Adjusting for Adjuncts

Whether they teach one class a year at three different institutions or have longstanding appointments at a single university, adjuncts play an important, complicated, and quickly changing role at today’s business schools.
Adjusting for Adjuncts

AS HIGHER EDUCATION GROWS more complex and more expensive, universities are relying on greater numbers of adjunct faculty to teach more courses, while tenured and tenure-track professors divide their time among teaching, research, and service. In some disciplines, adjuncts are underpaid, underprepared, and underappreciated, but business schools generally do a better job of utilizing their non-tenure-track staff. (See “The Adjunct Question”) In part, that’s because b-schools deliberately hire practitioners to teach specific courses, and these contributions are highly valued. But it’s also because accreditation bodies like AACSB International have made it clear how and when adjuncts should be deployed.

Even so, there is a great deal of variation in the way schools hire, deploy, and compensate their adjuncts. In fact, the term “adjunct” is far from universal. Many business schools instead use words like casual, contingent, affiliated, and professional to describe faculty who are brought in on a part-time or non-tenure-track basis exclusively to teach. At some schools, these nonacademic faculty are employed full-time and have a growing list of responsibilities. It’s such a complicated task to achieve the proper mix of faculty, it’s no wonder that every school approaches the challenge in its own way.

In the following pages, we talk with representatives at five schools about how they work with adjuncts, particularly in light of the new AACSB faculty classifications—and what they think business schools could be doing better.

JOB NO. 1

At business schools, one of the primary roles adjuncts play is to bring real-world experience into the classroom and supply links to the professional world. They also take on a host of other vital assignments, points out Neil Braun, dean of the Lubin School of Business at Pace University in New York City: They fill in when faculty retire or take sabbaticals; they accommodate short-term budget needs; and they assume student advisory responsibilities that full-time faculty members do not have time to perform.

But through it all, they have one primary purpose, and that’s to teach. For instance, at Pace, adjuncts aren’t required to do research or service or keep regular office hours, and they generally don’t serve on committees or participate in curriculum redesign. In fact, Braun believes that full-time faculty at Lubin would be likely to resist much curriculum input from adjuncts, and adjuncts might want additional compensation if they were participating in the process. “That being said,” he adds, “certain adjuncts have developed informal relationships with full-time faculty that enable them to offer input regarding curriculum.”

Other schools approach the division of labor quite differently. At the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley, the distinctions between its tenure-track “ladder-rank” faculty and practitioner-oriented “professional faculty” is particularly clear: Most core courses, with their emphasis on theory, are taught by ladder-rank faculty; most electives are taught by lecturers. “Because our lecturers are usually practitioners, they can show students how the concepts and frameworks that are taught in the core curriculum get applied in practice,” says Jay Stowsky, Berkeley-Haas’ senior assistant dean for instruction.

“HAVING GREAT ADJUNCT AND PART-TIME STAFF IS AS IMPORTANT TO US AS HAVING FULL-TIME FACULTY.”

GRANT O'NEILL, CURTIN UNIVERSITY

However, unlike some other schools, Berkeley-Haas does look for curriculum input from its professional faculty. Says Stowsky, “Often we hire people because they’ve proposed courses in an area where we know there’s student demand and we don’t have ladder faculty who have the practical expertise to teach them.” A new course can be run twice to see if it’s viable; if the school wants to keep running it, it must be reviewed by ladder faculty and approved by higher bodies on campus. Berkeley-Haas’ professional faculty also participate in curriculum redesign discussions. Their role is to contribute ideas from the world of practice— they do not vote on what classes are included or subtracted from the curriculum.

At the University de los Andes (Uniandes) in Bogotá, Colombia, the School of Management recently has created two new faculty categories to reflect the school’s—and the university’s—heightened emphasis on teaching. In one category are teaching professors, who don’t just teach classes but also lead teaching innovations that range from revamping the curriculum to developing blended courses. The school launched this category two years ago to strengthen the relationship between the major academic units and the executive education program.

In the second category are specialist professors, who split their time between the school and the corporate world. “They bring to the school their professional expertise and their contacts with the external sector,” says dean Eric Rodríguez. He hopes to grow this category in the coming years, in part by bringing in former top executives who want to divide their time between the university and the corporation, and in part by sending some professors to industry positions in a kind of corporate internship program.

While non-tenure-track faculty can give schools a corporate perspective, they also can bring in a more global outlook. That’s one of the major advantages of the large cadre of part-time professors who teach at Curtin University’s Curtin Business School in Bentley, Australia, says Grant O’Neill, dean of accreditation, strategy, and change. “They allow us to constantly check and measure that our curriculum is truly international,” he says. That’s especially important when the faculty are employed at one of the school’s many offshore locations.

