UC Davis has been judged among the top research universities in the nation for efforts to make faculty jobs more flexible, so that new moms and dads can take time to be parents while staying on their career tracks.
The recognition is from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which this week handed out five $250,000 awards in honor of leadership and accomplishments in policies and practices supporting career flexibility for tenured and tenure-track faculty.
UC Davis is sharing one of the awards with UC Berkeley and, together, they plan to use the money to develop a UC-wide campaign to promote the equitable use of the university's existing flexible career policies.
Such policies include a mechanism to add a year to the tenure track for assistant professors — giving new parents eight years to achieve tenure.
"I can't stress this policy's importance enough," sociology professor Xiaoling Shu told Dateline in 2005, commenting about the leave she took in 2000 after the birth of her daughter. "For academics who try to have a successful career and a family life they're happy with, it's just too hard without the extra time."
The goal for UC and other universities is to make such flexibility a part of the university culture for men and women. "We want to make our faculty jobs more family-friendly without even thinking about it," UC Berkeley Graduate School Dean Mary Ann Mason said during a news conference in advance of the awards ceremony.
UC Davis' Barbara Horwitz, vice provost for academic personnel, said the Sloan award "recognizes the family-friendly work-life policies that the Davis campus put into place in 2003, and most of which were incorporated into the recently revised UC systemwide policies."
The other $250,000 awards went to Duke University, Lehigh University, the University of Florida and the University of Washington.
"Flexible career paths can meet the needs of an increasing diverse faculty and advance institutional goals, such as improved recruitment and retention and maintaining academic competitiveness in a global market," said Kathleen Christensen, program director for Workplace, Workforce and Working Families at the Sloan Foundation. "The winning institutions demonstrated the ability to accelerate existing programs, quickly implement creative new approaches and model best practices in faculty career management."
The American Council on Education, with support from the nonprofit Families and Work Institute, conducted the awards program for the Sloan foundation. The foundation makes grants in science, technology and the quality of American life.
Fifty-five out of 259 qualified research institutions participated in the first round of the faculty career flexibility awards program. Twenty-five schools advanced to the second round, in which each school carried out a faculty survey and put together a plan for accelerating 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.
A panel of retired university and higher education association presidents, chancellors and chief executive officers then selected the award recipients.
"Issues of balancing the demands of work and family life are present in many sectors of our economy, including higher education," said Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute. "The Sloan accelerator grants will go a long way to helping colleges and universities improve their human resources practices and meet the needs of faculty throughout their careers."
Toward this end, the Davis campus plans to create an innovative Family-Friendly Advisor Program for faculty considering having families.
"This advisor program will help faculty who are just getting here learn how to navigate the system and better understand what programs and policies are available to them," said Binnie Singh, director of faculty relations and development at UC Davis. She joined Vice Chancellor for Research Barry Klein to accept the Sloan award at a Monday ceremony in Washington, D.C.
UC Berkeley plans to create and disseminate a Family-Friendly Toolkit for department chairs-managers and deans, detailing family accommodation policies and laws, benefits and resources.
Officials said the key elements of the systemwide educational campaign will include ongoing communications by administrators and media; informational brochures and Web sites; training and information materials for department chairs-managers, deans, faculty, and merit-review committees; and an online, interactive newsletter for faculty.