Faculty Success in Today’s Higher Education: Introduction to the Article Series

Team of professionals collaborating on a project.

Over the last decade, faculty success efforts have gradually consolidated on many campuses to become more comprehensive. Increasingly, institutions are creating or expanding integrated divisions of Faculty Success or Faculty Advancement, whose mission is to support faculty holistically—including a focus on faculty affairs, teaching and learning support, faculty and department Chair leadership development, and faculty well-being. They are also critical players in cross-campus initiatives around things like faculty hiring and retention, academic diversity, equity, and inclusion, faculty climate, and promotion and tenure. 

This broadening of the faculty success portfolio no doubt poses some challenges, as faculty success units are often leanly resourced. They must also find ways to tailor their services to the unique needs of various faculty groups across rank and tenure (junior faculty, mid-career faculty, senior faculty, career-track faculty or lecturers), academic discipline, and intersecting social identities (race/ethnicity, gender, age and generational difference, caregivers, etc.). But a more integrated, holistic approach also represents a recognition among university leaders that faculty are not a homogenous group, and we cannot treat them as such if we expect to retain them or to produce the student success and research productivity outcomes we are looking for. Faculty needs are more complex and varied than ever, and a comprehensive approach to faculty success and advancement is best positioned to understand and address those needs—one that promotes strong partnerships with other stakeholders like deans, chairs, student success leaders, legal counsel, ombuds services, and human resources across campus. 

If you are considering reorganizing or expanding faculty success efforts at your institution, we recommend starting with these three steps: 

  1. Take stock of the current faculty success ecosystem across your institution. Mapping out all the places across your institution where faculty success work—broadly defined—is occurring, including both central units and embedded offices within different schools or colleges, can help you to get a holistic picture of where faculty success work is already happening across campus. It can also help you think about if and how various faculty success units across campus are interacting and collaborating to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.  
  1. Think about creative ways to increase resourcing. How many total FTE do you currently have dedicated to faculty success work across your institution? Are there creative ways to increase resourcing even if you can’t add more full-time positions? Many institutions have created faculty fellows programs that are designed to provide faculty with administrative leadership experience while contributing meaningfully to the work of divisions like faculty success. Associate Deans also often contribute to faculty success as part of their portfolios without necessarily having these words in their titles and are an under-utilized resource across campus that can be further leveraged or tapped into. 
  1. Consider partnerships to supplement or further extend the work you are doing. Your institution is rife with knowledge and expertise that could benefit or be of interest to your faculty. Are you making use of that internal network to, for example, fill in gaps in your Faculty Career Advancement Speaker Series, or to familiarize your department chairs with key policies and procedures they need to be aware of? External partners like Academic Impressions can also help to accelerate faculty and academic leadership development efforts and provide faculty with self-service options for ongoing learning and skill development.   

An Ongoing Article Series

By virtue of the faculty leadership and department Chair development work we do on campus every year, Academic Impressions has a bird’s-eye view of how the Faculty Success profession is evolving and changing in today’s higher education. In this monthly article series, we’ll explore critical topics in faculty success and discuss how today’s academic leaders are approaching these issues.  

Do you have a topic to suggest, or are you interested in contributing to the series? Please reach out to Sarah Seigle Peatman, Director of Learning & Development, at sarah@academicimpressions.com. We’d also love to see you at our bi-annual Faculty Affairs Summit, scheduled for March 27-28th in Denver, CO.