Faculty Professional Development Needs and Career Advancement at Tribal Colleges and Universities

By Al-Asfour, Ahmed; Young, Suzanne | The Journal of Faculty Development, January 2017 | Go to article overview

Faculty Professional Development Needs and Career Advancement at Tribal Colleges and Universities


Al-Asfour, Ahmed, Young, Suzanne, The Journal of Faculty Development


TRIBAL COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES (TCUs) were conceived in the late 1960s in order to provide higher education to Native Americans living on reservations (Schmidt & Akande, 2011). According to Guillory and Wolverton (2008), mainstream institutions "have struggled to accommodate American Indians and create environments suitable for their perseverance resulting in degree completion" (p. 58). Hence, TCUs have played an important role in making higher education accessible to tribal communities. Because many mainstream higher education institutions failed to accommodate the educational needs of Native Americans, tribal leaders felt the need to meet those demands for education on the reservations (Guillory & Wolverton, 2008). Ambler (2009) discussed that many tribal leaders in the 1960s used old buildings and double-wide trailers to provide higher education in their communities. From these simple actions, Native Americans found places to attend colleges and universities on the reservations and nearby communities (William, 2007).

TCUs are unique educational providers because they approach education differently compared to mainstream higher learning educational institutions. TCUs base their education philosophy on the principle that tribal students should not have to abandon their cultures, traditions, and most importantly, their families (Opp, 2007). These institutions are interested in facilitating education relevant to Native American reservations and nearby communities. William (2007) described TCUs as a whole community approach to higher education and vocational education. Al-Asfour (2012) stated that "Tribal colleges are unique entities in that they work around the needs of students and their communities, not vice versa" (p. 23). Many of the students attending TCUs fit the definition of non-traditional students. Most of the students are single parents, have dependents, are older than twenty-four years of age, are part or full-time employees, or have a combination of these characteristics (Schmidt & Akande, 2011).

There are 37 TCUs with more than 75 sites in the United States (American Indian Higher Education Consortium, 2016). In addition, there is one TCU in Canada. Each of these TCUs was created and chartered by its own tribal government. These TCUs serve more than 30,000 Native American students and there are over 1,000 full-time and adjunct faculty members serving these students (Native American College Fund, 2016). Thus, many TCUs have taken faculty development as an important step for their growth at higher learning institutions.

Literature Review

Faculty members at TCUs benefit from faculty development in the same way as faculty members do at other traditional higher education institutions. Cannon, Kitchel, and Duncan (2013) found that faculty members need to continually cultivate skills and knowledge in order to improve their teaching and student learning. Rocca (2010) said that higher education institutions should invest significant finances, effort, and time in faculty development, even during difficult fiscal times. Further, according to Guskey and Yoon (2009), faculty development needs to have a well-structured and organized plan for all participants in order to maximize benefits and ensure success.

As colleges and universities move into the 21st century, more accountability is placed on higher education institutions by government agencies, accreditation agencies, and the public sector to justify the increase in cost and the quality of education (Minter, 2009). Since higher education institutions are being held accountable, Minter (2009) suggested that faculty development should be a continuous process rather than an isolated activity. Rocca (2010) went further by suggesting that the quality of faculty teaching is one of the main contributors to institutional reputation.

Faculty development has been defined in numerous ways. Faculty development is synonymous with career development, career planning, human development, training, and professional growth. …

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