Building Faculty for the Future

Chet(1)By Dr. Chet Haskell March 9, 2020 – Institutions of higher education around the world face some similar challenges. The search for enrollments, the quest for resources, the impact of technologies on teaching and learning, and the changing nature of accreditation and regulation are merely some of the themes often heard. Less commonly acknowledged is the need to assure that institutions have the faculties they need for an uncertain future. Yet, in many ways continuing to attract, build, and support a faculty of quality appropriate for an institution is an absolute prerequisite for addressing most of the other problems.

What is so difficult about building a faculty? After all, most institutions have sufficient numbers of candidates who apply when they conduct a faculty search. Doctoral programs in the US and elsewhere continue to churn out qualified talent. This essay will examine some further considerations in this matter based on the author’s direct, contemporary experience, as well as decades of US and international experience as a senior academic administrator and consultant.

For many years, US higher education and much of the world operated on a simple model. Tenure systems, although structured to protect academic freedom, were structured to winnow out faculty members based on certain norms, typically scholarly research production and a modicum of teaching capacity. Once tenure was gained, stability ensued for both the individual and the institution. However, it has long been understood that this model simply is not relevant for many institutions today, especially non-elite universities with heavy teaching demands and limited research capacity. Indeed, tenure systems exist only in a minority of US institutions.

Antioch-University logoAntioch University is one such teaching-oriented institution. Its clear mission is professional education in selected fields, largely at the graduate level. Its vision is one of the pursuit of social, economic, and environmental justice for the common good. Its principal programs in applied psychology, counseling, education, leadership, and environmental studies are all focused on preparing students (typically older students) to go into the world to serve and affect change.

Antioch’s most senior faculty members – those who have three-year rolling contracts, as Antioch does not have tenure – have long been central to the university’s success. Yet, more than 40% will likely retire in the next five years given age demographics. This means that even without planned enrollment growth, Antioch must hire at least 50 new faculty over the coming few years. Addressing its mission in this context has led Antioch into a serious internal discussion about the proper roles of the faculty, faculty responsibilities, professional growth and development opportunities, and overall faculty composition.

This discussion is framed by several principles. Significantly, Antioch is hardly unique — such principles and their implications are central to the context of many universities. First, a faculty is always a portfolio with different perspectives, skill sets, career trajectories, and expertise. The question becomes how to find and appoint the best possible mix. Second, the faculty must be the core of the institution. Its work with students is the reason for the university’s existence, and academic administrators must always see their own purpose as supporting this effort. Third, expectations of individual faculty members may vary, but must always include, first and foremost, an emphasis on direct student engagement, as well as appropriate and varied forms of scholarship, institutional citizenship and community engagement.

There is little debate about such principles, but their implementation is more problematic. As is common in enrollment-dependent institutions like Antioch, faculty salaries are often inadequate, while total faculty compensation (through overloads, stipends, release time) is typically inequitably distributed. More financial resources are undoubtedly necessary.

But there are numerous problems that will not be solved simply by providing more money. Too much of the teaching load is carried by part-time faculty, often without adequate vetting or quality control. Faculty professional development is largely seen as providing small sums for conference attendance. Emphasis on faculty evaluation and assessment can be sketchy and detached from institutional decision-making. Shared governance is often misunderstood and commonly inauthentic.

Such realities – far more common than generally admitted – have a direct bearing on the challenge of building a faculty for the future that combines new faculty members with the foundation of those already part of the institution. Furthermore, many students coming out of doctoral programs are seeking alternatives to traditional tenure-based academic careers.

Professor Adrianna Kezar of the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education reports the increasingly common experience of students nearing completion of their graduate work who express frustration with and apprehension toward traditional models of the professorate. Instead, many seek an academic institutional setting with different purposes and meaning. University missions are not mere rhetoric for them. Additionally, such students seek a balanced quality of life, a goal that includes not only adequate compensation but also the opportunity for work and life balance and integration. Finally, flexibility is highly prized. The perceived rat race of tenure track systems with low pay in expensive locales simply is not that attractive to many.

What options are there? Most universities do not have the financial resources to fully fund a solid lifestyle in the expensive cities that are most attractive to many. Are junior faculty resigned to comparative penury in order to have academic appointments? Must they avoid the dynamism found in intensive urban areas that attract so many others? Must they repress personal values based on inclusiveness, tolerance, or political or environmental activism in order to have a career in higher education?  And what about somewhat older, more established colleagues? The ones who have sought and achieved stability and who now find themselves chained to an institution, still feeling inadequately paid for their work or feel trapped in boring career boxes with little room for creativity in scholarship or practical engagement outside the academy?

