All Facets of Faculty

Few professors can be devoted to research, inspired by teaching, committed to service, and driven to lead—but all have different talents to contribute to an institution’s mission. That’s why business schools are adopting more formal, flexible, and comprehensive frameworks that enhance and reward all of the strengths they bring to the table.
All Facets of Faculty

MARK FEDENIA, AN ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR of finance at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, is first to admit that research is no longer his primary passion. A faculty member at the Wisconsin School of Business (WSB) for nearly three decades, Fedenia believes he now can make his best contributions in the classroom. In that spirit, he works to convert lecture-based courses to active learning formats and tests flipped-classroom techniques. Luckily, he also has the freedom to pursue his passion for teaching: WSB’s new framework for faculty development, introduced in 2014, rewards Fedenia’s efforts to deliver premium learning experiences to students, just as it rewards his colleagues to expand on their strengths in research, teaching, leadership, and industry outreach. 

While business schools expect faculty to take on responsibilities in all of these areas, some administrators don’t take the time to articulate how they want to deploy faculty equitably across all of these areas, says Fedenia. And while mission statements can serve as touchstones, they often aren’t enough to encourage faculty to play to their strengths. “I’ve seen enough mission and vision statements in my day that I don’t want to look at them anymore. They don’t become a part of the organization,” says Fedenia. “What we need is a specific framework that’s well-articulated, that doesn’t come in the form of a memo."

Fedenia’s experience as a professor, in which he is free to follow his passion for teaching, is becoming more mainstream as more business schools reconsider how they reward a wider range of faculty contributions. In the process, they’re building cultures that value and support the wide range of talents their faculty bring to the table—in areas that extend far beyond scholarship.


Like WSB, other business schools also have been adopting more flexible faculty reward systems over the last few years. As early as 2009, Wake Forest University School of Business in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was following its Faculty Path Model, which offers faculty opportunities to pursue one of six career tracks. (See “Paths to Performance” in BizEd’s January/February 2010 issue.) These include four for tenured faculty: research-intensive, research-focused, teaching-intensive, or teaching-focused. They also include one for tenure-track faculty, and one for non-tenure-track professors such as practitioners and instructors.

Wake Forest’s model allows faculty to decide where they want to focus the bulk of their efforts; approximately every three years, professors can choose to move to a different path or continue on their current one, depending on their evolving ambitions. In 2015, Wake Forest’s Faculty Path Model was selected as one of AACSB International’s Innovations That Inspire (

Other business schools have since followed suit, many driven by a change to AACSB’s accreditation standards, which increased the number of faculty classifications from just two, academically qualified and professionally qualified, to four: scholarly practitioner, instructional practitioner, scholarly academic, and practice academic. Like Wake Forest’s model, the expanded classifications are meant to provide schools more leeway in deploying faculty in different ways, depending on whether their missions emphasize research, teaching, or service.

That move has allowed administrators to view their faculty through a larger lens, says David Sprott, senior associate dean responsible for overseeing faculty hiring and review processes at the Carson College of Business at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman. “When the standards went from two to four classifications, it opened our eyes in terms of how professors can contribute to the college,” Sprott says.

The expanded faculty classifications are especially welcome given the school’s new strategic focus on the research output of its associate professors. The college was hit with substantial budget cuts after the financial downturn in 2008; as a result, it could not retain a portion of its associate and full faculty members. Those who remained bore the brunt of teaching and service responsibilities, diverting attention from their scholarship and stalling their progress toward tenure.

But today the school is re-energizing its research output under the leadership of Larry (Chip) Hunter, who became dean last year. It now has close to 70 faculty, including 25 tenure-track associate professors. To help reduce their teaching loads, the school plans to hire more clinical faculty. Sprott hopes that this strategy will help the college’s associate professors return attention to their research. The school also will launch a rigorous mentoring program for its tenure-track associates this fall, designed to help them advance in their careers. “We need to do more to protect our associates so that they can work their way to full professor more quickly. We want them to feel valued. If they’re stuck at the level of associate professor, they’re not reaching their full potential,” Sprott says.

Andrew Perkins, a tenured associate professor at WSU who currently acts as a mentor to younger faculty, is very enthusiastic about the efforts to remove barriers to research productivity at the college. “Getting research published in top journals is a very time-consuming process,” says Perkins. “Anything we can do to help them manage their workload means that they’ll have more time for research.” “Now that the school has a new research mission, it’s not time to threaten our tenure-track faculty or beg them to work harder, but to bring in a whole new faculty to bear on the task,” Sprott adds. “We’re just getting started.”


