The transition to R1 presents opportunities and challenges as DU continues to grow and change. According to faculty responding to the COACHE Faculty Satisfaction Survey and the 2020 “R1 Report” administered by the VPFA and Faculty Senate, DU faculty have concerns about how teaching will be valued (and evaluated). Faculty also worry about increased workloads, especially in terms of teaching, mentoring, and student support. At DU, these issues are accentuated by the distinctiveness of our Teaching and Professional Faculty (TPF) lines—those not on the tenure track, but an essential part of the DU faculty. In particular, as we know from the Teaching and Professional Faculty white paper (2021), teaching faculty who often have fewer research expectations, may face, or fear facing, increased workload both in terms of teaching and service, a lack of respect, and increased precarity, as do our adjunct faculty colleagues.
Support and programming aimed at valuing teaching, workload equity, attention to rank and series, unfunded research, and support for TPF and adjunct faculty is key to holding on to our distinctiveness, to the promise of the teacher-scholar model, and to achieving R1 our way. We will achieve this through a suite of five strategic investments: two are new; two are either expansions or evolutions of planned or existing initiatives with a three-year runway; and one is a repetition of the COACHE faculty satisfaction survey to inform future efforts. Program implementation will be faculty-driven, responsive to existing and emergent faculty concerns, and aimed at improving department or program climate—the number one reason faculty leave institutions. These initiatives amplify and expand on research-based projects already underway, maximizing existing intellectual resources, and building on a model of stakeholder, especially faculty, co-creation.
The immediate benefits of these initiatives are building capacity for teaching excellence, workload equity, professional development across the faculty lifecycle, and across rank and series—but also rebuilding community among faculty who have been separated during the long pandemic, and for whom “quality of colleagues” is a most valuable asset, as reflected in the COACHE data. The longer-term benefits are a reinvigorated scholar-teacher model, which may be DU’s distinctive contribution to R1 culture, and how we maintain and advance our identity and commitment to transformational education as we make this exciting, but difficult, transition. To be clear, faculty come to DU because they see themselves as “teacher scholars”—a core part of their professional identity. Maintaining and expanding the conditions for the teacher-scholars to grow in this institutional identity is vital to faculty satisfaction, talent retention, and a high-functioning, diverse faculty committed to educating and mentoring the next generation of thinkers and doers in the classroom and beyond.