skip to Main Content

Insecurity and Inequity in Academia: The Differential Impacts of COVID-19 on Work Conditions and Work-Life Balance among the Texas A&M Academic Community

In this I[X] Team Spotlight, take a look at the team behind the research. Dr. Cynthia Werner will share why this project is important to the community and how her team of students will contribute to the project. Discover what compelled the students to select this particular Innovation[X] project to work on, and what valuable skill sets and unique perspectives they bring to the project.

student in class taking notes

Dr. Werner, as the project leader, tell us why this project is so important to the community?

“Everybody has been affected by COVID-19, but some people have been more impacted than others. My favorite (borrowed) analogy is that we are all sailing through the same storm, but some of us are riding through the storm on a very large and secure ship, while others are hanging onto a tiny rowboat without an oar. The same is true in academia. There have already been a few studies published about how women are submitting fewer grants and fewer journal articles than men during the pandemic, most likely because so much of their attention has been diverted to child care and homeschooling. Rather than doing an analysis of journal article submissions or an analysis of a survey on work time allocation, this study is focusing on individual experiences with COVID-19. We are conducting two rounds of interviews with faculty, post-doctoral scholars and PhD students to collect detailed narratives about how COVID-19 is impacting the lives of scholars at Texas A&M. We are interested in differences by gender and care-giver status, but we are also interested in how the impacts vary by race/ethnicity, age, type of appointment, type of research, household type, etc.

COVID-19 has potential to exacerbate existing inequalities and insecurities within academic institutions like Texas A&M. Specifically, the academic job market is becoming uncertain for PhD students and post-doctoral scholars, and certain types of academic appointments (i.e. tenured faculty appointments) are more secure than others.  Institutions of higher education have taken important steps to increase the compositional diversity of faculty, to create equitable policies, and to support inclusive workplace environments. It is important to understand and document how COVID-19 is impacting scholars in different ways in order to ensure that COVID-19 does not threaten to undo the significant (albeit slow) progress made in areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

What do you think your team of students can bring to this project?

“Our student team members are crucial to the success of this project. They are providing input into the design, data collection, and data analysis.  Students have obviously had their own experiences with COVID-19, and they are actively experiencing many of the same things that we are asking faculty to discuss. Students have also shifted to remote learning (and in the case of some graduate members of the team, to remote teaching).  Student team members have also experienced emotional stress of dealing with change and dealing with concerns about family members who might acquire COVID-19.  Graduate team members have been involved with conducting interviews and project management. Undergraduate team members are working to help code interview data. Two of the undergraduate team members are also going to conduct their own study on invisible and emotional labor of faculty from a student perspective.”

As students, what made you chose this particular Innovation[X] project?

“The project will assist with our learning about how the Covid19 pandemic has impacted the research, teaching, work climate, personal lives, aspirations, and outlooks of various categories of scholars and faculty at Texas A&M.  This should help to identify improvement ideas as well as assessments of how the university and various colleges have addressed the impacts of the pandemic.”

– Kevin Johnson, Cultural Anthropology Graduate Student


“I was really interested in joining the team because of how relevant the research and work is to what’s going on in the world. The different teams and groups that are all working together to create something to present to the university makes me feel honored for getting to help in any way I can.”

– Shreya Rao, Psychology Major


“I chose this project because it is an anthropological research project and I am looking to get experience in this field of research. I thought it would be very interesting while also helping me develop my professional skills.”

– Paige Musgrave, Anthropology Major


“This project is fundamental to understand how moving online during the Spring 2020 semester affected people differently depending on people’s position in the university and demographic details.”

– Linzi Berkowitz, Sociology Graduate Student


“I chose this particular project because I believe that this project is necessary. We are living through a pandemic currently, and I wanted to be part of something that made a true impact in today’s world. This project can impact me and others like me in the future, so this is both personal and professional in nature to me.”

– Angelique Maes, Sociology Graduate Student


What part of the project will you be working on?

“I am going to be coding the ethnographic research we gather from interviews based on what is said in them. I will be assigned interviews conducted with different faculty members and will then read through them and apply codes using the platform dedoose.”

– Paige Musgrave, Anthropology Major


“Critiquing the overall research design approach; Conducting in-depth interviews with scholars and instructors at Tx A&M; transcribing interviews; assisting team with refining proposed interview questions; and eventually assisting team with analysis of collected data.”

– Kevin Johnson, Cultural Anthropology Graduate Student


“I am conducting interviews for the ADVANCE project using Zoom. I am responsible for editing transcriptions and highlighting relevant themes based on interview materials.”

– Angelique Maes, Sociology Graduate Student


“I am part of the coding team, where we will be analyzing the interviews for keywords that we can use for our study.”

– Jonathan Thomas, Public Health Major


“I am considered a student researcher and will be completing coding as well as a directed study of my own under Dr. Cynthia Werner”

– Benyt Hagler, Psychology Major


“Project Coordination – sample selection, collecting participant consent, arranging interviews, providing compensation, etc.”

– Katie Constantin, Sociology Graduate Student

Back To Top