DSI Clinical Faculty Career Consortium Highlights

A thoughtful conversation on individual choices and institutional structure related to non-tenure-track faculty.
DSI hosted its inaugural “Clinical Faculty Career Consortium” virtually on November 13, 2021.  The goal of this consortium was to start a discussion regarding faculty not on the tenure track.  In this article, we explain both motivation for the consortium, and highlights of the discussion.

In “Moneyball”, Michael Lewis explains how the Oakland A’s of Major League Baseball remained competitive with teams that had 3 times the A’s payroll.   The A’s could not field a team of superstar players who commanded a premium salary, but could field a team of players that had one or two strong, unique skills.  In other words, the A’s chose to piece together a great team by recruiting players that fit into the organization as a whole.  In doing so, the A’s were the most efficient team in baseball in money spent per win.

Many business schools find themselves in a similar position as the A’s.  That is, they may not be able to populate their entire faculty with superstar professors who excel in research, teaching, and service.  However, schools may build a composite faculty with specialized knowledge, capabilities, and interests that, when put together as a whole, meet the broad research, teaching, and service needs of a school.  To achieve this level of coverage, business schools are employing a mix of tenure track and clinical faculty. (Note: Different schools call faculty that are not on the tenure track many different things – for example, non-tenure track faculty, specialized faculty, or professional faculty.  Our nomenclature for this article will be “clinical faculty”.) In our assessment, it appears that the proportion of clinical faculty is increasing at most institutions.  We see this trend as a positive development as it allows for faculty to work towards their strengths – those that excel at and enjoy research can focus more there, and those that excel at and prefer teaching can focus on that core competency.  This change in specialization has noticeably shifted over the last 2 decades:  the percentage of clinical faculty in our respective departments have morphed from less than 10% 20 years ago to nearly 50% clinical faculty today, in line with trends across academia. 

We think this shift allows for appropriate allocation of resources, but also brings to light some challenges. One trend we see is scant guidance to managing careers on the clinical track.  A second trend we see is variable institutional support for clinical faculty.  Hence, our consortium started a conversation centered on these two themes: individual choices and institutional structure, respectively.   

Individual choices

We started the consortium with a discussion around career paths within the clinical faculty track.  Because a clinical role tends to be broadly defined, it can be compared to a walk in the woods:  an opportunity to both find great joy (finding a role that matches talents, passions, and needs) and to get completely lost (not knowing what one wants to do, not knowing how to build skills to get to where one wants to be, not knowing how to connect with a school that values one’s abilities).  Participants in the consortium seemed to universally agree that the roles of clinical faculty are extremely diverse. Clinical faculty may focus on improving teaching pedagogy, consulting with client partners of the university, creating instructional materials, building new programs, advising and interacting directly with students, and so much more.   During the consortium, we discussed 3 broad pathways centered on 1) teaching, 2) industry outreach/ consulting and 3) administration. 

During the discussion, we talked about these roles, how some schools are encouraging these and heard lots of questions.  We share these next.

The panelists and participants talked about their roles in teaching, research, administration, and service as industry liaisons.  The takeaway was that often there is overlap between these roles, and faculty may take on different levels of emphasis at different points in their careers.  Also, sometimes finding our best role requires trying out a number of different ones.  The participants agreed that there may be many other possible roles not considered here.

Some schools are actively encouraging different actions for clinical faculty versus tenure track through evaluation structures.  For example, Georgia State University evaluates clinical faculty contribution through extensive teaching assessment that goes beyond just student evaluations, and research, with a primary focus on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) as opposed to the traditional discipline-based research.  The University of Illinois has created explicitly different tracks within their clinical faculty model, including those for student engagement, teaching, and research.  These universities realize that they can reach more of their goals (offering richer student experiences, continuing to produce high quality research, etc.) with a broader mix of faculty.

Within our 90-minute timeframe, we were able to start this conversation, but we are by no means finished.  Here are some outstanding questions, and we know there are many, many more: 

  • How can we fairly evaluate faculty who have very different responsibilities?
  • What are the specific metrics of success that might be used to make such evaluation as objective as possible?
  • Do a broad array of schools value clinical faculty with differing skills, or do they want one type of faculty?
  • How can an individual faculty best find their best path?
  • How can clinical faculty find the experience(s) that help a faculty grow into some of these roles?

Institutional structure

We finished the consortium with a discussion around institutional structure to support clinical faculty. Support of clinical faculty is crucial.  Returning to the “Moneyball” analogy, the A’s recruited a longtime catcher, Scott Hatteberg, to instead play first base.  However, they provided support to Hatteberg during this drastic change by pairing him with a fantastic infield coach who helped Hatteberg grow into the new role.  Similarly, institutions can support clinical faculty in myriad ways.  We share highlights of this discussion, starting with broad comments about culture, followed by some specific faculty policies/ practices. 

