Name: Dr. Cynthia Werner, Director of ADVANCE and Professor of Anthropology (College of Liberal Arts)
Dr. Cynthia Werner, Director of ADVANCE and Professor of Anthropology (College of Liberal Arts), firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Heather Wilkinson, Associate Dean of Faculties and Professor of Plant Pathology (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences), email@example.com
Dr. Mindy Bergman, Professor of Psychology and Executive Director of Interdisciplinary Critical Studies (Liberal Arts), firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Mary Campbell, Associate Professor of Sociology and Associate Head (Liberal Arts), email@example.com
Dr. Kirby Goidel, Professor of Communication and Director of the Public Policy Research Institute (Liberal Arts), firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Tracy Hammond, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering (Engineering), email@example.com
Dr. Claire Katz, Associate Dean of Faculties, Murray and Celeste Fasken Chair in Distinguished Teaching and Professor of Philosophy (Liberal Arts), firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Blanca Lupiani, Dean of Faculties and Associate Provost and Professor of Veterinary Pathobiology (Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences), email@example.com
Dr. Stephanie C. Payne, Professor of Psychology (Liberal Arts), firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Christine Stanley, Professor of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development (Education/Human Resource Development), email@example.com
Dr. Sherry Yennello, Regents Professor of Chemistry and Cyclotron Institute Bright Chair in Nuclear Science (Science), firstname.lastname@example.org
ADVANCE, Anthropology, Office of the Dean of Faculties, Plant Pathology, Sociology, Communication, Public Policy Research Institute, Computer Science and Engineering, Philosophy, Veterinary Pathobiology, Educational Administration and Human Resource Development, Chemistry, Nuclear Science.
College of Liberal Arts, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Engineering, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, College of Education and Human Resource Development, College of Science
The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a rapid transformation of work conditions and work-life balance for university faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students. Within a week, university instructors transitioned to working from home and teaching remotely, and university researchers experienced significant disruptions to research plans. As the university continues to chart a hybrid-flexible plan for the fall semester, it remains uncertain when the “new normal” will phase into a “post-pandemic normal.” In the meantime, the psychological well-being of faculty and future faculty has been affected by looming uncertainty regarding the economic stability of the university. The metaphor “we are in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat” is an apt description for the current situation within academia. Just as some institutions are better positioned to survive this storm, some members of the academy are riding out the storm in a boat while others are desperately hanging on to a life jacket or fragments of a handmade raft. This project examines the impacts of COVID-19 on individual scholars, while recognizing that this metaphorical storm will have differential impacts that are likely to widen existing gaps along the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, caregiver status, discipline, and appointment status. Our project is guided by this central research question: How has the relationship between work-life balance and work productivity changed for scholars due to recent transformations to the organizational context of work?
The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a rapid transformation of work conditions and work-life balance for university faculty and graduate students. Within a week, faculty and graduate student instructors teaching traditional in-person courses transitioned to working from home and teaching remotely. And, within a few weeks, faculty and graduate students whose research depends on the ability to work in labs, with human subjects, and/or at remote field locations experienced significant disruptions to research plans. In addition to these inconvenient realities, the psychological well-being of faculty has been affected by looming uncertainty regarding the economic stability of the university at a time when endowment income is down, state budget cuts are likely, and student enrollments could potentially decline. These stressful circumstances, however, are not felt equally across the academy. The pandemic has already exacerbated existing inequalities and feelings of insecurity for three of the most vulnerable groups in the academy: tenure-track faculty, academic professional track (APT) faculty, and future faculty (i.e., PhD students and post-doctoral fellows who seek academic positions).