A similar shift is occurring at the Wisconsin School of Business. In its case, it has introduced a new plan for faculty development and deployment meant to support the school’s renewed focus on enhancing students’ learning experiences and integrating faculty research more seamlessly into the classroom, says dean François Ortalo-Magné. To that end, the school took four significant steps.

First, it invited alumni to make gifts to its Innovation Fund, now worth US$6.6 million, which is used to support curricular innovation. Second, it used those funds to support professors who redesigned their classes and to build new collaborative learning classrooms, where traditional front-facing lecture spaces were converted to arrangements of round tables equipped with the latest technologies. It also offers cash incentives to departments whose faculty make the biggest strides in pedagogical innovation and cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Third, it identified three themes important to the school’s larger mission: building and growing enterprises, advancing healthcare leadership, and navigating uncertainty. It provides additional support to faculty who pursue research that falls within those themes.

Finally, the school created a new faculty excellence framework that outlines three distinct categories for faculty contributions. Introduced by Ortalo-Magné and refined by a six-member faculty subcommittee, the framework was approved by all 80 professors at the school. Presented as a simple three-by three matrix, the framework explains what is expected of all WSB faculty in research, teaching, and leadership. (See the
The Faculty Excellence Framework at Wisconsin School of Business by clicking the image below.)


While professors must demonstrate minimum activity in all three categories, they can choose to be most active in categories where they have the most interest and talent. Those who demonstrate exemplary performance in one area are classified as either Distinguished Scholars, Distinguished Teachers, or Distinguished Leaders. The school provides professional development and coaching to those who pursue a Distinguished Leader classification, such as associate deans.

The freedom afforded by the new framework has inspired many professors to make positive revisions to their curricula. For example, professors in several departments realized that they could teach business analytics to undergraduates more effectively if they coordinated their efforts across different courses. Those in another department shared resources to create a new team-taught capstone course that streamlined learning objectives, filled learning gaps, and ensured that any duplication of learning outcomes was done intentionally for students’ benefit.

“When we opened the door, some people ran right through it, while others saw it as a way for the school to micromanage their teaching,” Ortalo-Magné admits. “But we had enough faculty come on board that we have seen a big shift in mindset from ‘delivering teaching’ to ‘inspiring learning.’ This transition has been like a doctor who goes from treating the symptoms of disease to focusing on the wellness of his patients. It’s a shift that has proven to be much better for our students.”

The school now holds regular events where professors and staff can present their latest teaching approaches or research projects and make everyone aware of their contributions. These events also spark conversations about how faculty projects might be more broadly applied in the school’s courses or outreach. Fedenia says that this change in energy has been crucial to forging new connections among the faculty. “We now let everyone know our accomplishments, so their importance can be recognized in the context of the whole mission. Now that professors have freedom to work on the projects they want to, they’re taking responsibility for moving the school forward. As a result, I would bet that the research productivity of the entire faculty has gotten better.”

Since the framework was implemented two years ago, faculty have continued to meet regularly to revisit and refine its content. For example, they’re currently working to better define areas that the framework does not yet address, such as how to support summer teaching loads or reward faculty for exemplary performance in more than one category. In short, WSB has moved from a school-based definition of faculty responsibilities to a faculty-based model, says Ortalo-Magné. “We are letting faculty drive the conversation.”


Where enhancing the learning experience has been the focus at WSB, developing strong faculty leaders has become a priority at Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics (SBE) in the Netherlands. “We need to develop faculty in all the important aspects of their jobs and help them become better educators, better researchers, and better leaders,” says Marielle Heijltjes, professor of managerial behavior, executive director of postgraduate education, and associate dean of strategic development and internationalization.

SBE administrators and faculty placed a priority on designing a more comprehensive and wide-ranging approach to faculty development as part of a new strategic renewal plan launched in 2012. The school created faculty project teams, each lead by three associate deans, to explore new ideas for innovation in three aspects of the school’s operations: education, research, and postgraduate development.Within each of these groups is a subcommittee focused solely on faculty and staff development.

Maastricht has long required faculty to complete an educational development program in which they learn techniques for problem-based learning, a foundation of teaching at SBE. Junior faculty work with senior faculty mentors who observe and offer feedback on their teaching. In addition, the school’s educational research and development department trains faculty in pedagogy, group dynamics, conflict management, and intercultural communication so that they are more effective at teaching diverse student cohorts. Once professors complete this training program, they receive a teaching qualification.

