Adjunct Faculty in Community Colleges

Adjunct Faculty in Community CollegesAdjunct Faculty in Community Colleges: An Academic Administrator's Guide to Recruiting, Supporting, and Retaining Great Teachers Desna L. Wallin (Ed.). Anker Publishing: Bolton, MA. 2005, 227 pages. $39.95, Cloth, ISBN 1-882982-81-9.

Desna L. Wallin's book, Adjunct Faculty in Community Colleges." An Academic Administrator's Guide to Recruiting, Supporting, and Retaining Great Teachers, provides campus leaders with a new resource to improve institutional practice regarding employment of part-time faculty. This work is an edited volume published by Anker in 2005 and is comprised of 13 chapters written by community college presidents, academic administrators, faculty, and university researchers.

Community colleges are facing new challenges in the 21st century because of budgetary constraints, looming retirements in the faculty and leadership ranks, demands for new curricula and delivery modalities, and a student population that is becoming increasingly diverse and complex. These developments mean public two-year institutions must become more efficient and effective in providing educational programs and services to their communities. Many institutions have realized new efficiencies through increased use of adjunct faculty. Wallin's goal in publishing Adjunct Faculty in Community Colleges is to explain how campus leaders can now become more effective in selecting, developing, supporting, and retaining this critical human resource.

Wallin has organized the volume in three parts. Part One presents Wallin's excellent overview of the text, and this overview is supplemented by research reported by university scholars. Akroyd and Caison report on their analysis of recent data from the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty. They describe how adjunct faculty compare with their full-time counterparts on factors such as demographics and job satisfaction. This work is complemented by research findings presented by Phillips and Campbell regarding faculty development at Florida's community colleges. Results from these two studies paint a picture of important similarities and differences concerning adjunct faculty and their full-time colleagues.

Akroyd and Caison's comparison of adjunct and full time instructors reveals that the two populations are quite similar regarding (a) age, gender, and academic qualifications, and (b) overall job satisfaction. But there are important differences in how these two populations perceive job security, advancement opportunities, and benefits. Adjunct faculty are significantly less satisfied with these aspects of their employment. To date, these lower levels of satisfaction have not significantly affected community colleges. Institutions have been able to replace departing adjuncts with new ones. However, Akroyd and Caison's research suggests practitioners should not overlook the possibility that a dissatisfied adjunct faculty could have serious implications for institutional stability.

Phillips and Campbell report on a statewide survey of mathematics and communications faculty at Florida community colleges regarding the value of certain professional development activities. These authors found that adjunct and full-time faculty agreed that new faculty orientation programs were a very valuable professional development activity. However, they differed, for example, on the importance of (a) travel money, (b) on campus workshops, and (c) access to professional development materials in the college library. The first two items were characterized as very valuable by full-time faculty but less so by adjuncts. Conversely, adjuncts regarded access to on campus professional development materials as more valuable than did their full-time counterparts.

These two chapters provide a sound introduction to critical similarities and differences to be considered by campus leaders working to improve the selection, development, support, and retention of adjuncts. In Parts Two and Three of the book, Wallin's contributors explain how these practices may be initiated or improved.

In Part Two, three sets of authors--Lyons, Gadberry and Burnstad, and Villadson and Anderson--offer helpful suggestions on how community colleges may select and retain quality adjunct faculty. Gadberry and Bumstad provide example documents that may be used in the application and screening process. Villadson and Anderson provide a fine overview of how a Texas community college systematically works to recruit and retain adjunct faculty. Lyons specifically addresses the issue of retention and proposes a model for integrating adjuncts into the culture of the college. Lyons explains how faculty and staff at one institution methodically reviewed the literature on adjunct faculty, conducted their own needs assessment survey, and then used these findings to develop a culture that used mentoring, social activities, and information resources to incorporate adjuncts into the daily life of the institution.

In Part Three, Wallin's contributors focus on the opportunities to develop and support adjunct faculty through technology and other means. Kauffman and Wagoner offer two very different but illuminating accounts of how adjuncts may be developed by online resources. Kauffman describes how a cohort of California community colleges collaborated to build, an online professional development network designed to provide faculty with access to professional development modules. Kauffman found that although online resources like are valuable to all faculty, adjuncts are especially well served when they can continue their development in a setting accommodating their irregular schedules. Wagoner's case study of a Florida community college and its online adjunct training environment shows how integration of adjuncts into the campus culture may be obtained by providing these faculty with access to the Internet, college e-mail, and web-based discussion boards. However, the author's account of the financial hurdles in maintaining such an endeavor confirms that even the best ideas may be set aside without dedicated revenue. Part Three also contains other informative chapters.

Stewart and Werner describe an aggressive orientation, support, and technology program for adjuncts at a community college only employing adjunct faculty. Davis, Helminski, and Smith explain how another institution used a balance of support, inclusion, and collaboration strategies to develop an environment regarded by adjuncts (more than 85%) as responsive to the needs of one college's part-time faculty. Both of these chapters describe how community colleges succeeded in developing and supporting adjuncts through technology and planning.

Wallin's concluding chapter synthesizes key insights offered by her co-authors, and she presents recommendations clearly grounded on what others have reported or explained in the volume. These recommendations stress the importance of a systematic approach to selecting, developing, supporting, and retaining an excellent adjunct faculty. Although colleges may vary greatly, each will be more successful in providing adult learners with such a faculty if campus leaders (a) emphasize communication, (b) design appropriate professional development activities, (c) provide appropriate support services, and (d) maintain a philosophy of inclusion.

Readers who approach the text from a theoretical perspective may be somewhat disappointed because no chapter fully engages the underlying issues of equity and fairness concerning employment of adjuncts. As Cohen and Brawer (2003) note, many community colleges have come to depend on adjuncts as "low cost labor to balance the budget" (p. 85). In many respects, adjunct faculty are the "migrant workers" (Cohen & Brawer, 2003, p. 86) of the new market-driven community college. However, even though these issues are not fully addressed, fair minded readers must acknowledge two mitigating factors.

First, the authors are fully aware of these issues. Readers are invited to investigate them in referenced publications. Second, Wallin's objective is not to wade into the theoretical debates about adjunct faculty and equity in employment. This subject is interesting grist for graduate seminars, but campus leaders have limited options when faced with a finite budget and rising demand for educational programs and services. Wallin's book is specifically directed to those of us who must "make it work." As such, the volume should be read as one intended for practitioners but premised on the belief they are best informed by a literature including works setting aside the traditional dichotomy between research and practice. This book shows us that an integration of research and practice can make a very important and valuable contribution to the literature. Wallin and her colleagues have served us well.