Faculty Career Flexibility in 21st Century higher education

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Joan Herbers
Joan Herbers

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 23, 2017 – There was a time when the concept of “part-time tenure-track” was considered an oxymoron. But today, many, such as Joan Herbers, Ohio State University professor emerita of Evolution, Ecology & Organismal Biology, are endorsing this and other flexibility measures as viable and promising options for higher education. Based on her research, Herbers has made the case for a flexible work schedule for tenure-track faculty.

Recognizing that the 21st century workplace requires adjustments in how, when, and where work is performed, URI’s award-winning Work Life Committee has invited Herbers to the Kingston Campus on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 for a full day to discuss flexible faculty career options. The workshops are sponsored by the URI Work-Life Committee, the Provost’s Office, and the College of Business Administration.

The day’s schedule includes discussions with administrators, faculty, graduate students and other interested students or employees. All events will take place at the University’s Multicultural Student Services Center, 74 Lower College Road, Kingston. Breakfast and lunch attendees must RSVP to worklife@etal.uri.edu.

  • 8:30-10 a.m., Room 203. “Part-Time on the Tenure Track” Special interest to administrators, deans, and department chairs. The case for faculty flexibility has been convincingly made, with one recommendation being part-time positions for tenure-track/tenured faculty. Despite its formal availability, and that this model enhances recruitment, retention, and engagement of faculty while offering value-added productivity, planning potential, and faculty loyalty for the institution, it is the least implemented practice for faculty flexibility across career stages. Herbers will provide an overview of this practice and its use at other universities, and lead a discussion about the potential of this opportunity at URI. RSVP required.
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. Room 203. “Careers in 21st Century Higher Education: Academic Paths in a Gig Economy.” Special interest to graduate students. The academic workforce has changed significantly over the past few decades and pursuing a career in academia thus presents new challenges as well as new opportunities. Joan Herbers will offer an overview of an emerging paradigm of the faculty life course, and then facilitate a conversation with graduate students exploring ideas about how one might navigate this new academic landscape.
  • 11:30 – 12:30 p.m. “Part-time Tenure Track Practices at URI?” An informal working session lunch for those who are interested in exploring the implementation of this practice at URI. RSVP required.
  • 2 – 3:30 p.m. Keynote Address: The “Faculty Life Course: Policies and Practices That Promote Faculty Engagement and Success.” A faculty community conversation about the evolving challenges and emerging paradigm of the new faculty life course.

The author of the Part-time on the Tenure track (John Wiley & Sons), Herbers has made the case for a flexible work schedule for faculty, with a recommendation being part-time positions for tenure-track/tenured faculty. Author of the TED Talk, “Challenging the Ideal Worker,” Herbers writes and speaks nationally on this topic and others related to the faculty career course.

Prior to her current positions, Herbers began at Ohio State as dean of the College of Biological Sciences from 2002 to 2008. She previously had served as chair of the Department of Biology at Colorado State University, and prior to that, she was associate dean of the Graduate College and professor of zoology at the University of Vermont.

Herbers trained as an ecologist and studied the inner workings of ant colonies for most of her academic life, and also served as professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Several years ago, Herbers closed her ant lab to investigate issues surrounding gender equity and career cycles in academia.

Herbers’ research, was supported by numerous grants from the National Science Foundation, focused on the evolution of social organization, and her primary teaching areas have been animal behavior, ecology, and evolution. She received her Ph.D. and Master’s degree from Northwestern University, and holds a bachelor of science degree from the University of Dayton.