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Survey to Assess Faculty Satisfaction
Syracuse University is joining peer institutions in this year’s administration of a national survey on faculty job satisfaction in order to assess and, where necessary, make improvements in the faculty experience.
The survey was created and is administered by the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE), a research and membership organization at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Full-time pre-tenure, tenured and non-tenure track faculty have been invited to participate in the survey by Interim Vice Chancellor and Provost Elizabeth D. Liddy.
“We want to hear from the faculty about their experience, about what’s working and what needs to improve and how we as a university could better support them,” says Liddy. “We want to learn about ourselves in detail and in breadth, and be able to benchmark ourselves against other institutions.”
A summary report and analysis of the results, which will include comparisons to faculty responses from similar institutions, is due from COACHE in the summer. A University team will consider next steps, including communication and appropriate follow-up.
“There are at least seven dimensions to academic life we are looking at in the Academic Strategic Plan, and a lot of these are dependent on faculty,” says Liddy. “We don’t have specific, complete data on the faculty experience in the way that this survey will give it to us, and it will be very important for planning.”
Results from this year’s survey also could be used as a baseline against which the results of future surveys are measured.
The Harvard researchers behind COACHE have been conducting faculty surveys, analyzing data and partnering with institutions to cultivate faculty success for more than 10 years. They began developing their survey instrument with untenured tenure track faculty, and have now expanded to include tenured and non-tenure track full-time faculty. According to the COACHE website, the surveys are intended to help academic leaders answer questions such as:
- How do faculty of different career stages experience academic work life at my institution? How do their experiences compare to those of faculty at peer institutions?
- Do their experiences differ by rank, gender or race/ethnicity?
- What policies or practices are associated with high levels of faculty satisfaction and vitality?
In addition to Syracuse, participants in this year’s survey cohort include Clemson, Dartmouth, Tufts, Tulane and West Virginia, among other colleges and universities.
The survey generates information in areas such as the nature of the work (overall, research, teaching, service), resources and support, interdisciplinary work, collaboration, mentoring, tenure and promotion, work and personal life balance, and recruitment and retention, among others.
“COACHE’s primary emphasis is on actionable information. The point is to help the institution improve the faculty experience, not just describe it,” says Libby Barlow, the University’s assistant vice president for institutional research and assessment. “They work very hard to support using the results, not just gathering the data.”
The more faculty who complete the survey, the richer the data set will be. A large set of responses will add value to a comparison of the results with the recommendations of the Academic Strategic Plan and other initiatives across campus, including SU-ADVANCE. (SU-ADVANCE supports women faculty in the sciences, technology, engineering and math—STEM—disciplines as it seeks to transform institutional practices across campus). The timing of the COACHE survey administration means that the results can play a valuable role in the development of future academic programming and policy.