The most essential aspect of the collegiate experience for any student is completion of a degree, which is accomplished through the efforts of committed and talented faculty. Their work of learning, teaching, and researching is fundamental in empowering students to succeed. It consequently makes sense to monitor how satisfied faculty are in their role and what can be changed to enrich their experience.

That is exactly what Illinois State’s administration intends to discover with an initiative that will begin in the spring semester, at which time a systematic review of faculty job satisfaction will be undertaken through the Provost’s Office.

The work begins with a survey that will be distributed in February. All of ISU’s approximately 1,500 full-time faculty members will be asked for their feedback, including those in non-tenure-track positions. The data collection is being coordinated through a partnership with Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE), which is based in the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

“COACHE helps institutions assess the academic workplace, not just the climate,” said Dr. Yojanna Cuenca-Carlino, assistant vice president for faculty development, diversity, and learning. A professor in the College of Education prior to joining the Provost’s Office, Cuenca-Carlino is leading ISU’s COACHE team.

The idea of probing faculty contentment stemmed from a retreat organized by Provost Aondover Tarhule last fall. Working groups were created to ponder ISU’s post-pandemic priorities. Cuenca-Carlino led the faculty success group, which recommended gathering data to determine how faculty satisfaction can be increased. Dr. Tarhule is eager to have the information.

“We need this data to confirm areas where we are doing well and identify areas where help is needed,” said Tarhule, who pledges that the results will be openly shared and used to guide decisions going forward. “We will be transparent with whatever we learn,” he said, noting that the survey is being done as a proactive effort to bolster the exceptional work of faculty across disciplines on campus.

“We have a strong faculty community but at the same time, there are undoubtedly issues we do not realize exist. The only time we know what faculty are feeling is when they leave, which is too late,” Tarhule said. “If something is broken, we can’t fix it until we become aware of the problem. I want to know the problems and figure out solutions.”

“We have a strong faculty community but at the same time, there are undoubtedly issues we do not realize exist. The only time we know what faculty are feeling is when they leave, which is too late. If something is broken, we can’t fix it until we become aware of the problem. I want to know the problems and figure out solutions.”

Provost Aondover Tarhule

Awareness will come from faculty responses to specific questions tied to the different dimensions of holding a teaching position, from scholarship and service to the tenure and promotion process. Cuenca-Carlino noted that COACHE probes other dimensions of academic life such as resources and support, interdisciplinary collaboration, shared governance, appreciation and recognition, institutional leadership, and retention.

The goal is to gather sufficient information so that results can be dissected by area of study, gender, race, and rank to gain an expansive look at the faculty sentiment. By working with COACHE, which has partnered with more than 300 universities, ISU will also be able to benchmark results against responses from faculty at peer institutions.

“I am pleased that Illinois State University is conducting this faculty job satisfaction survey and including faculty and shared governance representatives in the process,” said Dr. Martha Horst, chair of the Academic Senate and School of Music professor. “I look forward to reviewing the results of the survey and working with the administration to address faculty job satisfaction at Illinois State University.”

Cuenca-Carlino and Tarhule are confident the findings will aid in both recruitment and retention, especially within the minority faculty cohort that needs to grow in numbers. “We want to make certain we have created an environment where faculty feel included and where diversity and different perspectives are valued,” Cuenca-Carlino said.

Gaining the information to improve the campus experience for faculty is dependent on participation. “We need a good response rate,” Tarhule said. “We need faculty to participate.” Dr. Horace Melton agrees. Chair of the Department of Marketing, Melton also teaches as an associate professor.

“The COACHE survey, discussion, and action-planning process can lead to changes that improve our efforts to recruit, support, and retain outstanding faculty,” said Melton, who is a member of the COACHE Task Force. “But we need extensive participation by faculty in order to make the survey results meaningful.”

Those who take the survey will be able to complete it in approximately 25 minutes. All responses will remain confidential and be analyzed by COACHE. That work should be completed by fall of next year, followed by the formation of working groups and development of action plans. The results will have a long-term impact on faculty opportunities, expectations, and satisfaction.

“This survey is critical to faculty success as it will provide an honest report for the administrators to create a community where all faculty members feel valued, supported, and respected,” said Associate Professor of Graphic Design Archana Shekara. Beyond her faculty role in the Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts, she serves on the president’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council and the COACHE team.

“I am excited that the Office of the Provost is partnering with COACHE to examine our work environment and provide data to support decisions related to our professional lives as faculty and our performance,” Shekara said. “I hope all ISU faculty will take time to participate in the survey.”

Cuenca-Carlino echoes the need for those teaching across campus to complete the survey when prompted to do so in February. “We want to hear from faculty. We want to make decisions and changes based on what faculty have to say,” she said. “Obviously, our results are going to be meaningful only if we get people to participate in the survey.”            

More information about the COACHE initiative to assess faculty satisfaction is available at