Faculty Agency: Departmental contexts that matter in faculty careers

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The purpose of this study was to investigate the organizational factors that influence faculty sense of agency in their professional lives and whether the relationship between organizational factors and faculty agency manifests differently by gender. Past literature on faculty has largely taken an approach that was termed a "narrative of constraint," focusing on the challenges that faculty face in modern academe, such as increased academic capitalism, striving, and new technologies (O'Meara, Terosky, & Neumann, 2008; Schuster & Finkelstein, 2006). More recently, certain scholars sought to understand what keeps faculty satisfied and thriving in a higher education context with multiple challenges (Baez, 2000a; Neumann, Terosky, & Schell, 2006; O'Meara, Terosky, & Neumann, 2008). The construct of agency is a powerful perspective to uncover how faculty navigate academe and succeed in their own goals.

Guided by the O'Meara, Campbell, and Terosky (2011) framework on agency in faculty professional lives, this study used Structural Equation Modeling to investigate which organizational factors (perceptions of tenure and promotion process, work-life climate, transparency, person-department fit, professional development resources, and collegiality) influenced faculty agency perspective and agency behavior and whether agency was associated with important faculty outcomes, such as intent to stay, satisfaction, and productivity. Then, this studied investigated whether the resulting model differed by gender. Results showed that work-life climate and person-department fit had a positive direct influence on agency perspective and a positive indirect influence on agency behavior. Professional development resources had a positive influence on agency perspective, but a negligible influence on agency behavior. Results also showed a very large effect of agency perspective on agency behavior. The invariance test by gender demonstrated that the relationships between organizational factors and faculty sense of agency were the same for men and women. This study illustrated the importance of departmental contexts in faculty professional lives, regardless of gender. It has important implications for administrators regarding departmental role in faculty agency, and also contributes to the continued development of a theoretical framework on faculty agency.