Thank you, thank you, thank you to the nearly 1,000 registrants from academic and faculty affairs, technology, HR, and other university roles who made the 2021 Interfolio Summit, earlier this month, a uniquely valuable event.

Here, we’re going to share just a few of the things that made the two-day virtual conference so worth everyone’s time.

We’re going to focus on five recurring themes—feel free to hop down to what interests you the most:

  1. An Academic/Faculty Affairs Community of Practice
  2. Progress on Faculty Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  3. Achieving Efficiency (with Integrity) in Faculty Affairs Personnel Processes
  4. Integrations: Faculty Affairs and the University Technology Ecosystem
  5. Successful Change Management: Real People and Faculty Affairs Technology

1. An Academic/Faculty Affairs Community of Practice

The 2021 Interfolio Summit provided a unique venue for interaction to academic/faculty affairs professionals, as well as those in university technology and HR whose work touches faculty employment.

Whether in the form of the 20 prepared sessions, the lively chat throughout, the audience Q&A, or the “Meet the Speakers” breakout rooms, the Summit this year provided a space to talk about successfully supporting faculty in the modern university. 

In “Maximizing Efficiency with Creative Uses of Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure,” Elizabeth City State University’s Dr. Farrah Ward, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dr. Joy Smith, Dean of the School of Education and Business showed how they have extended their use of the platform beyond academic evaluations to include faculty credentialing.

With “Documenting Personnel Processes and Increasing User Adoption,” Arizona State University’s Chantel Powers, Academic Personnel Analyst and Katherine Sackman, Academic Personnel Specialist, gave a detailed walk-through of their model for ensuring that the very practical “nuts and bolts” of their procedures are as easy as possible to locate, maintain, and carry out. 

And during “Stories from the Field: Managing Interfolio Long-Term,” Lauren Wolk, Senior Consultant, and Kelly Doolan, Project Manager, from the Interfolio Professional Services team announced the Interfolio Certification program, a newly formalized course by which academic professionals can demonstrate their full competency with the Interfolio Faculty Information System.


2. Progress on Faculty Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Early in planning the Summit, Interfolio recognized that the issues of justice and equal opportunity continue to pose a pressing challenge throughout the US and global society—no less in higher education faculty affairs than anywhere else.

Right from the opening keynote address by Dr. Ebony O. McGee, Associate Professor of Diversity and STEM Education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College (“Beyond Recruiting: Retaining Underrepresented Minoritized Faculty & Graduate Students”) this year’s Summit included an explicit and searching focus on issues of faculty diversity, equity, and inclusion in modern higher education.  

Our panel “Moving to Outcomes: Faculty Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives” saw academic leaders from Stony Brook University, Dartmouth University, Colorado College, and the Consortium for Faculty Diversity discussing specific tactics they’ve used, as well as the outcomes.

The panel provided concrete recommendations for building lasting diversity, a truly inclusive environment, and an equitable work experience for scholars. 

Among many topics not limited to diversity, equity, and inclusion, “HBCU Leaders in Conversation” offered a look into current challenges and successes of the US’s historically black colleges and universities. Attendees got to hear a lively discussion between Dr. Stashia Emanuel, Vice Provost for Academic Services at Kentucky State University, Dr. Patricia Williams-Lessane, Associate Vice President at Morgan State University, and Dr. James Palmer, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Prairie View A&M University. The panel discussed specific outreach and faculty support approaches, current recruitment and retention efforts, and especially how the Interfolio Faculty Information System has directly enabled progress on their strategic plans. 

In “Streamlining Insights with Reportable Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Activities,” Bridget Mullaney, MD, PMP of the Facet Project Team in the Office of the Provost at Emory University shared a model Emory employs to successfully track faculty members’ DEI-relevant professional activities and enable both the scholar and the institution to tell that story. 


3. Achieving Efficiency with Integrity in Faculty Affairs Personnel Processes

This year’s Summit continued to showcase how higher education institutions use Interfolio to make faculty affairs processes more efficient and best use faculty, staff, and administrator time. Equally clear, however, was the commitment to maintain excellence in the personnel decisions or data storytelling regardless of the level of convenience.

In a session on change management (more below), Molli J. Herth, M.Ed, Program Manager for Faculty Affairs and Development in the Office of the Provost at George Mason University mentioned that certain features had already reduced the administrative burden of managing hundreds of cases across different workflow stages and types.

In the panel “Achieving Strategic Goals with a Faculty Information System,” panelists Allysceaeioun D Britt, PhD, MPH of Meharry Medical College, Ed Collom, PhD of California State University-Fullerton, and ​​Alyssa Kupka of DePaul University shared many ways that faculty affairs and administrative workflows at their universities are operating more successfully than ever before. 

“Process should dictate the system, not the other way around,” said Dr. Britt. “And Interfolio was able to do that.”