From longtime clinical faculty, we heard there has been a positive culture change over the last 15 years:  in the past, there was a pervasive feeling that clinical faculty are “lesser”, while today, most institutions recognize the importance of clinical faculty contributions.  With that being said, the culture around clinical faculty varies greatly by school, and even within schools by department.  Research shows the importance of a positive culture on employee commitment and work outcomes (Sheridan, 1992) – there is no doubt that culture matters.  However, it can be challenging to accurately articulate a school’s culture, and even more difficult to change it.  Given this, we do not have advice on best practices or recommended changes in this realm.  We do, however, strongly believe that appreciating contributions matters, and faculty are more prone to leave in an institution with a malevolent culture than one with a vibrant culture. More discussion is warranted about how to build and sustain cultural vibrancy.  

We also discussed specific policies/ practices that some schools have adopted.  We do not advocate this as a checklist of “recommended policies”, but instead present them as options that might work within a given school’s overall strategy.   Some policies will be at the University level, others at the college level, and a few more within the remit of individual departments.

  • Set up either formal or informal mentoring programs for clinical faculty, similar to those for tenure track faculty
  • Provide grants for new course development
  • Make research grants available to clinical faculty/ summer grants specifically for pedagogical research
  • Create a faculty development committee, with a wide variety of “lunch and learn” topics throughout the year. (One panelist mentioned their school already does this – in this case, this committee is for both clinical and tenure track – all were welcomed at meetings).
  • Course reduction for faculty taking on significant student outreach activities (developing/ managing an experiential program, for example)
  • Promotion policies:
    • Have a clearly articulated promotion path for clinical faculty, with appropriate measurement and weighting of different contributions.
    • Encourage faculty to demonstrate success on measurable criteria and then seek promotion at the earliest opportunity.

We thank everyone who attended these sessions and hope that it is the beginning of thoughtful discussions ahead. 

Reference
Sheridan, John E. 1992. Organizational Culture and Employee Retention.  Academy of Management Journal. 35 (5): 1036-1056.

Carrie Queenan has been at the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina since 2012.  She is a Clinical Professor, teaching operations and analytics in the traditional classroom setting  to students ranging from undergraduate to executives.  Additionally, she serves the lead analyst for student-based consulting teams with firms such as adidas, Coca Cola Consolidated, and UPS.  She helped to craft the promotion guidelines for clinical faculty within her department and regularly thinks about various aspects of the clinical faculty career path/ environment.

Jack Jensen joined the Moore School of Business in 2009 where he served as the Co-Director of the Operations and Supply Chain Center from 2009 until 2020.   In addition to teaching courses and generating original scholarship in Operations Management, Process Excellence, Management Science and Quantitative Analysis, he continues to consult through the Center’s outreach initiatives with organizations such as Avaya, BMW, Carolinas Healthcare System, Coca-Cola Bottling Consolidated, Continental Tire, Daimler Mercedes Benz, Delta Airlines, Eaton Corporation, FN America, Ingersoll-Rand, Johnson & Johnson, Kaiser Aluminum, The Medical University of South Carolina, Michelin, Nephron Pharmaceuticals, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Trane, Textron, and the United Way.

Eric C. Larson is a Teaching Associate Professor, Associate Department Head, and James F. Towey Faculty Fellow in the Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received his PhD in Information Systems from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. His research interests include top management team decision-making and structure, the impact of information systems on organizational performance, and improving classroom learning and pedagogy. He leads the Business Analytics I course in the undergraduate core curriculum, authored with a team of students a full textbook with embedded videos and accompanying problems sets for the course, and serves as a liaison for specialized faculty regarding career development and organizational issues.

Satish Nargundkar is a Clinical Professor of Business Analytics and the Asst. Dean for Professional and Flex MBA at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University. His research interests are multidisciplinary, and include supply chain management, quantitative methods, and the improvement of teaching methods. He has published in journals such as the European Journal of Operations Research [EJOR], Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education [DSJIE], and Operations Management Education Review [OMER], and the Journal of Economics and Finance Education [JEFE]. A recipient of multiple awards for teaching and research, he has over 30 years of experience in the areas of analytics, process improvement, and decision support. He is passionate about excellence in teaching and has conducted various executive programs. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, traveling and photography, and is a martial arts instructor.

Dr Jan Zantinga is a lecturer in Supply Chain and Project Management at the University of Georgia.  After receiving his PhD at the University of Navarre he spent a significant number of years working for consulting and software companies as a consultant and manager.  He returned to academics after this extended hiatus and started teaching Principles of Management, Operations and Supply Chain Management, Project Management, Service Operations and Supply Chain Analytics.  Dr. Zantinga lives in Athens, GA with 1 dog, 2 cats, 1 wife and 3 children.  His hobbies include sailing, travelling, minority languages and gardening.