Kiernan Mathews

When Perceptions of Diversity Don’t Match Progress: New Analysis from the Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey

by Kiernan Mathews, Todd Benson, Sara Polsky, and Lauren Scungio

Diverse group of faculty speakingSince 2005, the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education’s (COACHE) Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey has been systematically listening to faculty and, campus by campus, revealing inequities in the faculty experience. The survey results illuminate disparities in perceptions about the academic workplace between faculty of different racial and ethnic backgrounds—and also demonstrate, amid a nationwide conversation about inclusion, that white faculty’s perception of diversity and inclusion efforts on campus still outpaces genuine progress.

(2017). Building a Better Exit Study: A National Effort to Understand Faculty Retention & Turnover. Watch the webinarAbstract

In 2016, COACHE partnered with the University of California System to pilot our newest undertaking -- the Faculty Retenion and Exit Survey. This survey is the only multi-institutional study of faculty retention and exit, and examines the costs, conduct, and causes of faculty turnover. 

In this webinar, Kiernan Mathews and Todd Benson describe how the survey came to be, and outline some of the initial findings from the pilot study along with some practical recommendations for Academic Affairs administrators. 

Mathews, K. (2013). Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey Data Snapshots. Download the snapshotsAbstract

These charts present data from the 2013 Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey, focusing on results across seven public universities. The charts represent the arithmetic mean, by academic area and by rank and tenure status, of select COACHE survey results. "NTT” faculty are full- time, non-tenure-track faculty. All items were rated by respondents on a five-point scale of satisfaction, agreement, etc. Thus, for example, faculty were asked not to report the number of courses they teach, but to rate their satisfaction with the number of courses they teach.

The Post-Virus Professoriate: Retrenched, or Reinvented?

by Kiernan Mathews

Harvard University gates with ivyThe Chronicle Review recently published a forum on the future of the academic work force. I found it to be a grim look at trends in the professoriate. Even the thought leaders I have always counted on for optimism had only some scraps of it to share. Although urgent priorities at COACHE kept me from meeting the editor’s deadline, I decided to share here my hope for tomorrow’s faculty—in the hands of today’s faculty.

Childcare for Faculty: The Babar in the Room

by Kiernan Mathews

working parents with infantI was recently contacted by Colleen Flaherty at Inside Higher Ed about plans for meeting the childcare needs of faculty now and in the coming months. After casting around for an answer, I’ve found very little to share with her--and that absence of a plan might end up being the story.  

With this post, I wanted to share a report of my (thin) findings, float a local solution—just a sketch of a solution, really—and invite reactions, hare-brained schemes or better ideas from you academic leaders who are in the thick of it.... Read more about Childcare for Faculty: The Babar in the Room

What is the Role of University Staff in Shared Governance?

by Kiernan Mathews

staff engaged in tug of warI recently asked a forum of faculty affairs leaders about university governance beyond their boards and faculty. When we talk about “shared governance” in higher ed, what does that mean for staff? What influence do they have on the direction of the institution? 

The question has a special urgency this summer as faculty were afforded (or fought for) some flexibility in coming back to campus and getting work done during the pandemic. What voice, what power (if any) do staff have in the decisions being made right now to continue, or reinvent, the work of the university?... Read more about What is the Role of University Staff in Shared Governance?

Reflections on What Would Have Been the Third Annual Seminar on Leadership of the Faculty

by Kiernan Mathews

Seminar on Leadership of the Faculty scholar imagesLast week, I was supposed to have launched the third annual Seminar on Leadership of the Faculty, the institute I host at Harvard for provosts, vice provosts for faculty, and deans. The curriculum included three extraordinary scholars with exactly the equity agenda that academic leaders need right now.... Read more about Reflections on What Would Have Been the Third Annual Seminar on Leadership of the Faculty

AAC&U 2020 Annual Meeting: Four Faculty-Focused Tracks Through the Agenda

group convened for panel presentationCOACHE research on the professoriate is shaping the future of higher education leadership, so we are eager to attend next week’s annual meeting of the Association of American Colleges & Universities, “Shaping the Future of Higher Education: An Invitation to Lead.” While the program is characteristically overflowing with opportunities to learn and to network, we have identified four tracks through the January 22-25 schedule where we expect to find most of our partners:... Read more about AAC&U 2020 Annual Meeting: Four Faculty-Focused Tracks Through the Agenda

Where the Faculty Affairs Things Are (Now): Conferences and Convenings Updated

by Kiernan Mathews


People listening to a conference presentationSeveral years ago, I observed here that the assistant, associate, and vice provosts and deans with institution-wide responsibility for faculty success (I call them “chief faculty affairs officers” or CFAOs) often find themselves alone on their campuses. Without a community of practice in academic personnel and faculty development, people in these roles “set sail to distant places” to find the professional advice and emotional support that fundraisers, admissions officers, and student affairs administrators (for example) find closer to home. At the time, there was no magnetic pole for faculty affairs professionals, so I offered links to several conferences and associations where they could piece together a peer network and learning agenda.

