Stereotypes about traditional faculty members are ripe for a Saturday Night Live parody — we only work two days a week, we have a sense of entitlement, we have too much say on institutional policy and procedure, our bosses cater to us, etc. For some faculty these stereotypes may accurately describe their higher ed existence but, for better or for worse, a new faculty demographic is changing the system.
Even more damning than traditional faculty stereotypes, millennials, those born between 1982-1996, have a reputation for being lazy, entitled, and high maintenance. But, take heart, millennial faculty can be extremely important advocates and resources for those in higher ed marketing, admissions, or student affairs.
Millennial Faculty Differences
The year 2013, or even more generally the 2010-2015 window, represents the first wave of millennial faculty. It is too soon to dissect the long-term influence of millennial faculty on higher ed institutional culture, but we do know that millennial faculty members typically present a new way of thinking compared to past generations. The new wave of millennial faculty requires intense planning regarding institutional technology use, faculty recruitment and development, as well as collaborative work and decision making. New faculty job descriptions now emphasize collaboration and clearer directives in terms of roles and responsibilities, as well as institutional policies. This new faculty generation may help create an environment where innovation and campus culture develop through pillars of teamwork and communication. With that said, large-scale institutional staff offices, like admissions, marketing and communication, and student affairs would do well to develop early partnerships with younger faculty members.
Developing Faculty Partnerships
The three tips below are not representative solely of engaging millennial faculty, however, because of their passion for… (mental health, holistic teaching, social justice, etc.)…millennial faculty may be more receptive to partnerships that transcend traditional campus silos. In order to engage millennial faculty across campus, following these three approaches.
1) Be Strategic
Millennial faculty, like most employees, do not want their time wasted and they desire institutional efficiency. When you solicit millennial faculty partnerships, make sure you are paying special attention to how you meet with them, how often, and what you expect to cover at traditional face-to-face meetings. At the same time, consider implementing efficient tech platforms to offset face-to-face meetings.
2) Be Authentic
Millennial faculty trust competent leadership, but they want to know why certain decisions have been, or will be made. With that said, share “why” (or “why not”) when you can. Even if they disagree, millennial faculty like to hear that you’ve thought about the decision.
3) Be Innovative
It is well-documented that millennials may not like the status-quo, especially enacting the status quo because that is just how it has always been (Smith & Turner, 2017). Thinking outside the box and showing an interest in creative solutions will speak volumes to millennial faculty. Don’t feel like you have to say yes to everything but, at the same time, feel free to say yes when you can. If you are going to fail, fail well. But, at the very least, try.
I have no doubt that some student affairs institutional staff may feel frustration when interacting with faculty. As a whole, higher ed still has work to do to get everyone, staff and faculty, on the same page about how to best serve students. The three ideas above may help you develop relationships with new faculty members that create decade-long partnerships.
Smith, C. & Turner, S. (2017). The millennial majority is transforming your culture. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/about-deloitte/us-millennial-majority-will-transform-your-culture.pdf
Dr. Michael G. Strawser is an assistant professor in the Nicholson School of Communication and Media at the University of Central Florida. He researches instructional and organizational communication as well as generational differences in both education and corporate contexts. Michael is also the owner/lead consultant of Legacy Communication Training and Consulting, L.L.C. (www.legacyctc.com).