me, allowing flexibility for the other passions in my life and a way to give back to society, hopefully inspire a younger generation to embrace living life to the fullest.

Blogs and articles about teaching:

Courses taught or will be teaching

University of Hawaii Maui College: January 2011 to present

Webster University in Leiden, Netherlands: October 2005 to 2010

  • Energy science elective
  • Freshman skills
  • Probability and statistics
  • Applied business statistics (MBA level)

Thames Valley University (now University of West London): 2003

  • Probability
  • Statistics

SAE College London: 2002

Workshops, guest lectureships

Cortona Contemporary Music Festival, Italy: July 2007

  • Business skills for musicians

HAN University of Applied Sciences, Arnhem, Netherlands

  • Personal branding workshop