Across this and other Summit panels, we heard how:

  • Total time to complete certain reviews had decreased
  • Faculty had been “given back” time that they could use to focus on excellent teaching, research, curriculum development, mentoring, community engagement, and other core academic activities
  • Professional staff at the university are able to be a greater support than ever to faculty, and are freed up for their own professional growth, by a centralized system really built for this work
  • Provost and other administrative offices have been given the space to revisit and reconsider inherited processes
  • (Last, but far from least!) Those who already had the faculty-friendly platform in place experienced relative ease of adjustment—and capacity to react—when the COVID-19 pandemic struck

4. Integrations: Faculty Affairs, Interfolio, and the University Technology Ecosystem

Another aspect of this year’s Summit was a focus on how the Interfolio platform, which often reflects the needs of a provost’s or faculty affairs office, can most productively interact with other systems at the institution.

In “Harnessing APIs to Streamline Faculty Hiring with Seamless Integrations,” Georgetown University’s Merced Ada, Rebecca Cpin, Christopher Davis, Emily Fitzgerald, and Charlie Leonhardt broke down how they built an integration between Interfolio Faculty Search for recruitment and their HR system, Workday. 

For those focused on integrating with faculty evaluations, J. Reuben Wetherbee of the University of Pennsylvania gave a detailed presentation on three ways that he was able to leverage the Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure API to extend the reach (and the time-savings) of the module.

And in a panel focused on Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting, speakers from Scripps Research Institute, Bowling Green State University, and the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Sciences shared how they’ve connected a wide variety of critical campus systems to exchange data with the Interfolio platform.

From faculty data originating in HR and ERP systems, to grants and other financial data, to courses, and even a projected IRB connection, the speakers at these different institutions stressed the value of bringing in data that another unit on campus has already vetted.

“The depth of reporting [available via Interfolio] has been really important as far as faculty academic career growth—because there’s a lot of support that we can give our faculty when we know more about what they’re doing, their productivity, and where we’re lacking in supporting them.”

Katrina Schreiber, Administrative Manager, Research & Academic Affairs, The Scripps Research Institute

5. Successful Change Management: Faculty Affairs Technology is for Real People

Finally, echoing a persistent theme central to the growth and expansion of Interfolio usage worldwide, nearly every client session shared to some extent how they had successfully managed the “human element” of adopting new faculty affairs technology. Namely, that a change in systems really means a change in what people do.

In “How to Successfully Lead Change Management and Faculty Adoption Initiatives,” New York University’s Mike McCaw and George Mason’s Molli J. Herth (mentioned above) generously shared the strategies their institutions had used to systematically bring all needed user groups onboard. 

Other speakers from various institutions shared many successful faculty affairs change management choices throughout the Summit, such as:

  • Internal workflows of data validation and sign-off from deans, before piping it into the central Interfolio system (“Contemporary Uses of Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting”)
  • Demonstrating security of system access to faculty members (“Achieving Strategic Goals with a Faculty Information System”)
  • In some cases, introducing the system with a hybrid model for a year before requiring it—in other cases, making it mandatory institution-wide from the jump (“HBCU Leaders in Conversation”)
  • A “train the trainer” model to distribute support for faculty members and others across campus units (“Documenting Personnel Processes and Increasing User Adoption”)

Next Year: August 2022 in Washington, DC!

We are thrilled—and grateful to every contributor and attendee—that the 2021 Summit turned out to be such a lively and welcome hub for faculty affairs dialogue and expertise.

We haven’t even gotten into all of the sessions here, such as those on the ethics of academic data management, the Interfolio product roadmap, the global social purpose of higher education, and others. 

But mark your calendars! After two entirely virtual installments in 2020 and 2021, we are proud to announce the 2022 Interfolio Summit will take place in person, August 3-5, in downtown Washington, DC. We look forward to sharing next year what we’ve all learned in between—and to continuing the conversation every day.

This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large.

The idea of adding more online work to your to-do list may be anathema in 2020, but for academics who find themselves at points in their careers where they really need to make connections, online networking has been an unexpected blessing this pandemic year. “In this new world, [social media and blogging] looks more and more like THE essential toolkit for networking,” wrote Neville Morley in a blog post on COVID-era academic networking. Here’s some quick advice for academics looking to connect more between now and whenever it is that we can again gather in hotel conference rooms to chat over subpar coffee.

Be kind

“Absolutely basic principles,” wrote Morley about academic engagement on Twitter, should be: “Don’t pull rank, don’t dump on people, and if you have lots of followers take some responsibility for their engagement with people who engage with you.” This is not a COVID-specific bit of advice; the best academic networking, Robin Bernstein wrote in the Chronicle a few years ago, is “radically sincere, deep, and generous.” But when everyone is feeling pretty fragile for one reason or another, the advice to “be kind” goes double. See how you can be helpful, and reach out to peers, not just more powerful people; horizontal networking also yields benefits.

Get the basics nailed down

During this time, if you have the bandwidth, make sure your online presence is complete, and that you own it—you should have at least one website or page that’s not tied to your current university. Select—or take—a good headshot to use across platforms; there are many tips for doing this at home to be found online. (At least one platform—LinkedIn—says that profiles with photos attached get many more views than profiles without.) Pick through your previous writing and presentations, gather up the gems, and put the best stuff on that page that you own. Make sure your CV is updated, wherever it can be found.

