The “Most Important Asset”: An Exploratory Comparative Case Study of Factors Influencing Faculty Hiring and Faculty Composition at Two Small, Private Colleges in Iowa
The faculty composition in U.S. higher education has changed significantly over recent decades (AAUP, 2020; Hurlburt & McGarrah, 2016b; Schuster & Finkelstein, 2006). What was once a faculty model dominated by tenured and tenure-track faculty has shifted to majority contingent. As of 2020, contingent faculty composed nearly 70% of the American professoriate (AAUP, 2020). The trend extends across all sectors, including small, private, nonprofit higher education, where 50% of the faculty are contingent (Hurlburt & McGarrah, 2016b). For a sector that has historically distinguished itself through its student-centered mission and tradition of highly engaged faculty, large shifts in faculty composition warrant careful study. The purpose of this qualitative research study was to explore in depth the factors influencing faculty hiring at small, private, nonprofit institutions in Iowa. An exploratory comparative case study design was used to examine the faculty hiring experiences and perspectives of eight upper-level academic administrators across two private colleges in the state. Kezar and Maxey’s (2016) a Model for the Future of the Faculty provided the conceptual framework, and the findings offer a glimpse into the complex process of faculty hiring in which administrators must weigh many, and sometimes conflicting, factors as hiring decisions are made. The findings provide insight into how external pressures, internal values, organizational priorities, institutional missions, and student success intersect and influence faculty hiring. The findings also reveal an opportunity for small, private administrators to use adaptive leadership strategies to shape their future faculty models more intentionally and proactively. New models should include differentiated but equally valued faculty roles, reprofessionalization efforts, and faculty diversification, as well as align with institutional missions and allow for flexibility during challenging times.
Claiborne, J. (2022). The “Most Important Asset”: An Exploratory Comparative Case Study of Factors Influencing Faculty Hiring and Faculty Composition at Two Small, Private Colleges in Iowa [Doctoral dissertation, Bethel University]. Spark Repository. https://spark.bethel.edu/etd/852