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Administrator-to-Faculty Transition

October 23, 2017 Dena Kniess University of West Georgia

When I was a junior in college, one of my communication professors told me that I “belonged with them in academe.” As a first generation college student, I was not sure what the term “academe” meant. I grew-up in a middle-class family home, but the stories from my childhood were ones that valued education and practical professions – my mother was a nurse, my father worked his way up to management in a factory before experience a layoff, my sister is an engineer, and my brother is a sergeant in a police department. Then there was me, an English major who loved theories and ideas. In my mind, entering the faculty arena was so far from my familial context and I did not know if I would “fit” in academe. Fast forward 15 years and I found myself wanting to be a faculty member in a student affairs/higher education graduate program and asked two of my mentors, Tony Cawthon and Pam Havice, what I needed to do to make the transition from a student affairs practitioner to a tenure-track faculty position. The following pieces of advice are based on what I’ve learned from faculty mentors and also from researching the student affairs administrator-to-faculty transition with Mimi Benjamin and Michelle Boettcher.

Take inventory of your current skills and situation. As you’re thinking about the transition to faculty, consider your current skills. For example, are you comfortable working independently? How would you rate your research and teaching skills? Are you prepared to start over in terms of a career? What supports do you have in making this transition? These are some of the questions, in addition to others, are some that you will need to consider in the transition from practitioner to faculty.

Talk to current faculty to prepare for the transition. If you’re considering the move to a faculty position, it is crucial to talk to current faculty about the search process. Faculty search processes are different than search processes in student affairs in terms of who you will meet with and what you will be asked to present.

Refine your research and writing skills. Ask to be involved in research projects with other practitioners and/or faculty and publish your results. On your curriculum vita (CV), search committees will look to your ability to conduct research and publish your results in academic journals.

Ask to adjunct or be a teaching assistant for graduate courses. In addition to research and writing, gaining teaching experience is very important. As a practitioner, you may have had the chance to teach undergraduate courses, but teaching graduate courses is different in terms of the content and course sequence. Gaining experience, if you’re able to as a practitioner, will allow you to talk about your teaching philosophy and style in an interview.

Resources – there are several resources on faculty culture and the transition to faculty – these resources were provided in a session by the first Emerging Faculty Leadership Academy (EFLA) cohort from 2016-17 through NASPA. The resources are below. 

Launching Your Faculty Career: Support, Advice, and Resources for the Transition – from NASPA’s Emerging Faculty Leader Academy Inaugural Cohort

Austin, A. E. (2002). Preparing the next generation of faculty: Graduate school as socialization to the academic career. The Journal of Higher Education, 73(1), 94-122.

Bess, J.L. & Dee, J.R. (2014). Bridging the divide between faculty and administration: A guide to understanding conflict in the academy. New York: Routledge. 

Borba, J.A. (2001). From K-12 school administrator to university professor of educational administration: Similarities, differences, risks and rewards. Education, 22 (1), 50-60. 

Couture, R. (2014). New faculty guilt: Transitioning from practitioner to professor. Developments, 12 (3) Retrieved from: http://www.myacpa.org/article/new-faculty-guilt-transitioning-practitioner-professor 

Eddy, P.L., & Gaston-Gayles, J.L. (2008). New faculty on the block: Issues of stress and support. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, (17) 1, 89-106. 

Greene, H. C., O’Connor, K. A., Good, A. J., Ledford, C. C., Peel, B. B., & Zhang, G. (2008). Building a support system toward tenure: challenges and needs of tenure?track faculty in colleges of education. Mentoring & tutoring: Partnership in learning, 16(4), 429-447. 

Goodman, J., Schlossberg, N. K., & Anderson, M. L. (2006). Counseling adults in transition (3rd ed.). New York: Springer. 

McCluskey-Titus, P., & Cawthon, T. W. (2004). The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence: Making a transition from student affairs administrator to full-time faculty. NASPA Journal, (41) 2, 317 - 335. 

Ponjuan, L., Conley, V. M., & Trower, C. (2011). Career stage differences in pre-tenure track faculty perceptions of professional and personal relationships with colleagues. The Journal of Higher Education, 82(3), 319-346. 

Reybold, L. E. (2005). Surrendering the dream: Early career conflict and faculty dissatisfaction thresholds. Journal of Career Development, 32(2), 107-121. 

Reynolds, A. (1992). Charting the changes in junior faculty: Relationships among socialization, acculturation, and gender. The Journal of Higher Education, 637-652. 

Rice, R. E., & Sorcinelli, M. D. (2002). Can the tenure process be improved? In R. P. Chait (Ed.), The questions of tenure (pp. 101-124). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 

Savage, H. E., Karp, R. S., & Logue, R. (2004). Faculty mentorship at colleges and universities. College Teaching, 52(1), 21-24. 

Setzler, R. (2015). The coach’s guide for women professors: Who want a successful career and a well- balanced life. Sterling, VA: Stylus. 

Solem, M. N., & Foote, K. E. (2006). Concerns, attitudes, and abilities of early-career geography faculty: Research, context, and future directions. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 30(2), 195-198. 

Tierney, W. G. & Rhoads, R. A. (1994). Faculty socialization as a cultural process: A mirror of institutional commitment. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 93-6. Washington, DC: The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development. 

Waltman, J., Bergom, I., Hollenshead, C., Miller, J., & August, L. (2012). Factors contributing to job satisfaction and dissatisfaction among non-tenure-track faculty. The Journal of Higher Education, 83(3), 411-434.