Find your people

Other standard advice for academic Twitter users pre-COVID still applies: Tap into subject-specific Twitter lists maintained by people you already follow in order to find new connections; lurk on the outskirts of conversations, see who’s the most constructive and interesting, and follow them; look at hashtags for topics that interest you, and find people that way. If you attend virtual conferences, which are a particular artifact of the COVID era, take advantage of any of concurrent Twitter events that are going on.

Sign up for virtual events

Some scholarly organizations have convened Zoom chats for people interested in connecting around a topic. Check with your associations to see if there are any you could join. Even if you can’t find a time that feels natural to speak up during the Zoom, try to find a way to participate in the chat: sharing links, for example, or adding corroboration to a comment. After the event is over, make sure to connect with participants whose work you found interesting on Twitter or LinkedIn, to continue the conversation.

Think outside the Twitter box

LinkedIn, wrote Eva Lantsoght in a post about why academics should use the tool, “can be a source of consistency as you switch institutions.” Lantsoght recommends using LinkedIn to keep connected with people who change their emails often, as many academics do. She advocates linking out to Slideshare to show off presentations; participating in groups by asking and answering questions; and making sure to keep your profile up to date. And for researchers whose work requires them to connect to people who work outside of the academy, or who may look for jobs outside of academia, LinkedIn is the place to be.

As we all live more in front of screens this year, it’s important to be even more intentional with our time online. These recommendations for online networking will help you build community among academics, whether looking for new positions, research opportunities, or simply connection.

What online networking tactics and groups have been fulfilling and valuable for you this year? Share your recommendations and stories with us on Twitter.

In Conversation: Adrianna Kezar + Andrew Rosen

Thursday, June 18, 2020 / Noon – 1 PM ET

Join Andrew Rosen and Adrianna Kezar for a discussion about the pressures on higher education and the future of faculty.

As colleges and universities prepare for uncertainty with respect to tuition and research revenue, state funding, and endowments, many institutions are also exploring the expansion of revenue opportunities.

While it is obvious that COVID-19 will have short and long term impacts on the business of higher education, what are the implications on tenure, non-tenure track, and contingent faculty? Are we witnessing the dawn of a new era in this existential crisis?


About our featured guests

About Adrianna Kezar

Adrianna Kezar is the Dean’ s Professor of Leadership, Wilbur-Kieffer Professor of Higher Education at the University of Southern California, and Director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education.  A national expert on change, governance and leadership in higher education, Kezar is regularly quoted in the media, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Atlantic, Boston Globe, Washington Post, PBS, and NPR (national and local stations), among others. At the Pullias Center, Kezar directs the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, and is an international expert on the changing faculty. Her latest book is The Gig Academy: Mapping Labor in the Neoliberal University (October, 2019). 

About Andrew Rosen

As CEO at Interfolio, Andrew Rosen brings a proven track record of successfully introducing and scaling innovative, problem-solving technologies into new markets. Andrew started his career as an early co-founder of Blackboard where he and the team successfully built and scaled the Learning Management System throughout the education marketplace. After taking Blackboard public, Andrew left to grow Presidium Inc., an early education start-up focused on end user support services and then joined the Education Advisory Board as General Manager of its Education Technology. At EAB, Andrew and his team evolved analytics and predictive modeling technologies to address the rising issues around student retention and student success. Most recently, Andrew served as the Sr. Executive Vice President and Head of Product at MicroStrategy, a world-class enterprise analytics platform company.


Free eBook: Rapid Digital Transformation for your Faculty Affairs Processes

Compiled and published in the time of COVID-19, our free eBook pulls together best practices around online faculty evaluations and professional reviews, planning ahead for future digital transformation, and more.

This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large.

Impact on research time

“Almost overnight, COVID-19 turned me into an elementary school teacher, a housekeeper, a hairdresser, and a professional worrier — all things I am terrible at, with the exception of the latter,” wrote economist Olga Shurchkov on Medium in April. Looking back at her post seven months on, as many academics with children have gone more than half a year without the benefit of open schools or childcare, and mothers across the economy have borne the brunt of COVID-related disruptions, onlookers are worrying that the hairline fissures in academic mothers’ CVs that began opening up in spring and early summer may be developing into full-blown cracks.

In April, editors for three journals in political science and philosophy reported evidence that the volume of female authors’ submissions had declined since COVID-19. For many, anecdotal reports from journal editors were the first sign that something was wrong. More systematic studies followed. A team surveyed American and European scientists, starting in April, to see how COVID-19 was affecting their usage of time; the results were published in September. Those who chose to respond to the survey (a self-selecting group, to be sure) reported that overall, their working hours had dipped—in average, the group that used to work 61 hours a week was now working 54. Influencing this average was a  much bigger portion of the surveyed scientists that were working 42 hours a week or fewer, as opposed to before the pandemic hit. 

