An Exploration of Contingent Faculty Experiences at a Private, Liberal Arts College
Keywords:contingent faculty, external factors, internal factors, interpersonal relationships, institutional support systems, qualitative study, voice
AbstractBoth internal and external factors have incited higher education institutions to reevaluate and restructure antiquated policies and practices that influence contingent faculty support systems and contingent faculty interpersonal relationships with their institutional community members. Higher education institutions now employ over a half million contingent faculty nationwide, with numbers of contingent faculty hiring continuing to grow (Maldonado & Riman, 2009).Currently, much of the research on contingent faculty stresses the use of contingent faculty and full-time faculty perceptions of contingent faculty at the community college level (Meixner, 2010; Tomanek, 2010; Wallin, 2004). Differences between full-time and contingent faculty are difficult to label because of the diversity of contingent faculty motivations (Gappa, Austin, & Trice, 2005; Wagoner, 2007). Therefore, depending on how researchers conduct their study questions contingent faculty either seem satisfied, vulnerable and disenfranchised, or somewhere in the middle which produces a confusing picture of contingent faculty experiences (Wagoner, 2007; Waltman et al., 2012). This qualitative study explores contingent faculty experiences at a single institution through their own voice. Focus on an interpretative phenomenological approach allows for rich, descriptive storytelling that communicates the uniqueness and distinctiveness of the contingent faculty’s experiences, and their perceptions of how they identify and connect with their institutional support systems and institutional members. Such specificity also highlights the institution’s cultural values and norms. While some shared experiences were similar among contingent faculty, there were also experiences unique to the individual. Exploration of contingent faculty voice is imperative in driving institutional platforms that aid in creating positive institutional support systems for contingent faculty.
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