Faculty Success Initiative plans to expand resources and support

Vice Provost Pritish Mukherjee and Sarasota-Manatee campus Regional Vice Chancellor Brett Kemker are leading a team of 94 USF faculty and staff members to improve the faculty experience through the creation and implementation of short-term and long-term goals for professional development across all three campuses. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

Coming up on the two-year anniversary of its creation, USF’s Faculty Success Workgroup is turning its research on how to improve the faculty experience into initiatives to create more paths to faculty success.

The Faculty Success Workgroup, created in May 2019 by Provost Ralph Wilcox and led by co-chairs Vice Provost Pritish Mukherjee and Senior Vice Provost M. Dwayne Smith, developed creative ideas to breed success among USF faculty and the basis for how to improve the faculty experience across all three campuses. After the 33-person group evaluated aspects of USF faculty’s success, it produced a 956-page document outlining the research it performed and its recommendations.

With the faculty success initiative born just prior to the onset of the pandemic, its path expanded once learning became remote in March 2020, putting an emphasis on the understanding of how teaching and learning work in a classroom, according to Mukherjee.

The faculty success initiative has since created a “strategic holistic approach” to faculty success, divided into four areas of focus: teaching and learning, finances, infrastructure and analysis, research partnerships and communication, as well as access and empowerment.

“Even though we have these four primary focus areas, there’s considerable interaction between them and we are going to make sure that initiatives that cross over receive appropriate attention from both teams and panels working in those common areas,” said Mukherjee.

An implementation team and an advisory panel will be working together to implement the faculty success initiatives across all four areas. Together, the two are made up of 94 people, including eight deans, 27 administrators and 59 other faculty members.

“All of these teams and panels have now met and they are actively engaged in developing goals and details, much more granular initiatives that we will be implementing,” said Mukherjee.

Three different timelines have been set for the goals of the faculty success initiatives, the “now,” “near” and “far.” “Now” goals will be implemented from now until the end of the year and will largely consist of outlining how the implementation team functions. “Near” goals will occur within 2022 and 2023, and include the creation of a website where faculty can find resources while “far” goals are planned for 2023 and beyond.

“I anticipate that in fall of 2021 we’ll be doing a lot of planning for 2022 and 2023, but we are right now actively engaged in identifying these initiatives, and the initiatives that we will be engaging in the near term starting immediately going all the way through to the end of the year,” said Mukherjee.

“So all of these are to enhance faculty success across all three campuses of USF … that’s the collective goal.”

As the finer details of the plans for each area are straightened out, a “faculty success” website will be launched to make communication of the progress on these plans more accessible to the USF community, especially faculty.

The website should be fully operational by fall 2021, according to Mukherjee.

“Think of this as a one-stop web portal for faculties where they can come and get useful information in all of these four areas and more,” he said.

Many of those who make up the teams tackling the planning of the faculty success initiatives are members of the Faculty Senate. Faculty Senate President Timothy Boaz said he’s glad to see work being dedicated to help faculty pursue goals that may have been previously unobtainable.

“There are a lot of things that I think faculty are aware of that really aren’t working as efficiently as they need to on this campus, and they do present challenges for people being as successful as they might be so I have to say I’m really excited for this,” said Boaz.

Two unanimous recommendations were drawn out of the Faculty Success Workgroup’s 2019 report — to establish a new Office of Faculty Success and to become an institutional member of the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD).

“[The Office of Faculty Success] would be a central office at USF and you might want to think of it as a one-stop shop for faculty, so if they have any concerns, if any issues come up, they would go to this office and we would expeditiously address the concerns of the faculty so that they become much more effective in their functioning at USF,” said Mukherjee.

The second recommendation to join the NCFDD was successfully implemented in August 2020. USF paid $20,000 to join the NCFDD, allowing any administrator, faculty member, staff member or postdoctoral to join, giving them access to professional development webinars and seminars that are shared by the organization, according to Mukherjee.

Since joining the organization, 807 individuals have registered for free, allowing them to circumvent a registration fee that would cost $500 if the university was not a member institution. Of these 807 members there are 478 graduate students, 261 faculty members, 29 postdoctoral, 20 administrators, 17 staff members and two in the “unspecified” category.

“Different people at different levels of their career will benefit in different ways [from NCFDD membership]. So postdocs who are thinking of adopting an academic career, or entering an academic career can get some training through the NCFDD in terms of what they can expect to see faculty who are currently actively engaged in teaching, through the webinars and seminars can learn more about how to be effective,” said Mukherjee.

“[NCFDD] taps into experts nationally, and through those experts they provide content that is extremely useful and readily available, and this content is archived so faculty and others who use this can access this at their own pace and at their own time. So it becomes a really, really valuable resource.”

The implementation of the faculty success initiatives that are in the works will be best put to use if faculty really tap into what they will provide, according to Boaz.

“Faculty spend a lot of their time just trying to keep [their] head above water, because when you’ve got a lot to do, you’re just focused on getting things done and these are things that you have to kind of carve out time for them to be really effective,” said Boaz.

“And so, we’re all going to have to learn how to do that and really buy into this and make use of any of the things that get developed for them to be successful.”