Needs Assessment on the Changing Role of the University Professor

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Human Service Organizations Management Leadership & Governance

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In our previous editorial, we provided a description of the rationale, design, and approach of our January 2023 initiative to identify elements informing the future craft of scholarship and research in a changing university and civic context ( We focused upon three overarching research questions: 1. How should academic faculty and community-based scholar-researchers prepare themselves to be successful in the new university and civic environment?; 2. What strategies do scholar-researchers use in starting or changing research projects in response to new opportunities and challenges?; and 3. What practical suggestions can be offered to help faculty and community-based investigators carry out scholarly and research projects? Our current editorial reports on major results regarding the first research question. The results reflected the qualitative survey responses of 18 of 45 members of the Editorial Advisory Board of our journal (for a response rate of 40%). In particular, the 18 respondents addressed the following three survey questions that reflect the first research question: The role of the university professor is undergoing change. In general, professors face ongoing challenges, including improving teaching, engaging in scholarship and research, and school and university service. Professors are also facing pressures that reflect new societal demands, community needs, and expectations from institutional partners. Yet professors can also identify opportunities that reflect the changing makeup of higher education and the changing understanding of what professors contribute to society, their communities of care, and their institutional partners. What does a new tenure-track person in your academic unit (school or department) need to know today in order to be successful? Please sketch out the (a) major challenges and (b) opportunities facing the person. Then please (c) describe what you believe will be necessary for this faculty member to be successful. Qualitative analysis involved open coding as well as the identification of codes that reflected the primary duties of academic faculty in teaching, conducting research and scholarship, and providing university and community service. We then engaged in axial coding in order to identify connections among concepts, and supported the identification and elaboration of themes that concern the daily practice of academic work in diverse university contexts. The resulting presentation identifies core challenges and opportunities facing tenure-track and tenured faculty, and identifies important suggestions for the promotion of their success. In the following sections of this editorial, we share major themes concerning the three survey questions. In the upcoming editorials in Issues 4 and 5, we will report on the findings concerning how to pick and change research topics, and how to carry out scholarly and research projects. We will also note the strengths and limitations of the needs assessment, and discuss what may be learned on the research questions to the benefit of scholar-researchers in university and civic contexts. Finally, we will offer implications for the support of faculty teaching, research and scholarship, and service, from the perspective of (a) academic administrators, (b) journal editors and other established faculty, (c) new faculty and doctoral students, and (d) knowledge development and sharing.


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