Teaching and Professional Faculty

Non-tenure track faculty are a growing population of faculty in higher education. Here at DU, We’ve created and professionalized our faculty off the tenure track by creating a series of Teaching and Professional Faculty.


In 2015, the University of Denver joined a growing cadre of higher education institutions that are changing policies and procedures to honor the contributions of full-time faculty off of the tenure track (Pullias Center, n.d.). These changes and best practices include full time employment, longer term contracts, opportunities for advancement and promotion, and participation in shared governance. DU has taken steps to create a more collegial work environment for all faculty, with attention to the Teaching and Professional Faculty, through the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs.

Appointed Faculty by Series pie chart

National Background

Approximately 70% of faculty in the United States are off the tenure track (AAUP , 2018) – a statistic that is widely cited to highlight the changing role of the faculty in U.S. higher education. This number takes into account all non-tenure track faculty – those in full time, part time, adjunct instructor, lecturer, or research roles. Increasingly literature and research are parsing these groups to better understand the differences among faculty roles and experiences and some institutions are working to ameliorate these disparities.

Tenure Track Trends bar chart


Definitions of Faculty Series

The following definitions are provided from the University of Denver’s Policies and Procedures Relating to Faculty Appointment, Promotion, & Tenure.

“Faculty appointments fall into the following series: Tenure-Line Professorial Series, Professorial Series in University Libraries, Teaching Professorial Series, Clinical Professorial Series, Professor of the Practice Series, Research Professorial Series, Adjunct Professorial Series, Visiting Professorial Series, In-Residence Series, and the Emeritus Professorial Series. These categories of faculty appointments and their associated titles are described below. Appointments that use categories other than those specified herein are not to be considered “faculty” appointments” (p. 9).

Tenure Line Professorial Series

The tenure track is a professor’s pathway to promotion, academic job security, and academic freedom through tenure. A professor who is on the tenure track is expected to go up for a tenure review 6 years after starting the position. The tenure review evaluates a professor’s contributions in three areas: research, teaching, and service to the university. Ranks include assistant (untenured); associate and full professor.

Professorial Series in University Libraries

The University library faculty are faculty whose primary responsibility are to serve and work in the University Library.  Ranks include instructor, assistant, associate and full professor.

Teaching Professorial Series

The Teaching Professorial Series is appropriate for appointments where special factors, such as experience or stature, may qualify the appointee as an excellent teacher in a particular field. At least 90% of the position is dedicated to teaching, participation in shared governance, and service to the University, profession, and public, and between 0% and 10% shall be devoted to scholarship and creative activity. Ranks include Teaching Professor, Teaching Associate Professor, Teaching Assistant Professor, and Teaching Instructor.

Clinical Professorial Series

The Clinical Professorial Series is appropriate where appointments involve primary responsibilities in specialized professional practice including teaching, supervising student internships, training, and participating in other practice components of degree programs. Responsibilities of clinical faculty members may encompass any area of professional practice and/or technical expertise and may include professional development. Ranks include Clinical Professor, Clinical Associate Professor, Clinical Assistant Professor, and Clinical Instructor.

Professor of the Practice Series

Faculty members in the Professor of the Practice Series have expertise, achievements, and reputations developed over a sustained period of time that qualify them to be distinguished professionals in an area of practice, although they might not have academic credentials or experience. A primary function of faculty members in the Professors of the Practice Series is to provide students with connections to the professional fields the students will be entering. This series includes the ranks of Professor of the Practice, Associate Professor of the Practice, and Assistant Professor of the Practice.

Research Professorial Series

The Research Professorial Series is appropriate for research positions in an academic unit. This series includes the ranks of Research Professor, Research Associate Professor, and Research Assistant Professor.

