Innovations that Inspire

Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University, School of Business

Category:

Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States
Accreditation Status: Business and Accounting


Innovation Statement

The school deployed an individualized faculty evaluation approach by incorporating a six-path model that energizes and rewards faculty excellence irrespective of path and increases instructional quality and research productivity.


Call to Action

As business schools face greater resource constraints and compete for the best talent, it has become increasingly important to reconceive how best to design and promote teaching and scholarship excellence. The Wake Forest University School of Business identified a very real need to treat faculty members as unique and diverse, leveraging that strength to enrich the individual as well as his or her profession. The goal was to recognize and value a diversity of passions and skill sets among faculty to drive superior performance in instructional quality and research productivity.


Innovation Description

The school created a streamlined Faculty Path Model, harnessing the talents and passions of faculty to maximize their potential. This model sets out six possible paths: four for tenured faculty, one for tenure-track faculty, and one for non-tenure-track professors of practice and teaching professors. Each path specifies distinct emphases on teaching, research, and service, to connect with individual interests and objectives and align with overall school objectives. The duration of path assignments was engineered to last for three years, providing a balance of consistency and flexibility. Faculty members enjoyed a multi-year window to adjust to a given path and achieve success within it. However, those who wished to navigate to other paths could do so within a reasonable time frame.

This effort is structured around two key guiding principles. First, faculty members have different strengths, goals, and passions. This point was combined with the observation that, institutionally, we benefit from excellence in all three domains of teaching, research, and service. By allowing faculty members to essentially create custom mixes of these activities, contributions may be optimized and faculty success and satisfaction may grow.

Additionally, transparency was essential to achieving faculty buy-in. It was imperative to detail aspects of each layer of the model in an open forum so that path requests could be made purposefully and strategically. It was also critical to demonstrate that a level playing field existed, despite differentiated tracks. Providing equivalent merit raises for teaching-oriented and research-oriented tracks spoke volumes about the school’s commitment to the multi-path model and appreciation of a wide range of types of contributions.


Impact

The path model creates a dynamic learning environment, fueled by faculty who are able to leverage their greatest strengths and interests, leading to rich classroom experiences and remarkable research. It also provides leadership with an efficient, transparent, and holistic vehicle to maintain the highest academic quality; manage school operations; and effectively steward school resources. The model provides a useful framework for a faculty member’s professional development. Faculty are positioned to seize greater control of their career progression, make deliberate path decisions, and enjoy reward for teaching and research excellence.

This model is self-directed, not punitive, placing the responsibility for performance with the faculty member, enabling him or her to chart a course to deliver superior performance. The Faculty Path Model has also proven to be an immeasurably useful recruitment tool. Potential new hires are able to visualize their role and contributions in the organization. The school is able to clearly demonstrate how contributions are valued and evaluated. This has enabled the school to attract academically qualified and professionally qualified faculty at a time when many organizations are struggling with a critical shortage of dynamic talent.

The Faculty Path Model enhances school accreditation efforts, providing clear expectations, sending a clear signal that even the most productive scholar must meet or exceed teaching standards. The school views individual differences as a distinctive strength, not a liability. The path system eschews antiquated structures and positions the entire organization to better fulfill the singular vision of academic excellence.