Monday, July 25, 2011

EKU Makes Chronicle's Honor Roll as a Great College to Work For

Eastern Kentucky University was recognized once again by the Chronicle of Higher Education in it's 2011 survey of "Great Colleges to Work For." Honor Roll recognition, for four-year colleges, was given to the 10 institutions in each size that were cited most often across all of the recognition categories.

EKU was recognized in the categories of Leadership (Collaborative Governance, Confidence in Senior Leadership and Department Chair relationships), Compensation (..and benefits, Job satisfaction, respect and appreciation), Professional (career-dev programs, teaching enviromnment, tenure clarity and process) and Environment (facilities, Workspace and security, Work/life balance). The faculty has a voluntary turnover rate of 7% (8% for staff) and average pay for full-time faculty just shy of $62,000.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed's 2011 Survey is based on responses from nearly 44,000 people at 310 institutions. Four-year colleges and universities accounted for 245 of the institutions, and two-year colleges for 65. All accredited institutions in the United States are invited to participate, and participation is free. Approximately 20,000 of the people responding were faculty members, about 15,000 were professional staff members, and about 8,000 were administrators. The survey was sent to almost 111,000 people, with an overall response rate of about 40 percent.

Other large college Honor Roll schools were: Baylor, Duke, Georgia Tech, Lindenwood, Sam Houston State, U of Maryland-Baltimore County, Mississippi, Notre Dame, and Southern California.

Eastern Kentucky University used to conduct faculty-development programs by bribing professors with a free lunch.

"We were lucky if 10 percent showed up," says Charlie Sweet, a co-director of the university's Teaching and Learning Center.

When the university switched gears and invited both faculty and staff members to take a more active role—through so-called professional-learning communities—participation soared.

Now, at any given time, small groups of faculty and staff members are tackling university problems and honing their own skills by participating in these gatherings.

Over the past four years, about 60 percent of faculty members have taken part in at least one cross-disciplinary professional-learning community. And over the past year alone, 36 different groups took on topics from encouraging creativity in teaching to developing a code of ethics for faculty members.

The groups are one of several strategies that employees cited in giving their employer high marks for professional and career development in The Chronicle's fourth annual Great Colleges to Work For survey.

At Eastern Kentucky, a public institution of about 15,000 students, more seasoned professors serve as mentors to new faculty members, and all full-time employees can receive tuition waivers for job-related university courses. The university provides matching funds to departments for staff development. Senior staff leaders can tap into a professional-development fund to pay for on- or off-campus workshops on such topics as leadership development and customer service.

But the learning communities—an approach taken by a growing number of colleges—are one of the most popular career-development options, according to Mr. Sweet and Hal Blythe, the other co-director of the university's Teaching and Learning Center.

Groups typically meet for a few hours, six or seven times a semester. "In the old days, every morning people would come to the faculty lounge, meet with their colleagues and talk about what's going on at the university," says Mr. Blythe. "Now, in this computer age, there's so little face-to-face interaction, and so many of the nuances of those interactions are being missed." The learning groups are one way to restore that sense of community, he says.

Stephen J. Haggerty, Eastern Kentucky's assistant director of a student-support program for first-generation college students, is leading an 18-month-long learning group for professional staff members. The group's nine members, who include librarians, technology workers, and writing coaches, are developing ways to encourage students to think critically and creatively. Then they'll pass those strategies on to students they train as consultants. One group member created a card game in which students, working with two decks of cards, try to cure "zombies," who lack purpose or make quick assumptions, by teaching them the right critical-thinking skills. The player with the most cured zombies at the end of the game wins.

"In the process of working on these projects, the participants have become much more critical and creative in their own thinking processes, and they're developing skills that will make them much more marketable," says Mr. Haggerty...
And this from the Chronicle:

Humanity Plus Flexibility Add Up to Strong Work-Life Balance

After Sharon Whitehead was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001, she worried about how her employer, Somerset Community College, would respond to her request for leave. Even if she returned, she feared she might not immediately be able to perform her job as director of a regional campus center, which required a 30-minute commute.

"I was afraid that the world would go on without me," says Ms. Whitehead, who had worked for the Kentucky college since 1978. "I wondered what my position might be when I came back."

But Somerset's president, Jo Marshall, says her decision wasn't difficult. She granted Ms. Whitehead the paid leave for nearly a year and relied on an interim replacement. When Ms. Whitehead returned, she was allowed to teach a reduced load of classes for a semester until she could resume her old job. She has since been promoted to dean of arts and sciences.

"I just kept renewing that medical leave," Ms. Marshall says, "because I knew that if she came back she would be worth every penny. You can have all the rules and regulations that you need, but if you don't treat people with respect, they won't treat you with respect." ...

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