Campus & Community

GSE project garners $1 million from Ford Foundation

3 min read

The Study of New Scholars (an outgrowth of the Project on Faculty Appointments) at the Graduate School of Education (GSE) has received $1 million to study junior faculty members’ satisfaction with their institutions as a place of work. The Ford Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies have each contributed $500,000 over a three-year period.

Recent studies confirm that many new and prospective faculty members are dissatisfied and disillusioned with academic careers. Their concerns include the balance between research and teaching, features of the promotion and tenure system, and quality of life issues – especially the balance of professional and personal commitments.

The Study of New Scholars will evaluate the satisfaction of junior faculty at the colleges and universities where they are currently employed. To begin, researchers will survey all full-time tenure-track faculty members at 10 to 12 pilot sites to learn how they view specific institutional policies, structural and cultural barriers, work climate, ability to balance professional and personal lives, current job satisfaction, and estimated likelihood of success in achieving tenure or contract renewal. In addition to faculty interviews, they will collect data from participating colleges and universities regarding faculty employment policies.

“We hope this research will prompt institutions to create more attractive work environments and enable candidates for junior faculty positions to make more informed choices about where to work,” says Cathy Trower, co-principal investigator of the Study of New Scholars. “There has been little change in faculty demographics, especially at prestigious institutions and in tenured, full professorships, for enough years to say that this is not entirely a pipeline issue.”

Trower and Richard Chait serve as co-principal investigators of this study. Separately and together they have published dozens of articles, chapters, and books about faculty employment policies and practices.

Trower is a principal investigator at GSE. She holds a Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University of Maryland, College Park, and an M.B.A. and a B.B.A. from the University of Iowa. She has worked in higher education at Mount Mercy College, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Maryland. For 18 years Trower has worked at GSE as a faculty member, an administrator, and currently, as a researcher.

Chait is a professor of higher education at GSE. He has been researching faculty work life and institutional governance throughout his career. His latest edited book, “The Questions of Tenure” (Harvard University Press, 2002) provides a comprehensive study of the tenure system.

The Ford Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization that seeks to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Atlantic Philanthropies is a private organization that supports projects valuing voluntary service, philanthropic giving, scholarship, and research.

The Study of New Scholars examines the pressures that confront academic institutions and their faculty members as they try to reinvent academic careers, reformulate academic appointments, and broaden the spectrum of employment arrangements. In 2000, the Project on Faculty Appointments released findings from a study on the factors that influence junior faculty recruitment. Of the 19 factors surveyed, work/life balance and geographic location topped the list. Salary ranked fifth and international prestige was last. Almost 700 first- and second-year faculty and more than 2,000 doctoral candidates in the leading 25 programs in the sciences, humanities and social sciences, and the top 50 programs in business, engineering, and education responded to a Web-based survey between October 1999 and January 2000. The response rates were 58 percent and 39 percent, respectively.