AHA Advances Efforts to Serve Two-Year College Faculty
Dana Schaffer, March 2017
The College Board estimates that nearly half of all undergraduate students in the United States are enrolled in two-year colleges. In 2009, the American Historical Association’s Council created the Two-Year College Faculty Task Force to determine the professional needs of historians at those colleges to better serve them.
The task force issued its first report in 2012 and recommended that the AHA implement 29 changes in four areas: the annual meeting, publications and awards, professional activities, and administration. In June 2015, Council reconstituted the task force and asked that it evaluate the AHA’s progress in each of these areas and identify places where significant work remained to be done. The reconstituted committee served for one year and consisted of four members—Trinidad Gonzales, chair (South Texas Coll.), Shannon Bontrager (Georgia Highlands Coll.), Sarah Shurts (Bergen Comm. Coll.), and Emily Sohmer Tai (Queensborough Comm. Coll.). In addition to analyzing the AHA’s progress, the committee conducted a survey of current community college faculty to assess their needs and interests.
The report, presented to the AHA Council in January 2017, makes clear that while not all recommendations were fully realized, many were achieved “in spirit.” For example, the original task force had recommended that the AHA increase attendance and participation of community college faculty at the annual meeting. The Association expanded the number of workshops and sessions related to community college issues, pedagogy, and the scholarship of teaching and learning, and attendance has steadily grown. The report also recommended that the AHA increase its output of articles and pamphlets of interest to community college faculty. While many pertinent resources and articles appear on the AHA website and AHA Today, fewer articles have appeared in Perspectives on History.
Still, the task force noted new inclusiveness of two-year faculty within the AHA. There is still work to be done, but the annual meeting and such programs as Bridging Cultures for Community Colleges and the Tuning project have begun to shift attitudes toward the Association in a positive direction. Testimonials indicate that two-year faculty are now more receptive to the AHA and its pedagogical and content resources, advocacy efforts, and opportunities for networking.
The task force advised that “understanding who community college history faculty are would help the AHA serve them better in the future.” In fall 2016, the AHA invited 1,500 community college faculty—members and nonmembers—to complete a survey consisting of 24 questions about their level of preparation and degrees held; their employment status and experiences; their participation in professional organizations; and their involvement and interest in the AHA’s annual meeting. Over 300 historians completed the survey.
Types of Positions
The majority of survey respondents (69 percent) held full-time positions. Of these positions, 64 percent were tenured or tenure track, while 30 percent were secure appointments at institutions that did not offer tenure. Nearly all part-time faculty (95 percent) had short-term contracts.
Sixty-one percent of respondents held a PhD, and 33 percent listed a master’s as their highest degree. Seventy-one percent of full-time faculty held doctorates. In contrast, the majority of part-time faculty (56 percent) held a master’s as their highest degree. Additionally, compared to those in full-time positions, part-time faculty had received their highest degrees more recently. Forty-one percent of part-time faculty respondents received their highest degree after 2010, compared to 23 percent of full-time faculty.
Graduate Program Preparation
When asked whether their graduate program had prepared them for their current position, most respondents said that it had but saw room for improvement. One remarked, “My graduate program definitely prepared me for the research aspects of being a historian. The teaching components I learned while in a Teaching Credential Program and on my own.” Both PhD and master’s degree holders noted that their graduate education could have had more opportunities for training in pedagogy, curriculum development, assessment, and effective classroom instruction.
Issues Concerning Community College Faculty
When asked what the AHA could do to address issues community college faculty currently face, many suggested that the Association provide more information about grants available to community college faculty for research and travel, expand its advocacy on behalf of adjuncts, and increase opportunities for professional development. Fifty-four percent of the respondents noted that the AHA’s teaching and classroom content resources were an important factor when deciding to renew their membership.
Community college faculty serve a considerable and still-growing contingent of college students. Our commitment to those students and to our discipline will be greatly served by continuing to connect with two-year faculty. The AHA hopes to use the survey results to continue providing them with both the resources for research and teaching, and with collegial respect and support.
View the full report at historians.org/2016-two-year-report.
Dana L. Schaffer is deputy director of the AHA.
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