We will use a multi-disciplinary, mixed method research design to achieve three objectives: (1) We seek to understand the differential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on work conditions and work-life balance within and between these three different groups: tenure-track, APT, and future faculty at Texas A&M. Within each of these groups, women and people of color (POC) are generally known to experience higher levels of anxiety, stress, and burnout compared to other groups in academia. So, concerns about job security, discrimination, invisible labor, and demanding service loads will no doubt increase given the global pandemic. For example, women faculty are likely to be doing added caretaker work at home, relative to men. And, women and POC faculty are likely to be doing more invisible labor (e.g., providing emotional support to students in crisis) than white, male faculty. Tenure-track faculty are likely to have heightened anxiety about how their research and teaching records will be impacted by COVID-19. In comparison, APT faculty are likely to have heightened anxiety about their job security given their contracts must be renewed annually and they are evaluated on their unique contributions to their departments and teaching, which have been severely impacted by COVID-19.Future faculty are likely to have increased concerns about their ability to complete their degrees, obtain academic and research funding, and to secure academic employment. For all groups, unequal impacts of COVID-19 are likely to intersect further with other aspects of their identity, including demography (e.g., religion) , personality (e.g., resilience), technological skills (e.g., their prior comfort level with technologies required for remote and online teaching), academic discipline, and their personal work from home (WFH) environment. (2) We plan to gather feedback on how current and future faculty feel about the university’s response to COVID-19, and compare these perspectives with views from other universities. This would include communications from university administrators on remote teaching, as well as policies and procedures enacted in response to COVID-19 (such as tenure-clock extension and reduced emphasis on student evaluations). (3) We aim to use the results of this study to inform future university programming, practice, processes, and policy initiatives for current and future faculty. Given that COVID-19 will further exacerbate existing inequalities within academia, traditional reward systems (e.g. merit raises, promotions) and traditional structures (e.g. time limitations for graduate student funding) need to be reconsidered. We will prepare guidelines for colleges and departments on ways to ensure the use of equitable and inclusive criteria that factor in the differential impacts of COVID-19 in the evaluation of faculty, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, and prospective faculty hires.
Our project will provide a valuable dataset for understanding the impact of COVID-19 within academia. Through a longitudinal survey, we will gather quantitative data on shifts in work-life balance, experiences with remote teaching technologies, and attitudes towards the university response. Qualitative interviews will add detailed information about the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of faculty and future faculty. And, finally, web scraping will allow us to search for and analyze social media posts about the impacts of COVID-19 on faculty lives. Our project will generate a specific set of written guidelines to ensure the equitable and inclusive evaluation of current and future faculty that acknowledges differential impacts of COVID-19. The results of our research, including these guidelines, will also be shared in a series of public forums with faculty and administrators. Finally, we will use the results of our study to publish several peer-reviewed journal articles (e.g., ADVANCE).
Benefit to Students
Graduate and undergraduate students who work on this project will have the opportunity to learn how scholars from different disciplines can work together in innovative ways. For many of them, this might be their first experience working on an interdisciplinary team, and this will provide an invaluable experience for future careers within and outside of academia. The graduate students on this team will also have the opportunity to mentor undergraduate students. Modeled after the Anthropology Department’s successful Graduate Student-Undergraduate Student Mentorship program and guided by recommendations on mentoring from the Center for Teaching Excellence, this experience is likely to be mutually beneficial as graduate students will improve their mentoring skills and undergraduate students will learn more about the research process. Graduate and undergraduate students are also likely to improve their skills in research methods, as they work with faculty to address these key questions related to COVID-19. Graduate and undergraduate students will also have the opportunity to learn a lot more about the experiences of faculty life, and the challenges that faculty members face during the COVID-19 pandemic. These insights may be particularly beneficial to students who are interested in pursuing careers in academia. Finally, graduate and undergraduate student team members will have the opportunity to collaborate on peer-reviewed publications that result from this study.
Read the Full Proposal
Will part of the grant be used to pay undergraduate participants?
Will part of the grant be used to pay graduate student participants?
Will the project require travel?
Additional Information Supplied:
The Academic Inequities Exposed Research Team is seeking 15 graduate and undergraduate students to help with a variety of tasks. We are looking for students who are committed to and/or interested in learning more about diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at Texas A&M. We are looking for graduate students in social sciences who are interested in assisting with qualitative data collection and analysis. We are looking for undergraduate students in the social sciences and humanities who are interested in assisting with qualitative data analysis, including the coding of qualitative interview data. We are looking for undergraduate and/or graduate students who can help with a web scraping exercise. And, finally, we are looking for undergraduate and/or graduate students who can help design a website for this project. Students will work together on a team and participate in team meetings where they receive guidance and support. Student team members will either sign up for directed studies hours for this project, or be paid hourly wages.