... Read more about Where the Faculty Affairs Things Are (Now): Conferences and Convenings Updated

Leading at Your Growing Edge: Reflecting on the 2019 Seminar on Leadership of the Faculty

by Kiernan Mathews

Jerlando Jackson leads a session during the SeminarWhat leadership is required to help faculty do their very best work for our institutions?

That was the organizing question when, earlier this month, I served as Educational Chair to a second cohort of academic leaders in the Seminar on Leadership of the Faculty. The Seminar is a COACHE program I run with the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education, with my disciplinary colleagues who are leading scholars of the professoriate, and with other outside-the-box thinkers. I started this institute because data I collect suggests that academic leaders struggle to be inventive, despite their training as faculty to be just that. One goal of the Seminar is to reconnect provosts and deans with that quality of inventiveness.

... Read more about Leading at Your Growing Edge: Reflecting on the 2019 Seminar on Leadership of the Faculty

Growing Our Own: Cultivating Faculty Leadership

by Kiernan Mathews

This article was originally published in Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning

A professor teaching

“What do the faculty think?” It's a question that governing boards and presidents ask routinely—or don't ask at their peril. It's also the question that, for nearly 15 years, has prompted nearly 300 colleges and universities to participate in the survey research project I direct to understand and assess the faculty experience.

But here's the problem: it's the wrong question. The seasoned college leader appreciates that there is no such thing as “a” faculty (“encamped just north of Armageddon,” according to Robert Zemsky) followed by a verb in the third-person singular. Rather, there are many faculties. Since Change's founding, the increasing diversity in the roles, demographics, and institutional homes of faculty is the most consequential factor bedeviling the leadership of the faculty enterprise and, therefore, any transformation of the academy.

... Read more about Growing Our Own: Cultivating Faculty Leadership

Evidence-Based Faculty Development: The COACHE Research-Practice Partnership
Mathews, K., & Benson, R. T. (2018). Evidence-Based Faculty Development: The COACHE Research-Practice Partnership. In Success After Tenure: Supporting Mid-Career Faculty . Stylus Publishing, LLC. Read the bookAbstract

This book brings together leading practitioners and scholars engaged in professional development programming for and research on mid-career faculty members, those tasked with being the next generation of faculty leaders and mentors on their respective campuses, with little to no supports to do so effectively.

The stories, data, and resources shared in this book will provide inspiration—and reality checks—to administrators, faculty developers, and department chairs charged with supporting their faculties as they engage in academic work. Topics include faculty development for formal and informal leadership roles; strategies to support professional growth; teaching and learning as a form of scholarship; and strategies to recruit, retain, and promote underrepresented faculty populations.

While the authors acknowledge that mid-career faculty members face numerous challenges, this collection offers a counter narrative by looking at ways that faculty and/or institutions can assert themselves to find opportunities within challenging contexts.

Growing Our Own: Cultivating Faculty Leadership
Mathews, K. (2018). Growing Our Own: Cultivating Faculty Leadership. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning , 50 (3-4), 88-92. Read the full articleAbstract

To overcome the pressures pulling the academy apart, presidents and provosts, governing boards and legislatures, foundations and associations should commit to the cultivation of leadership from faculty members and by them. As the faculty profession and population become increasingly complex, leaders will need skills in relating, sensemaking, visioning, and inventing. A skills inventory conducted among provosts, deans, and senior faculty development administrators revealed that while most had strengths in the first two categories, their visioning and inventing skills were less developed. Institutions can cultivate these skills in faculty and invite faculty into the leadership process—and they must do so in order to effectively develop the faculties of the future.

Mathews, K. R. (2013). Understanding faculty survey nonrespondents: Their characteristics, organizational citizenship behaviors, workplace attitudes, and reasons for nonparticipation. University of Pennsylvania. Read the dissertationAbstract

College and university administrators frequently survey their faculty to inform decisions affecting the academic workplace. Higher education researchers, too, rely heavily on survey methodologies in their scholarly work. Survey response rates, however, have been declining steadily for decades, and when nonrespondents and respondents systematically differ on variables relevant to the instrument, the resulting nonresponse bias may lead those interpreting the data to erroneous conclusions. Despite the potentially corrosive impact of nonrandom missing data, relatively few scholarly studies—and fewer organizational reports—consider or control it.

Guided by the framework of organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), this research proposed to determine if faculty who respond to institutional surveys differ meaningfully from those who do not. Interpretation and implications of these findings are discussed for administrators and researchers, with particular consideration given to the faculty context of shared governance.