How to Improve Faculty Satisfaction at uw tacoma coache fellows’ Report to uw tacoma Faculty Assembly July 2014

Core UW Tacoma Values and Criteria for Prioritization

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Core UW Tacoma Values and Criteria for Prioritization

COACHE Survey results are detailed and complex. These results measure faculty satisfaction on 20 items and offer multilayered comparisons within and across institutions. Since deciding what issues are most important requires value judgments, the Fellows decided to review UW Tacoma’s core documents to identify a list of core values and criteria to inform their prioritization. Following is the list (in no ordering hierarchy) we created.

Teaching Excellence

Teaching excellence has been one of the most identifiable missions of UW Tacoma. UW Tacoma rewards excellence in teaching in one very prominent way, the Distinguished Teaching Award to the faculty member who “demonstrates excellence and continued development in own teaching.” The university also created a Teaching and Learning Center for helping the campus to work toward teaching excellence. The Milgard School of Business statement on its web page captures this sentiment on the campus, “we are actively engaged in enhancing student learning with excellent and innovative teaching. We maintain and strengthen a student-oriented learning environment in which faculty and staff are accessible to students, responsive to their interests, and engaged with the student experience.”

Research Productivity

Being an R-1 university, research productivity has been important value for our campus. Although most agree that scholarship at UW Tacoma takes many forms and individual faculty scholarship follows distinct trajectories throughout their career, few would dispute that faculty scholarship shares the core common value of active engagement in one’s intellectual community and reflected in publicly observed outcomes. To this end, the university has invested in an Office of Research and Scholarship and recently created a position of Associate Chancellor of Research to promote research at UW Tacoma and increase its research profile.

Interdisciplinary Work and Value of Collaboration

Many UW Tacoma faculty highly value interdisciplinarity as their primary approach to teaching and learning. The values of UW Tacoma speak to educating students as global citizens who can make connections between a variety of disciplines in order to be successful. We are committed to this as a value both in our own unit and as a member of the UW Tacoma community of learners and teachers. UW Tacoma’s self-description highlights the campus’ interdisciplinarity orientation: “[UW Tacoma] offers many of the same educational qualities as our sister universities — a vibrant campus setting; top-drawer faculty known for their teaching ability; a rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum; and high standards of social responsibility.” The category of Interdisciplinarity appears as one of the campus’ core values: “an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge that instills problem-solving and critical thinking skills for meaningful lives.”

Equity and Diversity

As an urban-serving university in South Puget Sound region, many UW Tacoma faculty embrace equity and diversity as the core identity of the UW Tacoma. One of the four stated values of UW Tacoma is Diversity: we are a university that “promotes an environment where diverse perspectives and experiences are expected” and “seeks out and supports individuals who may experience barriers in gaining access to college.” We are committed to bringing together a “community of people and ideas representing diverse cultures and experiences.” To advance diversity and equity at the campus, UW Tacoma has created an Assistant Chancellor for Equity and Diversity position as well as an array of programs and workshops on our campus in order to raise the level of our awareness of and need for action in this area. The Office for Equity and Diversity “was created to help cultivate an institutional vision and commitment to diversity while ensuring an equitable environment for all members of the UW Tacoma community.”

Collegiality and Respect

This category, related to Equity and Diversity, reflects the need that faculty have expressed for a sense of belonging at the university, a sense of being invested in the process and in the outcomes of our university’s mission and goals.

Community Engagement

As stated in UW Tacoma’s Values, our university “partners with communities to improve the human condition,” “contributes knowledge that serves diverse communities,” and “serves as a catalyst for economic, technological and community development.” We clearly believe that community outreach is of vital importance, especially in view of the fact that we are an urban serving university. Community Engagement reflects our interest in maximizing our community partnerships in both teaching and research. On the Chancellor’s web page is an Inventory of Community Engaged Projects, along with descriptions of the types of partnerships we have and the kinds of organizations with which we work.

Transparency and Accountability

These values are deeply connected to the success of any improvements that we recommend. While there was no area in the survey that specifically asked about transparency and accountability, these two values shape and inform all of the other values.

