by Terri Givens, Founder & CEO of The Center for Higher Education Leadership

When a graduate student makes the transition to faculty member, there are a variety of issues they face, and support they need. When we think of student success, the focus is often on advising, financial support, and other factors that indeed play a role. However, the main point of contact for students is the faculty. Faculty development and student success go hand in hand.

As many colleges and universities face demographic changes and a great focus on student outcomes (see our Assessment Guide), faculty development will need to be a top priority for academic leaders.

Faculty are generally evaluated on their research, teaching, and service, although the weight placed on these factors will vary based on the type of institution. However, teaching is becoming an increasingly important component of a faculty member’s portfolio as accreditors place more emphasis on assessment and students.

We know that the bulk of our teaching faculty are getting PhDs at top research universities. We also know that there isn’t much of a focus on teaching pedagogy in most of these programs. This issue seems to be even more of an imperative as we enter an era where faculty are being called on to develop course learning outcomes that can be quantified, and to show that students are learning what we say they are learning.

Leaders should review their graduate programs to determine the types of resources that are provided to help students make the transition to faculty roles and teaching. In my column at Inside Higher Ed, I have written about the need to provide PhD students with the opportunity to develop more skills around teaching and working with data to assess student outcomes.

Faculty development and student success go hand in hand.

Look within your department

The first place for faculty development is within their own departments. Department chairs and deans need to ensure that faculty are getting the mentoring they need from colleagues within their disciplines. My own experience indicates that this effort can be uneven, and it can be difficult to find appropriate mentors, even in large departments. It may be necessary to find an appropriate mentor outside of the faculty member’s home department in order to ensure that it is a good fit.

It is also important to get a sense of the broader campus culture, so that faculty understand not only the formal expectations, but also the informal expectations that may impact their teaching and service. I describe my experiences with different campus cultures in another of my columns in Inside Higher Ed.  Making connections across campus can be helpful for faculty, through formal or informal affinity groups, and can also facilitate cross-campus research collaborations.

CEO Terri Givens at Duke University

Check into resource centers

Many large colleges and universities have centers for teaching and learning, which are important resources for faculty. It is vital for leaders to be aware of such resources and encourage faculty to utilize them, particularly those who are new to campus — but they should also be encouraged to refresh their teaching and get feedback on it.

For those who don’t have such resources on campus, or for faculty that may need a more hands-on approach, there are a variety of services that provide faculty support for developing their research and teaching practices. For example, Karen Kelsky of “The Professor is In” provides “bullshit-free advising on your grants, writing, the job market, and tenure, as well as coaching on professional and career dilemmas.”

There are also companies like “The Faculty Guild” whose mission is to “help higher education institutions create thriving faculty communities that lead to purposeful teaching and improved student outcomes.” They offer a faculty learning community which provides opportunities for faculty to learn from experts and other colleagues in a fellowship program that focuses on evidence-based techniques for improving teaching.

Beyond these resources, there are many organizations that support faculty teaching. For example, in my discipline, the American Political Science Association has an annual teaching and learning conference and publishes the “Journal of Political Science Education” for discipline-specific information and research.

Don’t overlook service opportunities

Beyond research and teaching, faculty need to focus on service opportunities, as they are often unaware of pathways to leadership and how service can help them learn about the functions of a campus. Particularly after a faculty member has gotten tenure, he or she is often recruited to join various committees within their department and college. Faculty should be aware of the array of options, including positions on faculty senates, that can help them gain a broader perspective on the leadership roles available on campus.

Department chairs and deans should be identifying faculty with leadership potential and providing them with opportunities to learn more about potential positions, including becoming a department chair or working in the dean’s office. I don’t recommend my path from center director to vice provost, but it can happen, and the provost’s office should be involved in identifying and cultivating faculty who may have the potential for higher level positions.

Mentoring and other outside resources

In general, mentoring plays an important role in faculty success, but there are also many resources within a college and beyond that are designed to facilitate a faculty member’s progress in teaching, research, and service. It is an important component of a higher education leader’s job, including those in areas like research, student success and advising, development, information technology, and more. For those who don’t work directly with faculty, it is also useful to educate them on the role of areas like facilities, finance, and other departments which may have limited contact with faculty.

Faculty are the heart of our institutions, and it is important for all leaders to be aware of the variety of ways they can be supported. Faculty success leads to student success — and better outcomes for all.

This article is from our May 15, 2019 issue. Read the full newsletter here!

About the author:

Terri E. Givens is the former Provost at Menlo College in the San Francisco Bay Area; Professor of Government and European studies at The University of Texas at Austin; Vice Provost overseeing undergraduate curriculum and spearheading global initiatives as its chief international officer. She formed The Center for Higher Education Leadership (CHEL) to provide academic leaders with information and a supportive community for improving management and leadership skills in an environment of changing demographics, financial challenges, and advances in educational technology. CHEL was born of Terri’s experiences navigating these fields and learning along her journey through academe, from professor to vice-provost and provost at universities in Texas and California.

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