At Bowdoin it is not just the students who are happy.
On Monday, Harvard University's Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) released its ranking of colleges and universities with the highest levels of pre-tenure faculty job satisfaction.
In the baccalaureate category, Bowdoin qualified as "exemplar" in three out of eight categories: Nature of Work (Overall), Nature of Work (Research) and Nature of Work (Teaching).
The "exemplar" designation signifies Bowdoin's rank as one of the top two institutions in the Nature of Work categories among the 38 baccalaureate schools in the survey. The data was compiled from 2006 to 2009, during which time all tenure-track faculty at the College were surveyed.
"Academic leaders at our member institutions request these lists so that they can know to whom to turn about doing something—or several things—right in retaining faculty," said Director of COACHE Kiernan Mathews in a press release.
The Nature of Work (Overall) benchmark is determined by how faculty members spend their time, how many hours they work, and the quality of facilities, computing and clerical services. The Nature of Work (Research) category is based on the amount of time faculty have to conduct research, their research focus, professional assistance gaining grants, travel funds and paid/unpaid leave for research. The Nature of Work (Teaching) classification denotes the level and number of courses taught, the amount of influence tenure-track professors have over what they teach, the number and quality of students taught and professional assistance for improving teaching.
"We have incredibly high standards for our faculty, and we talk about the importance of excellence in teaching and the distinction of research and of creative production," said Dean of Academic Affairs Cristal Collins Judd. "At the same time, we recognize [that] for people to succeed...we have to provide support."
Judd believes the COACHE survey affirms that the College's efforts are paying off. She cited benefits such as the College's parental leave and partner accommodation policies, opportunities to team teach, available research "start-up funds," a recent increase in the sabbatical leave policy, and faculty luncheon seminars to share research as key components of Bowdoin's efforts to "holistically [think] about faculty careers," balancing life in the classroom with life in the wider community.
Assistant Professor of Economics Erik Nelson holds a tenure-track position and is in his first year at Bowdoin. He said he likes that at Bowdoin, "Teaching excellence is just as important as research excellence," noting that balance is one of the reasons he came to the College.
According to Nelson, "A lot of the things [junior faculty] do are [for] whether or not this will improve our chances at tenure," although he agreed with COACHE's recognition of Bowdoin.
Nelson said that while interviewing for a job at Bowdoin, tenure expectations were made clear to him and that within the first semester of getting to Bowdoin, all assistant professors meet with Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Jim Higginbotham and the head of their academic department to discuss "what has to happen and when it will happen."
"We sit down and talk about it for an hour and a half, what's going to happen at the end of the first year, second year, third year...the timeline is very spelled out...how they're going to judge my case is very well laid out as well," said Nelson.
Now in her third year at the College, Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Ryan Ricciardi said the transition to a position in the Bowdoin faculty was easy with both "departmental and collegiate" mentoring on a group and personal level.
"It's hard to get research done in your first year of teaching, but that's a universal truth, not a truth that's specific to Bowdoin," said Ricciardi. "I think there is a lot of encouragement for [doing research]."
Because faculty are "almost always on the cutting edge of their fields in terms of research...teaching is that much better because that means we bring our students with us," said Ricciardi.
The College's COACHE recognition is not the first time the high quality of faculty support has been recognized. Bowdoin was one of six liberal arts colleges to receive the 2009 Alfred P. Sloan Awards for Faculty Career Flexibility for both tenured and tenure-track professors.