The faculty members at the college – the backgrounds they bring to teaching, their understanding of learning, their commitment to interdisciplinary teaching and learning, and their skills to do such teaching – are at the heart of the our academic success. All of these elements intertwine as faculty members enter into relationships with teaching partners, students and the material they intend to investigate in their programs. Thus to teach at Evergreen is not only an academic experience but also deeply relational.
The most powerful learning within an interdisciplinary curriculum comes only in part from the range of area of studies included; it is in the act of inquiry into matters where members have a stake in the ideas - the basis for reflexive thinking - that members draw together historical (from academic disciplines) and current (from public life) perspectives into more integrated learning. Interdisciplinary teaching rests, simultaneously, on active inquiry with colleagues and students, and ongoing planning and refinement of their programs.
Teaching, like all learning, is based in a capacity for reflexive thought. In the process of teaching faculty members change what they know and how they think; their interdisciplinary and disciplinary knowledge and insight expand, and their skills of inquiry sharpen. By its nature, interdisciplinary teaching invites faculty members into unfamiliar areas of study. It can lead to unexpected and surprising new learning. Students make it abundantly clear, in their evaluations of their own learning, that faculty members who are similarly engaged in genuine inquiry are key to their learning.
Faculty issues and concerns
There are a number of conditions present within the faculty that today provide sources of creativity as well as strain. Two stand out for special attention. First, we are a very different faculty group from who we were at our last reaccreditation. Close to fifty percent of our current faculty members have been hired in the last ten years; an addition fifteen percent have been here for 15 years or less; and the remainder have taught at the college since its earlier years. Many of the faculty in this latter group will be retiring within the next five years.
The current faculty has a different disciplinary distribution than at our last review. Most notably we have hired more faculty members for our professional graduate and undergraduate programs; we have fewer faculty members in the humanities (21% of the faculty in 2005, down from 25% in 1997) and greater numbers in the sciences ( 35% in 2005, up from 26% in 1997). The following shows the number of faculty members hired and those that retired by planning unit over the last ten years.
The change in demographics among the faculty has had a direct effected on curricular offerings, as well as approaches to pedagogy and epistemology. These changes can be viewed in a variety of ways. For some, they are an unsurprising change in student interest and academic priorities in higher education. But we should also consider how these changes affect our ability to do interdisciplinary studies.
There are other interesting demographic changes that help tell the story of the current faculty members at the college. The regular faculty has grown by 6% since 1997 – from 153 to close to 180. 51% of our faculty members are women, 49% males. And 23% are persons of color. In terms of age distribution, the following shows numbers and percentage (based on 180 regular faculty members in spring of 2007) in five major age categories.
|Age Range||Number of faculty||Percentage of faculty|
|30 - 39||22||12%|
|50 – 59||64||35%|
|60 – 69||52||28%|
|70 – 79||1|
There are interesting observations to make about these numbers. The majority of our faculty members are mid-career; we have a very small percentage in their 30s. With almost 60% 50 or older we must expect continued high rates of retirement and hiring over the next 10 to 15 years. This will make our processes of socialization and orientation to the college a very high priority for us.
In the spring of 2007, the faculty included those with as much as 33 years of teaching at the college to those in their first year. 49% of the faculty have been here for ten years or less, 21% for five years or less. 32% have been here between ten and twenty years.
|Years of teaching at TESC||Number of faculty||Percentage of faculty|
|1 – 5 years||38||21%|
|6 – 10 years||51||28%|
|11 – 15 years||26||14%|
|16 – 20 years||34||18%|
|21 – 25 years||14||7%|
|26 – 30 years||6||3%|
|31 – 33 years||11||6%|
A second important condition effecting faculty teaching is the increase in our faculty to student ratio largely as a result of state funding. The actual classroom ratio is 25 to 1, although the majority of faculty tend to carry something closer to FTE when sponsoring contracts is added to the mix. We have also had a significant change in the length of programs. In 1998 …….were three quarters and now only ….. programs are year long. [Matt has these numbers] Thus within a single year, a typical faculty member is interacting for shorter periods of time with twice as many students as was the case ten years ago. This poses serious tensions and constraints for the faculty attempting to create the conditions for engagement and complex learning.