And no matter what their role, the school strives to engage adjunct professors completely, O’Neill says. “If they’re not fully engaged, they may feel alienated and the student experience will be weakened. In many ways, having great adjunct and part-time staff is as important to us as having full-time faculty. They’re critical to the student experience. They’re critical to industry engagement. They’re critical to innovation, because many of them are young, and they have fantastic ideas.”

WORKING TOGETHER

While administrators realize how invaluable adjuncts are to the business school, sometimes relations aren’t as warm between academic and nonacademic faculty. For instance, some full-time faculty fear that as schools rely more heavily on adjuncts to teach, they will cut the ranks of tenured professors. O’Neill thinks it’s just the opposite: He believes that when schools hire adjuncts, they have more money to invest in research, teaching and learning programs, and faculty support.

Even so, he admits that sometimes full-time faculty will resist engaging with adjuncts and that administrators must work hard to help full-time professors see the benefits of part-timers. To do so, he urges, “tell the story of the benefit. Recognize and reward people for their engagement with part-time faculty, and create a positive story around it. Eventually it becomes part of the narrative of the school. It shows we’re a deeply engaged school that uses adjuncts to ensure that we always stay involved with industry, think about future innovation, and bring in an international perspective. As people start to see the benefits and buy into the narrative, you build momentum. But it’s going to take time.”

“WE CONSIDER ADJUNCTS IMPORTANT AMBASSADORS FOR OUR INSTITUTIONS, AND THEY OFTEN DON'T GET THE TREATMENT THEY DESERVE.”

JULIE PERRIN-HALOT, GRENOBLE ECOLE DE MANAGEMENT

At Uniandes, Rodríguez notes that the new teaching faculty positions have caused some tenure-track professors to worry that they might be displaced in the classroom, but Rodríguez assures them that’s not the plan; in fact, he expects everyone to bring a greater focus on teaching. “The emphasis on teaching is part of the change of culture we are dealing with at the university,” he says.
Uniandes facilitates collaboration between academic and teaching professors by encouraging both types of faculty to participate in “teaching improvement” projects and the design of assessment instruments. “The leadership of these projects is usually in the hands of the teaching professors, but we expect the tenure-track professors to participate,” says Rodríguez. Rodríguez also wants to promote collaboration among faculty groups by “building bridges between research and consulting projects”—that is, finding corporate projects where both researchers and consultants are interested in the same data. The school is currently piloting three such initiatives.

The Lubin School offers chances for adjuncts to participate in the life of the school, but the response is mixed. Says Braun, “We hold a breakfast meeting for adjuncts each year where deans and chairs update those in attendance about all that is going on in the school and the goals for the near-term future; only a small fraction of our adjuncts participate. We also have a monthly ‘Lunch with the Dean’ program where any faculty member—full- or part-time, tenure-track or tenured or clinical—can sign up in groups of five to have an informal lunch and discuss anything of interest. Most adjuncts have time limitations that prevent their participation.”

If the Lubin School’s administrators wanted to create even stronger bonds with adjuncts, Braun expects they would focus on training department chairs. Because chairs oversee the part-time faculty in their departments, they are in the best position to apply best practices for integrating adjuncts into the school.

At Berkeley-Haas, Stowsky notes the administration puts some effort into cultivating closer relationships between full-time tenured and part-time professional staff—for instance, they encourage professional faculty to attend events like research seminars. Even so, it’s the small number of full-time professional faculty who are more likely to attend and to get more involved in the life of the school. Says Stowsky, “The majority of our professional faculty are practitioners with other jobs. Teaching is a part-time gig for them. That creates another distinction between the two groups of faculty.”

Nonetheless, he sees their relationship as symbiotic. “I think some of our tenured faculty welcome the ability to turn over some of their teaching to professional faculty because it allows them to focus more on their PhD students and their research.”

MAXIMIZING POTENTIAL

Facilitating relationships between academic and adjunct faculty is only one way to make sure a school gets the maximum benefit from its adjuncts. As the associate dean and director of quality and strategic planning at Grenoble Ecole de Management in France, Julie Perrin-Halot is committed to making sure her school does the best possible job of deploying its adjuncts. Perrin-Halot co-chairs the Quality and Accreditations Task Force, which brings together accreditation managers from all of the Grandes Ecoles in France. The task force recently created a group project that aims to define the French model for using adjuncts, including how to collect data on them and how to efficiently monitor the maintenance of their qualifications.

