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MFAP 3-Year Pilot Evaluation Report: Year 1

Executive Summary

 

Introduction

In academic year 2019–20, the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity and the College of the Liberal Arts partnered to sponsor a three-year pilot Midcareer Faculty Advancement Program (MFAP). The goal of the program is to facilitate the ability of midcareer faculty members who are interested in career progression to advance to the rank of professor. Year one program objectives were to create and implement a scaffold of resources toward this end. MFAP included components, a faculty director, peer faculty coaching communities, faculty mentors, professional development workshops, writing and creative workgroups were tailored to foster a better work/life balance; improve balance between research and the extraordinary service often performed by associate professors, especially minoritized faculty members; support the navigation of workplace climate concerns related to social identities; and bring greater understanding and transparency to the promotion process.

MFAP was launched in fall 2020. Twenty associate professors were selected for participation and appointed as MFAP Fellows. Each Fellow was then matched with a more senior faculty Mentor and one of two faculty coaches. The director was available to meet with Fellows throughout the year. 

MFAP was evaluated at two points during the 2020–2021 academic year. Surveys were distributed and descriptive data collected at the midpoint of year one (December 2020), and again at the end (May 2021) and focused on the perceived value of the program to Fellows and how well the program was meeting its stated objectives. Each workshop was evaluated immediately following its completion.

Was MFAP of Value?

Faculty Fellows reported that they valued the program and its parts. Of particular significance were opportunities to engage with peer MFAP Fellows through workshops and Scholars’ Circles, the latter of which are writing and creative workgroups that were created at the midyear point in response to interests expressed by Fellows. Among the Fellows who participated, all reported that this addition to the program was a “very” or “somewhat” valuable” resource that enhanced their ability to focus on writing/research. Not all Fellows were able to fully participate in each component of the program. While this was primarily due to scheduling and leaves of absence, further exploration of additional possibilities is warranted. 

Were Goal and Objectives Met?

The program components were successfully built and implemented, despite Covid-19-related workplace restrictions. Year-one observations indicate that the program is making strong progress toward meeting its goal to facilitate career advancement for associate professors, particularly those of color. Most Fellows report that the program has facilitated research-related goal-setting, and accomplishment, enhanced their knowledge of promotion processes and their confidence in their ability to advance; and many reported improved and more satisfying workplace and work/life balance, though many also reported that Penn State department/college/campus-level service commitments remained unreasonably high. Scholarly production was mixed – many reported increased manuscript submissions, for example, but not all. At the end of year-one, several Fellows reported that MFAP participation informed their decision to submit their dossiers for advancement, and these Fellows are currently awaiting 2021-22 promotion decisions.

Survey findings will be used to revise and improve the program as appropriate for years two and three.