Book Reviews

Book by Gappa, J.M., Austin, A.E., & Trice, Andrea G.
Review by David Deggs
Southeastern Louisiana University
Hammond, Louisiana


The changing dynamics of the faculty work environment is the focus of Rethinking Faculty Work:  Higher Education’s Strategic Imperative by Gappa, Austin, and Trice. Many may wonder why we should rethink faculty work.  As Gappa, Austin, and Trice state, the role of faculty is higher education’s strategic imperative because of the enormous intellectual capital of the faculty, their diversified needs, and diminishing desirability of the faculty career.  An impetus for this strategic imperative is the change that is occurring in higher education, which no one can fail to notice.  

Gappa, Austin, and Trice cite four challenges to higher education institutions, which make the argument for the strategic imperative. These challenges include fiscal constraints, accountability and shifts in control, enrollment growth and diversification of students, and expanded use of technologies to facilitate learning. These challenges are similar to changes that were alluded to by Lucas et al. (2000), which included performance-based funding, assessment and accountability, expansion of programs to provide lifelong learning through both campus-based instruction and distance education.  Certainly both groups of scholars have properly described the shifting landscape of higher education.  

Upon acknowledging the impending change, it is important to focus on higher education’s strategic imperative, the work of the faculty. Central to the focus of the imperative is the issue of respect.  Gappa, Austin, and Trice acknowledge that the term respect may have differing definitions among faculty.  However, they state that “respect underlies all institutional efforts to provide an academic work environment that stimulates personal and institutional growth and success,” (p. 139).  Faculty must feel respect before they are able to focus on the other five elements of the paradigm presented by Gappa, Austin, and Trice.

The five elements that surround respect in the paradigm presented by Gappa, Austin, and Trice in Rethinking Faculty Work: Higher Education’s Strategic Imperative include employment equity, academic freedom and autonomy, flexibility, professional growth, and collegiality.  A chapter is devoted to each of these, which incorporates recommendations. These recommendations should be seriously considered by administrators and by faculty who participate in shared governance opportunities to affect change on campuses, and ultimately improve the faculty work environment.  

Although all five of the elements are essential for a well-developed faculty work environment, this reviewer found the chapter on collegiality to be the most profound. Just as with the term, respect, collegiality will have differing definitions among faculty. However, Gappa, Austin, and Trice rightfully assert that collegiality infers a mutually respectful community of scholars where faculty are valued by their peers and where there is concern for others’ well-being.

Rethinking Faculty Work: Higher Education’s Strategic Imperative by Gappa, Austin, and Trice provides a well-developed pragmatic approach to reconsidering the role of faculty in higher education today.  It’s a must read for newly appointed faculty as well as those who are considering an academic career. Senior faculty would equally benefit from reading Rethinking Faculty Work: Higher Education’s Strategic Imperative.  Finally, administrators could become more cognizant of the realities in the faculty work environment by reading the work. The inevitable changes will affect the whole of higher education and this framework presented in this book can assist in responding appropriately to those changes.

Reference:

Lucas, A. F., et al.  (2000).  Leading academic change.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.


Rethinking Faculty Work:  Higher Education’s Strategic Imperative. (2007). Book by Gappa, J.M., Austin, A.E., & Trice, Andrea G. Review by David Deggs. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 400 pp., $40.00, (hardback), ISBN # 978-0-7879-6613-3
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