Kezar and Maxey co-author report proposing redesign of traditional faculty models

February 20, 2015
Adrianna Kezar

Dr. Adrianna Kezar

USC Rossier professor Adrianna Kezar and PhD candidate Daniel Maxey, co-directors of the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, recently released a report calling for a wider dialogue on shifting faculty roles and the future of higher education.

The report, “Adapting by Design: Creating Faculty Roles and Defining Faculty Work to Ensure an Intentional Future for Colleges and Universities,” is a two-part examination of the history, current role and possible futures of the relationship between faculty and the academy, with particular attention paid to the shift from a traditional professional faculty model toward “a contingent faculty workplace,” and the implications of this shift for academic institutions.

Daniel Maxey

Daniel Maxey

“We need a new vision for the profession,” says Kezar to Inside Higher Ed’s Colleen Flaherty. “ Students, institutions and faculty themselves will benefit when we develop a model of a faculty for the future that takes into account student success, institutional objectives, external needs and professional support and advancement for faculty. Being a lifetime adjunct is not a profession, nor is a full-time non-tenure track with annual contracts but no chance of promotion.”

To address these and other structural problems, Maxey and Kezar propose that academic institutions adopt a backward design approach to reform: imagine an ideal structure for faculty, compare that with their existing model and develop a plan for redesigning the faculty model.

“This is an intentional process that can help campus leaders to think about their desired outcome, based on their institutional missions and goals and values,” says Maxey.

Layers of Factors to Consider in the Design Process

Layers of Factors to Consider in the Design Process (from ‘Adapting by Design’)

“Adapting by Design” presents various questions for institutions at each stage of the process that will help them evaluate the progress of their redesign and its impact on institutional goals. It also presents examples of institutions that have redesigned their faculty systems to better effect.

The paper outlines the key elements for professionalism in faculty roles, noting that the issue is “the nucleus of the redesign process—a foundation upon which all other design considerations are constructed.”

In conclusion, the authors note, “The faculty—the whole of the faculty—has a responsibility, at both institutional and sector-wide levels, to engage their colleagues in discussion about the future and to work collaboratively with other stakeholders to reconceive their roles and redefine what it means to be an academic professional in the 21st century, restoring respect for the profession by leading the effort to reform.”

The Delphi Project is a project of the Pullias Center for Higher Education in partnership with the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

The report can be read in its entirety on the Delphi Project website.