Faculty at the Core of the Academic Enterprise: Partnering to Create New Paradigms

Published in:

A National Symposium

November 18–19, 2011

University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras and University of the Sacred Heart
San Juan, Puerto Rico


This article focuses on ways to engage faculty more effectively in the development and execution of strategic priorities within a higher education institution by developing intentional and thoughtful collaborations between faculty and stakeholders in enrollment management, institutional advancement, and a newly emerged area of focus at colleges and universities, environmental sustainability. These strategies for faculty engagement are recommended by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Institute for Capacity Building to bring about the paradigm shifts needed at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and other special mission higher education institutions, to meet the growing demands of diverse student populations. Ultimately, these strategies represent a holistic approach to assisting institutions in increasing student access, retention and graduation rates.


The Institute for Capacity Building (ICB) is a critical service delivery channel within UNCF that provides support, assistance, and advocacy for the organization’s 38 member institutions, all private historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Capacity building within the context of UNCF’s ICB is a systematic, intentional, and strategic process that results in the strengthening of infrastructures, programs, systems, policies, procedures, practices, and human capital that support and sustain an institution’s mission. Capacity building is a proactive exercise that draws on the foundation of existing institutional strength and potential. At the core of capacity building is the recognition that strategic thinking and action about an institution’s areas of challenge and potential are critical to its effectiveness, vitality and sustainability.

Since its inception in 2006, the proactive ICB model has addressed the following key issues:

  • Fundraising and retooling institutional goals in a time of financial crisis;
  • College access for under-represented students
  • Addressing the impact of financial difficulties on student enrollment, retention, and satisfaction issues related to maintaining strong leadership and viable campuses; and
  • Defining and refining academic missions and preparing faculty for the responsibilities of the 21st century academy.

After almost six years of work, a major assumption of ICB’s is that the involvement of faculty in initiatives across the academic enterprise is essential to spurring a paradigm shift in an institution to ensure that institution’s relevance and viability in the 21st century. This assumption is inherent in the ICB model, which, ultimately, is a holistic approach to moving students to and through college.

This discussion focuses on what ICB has learned as a result of using a multi-pronged approach to engage faculty. In addition, we provide recommendations for areas of collaboration within an HBCU or other special mission institution, which can assist that institution in making important paradigm shifts. These recommendations are informed by the collaborative work of four ICB programs: Curriculum and Faculty Enhancement Program (CFEP), Enrollment Management Program (EMP), Institutional Advancement Program (IAP), and Facilities and Infrastructure Program (FIEP), a Building Green Initiative.

Foundational ICB Strategies

ICB has used four strategies to provide assistance to UNCF member institutions: Institutional Grants; 2) Consultative and Technical Assistance; 3) Professional Development; and 4) Establishing Communities of Practice. ICB has awarded planning grants and larger implementation grants to UNCF institutions. The program directors assign content experts as consultants to institutional grantees to provide technical assistance during the life of the grants. ICB conducts institutional and network-wide assessments that inform the development of initiatives and focus of consultations. In the area of professional development, ICB has supported the participation of UNCF stakeholders in established professional development programs such as the Harvard Seminar for New Presidents and Harvard Institute for Educational Management Program. Further, ICB has developed its own professional development opportunities for UNCF institutional stakeholders.

The building of Communities of Practice for stakeholders at UNCF member institutions is a crucial strategy for ensuring the success of the other three strategies employed. Through learning institutes, ICB convenes practitioners and content experts to engage in focused discussions about their practice and the range of issues, challenges, and opportunities attendant to their work at member institutions. On-going discussions are encouraged and facilitated through the use of technology and coordinated by ICB program directors.

Evaluation and Sustainability

The ICB model employs both formative and summative assessment of our initiatives by stakeholders at the UNCF grantee institutions, ICB program directors, and external evaluators. Further, the member institutions participating in ICB programs are charged to develop long-term sustainability plans to ensure the institutionalization of the initiatives beyond the life of ICB grants and technical assistance.

After nearly six years of implementing program initiatives, conducting program assessments, continuous engagement with higher education stakeholders, and a comprehensive UNCF Network Assessment (supported by a grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation and published in 2010), the directors of the CFEP, EMP, IAP and the FIEP Building Green Initiative have learned the following lessons:

  • Greater engagement of faculty in enrollment management processes has potential to positively impact student retention and graduation (Carey-Butler, 2011);
  • Greater faculty engagement in fundraising, grant writing and stewardship has potential to strengthen sponsored program efforts and help institutions build relationship with their alumni; and
  • Faculty must play a central role in developing academic programs around environmental sustainability and preparing students for careers in the emerging related fields.

