Is faculty career flexibility the next disruptive innovation?

According to the executive summary on what was discussed during last summer’s conference, college and university presidents and leadership say these are the 10 issues on faculty career flexibility:

1. Legal issues: According to Joan Williams, distinguished professor of law and Hastings Foundation Chair at the University of California, Title IX compliance and enforcement provides an opportunity for institutions to improve their campus climate while retaining talented faculty. More information can be found in “Effective Policies and Programs for Retention and Advancement of Women in Academia,” as well as ACE’s recently developed legal issues brief regarding faculty retirement, here.

2. Working within systems: How do systems share resources across campuses, and how can effective policies multiply faculty utilization of workplace flexibility? According to Susan Carlson, vice provost for academic personnel at the University of California Office of the President, the University has a Faculty Family Friendly Edge program, which offers services and benefits to support faculty and their families; for example, stopping the tenure clock to allow time for newborns, a flexible part-time option for ladder-rank faculty with care-giving responsibility, and one year of unpaid leave for sickness for self or family member.

Laura Koppes Bryan, professor at the Division of Applied Behavioral Sciences, and dean of the Yale Gordon College of Liberal Arts at the University of Baltimore, explained that her University has some of the same system-wide initiatives as Carlson, but also includes a phased retirement policy, which allows professors to shape their own course for transition from work to retirement.

Becky Warner, senior vice provost for academic affairs at Oregon State University noted that the University is part of the Greater Oregon Higher Education Recruitment Consortium, which is a service that lists jobs from member institutions throughout the northwest that are committed to diversity hiring and dual-career couples.

3. Retaining a diverse faculty: The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) said it has a flexible work arrangement policy to try and recruit and retain talented faculty. UMBC’s provost convened an executive committee on the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority faculty that “guides the development and implementation of initiatives to recruit and retain a diverse faculty: UMBC’s ADVANCE Program.” Currently, UMBC STEM faculty—both male and female—use a family leave policy, which faculty candidates identified as one of the top three reasons they accepted their faculty appointment.

4. Mentoring faculty: To improve career satisfaction, Luanne Thorndyke, vice provost for faculty affairs at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said that a survey of faculty uncovered a “mentoring gap” where faculty were not able to seek out appropriate individuals to give them the guidance they felt they needed. The development of a checklist for determining needs, the creation of a website, and dedicated mentoring workshops are all part of the University’s mentoring program. One-hour mentoring consultations are also available. Thorndyke emphasized that mentoring is most successful when guidance occurs between a faculty member with specific needs and a mentor with the expertise that a mentee can use.

5. Meeting mid-career faculty professional renewal needs: Amy Strange, assistant vice president for faculty development at San José State University, noted that the University created a “theoretical framework, grounded in adult development and psychology, addressing the need for faculty members to continue to be generative and vital in order to identify meaningful and professional goals.” The goal is that once renewed and engaged, faculty can adjust their work-life balance to achieve goal and career advancements. The university asks faculty to articulate personal and professional goals, improve their perception of their work, see value in constructive criticism, and re-frame their professional objectives to include reflection and intentional planning.

(Next page: Considerations 6-10: STEM, liberal arts, retirement)