Investing in Faculty

By Dr. Heather Kanuka, Associate Director, Teaching & Learning Centre

content imageInvestigations have revealed that many faculty members are experiencing dissatisfaction in their work environments and are typically becoming more dissatisfied over time. A longitudinal study by Sorcinelli (1994), for example, found 33% of new faculty in their first year reported being very stressed. This percentage rose to 49% in year two, and went to 71% in year five.

The reasons behind faculty dissatisfaction include: lack of collegial relationships resulting in experiencing isolation, separation, fragmentation, loneliness, competition, and sometimes incivility; lack of an integrated personal and professional lives; little or no feedback, recognition and/or reward; lack of a comprehensive tenure system, and; unrealistic expectations and insufficient resources and support systems (Johnsrud, 1994; Rice, Sorcinelli, & Austin, 2000; Sorcinelli, 1994).

Is faculty dissatisfaction occurring at the University of Calgary? There is evidence to suggest that faculty dissatisfaction is, indeed, occurring at the University of Calgary (e.g., June 2002 survey conducted by Hewitt).

There is little question that institutions of higher education across North America are facing difficult challenges, including the need to reshape many current practices. Universities are looking to see how change can be sustained from within. This, in turn, necessitates rethinking faculty roles and collegial relationships. Mentoring has been viewed as an effective process to facilitate restructuring of this nature. Through mentoring, it is more likely that faculty will gain an understanding of the organizational culture (Kram, 1986), access informal networks of communication carrying significant professional information (Luna & Cullen, 1995), and receive assistance in defining and achieving career goals (Bogat & Redner, 1985). In academic settings, Queralt (1982) found that faculty with mentors demonstrated greater productivity as leaders in professional associations, received more competitive grants, and published more books and articles than faculty without mentors. Mentored faculty members also reported greater career and job satisfaction.

With a few notable exceptions, mentoring relationships occurring at the University of Calgary are unstructured and spontaneous. However, informal mentoring relationships tend to be less successful than structured mentor programs in higher education settings (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2000; Wunch, 1994). Successful mentoring programs typically begin with institution-wide programs providing support and resources to achieve a sense of connectivity for faculty members (Boyle, 1996). Perhaps more significantly, there is strong justification for systematic mentoring and institution-wide programs: "less than a quarter of new faculty found mentors on their own; few of those pairs persisted; most were restricted to white males" (Boyle & Boice, 1998, p. 176). Individuals who need help the most (e.g., visible minorities, non-traditional faculty, and women) are least likely to find it (Kalbefleish & Davies, 1993). Moreover, when individuals agree to enter into a mentoring relationship related to academic and career goals, the relationship also moves from the personal to the institutional realm. This can result in inequality of opportunities that the institution must address (Wunsch, 1994). To be exact, when some individuals have access to certain career advantages (e.g., mentoring relationships), and others do not, inequity of career opportunities (e.g., advancement, promotion) occur

Yet, in spite of well-documented needs and benefits of mentoring relationships in higher education, there continues to be few faculty members who engage in it. This is puzzling. Given that a university's most valuable and expensive resource is its faculty members, and given that a university's future is dependent upon the success of its faculty members, it is difficult to understand why greater efforts and resources are not put into mentoring programs for faculty members.


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