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W&L Receives National Grant for Faculty Career Flexibility

Washington and Lee University has been awarded a $200,000 accelerator grant as part of the Alfred P. Sloan Awards for Faculty Career Flexibility.

Announcement of the grant was made today in Washington, D.C., by representatives of the Sloan Foundation and the American Council on Education (ACE).

W&L was one of only eight institutions chosen from among 287 arts and sciences colleges from around the country eligible to compete for the grants, which recognize the winners for their leadership and accomplishments in implementing groundbreaking policies and practices supporting career flexibility for tenured and tenure-track faculty.

Receipt of the grant coincides with an aggressive new program undertaken by W&L under the leadership of President Kenneth P. Ruscio who launched a study in 2006 of key work-life balance issues in relation to expectations for teaching and research at the University. The resulting initiatives, which debuted during the 2008-09 academic year and will continue this year, will provide more options for child care, offer technological alternatives to compensate for necessary time away from campus, and create a culture of acceptance for flexible career trajectories that are different from the more rigid timetables for tenure and promotion of the past.

“We are delighted that the Sloan Foundation and ACE have recognized our work in this area by awarding us this grant,” Ruscio said. “The grant will be critically important as we continue to take steps on this important initiative, which we believe has great potential for progressive development of W&L’s own faculty, and may also result in a national model of best practices for support of a wonderfully diverse and highly accomplished faculty in the baccalaureate environment.”

Washington and Lee will use the funds provided by the accelerator grant to provide increased flexibility and support for personal time management that enables faculty members to generate the unstructured blocks of time they need for reflection and creative work. In addition, the grant will enable the University to provide the kinds of peer support and institutional assistance that will allow the faculty to use this new-found time most productively for professional development, while still meeting the demands of their personal lives.

“Campuses across the country are grappling with the economic downturn and making difficult decisions about how best to deploy their resources,” said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad. “The dedication these eight campuses have shown to advancing faculty career flexibility options in light of these economic conditions is admirable. These efforts send a clear message to faculty that their institution is committed to attracting and serving the needs of an increasingly diverse faculty.”

“Since the inception of the awards program, we have seen remarkable changes on campuses with much greater awareness of the need for career flexibility, as well as significant advances in practice,” said Kathleen Christensen, program director for Workplace, Work Force and Working Families at The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Applicants were evaluated in a two-part process. During the first round, tenured and tenure-track faculty completed an institutional survey about career flexibility. The second round included a faculty survey and an institution-wide accelerator plan for the development and use of career flexibility programs among faculty. Among the issues considered were faculty recruitment and retention; strengthening faculty commitment, engagement, and morale; achieving institutional excellence; and maintaining academic competitiveness in a global market. In all, 60 colleges participated in the first round survey and 30 advanced to the second round of competition.

In addition to Washington and Lee, winners of the $200,000 Sloan Grants for 2009 are Albright College, Bowdoin College, Middlebury College, Mt. Holyoke College, and Oberlin College. Two other institutions – Dickinson College and Smith College – won $25,000 awards.

“These baccalaureate institutions are at the forefront of providing career flexibility to their faculty,” said Claire Van Ummersen, ACE vice president, Center for Effective Leadership. “These awards will assist in the full development and implementation of critical management policies that are part of a growing national trend and will assist in the recruitment and retention of valued faculty.”

Founded in 1918, ACE is the major coordinating body for all the nation’s higher education institutions, representing more than 1,600 college and university presidents, and more than 200 related associations, nationwide. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation makes grants in science, technology and the quality of American life. It has played a vital role in developing the field of work-family scholarship through its Workplace, Work Force and Working Families program.