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Simmons College Receives National Award for Groundbreaking Practices in Faculty Career Flexibility

BOSTON (January 29, 2008) — Simmons College today was named one of six master's-level universities in the nation to receive a $200,000 Alfred P. Sloan Faculty Career Flexibility Award, for its leadership in developing and implementing groundbreaking policies and practices to support career flexibility for its faculty.

An innovative part of the Simmons College proposal is the launching in the fall of 2008 of a New Career Flexibility Program, designed to help interested and talented mid- and senior-level faculty members move into academic administration.

Simmons College President Susan C. Scrimshaw said the program should be a "win-win" for faculty and administration, by "leading to a stronger faculty voice in college leadership, helping break down artificial barriers that commonly exist between faculty and administration, and providing valuable professional development opportunities for talented tenured faculty who want to grow in new directions."

The American Council on Education and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation announced the winners of the Sloan Foundation Faculty Career Flexibility Award in Washington, D.C., during a national media teleconference. Each university will use the award to expand and enhance flexible career paths for faculty. In addition to Simmons College, award winners were Boise State University, Canisius College, Santa Clara University, San Jose State University, and the University of Baltimore.

Sloan Foundation officials said the winners were chosen because they "demonstrated the ability to accelerate existing programs, quickly implement creative new approaches, and model best practices in faculty career management."

This is the second award Simmons College has received recently from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Earlier Simmons became the first private college in the nation to be awarded a $225,000 grant from the foundation to demonstrate that small colleges can offer high-quality courses that combine classroom and online learning, while still maintaining close student/faculty relationships.

Of the Simmons College program to help interested faculty move into academic administration, Scrimshaw College President Scrimshaw said "too often, faculty members take on important administrative tasks outside their full-time teaching-research-service roles, but they don't see it as connected to their professional development.  And college and university officials who are hiring mid- and senior-level administrative positions commonly look outside their institutions, when instead there could be highly talented, committed, and knowledgeable candidates right there among their own faculty."

Scrimshaw also noted that since 65% of the full-time faculty at Simmons are women, the new Simmons College program would help assure that more women are "prepared for and eligible to join the ranks of senior administration in higher education."

Under the Simmons program, the college will develop a paid course release each semester for one faculty member in each of Simmons's five schools. Once the faculty are identified, each will be assigned a project from the school and a mentor, such as a current dean, assistant dean, or vice president, to support the faculty member in her or his role.

Simmons administrators will also create a professional development program for each faculty participant, to provide support and cross-training in different divisions such as finance, fundraising, or financial aid.  The programs will be designed to help faculty understand the challenges of working in those areas, as well as inject a more academic perspective into those departments.

The Simmons College plan also includes improved communication about faculty career options at Simmons; seeking to reduce faculty course loads; and training of deans, department chairs, and academic committees about the reasons for career gaps and the advantages of alternative career paths.

Simmons College, founded more than a century ago, is a nationally recognized private university located in Boston.  It includes a women's undergraduate college and five co-educational graduate schools in library and information science, health studies, management, social work and arts and sciences.  

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York City is a philanthropic nonprofit institution established in 1934 by Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., then-president and CEO of General Motors Corp., that makes grants in science, technology, and the quality of American life.