Faculty Success, Retention, and Avoiding Burnout in STEM

November 14, 2023

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by Monika Sziron, Ph.D.

Faculty member teaching technology class

Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

Check out episode 40 of the HigherEdJobs Podcast, this episode dives into the success of the STEM field in student enrollments but addresses the burnout faculty and staff are facing in keeping up with those enrollments. Featured guest, Dr. Aditya Johri, professor of Information Sciences & Technology in the College of Engineering & Computing (CEC) at George Mason University provides an inside look at the trends.

On Current Enrollment Trends in STEM

Dr. Aditya Johri says, “The big trend these days in terms of higher education is a growth in enrollment across all STEM fields. And with this growth in enrollment across STEM fields, there are quite a few challenges that a lot of higher education institutions now face, and these have to do with teaching more classes, hiring faculty, training faculty, providing students with opportunities related to their major, especially workforce development related opportunities, and so on. So, there’s an opportunity overall to get more students, enroll more students, but also then to ensure that there’s quality in education, but also a work life balance for faculty who teach these courses. At my institution, and other institutions I’m aware of, the number of students who are pursuing, for instance, computer science has almost doubled in the last five years. So just my department right now at George Mason University, we have 2,000 undergraduate students in just one department. So significant growth overall… [And] the faculty size has not doubled, and the staff size has not doubled.”

On Hiring and Recruiting New Faculty and Staff

Dr. Aditya Johri shares, “[First], there is always a lag in terms of recruiting faculty and enrollment growth. Second, recruiting faculty, especially in computer science, information sciences, and a lot of engineering fields is very, very difficult right now. There are not that many folks on the market looking for those jobs and the other additional challenge is competing with the industry to hire faculty, especially if you have a Ph.D. in a highly marketable area like machine learning or A.I. or data mining or cyber security, you’re very likely to look at industry jobs rather than faculty positions. So, it’s really kind of tough to hire faculty to do both research and teaching. I mean, it’s tough at both ends to get faculty. Of course, academic salaries don’t often compare. I mean, that’s often the norm. And especially if you are an institution that is in an area where the cost of living is high. For instance, we are in one of those areas near Washington, D.C, then it becomes much harder to hire faculty.”

On Retention

Dr. Aditya Johri suggests, “…what we are trying to do is provide mentorship in different areas.” Dr. Johri describes how the focus at his institution is to provide dedicated mentorship in the areas of external funding, research, and teaching for new faculty members to alleviate the burden of everything falling solely on the new employee to navigate.

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Listen to the full episode and send us your thoughts and ideas for future episodes via email at podcast@higheredjobs.com.




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