Time-pressed scientists seemed to be reducing hours devoted to research, rather than teaching or administrative tasks. And female scientists, scientists with kids under five, and especially female scientists with kids under five were the hardest-hit when it came to losing research hours. The survey results were echoed by other work on U.S. faculty members, among whom the professors with kids in the 0-5 age range reported having the hardest time doing work—a finding that anyone who’s taken full-time care of a kid under 5 could probably have predicted. 

Tracking the rates of publication

Studies tracking rates of publication followed these time-use surveys. In May, a group of researchers reported on their look at 11 pre-print repositories and three platforms for registered reports in the sciences. Assigning gender to authors’ names using an algorithm, the group analyzed more than 300,000 submissions. Importantly, the researchers looked at author order, showing that the numbers of women in first-author positions had dropped, when compared to the previous two months and the same two months in 2019. In those fields, the group pointed out, first authorship often gets assigned to a junior scholar; the implication is that junior women’s productivity was taking the biggest hit. Women’s names were also less commonly associated with work done on COVID-19—the very work that, of course, was being rapidly produced in response to the pandemic.

Also in May, a group of economists reported the results of their study of rates of submissions of preprints and working papers in that field, breaking down the data by seniority level and gender, and looking in particular at whether women were authoring preprints analyzing COVID-19. Which economists, the group wondered, were able to jump on the interesting research situation the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns has produced? For economists, the pandemic is a natural experiment of epic proportions, but the people who find themselves equipped to take advantage, this group argues, are not those who have children at home, and/or are more cautious about abandoning previous research to start something new.  “It is mostly senior male economists who are currently exploiting the myriad research questions arising from the COVID-19 shock,” wrote the group. 

Since the flush of springtime and summertime interest in COVID’s effect on women doing academic research, institutions have been looking for solutions. An organization called 500 Women Scientists has called for funding agencies to give grad students and postdocs gap funding, departments to offer teaching releases, and for institutions to reduce the use of student teaching evaluations in considering decisions around hiring and promotion, since caregiving academics with little time to give seem more likely to get dinged on evals when students get dissatisfied with online teaching.

But of all the interventions, a common-sense approach to evaluating the parts of mothers’ CVs that represent 2020 (and 2021) may be the hardest to implement, but the most beneficial. One academic and mother who spoke to Science about her situation mentioned that she was having trouble imagining how she would represent the pandemic in official documentation summarizing her research career. “I can’t give as many talks, I can’t participate in conferences, I can’t do trainings, I’ve had to shut down collaborations,” she said. “How am I supposed to account for this on my CV?” In her case, as in so many others, a little understanding might go a long way. 

What has been the pandemic’s impact on your research? Share with us on Twitter.

This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large.

How are faculty doing, emotionally speaking, right now?

For many, the answer is “profoundly burned out.” “Anyone else feel like they’ve been working non-stop since March and are about to crash?” asked Arcelia Gutiérrez, a professor of Latinx studies at the University of Kentucky, on Twitter recently. ”And we have no breaks this semester, and we’re already on week 8 of the semester.” In a piece in EdSurge about faculty burnout, Kevin R. McClure, a professor of higher education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, noted that many faculty’s lack of time off in the summer of 2020 added to the feeling of stress that people were feeling in August, facing the fall semester. “Summer is normally a time of restoration for faculty and staff, and many believed if they could just finish the spring semester, they would have a chance to recover”—but a summer devoid of travel plans and childcare, and full of work to set up online or hybrid learning for the following semester, simply didn’t do the trick. 

Faculty and staff reported to McClure that it wasn’t just the fact that the summer was full of work that has left them feeling tapped out, but also the nature of the work. Endless meetings about an ever-changing and hopeless situation; hard work put into plans that may never be implemented; lack of communication from leaders, who were, themselves, overwhelmed—the summer, and the beginning of the fall semester, have seemed never-ending. Commenting to Inside Higher Ed about the piece, McClure said that he had received a pile of feedback after it published: “What I heard over and over again was people saying, ‘That’s me. This is how I feel.’” 

Much self-reported faculty stress comes from a perceived disconnect between people’s personal situations and the amount of work the university continues to expect. This pandemic academic life—no childcare and school, for parents; huge teaching burdens for those who are adjusting to new platforms; no travel for research; restricted access to materials—is not normal, five scientists wrote in a group plea published in Science in late August. “With the start of the semester upon us, we continue to receive a massive influx of emails from colleagues detailing service expectations, research disruptions, and complex new policies,” they wrote. “All of this can feel incredibly overwhelming.” The group argued for transparency, respect for personal needs, and aggressive triaging of what’s necessary: “Don’t hold yourselves, or your students, to the same standards as 2019.” 

What can be done?

Some senior professors have urged their fellows to step up, this semester and this year. Nicholas H. Snow, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Seton Hall University, argued on Inside Higher Ed that research scholars should “make teaching and serving undergraduate students your highest priority” this year. “Our institutions and our undergraduates need us. They need all of us. They need us to be accessible and inclusive,” Snow insisted, urging his senior colleagues to “go to your funding agency; get a no-cost extension…ask them to allow your postdocs to join with us in the classroom.” This was the time, Snow thought, for the “haves” of academia to put research goals aside and put their shoulders to the wheel. 


