Learning community pilot for term faculty focuses on leading

Assistant provost for faculty development Tera Jordan drew on her experience to develop a pilot for a term faculty learning community this year. For a group that makes up more than one-third of faculty at Iowa State, assuming leadership roles takes a backseat for many term faculty early in their career.

Term faculty learning community participants

Matthew Tancreti, computer science

Alissa Stoehr, women's and gender studies/sociology

Jenny Sturgill, accounting

Zhimin (Sherry) Xie, marketing

Amber Baughman, food science and human nutrition

Kevin Duerfeldt, horticulture

Corinna Most, ecology, evolution and organismal biology

Saul Abarca Orozco, horticulture

Mohamed Selim, electrical and computer engineering

Elnaz Ebrahimi, agronomy

"We know there is a desire to have more community among term faculty, but what would get them to come out is an opportunity to learn about leadership on this campus," said Jordan, who began her career as a term faculty member at Athens Technical College, Georgia. "Right now, they see a whole lot of opportunities not available to them."

The learning community functioned as an extended orientation, especially for term faculty who began their careers on a part-time basis, she said. As a co-director of the Emerging Leaders Academy, Jordan knows educating faculty on how the university works and breaking down silos is key. Term faculty often have significant teaching loads, making it difficult to learn about university-level issues outside of their department or college.

Marketing assistant teaching professor Zhimin (Sherry) Xie -- one of 10 participants in the learning community -- said she appreciated seeing how other term faculty are making their mark on campus. Xie said she feels fortunate to have college leaders who keep faculty informed, but that may not be the case for everyone.

"The learning community really helped me see how many term faculty are having the same experiences. We can be there to help each other," Xie said.


The project began with orientation on Oct. 4. Eight one-hour meetings, about one per month, featured a presentation and discussion. The sessions were:

  • Nov. 10: Agency, leadership and faculty development, Monic Behnken, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences associate dean; and Awoke Dollisso, ag education and studies associate teaching professor
  • Nov. 29: Meeting management, Amanda Knief, lectures program director
  • Dec. 15: Term faculty honors, awards and recognition, Kirsten Abel, faculty honors and awards coordinator
  • Jan. 12: Leadership and the Faculty Senate, Carol Faber, graphic design associate professor and Cullen Padgett-Walsh, philosophy and religious studies teaching professor
  • Jan. 31: Book discussion on leadership and term faculty collegiality, with Adrianna Kezar, co-director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education, University of Southern California
  • April 13: Resource management model and university budgeting, Ellen Reints, chief academic business officer; and Siti Sabtu-Schaper, budget and planning analyst
  • May 8: University general counsel, Heather Smith, associate general counsel; and Payton Clerc, intern
  • May 9: What leaders in academic affairs need to know about working with students, Toyia Younger, senior vice president for student affairs; Term faculty serving in administration, Sarah Bennett-George, apparel, events and hospitality management, associate teaching professor; Marc Kinsley, executive director of the veterinary teaching hospital; Elijah Stines, mathematics teaching professor

Getting involved

Adjunct assistant professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology Corinna Most splits her time between teaching and research and was intrigued by professional development that didn't focus on instruction.

"Learning about those leadership groups was very important because for some term faculty, those can be spaces they don't feel they belong," said Most, who began attending Faculty Senate meetings regularly this year. "Not only do I know how things work now, but I realize I can participate and benefit Iowa State."

Building a learning community

The idea of a learning community for term faculty dates back to 2021 when Iowa State began a partnership with the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California. The center has national experts in term faculty professional development and helps universities establish programs to support them.

"We were looking at building better leadership pathways at Iowa State for our term faculty," Jordan said. "We surveyed our early-career term faculty and found what really interested them was learning more about organizational structure, university structure and ways to cultivate leadership."

Jordan chaired a committee of members representing all seven colleges to design the learning community. More than 275 term faculty were invited to apply for the pilot.

What's next?

Jordan is reviewing data -- both an analysis of ISU's learning community by Pullias Center staff and a survey with participants -- to determine whether the term faculty learning community could become an annual offering by the provost's office.