Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

New Faculty Experience in Times of Institutional Change

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

New Faculty Experience in Times of Institutional Change

Article excerpt

In recent years, many post-secondary institutions across Canada have transitioned from colleges to universities. Founded over 100 years ago, our western Canadian institution had long operated as a community college, with two-year university transfer and applied degree programs. The transition to an undergraduate university culminated in the fall of 2009, when the institution officially changed its name in a ceremony presided over by the provincial premier.

The ceremony came after years of preparation, including the hiring of large numbers of new faculty in the years leading up to the change. We four researchers were hired in the same 2007 cohort, which to that date was the largest cohort of new faculty- but then it was exceeded in each of the following two years. We are a mid-sized educational institution, with roughly 400 full-time faculty and 12,000 students. More than half of the current full-time faculty members were hired since 2007.

As new faculty, we immediately became aware of the momentous shift happening around us. We were navigating the normal tides of adjusting to a new position, for all of us our first tenure-track faculty position at any institution, but were aware that this induction was occurring in a rapidly shifting context. (At Mount Royal University the concept of tenure refers to a permanent appointment and represents a major commitment between the institution and the employee. Tenure recommendations and decisions are made on the basis of meeting established standards during the probationary period and evidence of the clear promise of continuing intellectual and professional development.) We wondered, "What is the new faculty experience in a transitional institution?" This research question guided what became a five-year project, beginning as a self-study of the research team and expanding into 60 interviews with 31 participants over several years. Although much work has been done on the induction of new faculty into post-secondary institutions, it is our contention that in the context of a large transition, such as that from college to university, a more complex theory is required to reflect the experience of new faculty than has appeared previously in the literature.

Theoretical Framework and Literature Review

The extensive literature that exists on the experience of new faculty presents a picture of significant challenges that faculty face when embarking on their new role (Boice, 1991; Eddy & Gaston-Gayles, 2008; Menges, 1999b). While post-secondary institutions vary across countries in their organizational structures and funding models, many of the dynamics reported in the literature seem to transcend national boundaries. Murray (2008) contends that "even a cursory review of the literature reveals adjustment to academic life is often stressful and demoralizing" (p. 108). Common concerns of faculty are struggles with the shortage of time in which to accomplish everything, uncertainty regarding exactly what is expected of them, and challenges in balancing professional and personal responsibilities (Austin, 2003; Boice, 1991, 2000; Menges, 1999b; Rice, Sorcinelli, & Austin, 2000; Sorcinelli, 1994, 2000, 2002). In a landmark study of American academics (1999a), Menges identified the themes in new faculty life as stress, time, socialization, and evaluation. New faculty members experience significant stress in adjusting to the demands of their new positions. Many report they spend inordinate amounts of time preparing for their classes yet still often do not feel prepared, leaving little time to pursue expected research agendas (Murray, 2008, p. 111; Solem & Foote, 2006, p. 212). Despite the pervasive difficulty of getting everything done, faculty often blame themselves. Murray (2008) found that faculty, "frustrated over their inability to find sufficient time for scholarship, lamented their poor time management skills" (p. 110). Depending upon the supports provided by the institution, and factors such as the effectiveness of their chair (Solem & Foote, 2006, p. …

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