Adjunct Professorial Series

Adjunct faculty members fall into two categories. The first category consists of faculty members whose major assignment is in another academic unit of the University or outside the University. These faculty appointments are renewable and do not necessarily imply a remunerative relationship with the University. The second category is comprised of term-limited faculty members who are hired and paid in a non-benefitted capacity to teach on a per course basis. This series includes the ranks of Adjunct Professor, Adjunct Associate Professor, and Adjunct Assistant Professor.

Visiting Professorial Series

Appointments in the Visiting Professorial Series are term-limited appointments. The Visiting Professorial Series includes the ranks of Visiting Professor, Visiting Associate Professor, and Visiting Assistant Professor. In addition, “Visiting” may be added to the title of faculty members in other Faculty Series where appropriate. For example, faculty members may have the title of Visiting Research Professor, Visiting Teaching Professor, Visiting Clinical Professor, Visiting Professor of the Practice, and so on. However, the designation “Visiting” is not used as a designation for an adjunct appointment.

In-Residence Series

Appointments in the In-Residence Series are term-limited appointments. The In-Residence Series is appropriate to designate special contractual arrangements such as Poet-in-Residence, Artist-in-Residence, Scholar-in-Residence, or Executive-In-Residence. The length of appointment for faculty members in the In-Residence Series is usually less than two years.

Emeritus Professorial Series

The Emeritus Professorial Series includes the ranks of Emeritus Professor, Emeritus Associate Professor, Emeritus Teaching Professor, Emeritus Teaching Associate Professor, Emeritus Clinical Professor, Emeritus Clinical Associate Professor, Emeritus Professor of the Practice, Emeritus Associate Professor of the Practice, Emeritus Research Professor, and Emeritus Research Associate Professor, and is used to designate distinguished faculty members in retirement.

Creating Respectful, Inclusive and Collegial Culture for Teaching and Professional Faculty: A Scorecard

At DU, the office of the Vice President for Faculty Affairs has adopted a framework to analyze our policies and practices to create a respectful culture for all faculty. The framework looks at employment equity, academic freedom and autonomy, flexibility, professional growth, collegiality and respect. Institutions that attend to these areas have positive working environments, increased faculty satisfaction, increased commitment to the organization, and a more diverse faculty.

The following chart acts as a “scorecard” to help understand DU’s strengths and areas for growth in supporting Teaching and Professional Faculty.

The framework comes from The White Paper on Teaching and Professional Faculty – Institutionalizing a Culture of Respect for Teaching and Professional Faculty authored by Dr. Laura E. Sponsler, Clinical Assistant Professor, Higher Education. The White Paper reviewed literature about full-time non-tenure track faculty and faculty work, shared information about the different faculty lines at DU, and analyzed extant data to examine understand how well DU has institutionalized policies and practices to support TPF.

The findings are organized in the following chart that acts as a “scorecard” to help understand DU’s strengths and areas for growth in supporting Teaching and Professional Faculty.

Framework for Rethinking Faculty Work and Workplaces

Consistent Institutionalization
Inconsistent Institutionalization
Not Institutionalized

Employment Equity Regularize hiring
Clear role definitions
Clear contracts
Compensation and benefits
Appropriate office space; clerical support and equipment
Academic Freedom and Autonomy Protection and Academic Freedom
Involvement in Governance University Level
Flexibility Involvement in Governance (Ability to participate in campus life)
Professional Growth Promotion and evaluation
Professional Development and Mentoring
Collegiality Systematic socialization
Involvement in governance (attending meetings and participating on committees)
Respect all policy recommendations relate to this area
The scorecard is overwhelmingly “yellow” and highlights inconsistent institutionalization efforts across campus. This scorecard could and should be adapted for units/colleges with additional data for more granular analysis and results. There might be areas that certain units are excelling or need additional supports; this is not known at this time as additional data are needed from units to understand the micro-cultures of academic work for DU’s faculty.

For further background information about full-time non-tenure track faculty, please see this Literature Review. Additional information about faculty mentoring can be found on the Teaching and Professional Faculty Lifecycle: An Aspirational Model for the Onboarding and Mentoring of Teaching and Professional Faculty page.