A sentiment many faculty share—one that, for some, is a saving grace—is the sense of common cause with their students. “Doing my best, kids—and I know you are, too,” tweeted classicist Christopher Polt, of Boston College, with a modified Spiderman meme attached. (For those unfamiliar, the meme usually features two Spidermen pointing at each other, and is used to signify a recognition of sameness. In Polt’s version, a single Spiderman, the “professor,” points at a group of students—the whole group recognizing one other as going through the same turmoil.) In replies to the viral tweet, professors described feeling a cathartic sense of identification with their students, who are having many of the same problems as faculty: lack of childcare, exposure to COVID, spotty internet, family stress.

A little bit of grace and recognition goes a long way, in the fall of 2020.

How are you navigating these times as a faculty member? How could institutions better support you in your work? Share with us on Twitter.

This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings, with Antione Tomlin as article co-author.

For doctoral students across the nation who are writing their dissertations, the onset of COVID-19 has drastically changed how they will approach their research projects. In some instances, doctoral students will have to redesign their studies to accommodate remote data collection or potentially scrap their research plans altogether. Moreover, dissertators are balancing the completion of their studies with employment and family obligations. Students are not alone—professors have also been impacted because they have to support their dissertation advisees remotely while juggling the care of dependents, adapting research projects, and preparing for remote and/or social distance in-person teaching. 

Most of the discussion about supporting students with the onset of COVID-19 has tended to focus on undergraduates. Generally speaking, graduate students—and doctoral students at the dissertation phase specifically—have not been given the same attention. Therefore, we want to share some strategies for doctoral students from our vantage point of being a doctoral candidate in the midst of completing a dissertation, and as a faculty member who is currently supporting doctoral students. Below we provide three tips for students on how to navigate the dissertation writing process during the pandemic and also include how faculty can support students in each of these areas.

Be Realistic

It is easy to become so consumed and overwhelmed with finishing your dissertation that you forget to take care of yourself. So, it is important to know and recognize your limits. Life does not stop because you decided to be a doctoral student; it might be even more hectic than ever with increased family, work, and personal obligations. Be mindful of how much you are putting on your plate and deciding to take on. If you can only provide 50% effort to your dissertation because you took on more than you can handle, everything you said yes to suffers. Knowing when to say yes or no becomes more critical during these times. 

How Faculty Can Support:

As a faculty member, I can say from experience that it’s important to take the time to understand that our dissertation advisees have lives outside of the classroom. Take the initiative to understand their circumstances, so you can support them and become a trusted sounding board. This includes advising them on when to accept new responsibilities or defer them to another time. Additionally, we (faculty) can use this information to develop realistic timelines about when various sections of the dissertation can be completed. 

Ask For Help!

As doctoral students, we assume that we are supposed to know everything, and if we do not, we think we are less than we are supposed to be. Both of us understand how feeling like an imposter can be paralyzing to completing the dissertation. It is important to let go of assumptions, perceived expectations, and self-doubt because it gets in the way of moving forward. We are all experiencing the effects of COVID-19, acknowledging that some students may have more or less time depending on obligations outside of school. So, ask for help when you need it. You do not have to know everything, and your faculty and committee are there to help and support you. Do not feel ashamed about needing more guidance or additional motivation to keep pushing along. Use your resources and get it done.

How faculty can support:

Faculty should be proactive and reach out to students to ask how they are doing and if they need help. Even in instances when they say they don’t need any help, it is important for us to continue to check on our students consistently. Also, you should not feel that you need to have all of the answers for your students. It is okay to seek counsel from other colleagues on how to help your students succeed.

Be Open-Minded

This is one piece of advice that we’ve found doctoral students dread hearing. From our experience, open-mindedness can be perceived as having to change everything about a dissertation plan. In reality, these simple but daunting words can work in your favor. Remember doctoral students; your committee is there to support and get you to the finish line! When they strongly encourage suggestions, it is only to help, so we challenge you—be open and consider all suggestions. When you fight the process, you will spend more time finding your way to the finish line. As a current doctoral candidate, I can say that when I made an effort to be open to suggestions, my research was enhanced, and my committee members’ experiences were more pleasurable.

How Faculty Can Support:

While it is our job to push our students to develop a robust and rigorous dissertation, we should do so with care and compassion. Far too often we see professors put their students through what can be described as academic hazing primarily because they are trying to recreate the traumatic doctoral student experience they had. This is unfair to students and a practice we need to change. For instance, we need to ensure that by the time students get to the dissertation proposal defense presentation that we are not asking them to drastically change their dissertation plan. These types of major suggestions should be addressed prior to the defense being approved. Doing so during a defense is a disservice to students and can make the dissertation process feel insurmountable. 

Given the impact of COVID-19 on the foreseeable future, we will need to continue rethinking and reimagining the dissertation process for doctoral students. Our hope is that this piece begins the conversation about how to advise and support doctoral students virtually and ensure support for students who are juggling their dissertations along with other life circumstances.

