By Kristina Beatty, Communications Manager, Office of the Provost
MSU’s Strategic Plan for 2030 outlines the goal to make MSU a “workplace of choice” – a place where staff and faculty desire to stay and contribute. Essential to this goal is ensuring faculty and staff, of all ranks and positions, have clear pathways to promotion and opportunities for recognition of the various ways they have contributed, and continue to contribute, to the institution.
To achieve this goal, the strategic plan outlines the need to “adopt new promotion and tenure frameworks” that provide clearer pathways to these opportunities. For Kate Birdsall, associate professor and president of the Union of Non-Tenure Faculty at MSU, this means, “People need to be given clear opportunities to advance if and when they have shown that they should be valued by the institution. Having a clear pathway to that not only recognizes the person when they achieve it, but it gives them something to try to achieve.” If employees have a goal to work toward, they are continuing to contribute, and that benefits not only the employer but also the employee.
Representing teaching-focused faculty as the president of UNTF, Birdsall explains one of the more significant accomplishments the collective unit achieved during their recent negotiations with the university was creating a framework for teaching-focused faculty to be promoted. “We employ at least 200 people who don’t have terminal degrees, but who are really good teachers. And we wanted folks, who in some cases have been here for 20 years, to be recognized and to feel forward momentum.” She says that having a step-by-step guide or document of how teaching-focused faculty can find that momentum and achieve it is a huge step forward in making MSU a “workplace of choice.”
Beyond clear paths to promotion, Birdsall believes there are other ways to provide recognition and opportunities for collaboration. “At the unit level or the college level, one thing to do could be opportunities for folks to showcase what they’re working on. To have moments where research or teaching communities come together and just have conversations of, ‘this is what I’m doing every day,’” she notes. These efforts can build a sense of community among the various disciplines on campus and between research and teaching communities, fostering growth and understanding across colleges, departments and units. Ultimately, though, Birdsall affirms, “I think people just really want recognition and they want to feel that. Our immediate supervisors, the chairs and the deans do have the ability to make people feel valued.”
In the Office of Faculty and Academic Staff Development, working with staff and faculty on the stages of promotion and growth is a primary focus. Marilyn Amey, assistant provost for Faculty and Academic Staff Development, notes that clearly outlined paths to promotion and recognition are so important because “all members of the community contribute to the inclusive environments we espouse. In their multiple and varied roles, teaching-focused faculty and academic staff are principal educators in achieving student success efforts, among many other institutional goals, so the policies and practices that support these colleagues need to keep up with the significant contributions they make in their respective areas.” Recognizing the important work of faculty and staff, alongside these clear pathways, can improve retention and overall job satisfaction, and honoring their work and service will build trust and foster a greater sense of belonging to the institution which they have contributed so much.
The university and all its employees, staff and faculty alike, recognize the need for promotion pathways and the celebration of accomplishments and achievements. It’s etched into the Strategic Plan for 2030, and leaders at multiple levels are echoing these same sentiments. Supporting colleagues, acknowledging employees, and providing opportunities for momentum and upward movement is an essential catalyst to MSU reaching its goal of being a workplace of choice.