The project will create a framework that will provide “the ideal structure for welcoming and integrating these people into our schools,” says Perrin-Halot. “We consider them important ambassadors for our institutions, and they often don’t get the treatment they deserve.”

The task force will explore several dimensions, including contact points, communication, training, and information gathering. “We want to determine how to show these faculty members that they are valued members of staff,” she explains. “At the same time, we want to ‘industrialize’ the means by which we mange their interaction with the school—we don’t want to render it less personal, but we do want to increase efficiency.”

Berkeley-Haas also strives for a balance between “personal” and “efficient.” One way it does so is through a faculty web page that includes three sections: a column for ladder faculty, a column for professional faculty, and a column about teaching resources available to all. “It’s very clear that these faculty are all part of Haas,” says Stowsky. “Our students probably aren’t even aware that the distinctions exist.”

In fact, the key to making the best use of adjuncts is to make sure they’re part of the community, says Stowsky. “Don’t treat them like contingent labor. Think of ways to strengthen your connections to them and their connections to the governance of the school. Figure out ways to facilitate communication between professional and tenured faculty, so they all feel like they’re part of the same institution.”

O’Neill of Curtin Business School has this advice for schools that want to do a better job of engaging with their adjunct faculty: Focus on the mission, strategy, and future of the institution. “Think about what casual and part-time faculty can bring to the mix—think about all the capabilities and skills they have and how important it is to harness that knowledge and bring a greater richness to the school,” he says. “If you don’t, you’re wasting a massive opportunity.”

“SPECIALIST FACULTY CAN BECOME LIKE CONSULTANTS FOR THE ACADEMIC PROGRAMS.”

 

ERIC RODRIGUEZ, UNIVERSITY OF THE ANDES

CBS also maintains a detailed evaluation process, reviewing random assessments sent back from each location and surveying students about everything from their coursework to their satisfaction with the facilities. Says O’Neill, “We use layers of quality assurance to ensure students get a comparable experience at every location.”

BUILDING STRUCTURE

At UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, the faculty are divided between “ladder-rank” faculty—traditional full-time tenured and tenure-track individuals—and professional faculty. Among the professionals are lecturers, hired solely to teach specific courses, and the adjuncts, who teach and run research programs. Currently, the school has close to 90 ladder faculty, about 120 lecturers, and six adjuncts.

There are also two tiers among the lecturer group, and these were created by the union contract that covers the ten UC campuses. “The contract creates a kind of analog to the tenure system for ladder faculty,” says Jay Stowsky.

When lecturers are hired, for their first 12 semesters they work on semester-by-semester contracts. At that point, if the school determines it will need them on a continuing basis, it conducts an excellence review that is similar to a tenure review process. If the lecturers are approved, they achieve continuing status and can receive base appointments that they can depend on, with the knowledge that they will be teaching a certain number of courses every fall and spring.

Currently, about 40 Haas lecturers have continuing status; Stowsky expects ten more to gain it within the next two years. Professional faculty have their own formal governance structure, the Professional

Faculty Advisory Committee on Teaching (PFACT). The six elected representatives serve for staggered two-year terms in a manner that mirrors the Policy and Planning Committee for ladder faculty. Both organizations are involved in governance questions around academic policy, planning, and curriculum decisions.

Stowsky’s bottom line is that he wants professional faculty to stay at Berkeley, not just for the paycheck, “but because they love the students and they believe in what we’re doing. Many of them are making good incomes in the business world, so they teach here because they want to give back. For many of our professional faculty, especially those who teach in our undergraduate program, there’s a sense of mission. They believe strongly in the mission of the University of California to bring kids into the middle class.”

ENCOURAGING COLLABORATION

The School of Management at Uniandes employs 64 full-time and 96 part-time professors. In the full-time group, 55 are either tenured or tenure-track, and nine are part of the new categories for teaching professors and specialist professors.

The part-time faculty are primarily drawn from the corporate world; they teach executive education programs, are only on campus for a few hours a week, and have no responsibilities related to research or institutional development.

But that could change as they’re encouraged to become more engaged in the life of the school. “They know the school and they are closely related to the corporate world, so we want greater participation from them,” says Eric Rodríguez. When the school invites them to work on committees and join curriculum discussions, he says, “they can become like consultants for the academic programs.”

As business schools strive to offer exceptional educational experiences, all that adjuncts have to offer should not be overlooked, say these educators. The key is to find the best ways to involve adjuncts in—and apply their expertise to—each school’s larger mission.