How are you navigating the dissertation process? Feel free to send me your responses via Twitter so that we can continue this conversation!


Author Biographies

Dr. Ramon B. Goings (@ramongoings) is an assistant professor in the Language, Literacy, and Culture doctoral program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is Founder of the Done Dissertation Coaching Program (www.thedonedissertation.com) which provides individual and group coaching for doctoral students engaged in the dissertation process.

Mr. Antione Tomlin is a doctoral candidate in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is an assistant professor of Academic Literacies and English at Anne Arundel Community College.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.


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The modern institutions of today exist in a data-driven world, and this increasingly includes colleges and universities. Faculty data can provide valuable metrics that can be used to improve teaching effectiveness for future students and improve the student learning experience.

We spoke with Andy Goodman, Director of the Office of Academic Affairs at University of Missouri System, where he works on the measurement, evaluation, and improvement of the faculty teaching experience. He shared his best practices for understanding the data, evaluating the facts, and taking action to improve on teaching and learning.

“How you organize matters down the road.”

As the time approaches for an institution’s annual review of faculty, it’s crucial to look at what data is most meaningful to your institution and organize accordingly. Goodman explains how the University of Missouri thoughtfully approached their implementation of Interfolio’s Faculty Activity Reporting module in a way that would make reporting and analysis easier. While a list of recommended categories for organizing faculty data is provided, the University of Missouri did additional customization to meet the needs of their institution, specifically, with a more in-depth focus on teaching data. 

University of Missouri uses the Faculty Activity Reporting module to segment teaching data by courses taught, student advising, and mentorship of students. Other data collected includes their faculty’s extension efforts, courses taught at other institutions, and other teaching activities that are relevant to the evaluation of their work.

Goodman posed questions to consider for your activity reporting system when beginning the reviewing process: “Will your categories facilitate ease of evaluation?” and “Do your categories and annual review components help your university achieve its goals for annual review?” 

Evaluating Data for the Faculty Review Process

After providing insight and recommendations on structuring the data, Goodman discussed how faculty are evaluated, especially as it pertains to teaching and learning efficacy.

On a biannual basis, Goodman works with individuals in their review cycles. Reporting enabled the conversations to be data-driven, and allows regular discussion of what a faculty member needs to do in order to “put their best foot forward” in the next year, while highlighting what was deemed to be important in future evaluation rubrics. Goodman emphasized the importance of this feedback loop to institutional success.

Working Toward Teaching and Learning Improvement

“The goal of the annual review process is making things better,” Goodman described. It’s important to have buy-in and understanding about why an institution does annual reviews. For him, the guiding principles of the process are to improve teaching, to be forward-looking, and  “to approach it thoughtfully, [and] not just a perfunctory exercise.”

Goodman explained that the evaluations should be inclusive and holistic, including teaching preparation/delivery, teaching evaluations from students, and any other materials such as exams or syllabi. The goal of this approach is to make sure that the evaluation is not based on one data point but rather understand “the multiple means of which a faculty member can be evaluated.”

For evaluators involved in the reviews, he recommends doing a comparison of data across previous semesters, an evaluation of student feedback, and an assessment of “bottleneck” points for students in the coursework.

Using Annual Reflection Practices to Improve Institutional Success

Goodman recounted a best practice he found for encouraging faculty to understand student and peer reviews. For a qualitative course evaluation, he has his faculty bring in a black permanent marker and multi-colored highlighters along with their printed student comments. He asks them to think of these comments in terms of “control” or “no control” and then “positive” or “negative” to give context to the reviews. For example, he provided samples of a student saying “hate the haunted classroom” as a no control/negative comment and “really organized lectures – easy to follow” as a control/positive review. He encourages faculty to find central themes in these comments by breaking down what reviews are truly useful.

Finally, he explained how faculty utilize these reflection practices to see teaching improvement immediately. The process includes making sure faculty have easy access to information, support in identifying problems and altering pedagogy which may lower SET (Society for Education and Training) ratings, and understanding of the metrics on which they are evaluated. 

Goodman shares, “The way that teaching improvement happens is when you’re able to sit back and look at everything and say ‘OK, these were my strengths, these are some areas for improvement, and these are some insights that I’ve gained.'”

What Comes Next?

Goodman outlined three next steps that could be beneficial to an institution with their annual review process. First, he encouraged a working relationship with the provost’s office to clarify key components of the review process. Second, consult with the teaching center to coordinate professional development opportunities around use of SETs. And third, explore ways to explicitly align review, promotion, and tenure components with a designated data reporting structure such as Interfolio’s Faculty Activity Reporting module.

The 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit made clearer than ever that a digital transformation around online faculty affairs, academic work, and research impact is well under way—everywhere.

The July 2020 virtual event, held over four days, drew over 830 registrants from 369 higher education institutions and research organizations across the globe.

