In a departure from tradition, earning a Ph.D. is no longer a guarantee of financial or career success in academia. According to the American Association of University Professors, the total number of college professors in the United States has more than doubled since 1980, but the total number of tenure-track faculty has only increased by 22 percent. The average annual salary of an adjunct faculty with a Ph.D. is $26,321, and the average amount of student-loan debt that a Ph.D. graduate accrues is $98,800.
Apart from the commitment the College has made to part-time faculty through the establishment of the Institute for Part-Time Faculty Engagement and Support, numerous teaching support fellowships, and recognition awards, the College is able to now provide part-time faculty with a sabbatical for research and scholarship. The benefit is made possible through a major gift from former MC Foundation Board Member and Board of Trustee Emeritus, Dr. Robert E. Shoenberg. He has pledged $600,000 over a 10-year period to allow three adjunct faculty members a year to take a sabbatical to pursue research, academic, and artistic scholarship that would enhance their ability to obtain full-time faculty employment.
“Dr. Shoenberg approached a group of us because he was concerned by the many chronicled articles that talk about the tight job market for Ph.D.s, and the fact that many recent Ph.D.s who come to us find themselves on the adjunct faculty line for a long time,” said Dr. Carolyn Terry, associate senior vice president for academic affairs. Of MC’s 829 active part-time faculty members, 186 have doctoral degrees. “This could be a change for somebody who has been fairly recently awarded a doctorate … to do some kind of intensive academic, creative, or scientific research to bring themselves up to currency,” Terry said.
I thought that it was at least worth a try to make it possible for some of those people at the College with Ph.Ds. to have some free time from teaching multiple courses in multiple places to work on the research, scholarship, or artists endeavors that they haven’t had time for, because they’re so busy running from pillar to post.
Shoenberg spent his career in academia. After earning a B.A. in English from Amherst College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in English from the University of Michigan, he quickly moved into administration, serving as associate vice president for academic affairs at Buffalo State College, an ACE fellow in academic administration at the University of Southern California, and 14 years as the dean for undergraduate studies at the University of Maryland. Later, as an educational consultant, he visited more than 230 college campuses worldwide, where he found the “adjunctification” of higher education an alarming trend.
“I thought that it was at least worth a try,” Shoenberg said, “to make it possible for some of those people at the College with Ph.Ds. to have some free time from teaching multiple courses in multiple places to work on the research, scholarship, or artists endeavors that they haven’t had time for, because they’re so busy running from pillar to post.”
Terry sees the new program as an extension of MC’s social justice agenda. “We are very committed to providing support to our own students, and at the same time, we have faculty members we are committed to giving professional development to, whether they are full time or part time,” Terry said.
In MC’s current contract, regular part-time faculty are guaranteed a full teaching load for the entire academic year. Terry said that they are going to combine this option with the Shoenberg fellowship, so that for one full semester the faculty will have the sabbatical, and then the second full semester they will have their full teaching commitment—in addition to pedagogical training, mentorship within their own discipline, and access to professional development conferences.
Of all the campuses Shoenberg surveyed over the years, MC was as well-managed as any of the institutions he had seen. “[MC is] particularly good at looking around corners and seeing what’s coming, and at managing resources. There is a spirit about the place. The professors really want to serve the students … and, of course, the students respond in kind.”