Transforming Campus Cultures: Catalysts for Paradigm Shifts

ICB’s research and experiences demonstrate that in order to foster sustained intra-institutional collaborations that enhance efforts to recruit and retain productive faculty and successful students, fundamental institutional changes must occur. In effect, there must be transformational changes in the attitudes, climate, and culture on the campus that spur the necessary paradigm shift and place faculty at the core of the academic enterprise. ICB has come to understand that to precipitate such changes the institution must proceed on two levels:

  • Concrete, pragmatic re-visioning of aspects of the institution’s strategic plan and vision statement, to align them with the goal of involving faculty in partnerships across the campus in ways that would benefit the faculty members as well as the students and institution overall; and
  • Concrete policies and practices must be put in the institution’s faculty handbook to incorporate progressive tenure and promotion policies that reward faculty for their engagement in activities related to enrollment management, institutional advancement and sustainability, as well as their work in academic affairs outside the classroom.

Promising Practices for Faculty Engagement with Enrollment Management

George Kuh describes the classroom as the foundation for student success (2007). Therefore, faculty members are the bricks upon which students build their academic hopes. An enrollment management (EM) division of a college or university dedicated to sparking transformational change must create activities and programs that facilitate a more collegial atmosphere that positively impacts how EM administrators and faculty interact with each other and how faculty interact with students. This transformation can be fostered through intentional, guided workshops, retreats, and ongoing training involving every constituency of the institution. Some specific strategies for involving faculty in enrollment management activities include:

  • Engaging faculty in the recruitment process, particularly in either high or low enrollment majors;
  • Involving faculty in the design, development and implementation of retention activities;
  • Soliciting faculty participation in the development of more comprehensive institutional retention plans;
  • Linking enrollment goals to those of Academic Affairs;
  • Providing faculty with learning opportunities specific to student development, learning and transitions as well as the role of faculty in student retention;
  • Establishing and implementing policies to improve customer satisfaction; and
  • Creating guidelines about how staff, administrators and faculty interact with students on a day-to-day basis (Carey-Butler, 2011).

Two new ICB initiatives provide examples of emerging partnerships between enrollment management and faculty/academic affairs at UNCF member institutions: the UNCF African-American Male Initiative and the UNCF-Ivy Tech Minority Bridge Program.

The director of ICB’s Enrollment Management Program has articulated the following program objectives for the African-American Male Initiative: To increase African-American male enrollment at UNCF member institutions by 30 percent over five years (2011-2016); increase the retention rate to 50 percent during the same timeframe; and increase the six-year African-American male graduation rate by 10 percent.

The goal of the UNCF-Ivy Tech Community College Minority Bridge Program is to create a pipeline program for students seeking a four year degree at a UNCF member institution. To help ensure success, these programs go beyond the development and implementation of activities and articulation agreements. Faculty will be central to the success of both initiatives. In particular, the EMP seeks to support faculty in advising these students, as well as in developing and supporting evidence-based pedagogical, curricular, and co-curricular innovation related to African-American males. Thus we engage African-American males in research while encouraging faculty members’ research on African-American males.

The pre- and post- transfer aspects of the bridge program include advising, curricular and co-curricular components in which faculty are key:

College Advising: Help students on a one-on-one basis understand the benefits of continuing their education at a four-year institution. Provide course and academic assistance with identifying and selecting the most appropriate courses while attending Ivy Tech. Guide students in identifying the UNCF college or university for eventual transfer based on their career interests and current coursework.

Post-Transfer Orientation Program: Provide transfer students with an overview of their colleges’ policies and available academic support services, as well as regular follow-up meetings and quarterly student sessions.

Faculty Advisors: Provide students with academic mentoring and support to assure the development of a personalized education plan to achieve desired career goals.

Career Development: Inform and advise students about career opportunities.

Promising Practices for Institutional Advancement Engagement with Faculty

The UNCF Network Assessment data revealed that 44.4% of the member institutions that responded to the survey manage sponsored programs (public funding grants) through their advancement operation. At the time of the survey there were 39 UNCF member institutions. Thirty-six of the 39 UNCF member institutions responded to the survey. Currently there are 38 UNCF member institutions.

