Perceptions of Tennessee FCS Faculty and Administrators in Higher Education

By Stevens, Patricia M.; Crase, Dixie R. | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Perceptions of Tennessee FCS Faculty and Administrators in Higher Education


Stevens, Patricia M., Crase, Dixie R., Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


In addition to general higher education challenges, family and consumer sciences (FCS) programs may confront the possibility of reorganization and/or loss of programs. In Tennessee, eight American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) accredited units have faced these issues within the last five years. Faculty and administrators in these accredited units were surveyed to determine their perceptions of qualities and factors having an impact on the status of their programs. Findings from the survey suggest the critical nature of effective administrators, productive faculty, and attractive programs with healthy enrollments. The findings of the study have implications for FCS programs and the profession.

Colleges and universities continue to face perennial challenges of managing budget reductions, increasing student enrollments, and recruiting and retaining qualified faculty. Family and consumer sciences (FCS) programs confront these same challenges plus the additional possibilities of reorganization, loss of faculty positions, and, in some cases, program elimination. During the last five years, eight American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) accredited FCS units in Tennessee have experienced such challenges. This study investigated the impact of changes and challenges on these higher education FCS programs during this time. Analysis of the perceptions in Tennessee can add to the professional toolbox as other FCS units face similar challenges.

METHODS

At the AAFCS Annual Conference & Expo in 2006, Firebaugh identified qualities and factors contributing to successful FCS programs in higher education. A survey instrument, based on these factors, was developed and administered to faculty and administrators in each of the eight AAFCSaccredited units in Tennessee in 2009. Using a Likert-type scale, respondents were asked to rate the importance (highly important = 4, moderately important = 3, slightly important = 2, not important = 1) of each quality contributing to successful programs or factors associated with or that accelerate change in programs at their respective institutions.

FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION

Faculty and administrators from the eight AAFCS accredited FCS programs participated in the study. Thirty-seven of 91 possible participants responded to the survey for a response rate of 40.6%. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Percentages and average ratings were calculated to determine and compare the importance of the factors.

Qualities Contributing to Successful Programs

Faculty and administrators from the programs rated Firebaugh 's (2006) qualities from highly important to not important (see Table 1). For purposes of analysis and discussion, the authors placed Firebaugh 's qualities into five categories: faculty, emerging issues and needed changes, leadership, research, and alumni. The rating of each quality by faculty and administrators is discussed in the context of related studies.

Faculty. Among the qualities identified by Firebaugh (2006), several of the items relate to faculty. Faculty members want to be in and support the unit received the highest rating (3.78). In 2003, Kellett stated that every faculty member should understand and support the mission, vision, and strategic directions of an academic unit. Griffore and Phenice (2005) reported that lack of cohesiveness and support among faculty contributed to vulnerability of the College of Human Ecology at Michigan State University

The importance of the faculty members having a well developed interdisciplinary perspective received a rating of 3.62. The majority (54.1%) of respondents agreed faculty members working with colleagues across the campus is a highly important quality (3.43) contributing to successful FCS programs. Predictions suggest that in the future there will be still more interdisciplinary centers on campus working together solving problems (Bousquet et al. …

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