Book by Leora Baron-Nixon
Review by Steve R. Smith
Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences
Pacific University, Oregon
Memo to Provosts, Deans and Department Chairs of institutions large and small: Buy this book. Baron-Nixon has crafted a book that will be especially helpful for those who struggle to navigate the challenge of how best to handle—in the best interests of students and programs—the “part-time/adjunct faculty situation” on campus. This is for the reader who does not want a lot of theoretical underpinnings or politically-charged huffing and puffing about the “part-time/adjunct problem.” This is for the reader who wants clear, practical, pragmatic guidance focusing on specific action steps that will integrate part-timers with, and connect them to, the institution’s missions and daily operations. Those who have their college/university catalogs, policy manuals, and strategic plans within easy reach of their desks will want Leora Baron-Nixon’s Connecting Non Full-Time Faculty to Institutional Mission there, too.
As Irene W.D. Hecht points out in her succinct foreword, “The theme Baron-Nixon has chosen is that of connections” (ix). Indeed, this theme guides the manner in which the book is organized. Its five chapters focus on areas to which part-time faculty should be more palpably connected (academic tasks and missions) if they and their academic units/institutions are to realize a more equitable, efficient, and rewarding relationship. These chapters are “Connection 1: To The Institution”, “Connection 2: To The Department”, “Connection 3: To Teaching”, “Connection 4: To Students”, “Connection 5: To Scholarship”.
Each chapter begins with a passage titled “The Challenge,” e.g. what makes it important, yet difficult, to connect a part-time faculty member with his/her academic department’s colleagues and departmental tactical and strategic operations? Each “Challenge” is followed by specific “Action Plans” that should be put in place to best meet it.
Since it is often unusual for part-time faculty to hold a formal role in academic advising on our campuses, Baron-Nixon focuses but briefly (in “Connection 4”) on this area; however, she does provide some interesting suggestions about how part-time faculty may serve as “informal advisor[s] and mentor[s]” for their students (p. 86). Advising center administrators and advising program coordinators may find that enacting these suggestions will provide additional layers of service to their students.
There are two perspectives Baron-Nixon may consider including in a later edition of her book. One is that of part-time faculty members who live the “life” and are imbedded in the midst of the challenges she describes. The other is that of provosts or deans who have taken the action steps she suggests. Have they worked?
The steadily growing use of part-time faculty is a reality. Baron-Nixon wisely frames this work in the context that, “Regardless of each institution’s financial and political realities, when all is said and done, institutional growth and continued success depend, to a large extent, on ‘doing it right’ when it comes to working with part-time faculty” (p. 2). Her guidebook is rooted in real-world realities, informed with cogent and practical advice, and infused with the spirit of doing what is best for our students and the whole of the Academy.
Connecting Non Full-Time Faculty to Institutional Mission: A guidebook for college/university administrators & faculty developers. (2007). Book by Leora Baron-Nixon. Review by Steve R. Smith. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 131 pp., $24.95, ISBN # 978-1-57922-061-7