There is, of course, no magic answer. Even better salaries will not resolve all such issues. But there are some things institutions might consider, steps that would improve institutional odds of attracting and retaining the mixture of faculty members they want and need.

Mission clarity and commitment is a valuable asset to an institution. Many younger faculty members are looking for an institution that has clear values and acts on them. Such a commitment must be more than words. It must be a shared set of vision and values common not only to a faculty as a whole but to the entire institution starting with its board and most senior leadership. Antioch has been fortunate to have such a shared commitment, a historic and powerful legacy that most faculty (and staff) members will acknowledge as personally important.

True shared governance is vital. Universities are not properly seen as hierarchical institutions. The traditional sharing of governance typically calls for the faculty to manage curricula and instruction, while others do the business of university administration. Such a division has merit but does not provide faculty members with a sense of engagement or agency, a sense of empowerment, or capacity. If the faculty truly is the core of the institution, should not faculties have further opportunities for involvement in governance.? Antioch has been moving gradually to a model where faculty representation is clear and direct at all levels, including with its Board of Governors. Such a model requires not only policy and process but also demands authentic understanding of faculty norms and values instead of lip service.

Shared governance also leads to faculty responsibility. Most faculty do not want administrative jobs, but it is being engaged forms of governance beyond a department can lead to a better understanding of institutional issues and can encourage clarity within the faculty as to the ways they can contribute to decision-making and their individual and collective obligations to each other and the institution.

Antioch’s dispersed locations across the United States and experience with distance modalities (especially hybrid, low-residency models) provides a less common advantage: in many cases, faculty need not congregate in a physical location. While not all programs are conducive to this structure, many are, and these latter programs are often much more successful in attracting both younger and more established faculty members. (Consider also that today’s doctoral students are basically digital natives; uses of technologies in education do not scare them. Indeed, they are eager to utilize the best technological opportunities.  Location and time zone flexibility, when practical, can be powerful for both academics and students. Declining demographic patterns for traditional 18-22-year-old students combine with the need for instructional and modality flexibility in order to meet the needs of older working students. The same is true for many faculty members.

Institutions the world over would do well to think about their faculty requirements. How might they attract and retain academic talent that is not site-bound and can work remotely? Thinking about what might be possible — given an institution’s particular environment, needs, and trajectory – could help mold a more expansive strategy for managing the uncertainty.

The next quarter-century in higher education will not mirror the past or the present for many academic institutions. As universities cope with retirements and the need for effective management of change, they must think creatively about achieving the best possible faculty portfolio and what they can offer – besides money – to attract and retain the faculty of the future.

Chet Haskell speech

Dr. Chet Haskell is Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and University Provost at Antioch University. He also has been deeply engaged in matters of faculty development, quality assurance and accreditation, serving as a consultant to the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (US) and the Council on International Quality Group (US). He has served as a peer reviewer for the WASC Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC) assessing institutions in California and internationally (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, India, Mexico). His WSCUC service also includes evaluation of the leading Mexican accreditor of nonpublic institutions (FIMPES). Further, he has served several years as a member of the international advisory committees of ANECA (Spain’s national accreditation body) and ACAP (the accreditor for the autonomous region of Madrid).

Dr. Haskell has had extensive experience in university leadership in the United States, having served in several senior positions over 13 years at Harvard University, as dean and defacto provost at Simmons, president at both the Monterey Institute of International Studies and Cogswell Polytechnical College.

Dr. Haskell received the DPA (Doctor of Public Administration) and MPA degrees in public administration from the University of Southern California, an MA degree from the University of Virginia and the AB in Government (cum laude) from Harvard. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors for Al Ghurair University in Dubai and the Board of Directors of Edu Alliance Group, Inc located in Bloomington, Indiana.

Best Practices — My Trip to Kazakhstan Confirmed Academic Leadership Principles are Global

Jones articleBy Dr. Steve Jones February 24, 2020 – I felt honored and privileged to conduct in August 2019 an interactive workshop on Academic Leadership for vice presidents, deans, department heads, and directors at Kimep University (KU) in Almaty, Kazakhstan. KU is a Western-style English-language institution nestled on the northern slopes of the Tian Shan Mountains in that Central Asian country, which for 62 years (1929-91) operated under Soviet rule.