At some institutions, sponsored research is a function of the office of academic affairs. However, a significant percentage of UNCF member institutions and other special mission institutions manage sponsored research from their advancement division. It would be beneficial to offer fundraising capacity building opportunities to leverage the talent and expertise of faculty with private and public funding opportunities.

As special mission institutions launch capital campaigns, the need for broader campus engagement, particularly from faculty who are key stakeholders within the campus community, becomes even more urgent. Greater faculty engagement in fundraising can also help institutions build relationships with their alumni, as faculty research and other achievements that help demonstrate the value proposition of the institution. The focus groups that were part of the UNCF Network Assessment demonstrated this. Several alumni noted that they “recognize how much their education has influenced their success.” Another alumna noted that … “her institution’s academic programs and research…were a source of inspiration.”

In terms of best practices in faculty involvement in fund development, ICB recommends that the Institutional Advancement programs provide training for faculty in appropriate donor cultivation strategies, grant proposal writing, and Principal Investigator grant stewardship. More specifically, institutions should:

  • Encourage faculty engagement in fundraising in order to build relationships with prospective donors, and to communicate and promote institutional priorities and advance teaching, learning, and research;
  • Engage faculty in case development and in developing strategies for cultivating, soliciting, and stewarding donor prospects where faculty are central to helping the institution achieve its advancement goals;
  • Encourage engagement between the faculty and development officers, which is key in collaboratively securing programming dollars;
  • -Advance university public relations efforts through the development and communication of philanthropic messages around the institution’s strategic direction and student and faculty goals and outcomes; and,
  • Tell the success stories of our faculty as well as alumni and students who demonstrate the vision, mission and value of the institution.

Faculty Partnering for Sustainability

Twenty-five years after the Brundtland Commission first defined sustainable development as ”meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” a corresponding interdisciplinary curriculum movement has evolved that integrates natural and social sciences, health and agriculture, business and other STEM fields to prepare students to understand the interdependence of humans and the environment. A systems approach is central to the emerging education for sustainability pedagogy.

Virtually every sector in society and every discipline in the academy, in the US and globally, must struggle to integrate sustainable principles and practices. Student demand for sustainability skills and the growing expectation that campuses will take steps to reduce consumption is a new driver for emerging environmental studies curricula. UNCF member institutions possess a legacy of cultivating students with a strong sense of social responsibility. UNCF and other HBCU and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) faculty have significant contributions to make based upon research, experience, and the perspectives honed serving special mission institutions.

The ICB team works to advance campus sustainability by:

  • Participating in strategic alliances with sustainability organizations;
  • -Promoting HBCU and MSI participation in sustainability networks;
  • Conducting curricula training webinars and workshops; –
  • Sharing sample sustainability curricula;
  • Engaging diverse campus stakeholders in education for sustainability; and
  • Providing onsite technical assistance.

A harbinger of the evolving demand for interdisciplinary skill sets, Arizona State University has established the first School of Sustainability. Bringing environmental studies and environmental sciences together in one school, the sustainability degrees are multi-disciplinary with concepts and methods drawing from both the social sciences (environmental economics, sociology, anthropology, environmental politics, ethics, design, and human geography) and natural sciences (ecology, biology, hydrology, chemistry, engineering, earth-systems management and other disciplines). ICB seeks to build interdisciplinary communities of practice to advance education for sustainability at UNCF member institutions and other MSIs.


The work of the UNCF Institute for Capacity Building provides a range of best practices for engaging an institution’s faculty in collaborations to facilitate lasting, substantive paradigm shifts across the academic enterprise. However, the opportunities for faculty collaboration are not limited to the areas discussed in this article. The strategies noted herein are meant to spur innovative thinking about the myriad ways that faculty can work with other stakeholders to create new paradigms for moving students to and through college.


Carey-Butler, S. (2011). Enrollment Management Practices at Private Historically Black Colleges and Universities: A Model for Success.

Carey-Butler, S. & Myrick-Harris, C. (2009). Faculty’s Role in Student Success: Engagement in and outside of the Classroom. Network, Online Journal of the Faculty Resource Network. Retrieved from http://www.nyu.edu/frn/publications/defining.success/Butler.Harris.html

Kuh, G. (2007). The Classroom: The Foundation for Student Success. Indiana University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from http://citl.indiana.edu/programs/sotl/events/2007_08/kuh.php

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