Here’s a look at four compelling themes around modern higher education faculty and technology that emerged:

  • The digital Faculty Information System as modern necessity
  • Diversity and inclusion in the faculty professional landscape
  • Teaching and digital faculty data
  • Online faculty work (and flexibility) in higher education

1. The digital Faculty Information System as modern necessity

It was clear from the 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit that faculty affairs professionals today are paying a great deal of attention to the proper role of modern technology in faculty information, workflows, and impact tracking.

“It used to be you spent all available energy just trying to figure out how many faculty there were in the biology department,” said Emory University’s Paul Welty in the opening panel. “Well, now we can answer that question in 30 seconds—and all the rest of that energy can be spent on interesting things… We’re freed from all the tedious work.” 

In this kickoff session (“Establishing the Faculty Information System”) the conversation between Nina Seppala, Deputy Director at University College London School of Management; Charlton McIlwain, Vice Provost for Faculty Engagement & Development at New York University; and Paul Welty, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation and Faculty Affairs at Emory University focused emphatically on how transitioning to a modern online Faculty Information System has contributed to institutional success.

The critical role of the dedicated Faculty Information System was further evident from the lively attendance at the 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit’s many “how-to” sessions.

We heard how Interfolio has meant a digital transformation of faculty affairs at Tulane University in Louisiana.

From “Innovative Uses of Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure” with Alysia Loshbaugh of Tulane University, to “Configuring & Understanding Your University Data” presented by Arizona State University’s Susan Barrett, Lily Roggenkamp, and Katherine Sackman, to many others, it was largely professionals at Interfolio institutions who led these sessions.

Read more on our blog about why Gartner listed Faculty Information Systems as one of the “Top 10 Strategic Technologies Impacting Higher Education in 2020.”

2. Diversity and inclusion in the faculty professional landscape

Across the board, 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit participants affirmed that inclusivity, diversity, and resistance to patterns of unequal treatment are of pressing concern for the higher education faculty affairs community. 

A highlight of the entire virtual event was the panel discussion on “Achieving a Diverse and Inclusive Faculty Workforce in the 2020s.” (Watch it here)

Interfolio staff moderators Max Swagler and Shawniece Disney highlighted some concrete data on faculty recruitment that is run through the Interfolio hiring module.

The 2020 Interfolio Summit session “Achieving a Diverse and Inclusive Faculty Workforce in the 2020s" includes some data on faculty hiring through Interfolio's technology.

The panel produced a nuanced and open conversation between Genyne H. Boston, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University; Christy Pichichero, Associate Professor of French and History and Director of Faculty Diversity for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at George Mason University, and Zulema Valdez, Associate Vice Provost for the Faculty and Professor at University of California, Merced, about the past, present, and future of diversity and inclusion in U.S. higher education.

You can watch the recording of this session here. And for more information about how Interfolio helps, check out our recent post, 3 Practical Resources for a Diverse and Inclusive Faculty Workplace.

3. Teaching and digital faculty data

Faculty teaching responsibilities was another main theme that emerged during these discussions about where academic affairs and modern technologies intersect. 

It became evident that when faculty activity data is more systematically tracked and more fully considered, the institution is substantially more equipped to support faculty in their instructional role. 

The 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit session “Tracking Faculty Accomplishments to Improve Teaching" addressed how activity data can lead to higher education classroom improvement.

Because of the traditionally major role that publishing research plays in a professor’s job security and advancement, and because of the immediate and more marketable connection between high-profile research and revenue, much development in faculty activity reporting has historically been biased toward research.

Yet, in 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit sessions like “Tracking Faculty Accomplishments to Improve Teaching,” from Andy Goodman of the University of Missouri, attendees expressed great interest in the connection between investment in faculty resources and the institution’s ultimate capacity to deliver quality instruction. Goodman’s session walked users through how to make use of the Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting module to support faculty professional development around teaching.

Get our free white paper on Data in Faculty Affairs here.

4. Online faculty work (and flexibility) in higher education

The fourth and final major theme we’ll note here from the 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit was that of agility.

Across the board, it was clear that the pandemic circumstances have produced very different outcomes depending upon how fully an institution is set up to conduct online faculty affairs, and how they manage change.

In best practices sessions on using the Interfolio Faculty Information System, our Professional Services team addressed approaches to digital transformation around higher education technology.

In a number of sessions, including “Enterprise-wide Change Management: Creating Engagement & Buy-in” with UCLA’s Erika Chau, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Personnel, and Penn’s Rob Nelson, Executive Director for Academic Technology & Planning, attendees heard specifically what role various Interfolio modules played in COVID-19 business continuity.

Many higher education academic affairs professionals related how Interfolio has been critical for business continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In “Fostering Success in Decentralized Environments”—featuring Penn’s Julie Orts, Senior Business Systems Analyst, and Michelle Kenney Shears, Associate Director of Faculty Affairs, as well as Yale’s Audrey Bribiescas, Faculty Services Manager and Pam Bosward, Assistant Director of Faculty Affairs—we heard more about how to check in and remain nimble around technology usage throughout the year.

Speakers from UCLA and University of Pennsylvania addressed "Enterprise-wide Change Management" around faculty technology in a 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit session.

