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February 18, 2016

Survey to evaluate faculty job satisfaction

How satisfied are Pitt faculty with their jobs?

Faculty members are being invited to participate in an online faculty job satisfaction survey that aims to discover how they experience their academic work life here, and how their experience compares with faculty at peer institutions.

The University has joined the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE), a Harvard-based organization whose faculty surveys have been used by more than 230 institutions, including a number of Pitt’s Association of American Universities (AAU) public peers, said Laurie Kirsch, vice provost for faculty affairs, development and diversity.

COACHE survey invitations were emailed last week to full-time non-clinical faculty members including tenured, tenure-stream and non-tenure-stream faculty, she said.

Recently hired faculty — those who’ve been here less than a year — are excluded, “because it’s asking about your experiences as a faculty member at Pitt,” Kirsch explained.

COACHE’s broad-based survey asks faculty about the nature of their work, available resources, opportunities for collaboration and mentorship, shared governance and individual satisfaction with the work environment in general, she said.

Schools join COACHE for a three-year period. The survey is administered in year one, then administrators work with COACHE to analyze the results and design programs they may wish to implement in year three, said Kirsch.

After obtaining baseline results, many schools re-administer the survey several years later to assess the effects of changes that were implemented, she said.

The survey is a first at Pitt, Kirsch said. “Since we haven’t done this kind of survey of the faculty, I think getting baseline measures of how faculty experience their work life, how they experience shared governance, how they feel about their access to resources … will be really insightful,” she said.

“I think it’s really exciting and I’m hoping that we get broad-based participation because that will make the results more meaningful.”

The faculty survey is designed to answer three broad questions:

• How do faculty of different career stages experience their academic work life at Pitt and how do those experiences compare with those of faculty at peer institutions?

• Do the experiences differ by rank, gender, race or ethnicity?

• What policies or practices are associated with high levels of faculty satisfaction?

“I think we’ll be able to see both things that we do really well and where there might be opportunities for us to think about ways of strengthening what we do,” said Kirsch.

The survey takes about 25 minutes to complete, and faculty here will have until April 10 to participate, she said. Those who complete the survey are entered into a drawing to win one of five Apple iWatches.

Kirsch said COACHE reports participation rates of 55-65 percent in other administrations of the survey; she’s hoping for a similarly high response here.

“I think we continually strive to attract, recruit and retain the best faculty that we can. We want to ensure there’s a high level of satisfaction and that Pitt is a great place to work, and I think that faculty completing this kind of survey will give us much more insight into how faculty perceive the workplace,” Kirsch said.

Kirsch said she’d been interested in obtaining baseline faculty data through COACHE since she joined the Office of the Provost as vice provost for faculty development in 2012. Inquiries to colleagues at other institutions resulted in high praise for participating in the collaborative.

The University’s strategic planning process provided the perfect opportunity to proceed, she said. Kirsch is a member of the working group focused on the “strengthening communities” strategic goal; she chairs its subcommittee on strengthening the Pitt community.

“As part of that there’s been discussion of faculty development and staff development,” she said.
In addition to the COACHE survey of full-time faculty, the University Senate ad hoc committee on part-time non-tenure-stream faculty issues is reviewing possible surveys designed to better understand the experiences of part-time faculty at Pitt.

Kirsch said it’s anticipated that a survey for part-time faculty at Pitt will be launched this fall.
Along with the faculty surveys, a staff survey is being contemplated, Provost Patricia E. Beeson told Senate Council in January.

Kirsch said those plans would be discussed once a new Human Resources head is in place to succeed Associate Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Ronald Frisch, who has announced that he will retire July 1.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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