Faculty survey working group seeks input on preliminary findings

(Vanderbilt University)

The Faculty Working Group appointed to analyze and assess the results of a faculty survey conducted last spring has prepared a preliminary report on the survey’s topline findings and will seek faculty input at two town hall meetings this spring. Faculty also are encouraged to review the working group’s preliminary report and to provide input using the anonymous feedback form on the survey website.

The town hall meetings are scheduled from 4 to 5 p.m. Feb. 27 in Vanderbilt Law School’s Flynn Auditorium, and from 4 to 5 p.m. March 15 in Mayborn, Room 204. The final “Report to the Community,” which will incorporate faculty feedback gathered at the town halls and online, will be released in May.

“Our group has spent a good deal of time dissecting the COACHE data, and we are now eager to present our preliminary findings to the whole faculty in order to get their guidance,” Sarah Igo, associate professor of history, said. “What would our colleagues like us to explore further? What questions arise from these data that demand special attention?”

Igo is a member of the Faculty Working Group appointed by Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Susan R. Wente and Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion George C. Hill charged with analyzing and assessing the results of the survey. “While the data set is not perfect, we think it can offer a useful overview of areas where the university is doing well and areas where it needs to improve,” Igo said. “It also gives us a sharper picture of differences among faculty in their levels of satisfaction with working conditions.”

The survey was conducted from Feb. 2 to April 17, 2016, with the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) to identify the drivers of faculty success and to implement informed changes.

The high-level findings show that facilities and work resources, interdisciplinary work, personal and family policies, departmental quality, and health and retirement benefits are areas of strength at Vanderbilt.

Clarity about tenure expectations, mentoring, and governance were identified as areas of concern.

The survey also reveals that faculty members’ level of satisfaction varies depending on tenure status, rank, gender, and race and ethnicity. Tenured faculty are generally more satisfied than pre-tenure faculty and non-tenure track faculty, full professors are generally more satisfied than associate professors, and white (non-Hispanic) faculty are generally more satisfied than faculty of color. These differences are more pronounced in certain areas than others.

“I think we are all very aware that the academic profession is increasingly complicated, with changing demands from both internal and external stakeholders. These findings indicate that we have many strengths and challenges that are shared by at least some of our peer institutions,” Faculty Working Group member Brian Heuser, assistant professor of the practice of international educational policy and vice chair of the Faculty Senate, said. “Our task moving forward is two-fold: one, to use the data from this benchmarking year to ask more localized questions about how to improve the total experience of faculty in each of our schools; and two, to help refine our next round of data gathering, especially with an eye toward those domains we decide are most in need of improvement.”
The COACHE survey was designed to provide information in areas such as the nature of work (e.g. research, teaching and service); resources and support; interdisciplinary work; collaboration and mentoring; tenure and promotion; leadership; work and personal life balance; faculty governance; department collegiality and engagement; and appreciation. It included questions developed by COACHE as well as Vanderbilt-specific questions developed by Vanderbilt faculty in collaboration with Wente and Hill.

A key part of this survey was gathering information to advance the university’s understanding of diversity on campus. In particular, the survey asked faculty a series of unique questions to shed light on their experiences and thinking in a range of areas, including gender, race and ethnicity, disabilities, sexual orientation and gender identity.

The survey was distributed to all tenured, tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty who are full-time and report to the provost. The survey had a 56 percent response rate, which was higher than all other universities in the COACHE survey cohort. VUMC clinical faculty were not included in this survey, but their feedback on the results is encouraged and they will be included when the survey is repeated in three years.

The survey excluded senior administrators with faculty appointments and faculty in their first year at Vanderbilt.

The survey results include comparisons to five peers and comparisons of Vanderbilt demographic groups. The peer institutions are Brown University, Dartmouth College, the University of Missouri–Columbia, the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill and the University of Virginia.

The Vanderbilt demographic groups that were compared were based on tenure status, rank, gender, and race and ethnicity. COACHE ensures absolute confidentiality of all responses by faculty; the organization houses the raw data, with the Vanderbilt administration and faculty only able to see the aggregate responses.

In addition to the Faculty Working Group, the provost appointed a second Deans’ Working Group charged with providing insights for each of the deans and their faculty. That group, chaired by Vice Provost for Strategic Affairs John Geer, is focused on developing an assessment of the schools and will provide an important complement to the Faculty Working Group’s “Report to the Community.”

Faculty Working Group

  • André Churchwell, Levi Watkins Jr. M.D. Professor and senior associate dean for diversity affairs, School of Medicine; and chief diversity officer for VUMC
  • Josh Clinton, Abby and Jon Winkelried Professor of Political Science, College of Arts and Science
  • Tracey George, co-chair, Charles B. Cox III and Lucy D. Cox Family Professor in Law and Liberty, Law School
  • Brian Heuser, Faculty Senate vice chair and assistant professor in the practice, Peabody College
  • Sarah Igo, associate professor of history, College of Arts and Science
  • Kane Jennings, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, School of Engineering
  • Jeannette Mancilla-Martinez, associate professor of literacy instruction, Peabody College
  • David Owens, co-chair, professor of the practice of management and innovation, Owen Graduate School of Management
  • Phillis Sheppard, associate professor of religion, psychology and culture, Divinity School

Deans’ Working Group

  • Michelle Collins, professor of nursing, School of Nursing
  • John Geer, chair, Vice Provost for Academic and Strategic Affairs and Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science, College of Arts and Science
  • Larry Marnett, dean of basic sciences, Mary Geddes Stahlman Professor of Cancer Research, School of Medicine
  • William H. Robinson, associate professor of electrical engineering and of computer engineering, associate dean, School of Engineering
  • Jacci Rodgers, associate dean for external affairs, Peabody College
  • Kamal Saggi, Francis and John Downing Family Professor of Economics, College of Arts and Science
  • Chris Serkin, professor of law and associate dean, Law School
  • Melissa Snarr, associate professor of ethics and society, associate dean, Divinity School
  • Mark Wait, Martha R. Ingram Dean, Blair School of Music
  • Richard Willis, Anne Marie and Thomas B. Walker Jr. Professor, Owen Graduate School of Management

COACHE is a research and membership organization that has been operating from the Harvard Graduate School of Education since 2003. It is driven by senior academic leaders who have worked with more than 230 colleges and universities to shape career satisfaction for faculty, and, over the past decade, has produced best-in-class institutional reports.

Read more about the COACHE Faculty Satisfaction Survey >>

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