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

April 3, 2009

Faculty survey found less job satisfaction among associate professors

by Anne Krapfl

Tenure may bring tremendous relief and greater self-confidence, but apparently it doesn't equate to job satisfaction. Iowa State's associate professors expressed the least satisfaction among respondents in last January's faculty satisfaction survey.

Overall, 68 percent of faculty expressed satisfaction with their jobs, 24 percent were dissatisfied and the rest (8 percent) were neutral. Twenty-eight percent of associate professors expressed overall dissatisfaction with their jobs, compared to 22 percent for full professors and 23 percent for assistant professors.

Faculty in the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences and library (74 percent each), and Engineering (72 percent) expressed the highest rates of overall job satisfaction. Faculty in the colleges of Business (60 percent) and Design (63 percent), and the sciences and math departments in LAS (64 percent) expressed the lowest satisfaction ratings. Women (70 percent) were slightly more satisfied with their jobs than men (67 percent).

Associate professors as a group also rated resources such as lab space and classroom space, time available for scholarly work, time required for committee work, and mentoring provided to them lower than full or assistant professors. Associate professors reported slightly higher teaching responsibilities in the last 12 months (on average, 2.73 undergraduate classes and 1.18 graduate classes taught) than their full (2.15 u.g. classes, 1.17 grad classes) or assistant professor (2.42 u.g. classes, 0.87 grad class) colleagues. As might be expected, non-tenure eligible faculty reported the highest class loads: 3.72 undergraduate classes and 0.41 graduate class taught in the previous 12 months.

Associate professors also were slightly less likely than full or assistant professors to agree with the statements:

  • My department is a good fit for me
  • My dean helps me obtain the resources I need
  • My chair helps me obtain the resources I need

The survey

All faculty had the chance to participate in the web-based survey in January 2008; about 53 percent did. Over 43 questions, the survey asked faculty about their satisfaction with various aspects of their employment, their awareness of specific faculty policies and the contributors to stress -- at work and home -- in their lives.

The survey was created by a team of institutional research professionals at member universities of the Association of American Universities Data Exchange. Sandra Gahn, associate director of Iowa State's office of institutional research, was on the team. Iowa State is one of a dozen AAU schools to administer the survey so far.

Gahn also conducts research for the ISU ADVANCE program, a five-year effort to bring changes to the university that will enable more women to succeed in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. ISU ADVANCE helped fund the survey project at ISU.

"This opportunity came up about the same time we needed to be doing some benchmarking on our campus for the ADVANCE grant," Gahn said.

ISU ADVANCE researchers are not the only ones studying the survey data. Associate provost Susan Carlson said the information has helped "create a background" for numerous kinds of decisions. She said she has used the data in a session she led for department chairs on managing flexibility in their faculty members' careers, as well as a session on work-life issues in the Emerging Leaders Academy.

Carlson said she encourages units to use the survey data in their own efforts on such things as faculty reviews or improving departmental climates.

Gahn said institutional research will administer the survey to ISU faculty again in two to three years.

Family life

The survey included a dozen questions about non-work life, including spouses/partners and their work situations, children, juggling work and home duties, and caring for parents.

Eighty-six percent of all faculty respondents said they have a spouse or domestic partner. When you break that down by gender, 76 percent of women and 92 percent of men reported a spouse or partner. Overall, 29 percent of faculty reported having no children. Broken down by gender, 41 percent of women and 21 percent of men faculty reported having no children. Among all respondents, 35 percent reported having two or more children and 20 percent reported three or more children. For women faculty, those figures are 29 percent and 11 percent, respectively. When questioned about whether childcare has been a source of stress for them, 57 percent of women faculty and 44 percent of men faculty said it is somewhat or very stressful.

Of all respondents, 17 percent reported that they are providing care or managing the care of an aging or ill family member.

Little things matter

The survey even included a question about parking. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being most satisfied, Business faculty on average gave parking availability a 4.35. Design (4.20) and Agriculture and Life Sciences (4.04) faculty also gave high marks. Central campus-clustered groups, including faculty in the library (2.89) and LAS humanities departments (2.99) gave the lowest marks to parking availability.


Read all about it

Results of the faculty satisfaction survey, including a 12-page summary and 91-page full report, are available on the ISU ADVANCE web site. The full report includes a copy of the survey and dozens of graphs that present and compare survey responses.