Recruiting and retaining productive faculty requires attention to the variety of factors that can affect faculty success. Ideally both formal and informal mentoring structures provide the inspiration and support necessary for faculty to identify and navigate implicit and explicit expectations. Time, energy, and resources are most frequently invested in these structures pre-tenure. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to expect that healthy mentoring environments, while important, are not necessarily sufficient or even designed to ensure post-tenure success. Cultivating post-tenure success is more than simply ensuring faculty understand the rules for timely promotion; rather it often involves confronting challenges specific to that stage (Baker et al, 2019). This faculty learning community seeks to address the unique needs of faculty who have achieved tenure and are now in the middle phase of their academic career. What are these unique needs? First, research indicates faculty in this long middle stage of career may have difficulty identifying clear goals even while appreciating the freedom that comes with tenure (Canale et al 2013, Petter et al 2018). Second, faculty at this stage are both willing and expected to shoulder more service responsibility. However, absent clear goals and expectations, they may agree to too much service resulting in service being a barrier to productivity (Welch et al).  Third, faculty in midcareer are often in a stage of life that presents new responsibilities for childcare or elder care or both. Finally, post tenure, faculty are often considering “deeper questions of meaning, identity, leadership, power and legacy” (Canale et al 2013) and “value opportunities to talk with each other in less formal settings” (Welch et al 2019).  This learning community will provide just such a setting and a network of colleagues for exploring these important questions, crafting goals, and charting individual paths.

Approach: Faculty Learning Communities plus Appreciative Inquiry

Well-designed faculty learning communities (FLCs) engage participants in focused professional development and provide opportunity to practice transferable leadership, peer mentoring, and community-building competence. As Milton Cox, creator of faculty learning communities at Miami University and catalyst for expansion of faculty learning communities across higher education writes: 

FLCs “change individuals, and, over time, they change institutional culture. Faculty learning communities and their “graduates” are change agents who can enable an institution to become a learning organization.”  (Cox, 2001)

This Midcareer Faculty Learning Community will focus on planning for success after tenure and will use Appreciative Inquiry (AI), a framework for planning that builds on strengths. AI begins with inquiry into the best of what is, imagines what could be, considers obstacles, and moves toward a motivating design for future.

Faculty accepted into this pilot program commit to:

  • co-constructing a reading list 
  • preparing for and participating in 7 facilitated interactive AI work sessions to produce a high quality draft of individual strategic plan (12-2PM 2nd and 4th Fridays each month during Spring 2020 semester)
  • reflecting on their mid-career experience and their individual strategic plan during a reflective retreat* (place and duration to be determined), including participant facilitated evening sessions (requires availability for travel May 15-30, 2020)
  • finalizing their individual strategic plan and sharing it with department leadership (Summer 2020)
  • presenting a creative reflection about the entire learning community experience to the Office of the Dean of Faculties and the members of their cohort (8-12 August 14, 2020)
  • participating in a follow-up interview (August 2021).

* This feature of this learning community experience provides participants and facilitators with an opportunity to reflect, contemplate, and appreciate both the insights and the plans generated during the spring sessions. Further, the retreat will be designed to be immersive and high-impact in order to activate the relationship building among members of the cohort and among the participants and the facilitators. 

Program Outcomes:

  • Practice the skills essential for collegiality and leadership (e.g. active listening, constructive dialogue, strength appreciation, growth mindset, team-building
  • Cultivate the agency of individual faculty to constructively confront challenges, seek necessary development, and practice resilience.
  • Establish a cohort of support
  • Promote meaningful/productive communication among mid-career faculty and their leadership
  • Develop enhanced understanding of this career stage for participants and their leadership
  • Encourage relationships with the Office of the Dean of Faculties
  • Identify systemic barriers for mid-career faculty common among participants, allowing for design of proactive institutional measures, and proactive and timely faculty development opportunities for earlier stage faculty


The 2020 mid-career learning community will accept up to twelve faculty who are at least three years post tenure, holding the rank of either Associate or Full Professor.


  • Nancy Simpson, Clinical Professor and Director of Special Programs, Mays Business School and Faculty Development Fellow with expertise in Appreciative Inquiry – Spring Learning Community Sessions and Reflective Retreat
  • Heather Wilkinson, Associate Dean of Faculties and Professor - Spring Learning Community Sessions and Reflective Retreat
  • Blanca Lupiani, Dean of Faculties and Associate Provost and Professor - Reflective Retreat

Individual Strategic Plan:

Participation in work session activities and discussions will prime holistic self-evaluation and composition of a well-elaborated individual strategic plan. 

  • Vision Statement
  • Mission Statement
  • Core Goals
  • SOAR Analysis (Strengths, Aspirations, Opportunities, and Results)
  • Action Plans
  • Yearly Objectives
  • Long term goals

Importantly, this plan spans all aspects and relationships in the life of the faculty member. Further, an integral aspect of this plan is excavating the role of the individual relative to the department, college, and university strategic plans.

Selection Process:

Applications will open November 4th and close December 13th (deadline extended). The application requirements include some general information about the faculty member and a short description of how their participation in the opportunity will be meaningful for them and others in the cohort. In addition, we seek a letter from the Department Head conveying both approval for participation by the faculty member and the ways in which the Department Head expects the experience will be beneficial.

Important Dates:
  • November 4, 2019
    • Application Portal Opens
  • November 8, 2019
    • Informal Q&A Session, 4-5 PM, YMCA 108
  • ​December 2, 2019
    • ​Informal Q&A Session, 2-4 PM, YMCA 108
  • December 13, 2019 (Deadline extended, was originally December 6)
    • Application and Department Head letter of support due
  • December 20, 2019
    • Cohort Members Announced
  • January 24, 2020
    • Learning Community Session (12-2 PM)
  • February 14, 2020
    • Learning Community Session (12-2 PM)
  • February 28, 2020
    • Learning Community Session (12-2 PM)
  • March 27, 2020
    • Learning Community Session (12-2 PM)
  • April 10, 2020
    • Learning Community Session (12-2 PM)
  • April 24, 2020
    • Learning Community Session (12-2 PM)
  • May 8, 2020
    • Learning Community Session (12-2 PM)
  • May 15-30, 2020
    • Reflective Retreat Immersive Experience
  • Summer 2020
    • Share final strategic plan with Department Leadership
  • August 14, 2020
    • Creative reflection (8AM-12PM)
  • August 2021
    • Follow-up interview
Baker, V., Lunsford, G., Neisler, G., Pifer, M., and Terosky, A., eds. (2019). Success After Tenure: Supporting Mid-Career Faculty. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing L.L.C.
Canale, A. Herdklotz, C., Wild, L.  (2013) Mid-Career Faculty Support: The Middle Years of the Academic Profession. Faculty Career Development Services, The Wallace Center.
Cox, M. (2001) Faculty Learning Communities: Change Agents for Transforming Institutions into Learning Organizations. To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organization Development, vol. 19, 2001, pp. 69–93.
Cruz, L. and Herzog, M.J. (2018) Setting the Faculty on Fire: Fostering Vitality in Late Career Faculty. The Journal of Faculty Development, Vol. 32, No. 3.
Petter, S., Richardson, S., Randolph, A. (2018) Stuck in the middle: Reflections from the AMCIS Mid-career Workshop. Communications of the Association for Information Systems. Vol 42, Article 3.
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