Appreciation and Recognition

Appreciation and Recognition

Recognizing faculty accomplishments and appreciating faculty contributions to the research, teaching, and service missions of the campus is key to honor individuals, contribute to a positive climate, and motivate sustained excellence. Faculty, like all employees, value receiving appreciation for their efforts and recognized for their specific achievements. The faculty job satisfaction survey explores the extent to which faculty are satisfied with recognition (1) for different aspects of their work (teaching, scholarship, service, advising and outreach) and (2) from different levels (colleagues, Head/Chair, Dean, Provost).  

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UMass faculty were more satisfied than faculty at peer institutions with recognition for teaching, advising, service, and outreach. UMass Amherst faculty are similarly satisfied as faculty at peer institutions with recognition of scholarship.  UMass faculty were also more satisfied than faculty at peer institutions with recognition received from administrators at all levels, including their dean and the provost. A majority of faculty (62%) felt recognized by their department head/chair.  

Faculty at UMass perceived that the provost cares about faculty of their rank to a greater extent (51%) than faculty at peer institutions (45%). Notably, this pattern held across gender*, racial/ethnic groups, and career stages of tenure-track faculty. For example, 63% of pre-tenure faculty agreed that the provost cares about pre-tenure faculty compared to 51% of the faculty at peer institutions. Non-tenure track faculty felt that the provost cares about faculty of their rank at similar levels (46%) as NTT faculty at peer institutions (46%). 

*COACHE reports findings by gender for men and women, including transgender men and women, but not for non-binary individuals. 

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Relative to peer institutions, UMass faculty reported lower satisfaction with recognition from their colleagues, with 57% of UMass faculty satisfied compared to 64% of faculty at peer institutions. Furthermore, there are differences in feeling appreciated by one’s colleagues by gender* and race/ethnicity**, with 62% of men expressing satisfaction compared to 55% of women and 59% of white faculty compared to 50% of URM faculty.  

Regarding recognition for different aspects of work, UMass compares favorably to peer institutions, as mentioned above, but absolute satisfaction levels with recognition can be somewhat low, across all institutions. For example, while the majority of faculty (55%) indicate satisfaction with recognition for teaching and 49% indicate satisfaction with recognition for scholarship, only 37% with recognition for advising and 36% are satisfied with recognition for outreach. Outreach activities are valued at a public land grant institution like UMass and encouraged by funding agencies and yet, of those who engage in outreach, many felt underappreciated. 

While URM faculty at UMass are more or similarly satisfied with the recognition they receive compared to URM faculty at peer institutions, notable gaps in satisfaction are found within the campus by  race/ethnicity, white faculty felt more recognized than URM faculty across all five aspects of work (white vs URM: Teaching = 58% vs 44%; Advising = 40% vs 27%; Scholarship 51% vs 46%; Service = 41% vs 38%; Outreach = 37% vs 30%).  

Similarly, within the campus differences in satisfaction by gender emerged: men are more satisfied than women with the recognition they receive for scholarship (52% vs 46%), service (47% vs 36%), and outreach (42% vs 31%) but men and women felt similarly about their recognition for teaching (56% vs 56%) and advising (37% vs 39%). 

*COACHE reports findings by gender for men and women, including transgender men and women, but not for non-binary individuals. 

**Defined by COACHE as faculty who identified as non-white and non-Asian/Asian-American in the survey.

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Based on research across dozens of institutions, COACHE has developed a set of best practices for appreciation & recognition. UMass employs many of these best practices and the high levels of faculty satisfaction at UMass compared to peer institutions are a testament to the importance of recognition of faculty achievements at UMass.  

Appreciation shows that colleagues are grateful for their everyday efforts, including pitching in when needed, being helpful and supportive, and completing the necessary but unglamorous tasks of departmental governance.  

✓ Deans and heads/chairs should make opportunities to showcase faculty work, share kind words, and offer a “well done” for specific achievements from time to time. Like employees everywhere, faculty thrive on words on encouragement. 

✓ As explained by Robbins (2019), we can show appreciation for example by actively listening to our colleagues and acknowledging their contributions. 

✓ UMass ADVANCE team members write in Inside Higher Ed that department heads and chairs can foster feelings of respect and being valued among colleagues through small steps like departmental research talks, awards, and regular communication.

Recognition is conditional and happens when particular performance milestones are reached: 

✓ The greatest obstacle to appreciation is that faculty leaders and faculty colleagues may not know about achievements that warrant recognition. To encourage sharing of accomplishments across units or groups of faculty, we can create a culture of recognition and specific ways to normalize the sharing of good news. This is especially important when faculty are reluctant to share good news themselves and can be fostered by creating regular space for appreciation, such as a “good news” period at the beginning of each faculty meeting, or a virtual “appreciation” drop box for others to comment on the good work of faculty. 

✓ Awards are an obvious means to recognize faculty and awards do not have to be costly to be meaningful. Furthermore, the act of being nominated is by itself an important recognition.  

  • Departments may consider appointing a standing committee to ensure nomination of their faculty for internal and external awards across all career stages and ranks. 

  • The University has several high profile awards that are highlighted on the Provost’s website, including but not limited to the Manning Prize for Excellence in Teaching, Distinguished Teaching Award, Lilly Fellowship for early career faculty, Conti Fellowship, and Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series (Chancellor’s Medal). Colleges recognize faculty through their own awards and honors such as the College Outstanding Teaching and Outstanding Research Awards.  

  • Recipients of major external and many internal awards are celebrated at the annual Faculty Honors Dinner, to which all faculty, who have in the past or current year received an award, are invited. 

  • Faculty accomplishments and contributions can be recognized in other ways, such news features. The UMass Magazine puts the spotlight on faculty’s successes, and colleges, departments, and other units feature on faculty achievements in their news releases. Regularly putting the spotlight on faculty successes at any career stage and in all areas of one’s work creates a culture of recognition and appreciation. 

✓ The UMass ADVANCE team has developed the following resources and recommendations:

  • As with all institutional metrics, it is important to track the distribution of informal and formal awards as well as nominations by gender, race-ethnicity, and field. Regular review of those data can identify under-recognized individuals and fields and lead to corrections in the process.

  • Nomination processes would benefit from greater specification by university and college-level administrators about the criteria weighed in nomination processes and feedback should be provided to nominating departments for fuller transparency.

  • Transparency in internal award processes would also benefit from more information on the panel that evaluates nominees (number, and diversity of the panel by field) and what criteria are used to evaluate those nominees. The review panel should be given a framing statement before their deliberations that calls attention to biases in faculty evaluation processes.

  • ResourceInclusive strategies for departments that include ways to recognize the contributions of women faculty and faculty of color.