Faculty is a collective noun. Thus, your vision for faculty development should not be merely an individual but a collective one.

Variety is the spice of life—institutional as well as personal

Some years ago, leadership emergence theory pioneer Robert Clinton introduced me to his “faculty profile” concept. Strong faculties, Clinton maintains, will include members whose individual strengths and contributions vary and are weighted according to a broad range of faculty functions and educational priorities.

A useful faculty taxonomy

Clinton posits the following taxonomy of faculty member profiles:

  • Academic Faculty – Give credibility to the school in the outside academic world. Write technical texts or conceptual texts which are at the forefront of thinking in the field. Publish for the academic world.
  • Researchers – Focus on developing new ideation or fresh applications of biblical and theological thinking with respect to contemporary realities and developments in the church and world.
  • Effective Life-changing Teachers – Those whose classroom activities and course designs have a peculiar impact upon students in terms life-changing perspectives, challenges, concepts.
  • Publicity Faculty – Faculty with inclination and skill for writing and speaking on a popular level. They can simplify concepts and make them palatable for people on the front lines of ministry and church engagement.
  • Ministry Faculty – Faculty who demonstrate via off-campus ministry the reality and relevance of the concepts communicated and commended on campus. They significantly and consistently affect stakeholder churches, organizations, individuals through their forays into external ministry.
  • Recruiters – Faculty members who are particularly effective in attracting students to the school.
  • Public Communicators – Can motivate and instill values to campus constituents; consistently move people informationally, affectively, volitionally.
  • Organizational Faculty – Faculty members who understand the faculty profile and faculty needs and can facilitate a supportive environment such that each faculty member consistently and effectively carries out the role for which they are distinctively suited.
  • Networkers – Faculty who connect outwardly toward organizations, resources, and people who have the potential to significantly advance the institution’s overall effectiveness.

One size definitely does not fit all

I think it best to regard Clinton’s taxonomy as merely suggestive, not exhaustive. Moreover, the profile categories Clinton catalogs need not be viewed as discrete. One person may possess attributes and inclinations that correspond to two or more of the “profiles.” Nevertheless, this framework should be useful in further disabusing you of the notion that there exists a singular vision for career development, or a uniform notion of an optimally developed, superior faculty member.

Faculty uniformity may be the educational mission’s enemy

The tendency for institutions—especially for institutions craving and clawing for greater credibility in the realm of academe—is to privilege the “academic faculty” profile described above and press all faculty members to conform to it. According to this “academic faculty” category definition, career development is synonymous with contributions to and advancement within one’s academic guild. I submit that such an exclusive view of faculty career development is bound to frustrate—even alienate—some faculty members, confine the institution’s spheres of impact, and contribute to mission drift.

Uniformity, is not the object of faculty development. It is as true in the academic arena as it is in the spiritual realm: true development does not find its fullest expression in conformity but in diversity. Gifts differ (Romans 12, I Corinthians 12), callings are as unique as individuals (John 15:16; Ephesians 3:10).

Clinton recommends that educational leaders devote deep thought and conversation to developing an ideal faculty profile, a collective composite of individual contributions that offers the best prospects for advancing the institutional mission. He wisely advises that faculty recruitment efforts should then seek to advance conformity to the profile rather than, as is more customary, seek merely to fill vacancies.

Your faculty = your curriculum

In the end, your faculty is your curriculum. You must recruit, screen, and retain them with diligence and discernment. There is no virtue in mediocrity.  Biblical higher education leaders, of all people, should eschew a “minimum standard” mindset and heartily embrace excellence.  But if by passivity and superficiality we permit excellence to be defined for us, on the basis of alien–even hostile–educational values, we fail in our educational leadership. On the other hand, when we designate comprehensive criteria and implement meaningful measures for assessing the full spectrum of faculty qualifications, we achieve a more consequential if under-acknowledged excellence.


Fresh gleanings to fuel your leadership awareness, reflection, and conversations …

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