Paper No. 272-14
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM
THE SPIRAL PROJECT: SUPPORTING PROGRESS IN REBALANCING ACADEMIC LIFE
The challenges faced by women STEM faculty at research intensive universities have received much attention, but recommendations derived from these efforts may not be universally applicable because they do not take into account circumstances at regional and primarily undergraduate institutions. In particular, regional public universities have higher service expectations for their faculty than the research universities from which most faculty earned their doctorates. Most efforts to support women’s academic work focus on research or teaching without considering how service activities advance or impede women faculty’s careers. Yet many women working at regional public universities wish to do meaningful service and seek a more balanced approach to their academic life. Bowling Green State University (BGSU) is a regional public university in northwest Ohio; 85% of our nearly 19,000 students are undergraduates. Our team has worked for several years to assess the campus climate for women STEM faculty through focus groups, surveys, and interviews. We seek to identify institutional, interpersonal, and individual strategies to better align service activities with research and teaching, empowering women to channel their work in productive ways. Women report that pressure to excel in all areas of academic life is strong at BGSU. They tend to perceive gender bias in service assignments, with women pushed toward less visible or institutionally rewarded work. Faculty in general report that service expectations are not clear. We have found survey data are insufficient to capture faculty experiences; rather, interviews revealed new information about how faculty engage with service. How individual faculty define service, what counts as service, and how service is assigned all vary widely across departments. Departmental culture affects faculty perceptions and experience of service. Department chairs play a critical role in how service is assigned, recognized, and rewarded. Our results point to institutional best practices for managing service, including setting clear institutional expectations for service, training department chairs about potential bias in service assignments, and supporting service work that enhances research and teaching to produce a more balanced work experience.