COACHE Survey Results: An Invitation for Conversation and Analysis

January 25, 2021

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

Three years ago, Baylor developed a strategic roadmap that would guide the academic priorities of the University. Thanks to the great work and commitment of our faculty, we have made significant progress toward the goals established in that strategic plan, Illuminate. We know that with this progress has also come change, and it is important to me and our academic leadership that we understand how our faculty are experiencing those changes in their ongoing work.

The completion of Harvard University’s Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey last spring, has provided us a valuable source of data regarding areas of strength and areas where we need to invest time and resources to improve the work lives of our faculty.

Our response rate of 63 percent exceeded Baylor’s peer institutions — Emory, Georgetown, Saint Louis, Tulane, and Vanderbilt — by 21.8 percent. I hope you have found time to review our survey Report Preview, distributed last October by the Task Force on Faculty Job Satisfaction. As a reminder, you may download the report in its entirety from the COACHE web page.

Baylor faculty have indicated a high degree of job satisfaction overall. Survey respondents have identified more than 15 specific areas of satisfaction, including the quality and support of colleagues, their sense of fit at Baylor, and their support for Baylor’s Christian mission.

Areas for Development

While we will be further analyzing our survey results and developing initiatives that improve faculty experiences across divisions and departments, the Task Force and I have studied the initial survey findings and identified four broad areas of faculty experience that could benefit from discussion and development as we work together to move the University forward in its implementation of Illuminate.

  1. Decision making across all levels. Governance processes and procedures guide the decisions of academic leaders. Governance processes include formal structures and policies as well as informal norms that surround and shape decision-making practices, such as trust, adaptability, and understanding the issues at hand. While Baylor faculty indicate high trust in senior leaders and a strong belief in a shared sense of purpose, 40 percent of faculty are less satisfied than faculty at peer institutions with input into departmental and divisional decisions.

  2. Mid-career uncertainty. Mid-career uncertainty is typified by ambiguity about professional advancement after tenure and promotion. Mid-career uncertainty includes unfamiliarity with promotion policies, unclear expectations for promotion, confusion about pathways for advancement, uneven mentoring for advancement, low valuing of career development, and lack of clarity about administrative opportunities. Associate professors indicate that one of the most difficult aspects of mid-career uncertainty is the unrelenting pressure to perform.

  3. Experiences of Underrepresented Minority (URM) Faculty. COACHE defines URM faculty as individuals who do not identify as White, non-Hispanic, or Asian/Asian-American. The URM category does not include women as they approximate the number of men on the faculty. COACHE data show that in comparison to majority faculty, URM faculty report less control over teaching assignments, heavier service commitments, lower valuing of scholarly expertise and achievements, limited integration into the academic community, and greater feelings of isolation. URM faculty at Baylor indicate a lower satisfaction than majority Baylor faculty and faculty at peer institutions in their ability to balance teaching, research, and service.

  4. Barriers to Interdisciplinary Research and Teaching. Universities organize faculty research and teaching into discrete academic units. While organizational structures support fair resource allocation and facilitate distinctive scholarship and teaching, they also impede collaborative work that transcends the limits of disciplinary thinking. Barriers to interdisciplinary research and teaching include non-collaborative evaluation and reward structures, insufficient infrastructure for interdisciplinary funding, and inflexible teaching assignments and loads. Baylor faculty express a lower interest in interdisciplinary work than faculty at peer institutions.

Next Steps

I am grateful for your honesty. I am also eager to involve you in the next step of this process. Over the next few weeks, Faculty Satisfaction Working Groups will be formed to work with you and the Task Force to further analyze our COACHE results. These groups will invite you into conversations as we examine the data and pursue additional questions and analyses on our path to respond to the four areas of faculty concern. The Task Force and Working Groups share a singular aim: to develop data-driven, faculty-led initiatives that will increase job satisfaction and strengthen shared governance. Together, we will use our survey data to inform what we do collectively to enable the satisfaction that comes by being part of something bigger than yourself — building a Christian research university that is a “light to the world.”

An invitation to join in the next steps will be issued at the Virtual Spring Faculty Meeting on Thursday, January 28, 3:00-4:30 p.m. We are ready to begin deeper analysis and conversations that lead to actionable steps. Please attend Thursday’s meeting and lend your voice to the interactive discussions that will be incorporated into the meeting.

I want to thank the faculty members of our Task Force on Faculty Job Satisfaction who have given their time and offered their voices in this important endeavor: its chairs Lenore Wright, Ph.D., and Jason MacGregor, Ph.D., members Lauren Barron, M.D., Andrea Dixon, Ph.D., Derek Dodson, Ph.D., Horace Maxile, Ph.D., Jon Singletary, Ph.D., James Stamey, Ph.D., John Wood, Ph.D., and ex-officio members Brian Raines, Ph.D., Lori Baker, Ph.D., and Matthew Cordon, Ph.D. You have brought diverse perspectives and remarkable dedication to this work, and I am grateful for your leadership.

I look forward to working with our Task Force and Working Groups and alongside our faculty over the coming months as we examine the survey data and develop and implement initiatives that make Baylor an even better place for faculty to invest their careers.


Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D.