A former colleague of mine at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Dr. Timothy Barnett, Ph.D., is KU Provost and General Deputy to the President. He invited me to develop and deliver the workshop, and graciously hosted my week in Kazakhstan, my first visit to the country, 11 time zones east of my Alabama residence. My purpose with this article is to share the following with you:

  • My assumptions about KU
  • The alignment of my impressions with reality
  • Lessons learned and their applicability globally

My Assumptions about Kimep University

From the website: KIMEP is a private, non-profit university offering credit-based, North American-style bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree curricula. Undergraduate enrollment shows as 2,737; graduate at 584. I’ve led US private institutions and a regional state university in that same size range. Dr. Barnett provided insight beyond what the website reported. I came to Almaty expecting to see an institution dealing with many of the same issues confronting small and mid-size private and public colleges and universities in the US. Among the issues I anticipated: enrollment falling short of targets; resultant revenue lagging; the preponderance of first-generation students; little engagement with local/regional business and industry; difficulty in attracting (and retaining) faculty; flagging faculty and staff morale; deferred maintenance backlog.

 Alignment of Assumptions with Reality

I wasn’t far off the mark; I affirmed most of my assumptions. Except for richly endowed, highly selective institutions, the conditions and circumstances I anticipated are generally universal. I won’t elaborate on Kimep University’s particular situation. Allow me instead to expand on what surprised me or proved particularly noteworthy.

Leadership — I should not have been surprised that many of the deans, directors, and chairs see their role as something other than as a leader. Instead, manager or administrator may be a better term for their self-perception. Handling the reporting; convening meetings; operating within the budget. I saw little direct evidence of strategic thinking, inspiration and motivation, aspirational visioning. We discussed those elements at length in our workshop.

Although formal education and experiential learning marked my private industry sector advancement into leadership (preceding my higher education career), such is not common in higher education. For example, a faculty member often enters administrative and leadership realms with little direct leadership training and preparation. We addressed the essence, the fundamentals of managing and leading at Kimep:

  • You manage things; you lead people. Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
  • Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. General George Patton
  • Lead and inspire people. Don’t try to manage and manipulate them. Inventories can be managed, but people must be led. Ross Perot
  • Leadership is the key to 99 percent of all successful efforts. Erskine Bowles
  • Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better. Bill Bradley
  • Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing. Tom Peters

Too basic? I don’t think so, whether in Kazakhstan or at any college or university.

Advancement and Development – Kazakhstan is still recovering from 62 years under Soviet rule. Generating resources from gifts and donations constitutes a major function of leadership positions here in the US, especially at the executive level. The concept is still foreign to even a Western-style university like Kimep in the former Soviet bloc. I urged senior administration at Kimep to explore whether the time is right to venture into that arena.

Grants and Contracts – During my tenure as Chancellor at The University of Alaska Fairbanks, that state’s Land Grant University, grants and contracts accounted for better than a quarter of our annual operating budget. As with advancement and development, the concept is foreign to Kimep. Once again, I suggested that Kimep executives evaluate the potential for such endeavors.

Community Engagement – I served 2001-2004 as NC State University’s first Vice-Chancellor for Extension, Engagement, and Economic Development. I saw no evidence of such an orientation or function at Kimep University. Almaty, a seemingly vibrant city of approximately two million, served as the country’s capital during the Soviet era. Almaty continues as the major commercial and cultural center of Kazakhstan, as well as its most populous and most cosmopolitan city. Is there an opportunity to further engage with the city and its people in a manner that is reciprocal and meaningful?

Relationships with Business and Industry – Among responsibilities at NC State, my portfolio included Centennial Campus, a 1,700-acre research and engagement campus established to promote intense interaction among the university, business, and industry communities. Kimep University struck me as an enclave onto itself. Again, I urged senior leadership to consider whether now is the time to reach beyond campus.

I made clear to those with whom I interacted that I was not there to provide answers but to pose questions and encourage exploration. Kimep, already acknowledged as Kazakhstan’s top university and a leading institution in Central Asia, aspires to be globally recognized. I hoped our discussion might help lead them to that eventuality.

