Prior to the recession, faculty members could recast their academic career by taking jobs at different institutions in their pursuit of an increased salary or better facilities.
But today, that mobility has been constrained by tighter budgets that have led to the elimination of programs and positions, more judicious new hires, and the practice by older faculty of remaining in place.
The article “Fewer Paths for Faculty” in the Sept. 16, 2011 Chronicle of Higher Education explores those themes and the changing marketplace for professors.
Lafayette is highlighted as being one of the few higher education institutions to actually be expanding its ranks during a weak economy. Indeed, the strategic plan calls for the addition of 35 new faculty positions. As of fall 2011, 15 new faculty members had been hired with commitments for four more.
Cited as an example of someone whose proven track record made a difference, Mary A. Armstrong, associate professor of women’s and gender studies and chair of the program, is profiled in the article. She says, “I was looking for a place that took interdisciplinary work extremely seriously.” Armstrong founded the department of women’s and gender studies at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo.
Lafayette has taken several steps to strengthen and reward interdisciplinary work. Armstrong is one of five professors hired in a cross-disciplinary role. The other four are: Nandini Sikand, assistant professor of film and media studies; Angelika Von Wahl, associate professor of international affairs; Benjamin Cohen, assistant professor of engineering studies; and one soon to be hired in the area of environmental studies. The faculty also adopted new policies that encourage and reward interdepartmental and interdisciplinary collaboration including a faculty innovation grant program for projects that accomplish this objective.