Centrality of the Survey Results

In addition to the above values, the COACHE Fellows added the following additional criteria that bind all of these values together and are relevant to our charge as a committee:
  • Compatibility

Prioritization of these values should reflect the voice of the entire faculty as voiced in the COACHE survey.
  • Practicability and Feasibility

For the action items to be implemented, the prioritization should reflect feasibility. In other words, prioritization should select ease to implement option among two options that may produce similar level of increase in faculty’s job satisfaction.
  • Synergy between Different Items

If some action items relate to more than one value and may contribute more than one are in terms of faculty job satisfaction, it should be taken into account in prioritization.

Prioritization and Action Items

A) Interdisciplinary Work

The mean response from UWT tenure-stream faculty on the items within this thematic area as 2.43, toward the bottom of comparison institutions and all participation institutions. UW Tacoma does poorly in all the items in these categories:

1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0

The survey measures faculty satisfaction on interdisciplinary using faculty’s answer to following items:

  • Budgets encourage interdisciplinary work

  • Facilities conducive to interdisciplinary work

  • Interdisciplinary work is rewarded in merit

  • Interdisciplinary work is rewarded in promotion

  • Departments know how to evaluate interdisciplinary work

In comparison to the other institutions surveyed, UW Tacoma scored in the low percentile in the category of collaboration. The survey grouped Interdisciplinary Work, Collaboration, and Mentoring together in one large section and each area was a subsection. Three questions were asked about the nature of Collaboration: 1) Opportunities for collaboration within the department; 2) opportunities for collaboration outside the department; and 3) opportunities for collaboration outside of the university. Given the size of UW Tacoma and the nature of the biggest unit in the campus, IAS, that most collaboration will take interdisciplinary form. In other words, lack of interdisciplinary research is also the result of lack of faculty collaboration at UW Tacoma.

Interdisciplinarity is one of the hallmarks of the UW Tacoma. One of the most important UW Tacoma learning objectives states that “students will acquire skills and familiarity with modes of inquiry and examination from diverse disciplinary perspectives, enabling them to access, interpret, analyze, quantitatively reason, and synthesize information critically.” Many of our programs such as Social Work, Nursing, Urban Studies, and Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences have embraced an interdisciplinary orientation. Finally, the urban-serving mission of the university prioritizes questions and problems grounded in this mission, which can be studied from an interdisciplinary perspective. However, faculty thinks that interdisciplinary work is not rewarded, even though it is part of our university’s mission. Specifically, on a scale of 1 – 5, a question like “budgets encourage interdisciplinary work” only scored 2.15, “interdisciplinary work was rewarded in tenure,” 2.00, and “Interdisciplinary work is rewarded in promotion,” 2.57.

Interdisciplinary work, institutional strategies, as well as hiring, rewards, evaluation, and promotion criteria, should be aligned with the specific interdisciplinary goals.

[Action Plan]

Articulate Interdisciplinary Goals [In a year]

  • Establish a Faculty Assembly task force of “Interdisciplinary Fellows” to generate ideas.

  • Articulate UWT’s interdisciplinary goals.

  • Ask units to articulate their interdisciplinary goals.

  • Articulate how interdisciplinary research and teaching weigh in tenure and promotion decisions.

Assess Interdisciplinary Practices [In a year]

  • Set up mechanisms that evaluate interdisciplinary work at university, school, department, and program levels.

  • Recognize faculty members who consistently collaborate with other and faculty members from different disciplines.

Allocate Resources for Interdisciplinarity [In 1-3 years]

  • Allocate research support available to collaborative research projects.

  • Allocate research support for faculty to attend interdisciplinary conferences.

  • Prioritize cluster hires with several units collaborating.

  • Establish special awards and resources for interdisciplinary work, such as “university professorship”.

[Best Practices from UWT and Other Universities]

  • Creso M. Sa, 2008. ‘Interdisciplinary strategies’ in U.S. research universities, High Education, vol 55. pp. 537-552

  • Interdisciplinary Hiring, Tenure and Promotion: Guidance for Individuals and Institutions” report prepared by Council of Environmental Deans and Directors

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