Lessons Learned and Their Applicability Globally

Allow me to share two conclusions I drew years ago about higher education. First, although not without exception, every university worldwide has essentially the same mission statement. Kimep’s mission: To develop well-educated citizens to improve the quality of life in Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and beyond… through teaching, research, learning, community service, and the advancement of knowledge in… business, social sciences, law, languages, and other fields. I am not disparaging the noble cause, just observing that a modern-day university in Central Asia is aligned with the mission of Fairmont State University, where I served as Interim President:  Fairmont State University is a comprehensive, regional university committed to educating global citizen leaders in an environment distinguished by a commitment to excellence, student success, and transformational impact. No, not verbatim, yet the spirit, intent, and noble causes are consonant.

My second conclusion: every university on the planet (well, at least through my review of many university CEO position announcements) seeks the same leader characteristics and requirements. My point in offering my two conclusions is to suggest that aside from the richly endowed selective universities scattered here and there, the global university community shares a common set of problems, opportunities, and dilemmas. Kimep University is no different.

I stressed to the Kimep workshop participants the following universally applicable academic leadership principles:

  • Test every decision and all endeavors against the Mission, which must be clear, concise, and rock solid… even if similar across most universities
  • Recognize that all we do within any university constitutes a Shared Domain – we are all in this together
  • Operate in Common Cause with positive inclination

Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems. Brian Tracy

  • Perform in a manner that is Vision-oriented

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet. Reverend Theodore Hesburgh

The greatest leaders mobilize others by coalescing people around a shared vision. Ken Blanchard

  • Strategic Imperatives need to be stated and pursued.

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. Warren Bennis

  • All actions should be (must be) Passion-fueled; Purpose-driven

To have long term success as a coach or in any position of leadership, you have to be obsessed in some way. Pat Riley

A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position. John Maxwell

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Anonymous

  • All actions are best undertaken when they are results-directed
  • And budget-controlled
  • Never remove the Pressure to Perform, underwritten by accountability

I contend that every university, wherever it is located, must follow at least the following seven strategic imperatives. Fidelity to them, doesn’t assure success. Ignoring them does, however, guarantee failure:

  • Nothing is more important than appointing the right people to leadership positions…
  • And preparing, guiding, and enabling them to lead
  • Mission stands as the organizational guiding star… navigate by it
  • There is always room for improvement
  • Surviving and thriving require good decisions and constant action
  • Standing still means falling behind
  • Life and death operate hand-in-hand; not all universities can or will survive

Nature’s laws apply to all universities. In all endeavors, whether among human enterprises or natural ecosystems, there will always be winners and losers. Only the fittest thrive and excel. As much as some might refuse to accept, Nature assures that to the victor goes the spoils.

Summary Reflections

I accepted my Kimep University assignment with trepidation, to no small extent fearing that I could offer little to a university in a country I had never visited. Yet, I found fulfillment, exhilaration, and satisfaction in my week on-site. My experience in US-based academic leadership prepared me well for my Central Asia venture. I hope in retrospect that I offered as much as I learned. I am convinced that Kimep is in good senior executive hands. I urged the senior team to accept and embrace the identified strategic imperatives. I’d welcome a chance to return in 2021 to monitor progress and offer continued assistance.

I learned that Kimep University and the institutions of my immediate experience are far more alike than different. All aspire to survive and thrive. All are constrained or empowered by the same basic imperatives. No other factor in the future equation for sustained success (or ultimate failure) is weighted more heavily than leadership.

As universities here in the US (or globally) deal with turbulent seas, these same leadership principles and strategic imperatives will determine, in large part, whether the institution sinks, frantically treads water, or sails smoothly forward. Some will submerge; others will continue flailing. Those with competent leaders have the best chance of hoisting the sails, catching the breeze, and making it to the desired port. Competent leaders are those who embrace these core principles and pursue strategic imperatives… as they work closely with faculty, staff, students, and stakeholders.

Steven JonesDr.  Steve Jones is the President/CEO of Great Blue Heron in Madison Alabama, which is a consulting firm dedicated to applying nature’s wisdom to living, learning, serving, and leading. Dr. Jones also serves on the Advisory Council of Edu Alliance Group. Steve is also well known as a university administrator and has worked in senior higher education positions for over 30 years.

He has been a President and Chancellor at four institutions, Fairmont State University (Interim), Antioch University New England (Campus President) Urbana University in Ohio (President) and The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) (Chancellor).  He is a published author and written in a number of academic publications and journals. He is also a founding board member of the Alabama State Parks Foundation and the Nature Based Leadership Institute.