However, when it came to faculty’s leadership development, there was a critical void, says Heijltjes. “We came to realize that we had more and more leadership roles that would have a large impact on the well-being of the people at our school,” she explains. “The costs of having faculty malfunction in these roles would be significant, because they would not be able to raise their teams’ level of commitment and engagement as high as it could be.” Not only that, but it seemed illogical to provide leadership development programs to practitioners through executive education programs, while neglecting to offer formal leadership training to faculty.

In 2014, project teams addressed the SBE’s leadership gap by creating Fast Forward, a five-day program for both faculty and staff who either are already in or aspire to be in administrative roles. Based on a university-wide leadership program that SBE had designed for junior faculty and staff five years ago, Fast Forward consists of three modules. The first focuses on personal leadership development; taught by Heijltjes, this module helps individuals develop change management skills and improve their ability to influence others. The second covers human resources policies in a university setting and is taught by personnel from Maastricht University’s HR department. The final module relates to finance and is taught by the school’s dean and the university’s director of finance.

Such leadership training enhances faculty’s performance not only as department chairs and associate deans, but also as team leaders. The school makes sure that Fast Forward alums are assigned to each of its strategic renewal project teams. Heijltjes notes that these individuals spend more time working with their project teams, and they introduce innovative approaches that the school otherwise might not have pursued. (See “Unexpected Connections”)

Business faculty often become teachers or departmental leaders because they are excellent researchers—even if they do not have strong teaching or leadership skills, says Heijltjes. But for business schools to truly advance their missions, she believes schools must help faculty hone their skills in all three areas.

“Our Fast Forward faculty volunteer more readily to serve on strategic renewal teams and to shape the strategy and culture of the school. They give more real-time feedback, they communicate with people outside of their own departments, and they pick up the phone when they have an idea,” she says. “The program has become a valuable way of shaping the culture and making sure we have the conversations that matter.”


No matter what their missions might be, business school leaders are realizing they need much more flexible systems of faculty development, especially for post-tenure faculty whose career ambitions might no longer be driven by research publication, says Sprott of WSU. He views senior faculty as particularly valuable resources when it comes to supporting his school’s interdisciplinary and industry-focused outreach.

“The difficulty has been, how do we set up a reward structure that supports activities that do not lead to publication in premier business journals? How do we incentivize these activities while still staying true to our roots in research? If professors have three or four years left in their careers, how great is the value of having them publish in A journals?” Sprott asks. “Instead, we can talk to them about talking to industry groups and spending time on more applied and impactful research meant for a practitioner audience. We can have new conversations with our post-tenure faculty.”

More flexible faculty frameworks that reward teaching innovation also will become more important as higher education moves away from lecture-based teaching and adopts more experiential and action-based learning in the classroom. All faculty will need training to become better instructors, says Perkins of WSU. “Younger faculty already are thinking about how to include experiential components in their classes, and they’re already comfortable with this style of teaching because they experienced it as undergraduates. It used to be that faculty who were strong researchers could slide if they weren’t great teachers, but that’s no longer the case.”

We wondered if we would scare people away by saying that, to be a professor here, you can’t be unidimensional. You must be willing to collaborate and work in areas beyond research,” he says. “But we’ve now hired 27 people in our new system, and the last two senior hires told us they took the job because they liked that we wanted our research to impact student learning.” When schools define their strategic visions, that process also can have a positive impact on hiring, says Ortalo-Magné, who adds that WSB now hires faculty with an intrinsic interest in bringing their research into the classroom. “At first, we were concerned about whether we would be able to hire great researchers who also care about great learning and great leadership.

Business school leaders need more flexible systems of faculty development, especially for post-tenure faculty who are no longer driven by research publication.

As faculty development frameworks continue to evolve, the overarching goals for business school administrators should be to make all faculty aware of the difference they can make to the academic community—and to society at large—by applying their signature strengths. As Heijltjes puts it, any system of faculty development should contribute to “creating a common language and culture where we are able to talk about what we find important.”

To be sure, as schools experiment with their faculty classifications and incentives, they also will expand the definition of what it means to be a business professor today. In the process, faculty, too, will develop a broader understanding of how they can shape their careers, contribute to their schools, and impact society in ways that reach far beyond academic publication.

To learn how another school, Trinity University’s School of Business in San Antonio, Texas, has created a system to document its faculty contributions under AACSB’s 2013 accreditation standards, read “Tracking Faculty Contributions”.