Back in the 1970s, the idea of occasionally bringing in professionals, a journalist or a lawyer, to teach a single class in college was considered a sound academic practice. “It was never meant to be an employment model, except to bring in expertise the college didn’t have,” explained Adrianna Kezar, Professor of Higher Education at the University of Southern California, in a recent WHYY, Radio Times broadcast. “But over time, and state budget declines, it’s increasingly become the business model for higher education.” While it’s more likely than not that the professor leading a college class today is outside of the tenure track, the needs of those adjunct teachers, and how they can help their students, can be very different from that of full-time faculty.
This changed landscape for college learning prompted Barnes & Noble College to conduct a recent survey of 1,400 faculty members, and the overwhelming response they received confirmed much about the makeup of today’s university teaching staff. Of those who identified as adjunct faculty, 44 percent taught in a full-time capacity, 56 percent taught part-time, and nearly a third taught at one or more institutions. Already helping support the needs of faculty with learning material adoptions through programs like FacultyEnlight, the research maintained Barnes & Noble College’s belief that adjunct faculty members might need additional support and tools to be successful in ensuring positive academic outcomes for their students. “What hasn’t changed is that faculty, in general, are time crunched, and in response, we’re building a series of programs that we can provide to them as additional resources,” says Jenna Radigan, Barnes & Noble College’s Senior Corporate Marketing Specialist.
An early fix came from a solution the company already had in hand. The Career Now initiative, was developed from research into the career preparedness of students and how that could significantly influence the ability of graduates to obtain fulfilling and rewarding careers after college. “Not only does our research tell us that faculty really want to be able to spend more time helping and preparing students for job success, but it also tells us that they are the number two influencers in careers,” Radigan notes. It’s an important point, especially for adjunct faculty who are most often not provided permanent office space for meeting students after class, and for whom juggling different courses at different campuses can make scheduling appointments particularly challenging.
By making the Career Now toolkit, a program offering resources and in-depth career advice, available to faculty, teaching staff are able to make the best use of their time with students while also offering significant guidance that will help students in their career preparedness. The outreach to faculty, tenured or not, fits well with Barnes & Noble College’s already established presence on the college campus. The research highlights that adjuncts see Barnes & Noble College as a company on whom they could depend, with 66 percent of respondents saying they trusted the brand, and with the majority viewing Barnes & Noble College as a partner in the academic experience for students. The survey revealed that faculty also spend time in their Barnes & Noble College managed campus bookstore with 62 percent of adjuncts and 76 percent of traditional, full-time faculty reporting they visit the store several times throughout the semester.
Whether its adjunct faculty looking for stronger campus ties and better support, or established faculty needing help with developing course materials for their classes, Radigan says the two-year-old Igniting the Faculty Connection outreach program is only just getting started. “Coming up, our on-going communications are going to focus on everything from developing course pack materials to research on Generation Z and their changing expectations about learning,” she says.
With textbook adoption season just about to begin on campuses across the nation, that kind of support will likely be welcomed by all faculty members. “We want to be able to extend our help beyond the adoption process, beyond course materials — beyond just simply the transaction,” Radigan says.