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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Sep. 7, 2007

Faculty satisfaction survey report shared Sept. 17

by Erin Rosacker

Two years ago, Iowa State's tenure-eligible faculty were surveyed as part of a newly developed national study on job satisfaction. On Sept. 17, the leader of the study will make her first visit to campus, sharing ISU's results and national comparisons in a public presentation.

Cathy Trower is co-principal investigator of the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE). Housed at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, COACHE has surveyed more than 80 four-year colleges and universities in the last two years.

"We're always eager to know what's working or not working with faculty," said associate provost Susan Carlson. "This was really the first chance to gauge faculty satisfaction comparatively."

The categories

The survey questions covered five areas:

  • tenure processes
  • nature of work
  • policies and practices
  • climate, culture and collegiality
  • global satisfaction

Iowa State opted to add additional questions to the survey, pinpointing specifics such as allocation of space (particularly lab space), salary policy, committee assignments, collegiality and satisfaction with the Ames community.

ISU had a better-than-average response rate, with 65 percent (194 of 306) of junior faculty completing the survey. The university scored highest in policies and practices, fared well in global satisfaction and showed the most room for improvement in clarity of tenure processes and issues of climate.

Carlson said the low marks for the tenure process were a surprise, particularly since the Office of the Provost has worked to clarify ISU's more flexible system that allows for individualized faculty appointments.

"I think that's also why it's not as clear as we thought it was. It's hard to answer questions in a single way since we have a flexible range of faculty profiles," she said.

The best and worst

In a portion of the survey that ranks the best and worst aspects of working at ISU, quality of colleagues and cost of living ranked high, while lack of diversity was a common complaint. Geographic location showed up among the top answers on both lists.

"To me, that's one of the most comic results," Carlson laughed.

Trower will present the collected data at 9 a.m. in the Memorial Union Campanile Room. Following the public session, she will meet separately with different groups - including college deans, department chairs, Faculty Senate leaders and ISU ADVANCE members - as well as Carlson and executive vice president and provost Elizabeth Hoffman.

Making use of the results

Administrators received initial results last summer. With the thick, spiral-bound book of comparisons and numbers in hand, discussions began with department heads and deans. Carlson said at least two current initiatives within the provost office are the result of issues identified in the COACHE report. They have worked to clarify the third - or probationary - review, and to implement a policy for part-time appointments.

"It's been shared with administrators, to get them to identify issues that they could work on," she said. "Now we think it's time to make it a bigger conversation, and that's why we're bringing Dr. Trower in."

Trower not only will present data results, but also offer strategies to tackle the issues and challenges presented by them.

"Her visit will really be a catalyst to keep us dealing productively with the issues that they have studied for us," Carlson said. "She's got a whole host of solutions from which she can help us decide would work best at Iowa State."

Aside from showing differences based on gender and race, Iowa State's results can be further broken down by academic discipline. Carlson said this can help them determine what ISU is doing well and what areas need the most attention.

"There were some responses that did surprise us, but because of the comprehensive nature of the data, it allows us to see that certain issues might be more prevalent among certain disciplinary faculty," she said.

"The goal of having her here is to help us take this data and make Iowa State an enviable place to work."

Carlson said ISU likely would participate in the COACHE survey again in the next five years.


"There were some responses that did surprise us, but because of the comprehensive nature of the data, it allows us to see that certain issues might be more prevalent among certain disciplinary faculty."

Susan Carlson, associate provost