May 6, 2021

Non-tenured university faculty are facing exceptional challenges, perhaps particularly distinctive for schools of social work. The COVID-19 pandemic is seriously disrupting academic careers and trajectories, and unevenly so. It is exacerbating productivity and leadership opportunities disproportionately for women and faculty of color who are often required to balance multiple roles and responsibilities, including child and other caregiving and home schooling.  

To explore these concerns, Paula Nurius (pictured left), School of Social Work associate dean, professor and Grace Beals-Ferguson Scholar and Nancy Hooyman, School of Social Work emerita professor and dean, working with a committee from the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, surveyed 30 AASWSW mentors and 49 junior faculty mentees. 

The committee found several recurring themes. As junior faculty transitioned to online teaching, many reported that they received insufficient support to master remote classroom instruction, which elevated their risk for poor evaluations. They also needed to devote more time to help distressed students. Additionally, faculty of color carried a greater burden, which included requests for lectures and consultation in response to pressing current events—all of which contributed to less time available for scholarship and research.

Many junior faculty members had to pause their research—much of which is community engaged—because of unforeseen obstacles such as community or service project partners struggling with pandemic-related issues. The mentors who were surveyed reported they were pulled into more leadership roles as universities struggled to navigate the realities of teaching and administration tasks during the pandemic.

Based on survey results, the committee developed a series of recommendations to create a more supportive environment for junior faculty. These included providing specialized mentoring, adjusting workloads, supporting less “pivotable” research, and expanding the time frame for faculty to be granted tenure or given a promotion.

Paula Nurius and Nancy Hooyman are elected fellows of the AASWSW. Nurius was the first to receive the National Leadership in Doctoral Education Award from the Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work (GADE). 

Upcoming webinar
To discuss the continuing impact of COVID-19 and conditions of racism and state violence on tenure and promotion, the Society for Social Work and Research has convened an expert panel of social work academics to discuss navigating tenure and promotion as well as the rise in racism, xenophobia and violence perpetuated against racial and ethnic minority populations. The webinar will be held May 27, 2021, from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Paula Nurius is co-moderating the event. Registration is required. For registration questions, contact Arati Maleku.