And in “Best Practices for Communicating, Training, and Supporting Your Campus,” Doris Ng of University of Washington School of Medicine addressed both the conceptual importance of thoughtful user support on campus, and the nitty-gritty tactics like which email templates to create.

Speakers from University of Washington School of Medicine and other higher education institutions discussed best practices for transitioning to remote faculty work.

To learn more about Interfolio’s recommendations for making a rapid transition to online faculty evaluations, download our free eBook here.

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We’re very grateful to our presenters for their valuable insights and to the thoughtful participation of our hundreds of attendees. Ask us about the 2020 Interfolio Virtual Summit here, and keep an eye out for our 2021 Summit next summer!

Higher education leaders have known for many years which gaps need to be closed to create a more diverse and inclusive faculty body. So what are your peer institutions doing successfully? What methods and tools are they using?

If you are involved in ensuring an inclusive environment for faculty at your institution, here are some practical resources you can consult to understand what seems to be working today.

1. How to create transparency around applicant pool data—during the faculty hiring process

It is critical to build as much data as possible about the demographics of faculty job applicants. At some innovative institutions, such as the University of Maryland—Baltimore County or the University of Notre Dame, an appropriate administrative professional such as an associate provost or a chief diversity officer can view the aggregate, anonymized self-reported EEO data for a search, in real time. Then they can compare the search to field-wide data, such as the National Survey of Earned Doctorates. Knowing where the pool falls below national rates of demographic representation can inform the search chair and/or the dean so they can take appropriate action.

Get an overview of how your peers are improving diversity and inclusion in faculty recruitment in our recent white paper, The Modern Faculty Recruitment Playbook.

2. How to make faculty professional review processes transparent, and centrally viewable

One major factor in why inequitable patterns of faculty advancement persist—both in the US and internationally—is inconsistent documentation and communication around actual professional reviews of faculty members.

More and more modern higher education institutions (from Dartmouth College to Haverford College to Tulane University to the majority of California State Universities) are recognizing the transformative value of successfully managing faculty review workflows in a centralized way that both:

  • Defines the official steps and requirements for everyone involved
  • Tracks what actually happened in the decision process along the way

This type of digital transformation goes far beyond efficiency and business necessity. It is about clarity, transparency, and the humanity of the scholars.

Get an overview of how your peers are making faculty tenure, promotion, and professional reviews more equitable in our Best Practices Checklist for Promotion and Tenure Reviews.

3. How to build a reliable source of information about faculty responsibilities and advancement patterns

Finally, a key factor that leaders in higher education faculty affairs are increasingly addressing is the historic invisibility of faculty workload distribution. By strategically approaching how information is gathered and shared—or even simply making the move to treat faculty information as its own need, especially around employment agreements and expectations for success in their role—the college or university eliminates a historic cloud that obscured persistent inequalities.

Learn which concrete challenges to tackle, and how officially tracking faculty employment expectations serves equity, in our free eBook, Mapping Scholar Careers.

We are pleased to announce our full agenda for the Interfolio Virtual Summit, July 9-10, 2020. This two-day event will bring together higher education leaders for networking and knowledge exchange in support of this year’s theme, A Community of Practice: Fostering Engagement & Impact in Higher Ed. In support of our clients in higher education, we have made the Summit complimentary to attend, so that even more individuals can participate, thus amplifying the impact for departments, colleges, and institutions.  

Featured sessions include:

  • Addressing Enterprise-wide Change Management: Creating Campus Engagement and Buy-in with UCLA and University of Pennsylvania
  • Bringing our Vision to Life: New Product Development and Research at Interfolio
  • Innovative Uses of Review, Promotion, and Tenure with Tulane University
  • Fostering Success in Decentralized Environments with Yale University and University of Pennsylvania

The Interfolio Virtual Summit will offer specific tracks for current Interfolio clients, as well as future clients. The Interfolio Professional Services team will present pre-Summit product deep dives for existing clients. Additionally, networking and meet-the-speaker sessions will provide opportunities to meet and learn from peers.

Summit Series

We will continue to build the Community of Practice during our Summit Series, which includes these sessions:

  • Best Practices for the Faculty Information System with the University of Chicago, August 
  • Recruiting Global Talent with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), September
  • How Butler University Highlights Faculty Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity with Faculty Activity Reporting, October

We believe in the power of community. Indeed, service to the community is one of Interfolio’s core values. We look forward to seeing you, virtually, for the Interfolio Summit.

“It was so great to have the camaraderie of colleagues from across the spectrum who actually know and understand what I do. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and this was the first time that I’ve attended a conference/summit that was focused purely on the peer review process and its necessary tools, rather than the process as part of HR.”

-SUMMIT ATTENDEE, 2019

“Your summit was incredibly well organized and thoughtfully scheduled.”

-SUMMIT ATTENDEE, 2019

“Great experience to connect with Interfolio and peer institutions. It was especially helpful to have an opportunity to problem-solve.”

-SUMMIT ATTENDEE, 2019