American Association of University Professors. (2010 and 2018). Policies and reports. https://www.aaup.org/reports-publications/aaup-policies-reports

Gappa, J. M., Austin, A. E., & Trice, A. G. (2007). Rethinking faculty work: Higher education’s strategic imperative. Jossey-Bass.

Kezar, A. (2012). Embracing non-tenure track faculty: Changing campuses for the new faculty majority. Routledge

Pullias Center for Higher Education (n.d). https://pullias.usc.edu/

History of Support for Teaching and Professional Faculty


Creation and Adaption of new APT

Creation and Adaption of new APT

As part of the most recent APT revision, the Senate in close collaboration with the BOT, expanded the professorial series to create full time lines for faculty off the tenure track (Section 2.2 in APT). Prior to this DU had mostly lecturers on one-year contracts. The series of faculty include: tenure-line, professorial series in university libraries, teaching, clinical, professor of the practice, research professor, adjunct, and visiting.  Any faculty can have a visiting option. While the creation of these series was a debated topic, it is a pride point by many that DU reduced the contingency of our faculty and created multi-year contracts and a promotion pathway. At the time the promotion approach was modeled on tenure-track faculty.


Pathways to Promotion Workshops

Pathways to Promotion Workshops

The faculty senate president convened a panel on pathways to promotion for the non-tenure track faculty (NTT).  Ever since, there has been an annual panel which is now co-sponsored with Faculty Senate to share best practices and connect faculty from around the university.


Ad Hoc Committee on Non-Tenure Track Faculty

Ad Hoc Committee on Non-Tenure Track Faculty

The Faculty Senate convened an Ad Hoc Committee on Non-Tenure-Track Faculty to better understand the experiences of faculty off the tenure track.


Kate Willink is appointed as Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs

Kate Willink is appointed as Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs


Increased focus on Teaching and Professional Faculty

Increased focus on Teaching and Professional Faculty

Dr. Laura E. Sponsler, Clinical Assistant Professor, Higher Education, is appointed to serve as the Resident-Scholar for Teaching and Professional Faculty.  In this role, Dr. Sponsler works to clarify and educate the DU community about the role of faculty off the tenure track by sharing best practices and current research.


Feb 2020

The Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and Faculty Senate co-sponsored a Provost Conference: Summit of Shared Governance which brought internationally renowned higher education experts, Dr. Adrianna Kezar, 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, and Dr. Matt Hartley, Associate Dean and Professor, Higher Education, University of Pennsylvania.  Dr. Hartley focused on the role of shared governance and Dr. Kezar shared her expertise on non-tenure track faculty.  Here is the full agenda for the summit.  In addition to Dr. Kezar’s afternoon keynote which focused on teaching and professional faculty we had this afternoon breakout: “Teaching & Professional Faculty: Roles, Respect, Rights,” designed for faculty and facilitated by Dr. Laura E. Sponsler & Dr. Art Jones., Professor Emeritus.


Apr 2020

The Faculty Senate passed a motion  to change the nomenclature of full time non tenure track faculty: “It is moved to formally change the nomenclature of “non-tenure track” faculty and “contingent” faculty to “Teaching and Professional Track” faculty. Further that “Teaching and Professional Track” faculty replace the older terms in all relevant DU documents, reports and communications as soon as reasonably possible.”


Summer 2020

MOARS teaching and professional faculty group (Mentoring and Onboarding Across Rank and Series) was created out of the DU symposium.  MOARS is tasked with designing a new model and plan for mentoring for faculty on and off the tenure track.


Start of Winter FLC: Teaching and Professional Faculty Tools for Success

Start of Winter FLC: Teaching and Professional Faculty Tools for Success, a year-long FLC designed for teaching and professional faculty in the assistant rank at the University of Denver.

2021Current and Future Initiatives

Spring Session FLC

Spring Session FLC: Teaching and Professional Faculty Tools for Success