Faculty Agency

We have studied how faculty assume strategic perspectives and take strategic actions to achieve meaningful personal and professional goals (e.g., assume agency). Our research has looked at aspects of mentoring, reward systems, policies, and practices that constraint faculty agency, and that support it. We have studied faculty agency to achieve career goals, balance work and family, and pursue meaningful careers and work despite and amidst gendered organizations and environments.


Publications and Presentations

Navigating a Foggy Climate: Women Associate Professors’ Sense of Agency and Work Environment Experiences. 

Editor Vicki L. Baker. Success After Tenure: Supporting Mid-Career Faculty. Pp. 285-310. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Despite progress in women's overall representation among tenured faculty, the percentage of women full professors, especially in research universities, remains stubbornly low. This chapter examines gender differences among associate professors' sense of agency and work environment factors that likely contribute to differential progress in associate to full advancement among female and male faculty at one institution. Work environment survey data of a large, very high research activity, public institution in the Northeast reveal common challenges embedded within all associate professors' career paths. However, we consider the distinct additional challenges faced by female associates versus male associates. We address five areas where female associates noted greater concern and challenges than their male counterparts at the same rank: workload, work-life balance, resources, networks, and agency in career advancement. After considering the facilitators and consequences of challenges faced by female associate professors from the perspective of "foggy climate," we offer recommendations for associate professor mentoring, career development, and institutional policy and practice. 

Faculty sense of agency in decisions about work and family.

Review of Higher Education, 34(3), 447-476.

Over the last decade, many research universities have adopted policies and support mechanisms to help academic parents balance work and family. This study sought to understand what facilitates faculty agency in making decisions about work and family, including parental leave. We conducted 20 interviews with 5 men and 15 women at a research university that had initiated a parental-leave policy for academic parents. Factors influencing faculty sense of agency included the presence or lack of role models, departmental norms, university standards for working at home, the amount of capital that faculty felt they had acquired in departments, and parental-leave policies themselves.

Enabling possibility: Women associate professors' sense of agency in career advancement.

Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 7(1), 58-76.

In this multimethod, qualitative study we examined associate women professors’ sense of agency in career advancement from the rank of associate to full. Defining agency as strategic perspectives or actions toward goals that matter to the professor, we explore the perceptions of what helps and/or hinders a sense of agency in career advancement. Our participants consisted of 16 women associate professors at a major research university who participated in an institutional intervention program designed to enhance sense of agency in career advancement, and a subset of 12 attendees who also participated in a follow-up focus group 6 months later. Participants commonly noted that the influences of workload alignment, interactions with on-campus colleagues, and sense of fit between personal values and institutional promotion criteria constrained their sense of agency in career advancement, while the institutional intervention, self-selected professional networks, and perceived abilities fostered their sense of agency in career advancement. We conclude with individual and institutional level recommendations for policies and practices aimed at enhancing sense of agency perspectives and actions in career development in hopes of better retaining, promoting, and supporting women faculty. 

Faculty agency: Departmental contexts that matter in faculty careers.

Research in Higher Education, 54(4), 49-74.

In a modern context of constrained resources and high demands, faculty exert agency to strategically navigate their careers (Baez 2000a; Neumann et al. 2006). Guided by the O’Meara et al. (2011) framework on agency in faculty professional lives, this study used Structural Equation Modeling to investigate which departmental factors (perceptions of tenure and promotion process, work-life climate, transparency, person-department fit, professional development resources, and collegiality) influenced faculty agentic perspective and agentic action. Results showed that faculty perceptions of certain departmental contexts do matter in faculty career agency, such as work-life climate, person-department fit, and professional development resources. These contexts have a particular influence on faculty agentic perspective. Results also showed a large effect of agentic perspective on agentic action. The study has important implications for administrators regarding departmental role in faculty agency and contributes to the growing body of literature on faculty sense of agency in academe.

A Career with a View: Agentic Perspectives of Women Faculty.

Journal of Higher Education, 86(3), 331-359.

This study contributes to the literature by showing how tenured women faculty craft and leverage agentic perspectives as navigational tools amid inequitable, gendered dynamics. Drawing on interviews with associate and full professors in one research university, the author highlights the agentic perspectives, often inscribed in inner conversations, that women faculty created while embedded in gendered organizational contexts. The role of  ADVANCE networks in reducing isolation and shifting thinking toward collective responses to gendered organizational practices, is also discussed.

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