Essential Resources for the Evidence-based Chief Academic Officer

by Kiernan Mathews

A woman doing research in the periodicals section of a libraryFor the chief academic officer or senior administrator in faculty affairs, there's little time to hunt for the latest research that could improve the practice of academic leadership. This time-scarcity problem steers decision makers, in the interest of expediency, to revert to the status quo--doing things the way they have always been done. It's no surprise, then, that we keep seeing the same results.

How do we get the best research on faculty in front of those in a position to make a difference? I've assembled a few “essentials” as a start to incorporate into the professional rhythms of the provost or academic dean. This is nothing like an exhaustive list; it is just a place to get started (or fill in the blanks).



Change Magazine

For a magazine that arrives just six times per year, Change packs in more than its share of evidence-based recommendations for practice. If you have time for nothing else, read each issue's introduction by editor David Paris, who briefly summarizes each article.

ASHE and AERA Conference Programs

Twice each year, take 30 minutes to browse the online programs of these two conferences. At AERA (April or May), you will want to navigate to Division J, particularly Section 3 (Organization, Management, and Leadership) and Section 4 (Faculty, Curriculum, and Teaching). At ASHE (November), look for Division II (Organization, administration, and leadership) and Division IV (Faculty).



StratEGIC: Strategies for Effecting Gender Equity and Institutional Change

The StratEGIC Toolkit distills and shares lessons learned about particular interventions and how they combine into an overall change portfolio. Organizations can strategically choose and combine interventions as they work to support the success of women scholars in STEM fields (and others).

WISELI: Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute

WISELI's online library curates over 2,000 citations to books and articles (and growing) relevant to the advancement and promotion of faculty, especially women in engineering. The library also contains books and articles referenced in WISELI's workshops, brochures, and guidebooks. All entries are tagged for easy searching by topic.

Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success

Adrianna Kezar's project at the University of Southern California has compiled a Database of Sample Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Practiceseach with a "map to change" that can be modeled elsewhere.  The Delphi team also curates a database of resources, searchable by questions like, "How much does it cost to support faculty off the tenure track and how can I find the funding?"



Your college / university consortium

Liberal arts colleges are particularly well-organized around college consortia (e.g., ACM, GLCA, NY6), but universities are increasingly leveraging regional associations and their athletic conferences for deep academic and administrative collaborations. CAOs and faculty affairs administrators meet regularly at the Big Ten Academic Alliance and Colonial Academic Alliance, for example. If you don't know if your institution belongs to a consortium, contact the Association for Collaborative Leadership (ACL).

AAC&U-ACAD / Council on Independent Colleges / APLU / AASCU / AACC

Provosts and associate provosts convene at these annual meetings, each according to its sector. The opportunities for candid discussion and self-reflection vary; the smaller "summer" or "winter" meetings for academic affairs tend to be better. If you are a CAO, you have the power to influence these agendas to put scholars and practitioners in closer proximity when tackling the tough challenges facing faculty leaders.

COACHE / the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education

Of course, COACHE has been a resource for translating research to practice. Now, however, we are opening our doors to institutions who are not (yet!) partners. As an evolution of the "Leaders Workshop" which our team ran for 10 years, COACHE has teamed up with the Harvard Institutes for Higher Education to create a three-day "Seminar on Leadership of the Faculty." This program is designed for CAOs and their peers to “go back to the classroom” with scholars conducting research to improve the day-to-day business of faculty affairs.



There are many excellent readings, published recently, representing the best of scholarship on the professoriate. Links to some of those resources may be found on our website. The following resources have been selected for the time-starved CAO:



CAOs don't have time to sift through academic journals in search of that rare Eureka! moment. Many journals, however, now allow you to register for email alerts with links to the latest articles. These are a few reliable sources that focus solely on postsecondary research:

The AERA journals also offer excellent research on the professoriate, but only occasionally, so finding them requires more sifting. Here's one recent example from KerryAnn O'Meara and her team:



There are too many missing titles, links, and conferences to count. Because they take time to read, I've left off excellent organizational behavior books that I recommend to every new provost (e.g., How Colleges Work and Leadership and Ambiguity) and more recent anthologies of the best thinking on the professoriate (e.g., Envisioning the Faculty for the Twenty-first Century and The Faculty Factor). I recognize, also, that I've omitted many important, deeper dives into the professoriate that compile research about inequalities according to race and gender. I invite a healthy debate with scholars and COACHE partners about defining the most deserving resources--but only those that can fit on two pages!


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