GVSU professor retention rate remains strong

Rachel Cross

Professor retention rate continues to be significantly high among Grand Valley State University professors. Although Institutional Analysis does not keep statistics on faculty retention, an increase in tenured professors—as opposed to untenured associate or assistant professors—over the last 10 years jumped from 120 to 206. The numbers denote some consistency in faculty over the years, since an associate professor must teach at the university for six years before being promoted to a professor.

John Godwin, associate vice president for academic affairs, said the provost office values all professors, whether they have been here for years or are just starting out.

“We don’t track professor retention as a number because it’s a relatively small number,” Godwin said. “I do know about professors leaving because they were offered a position at another school because of better research opportunities.”

In addition, Godwin emphasized that professor retention is not a large issue at GVSU because most professors stay at the university and because GVSU is considered to be a teaching university where the faculty is very much involved with meeting their colleges’ expectations and standards.

Gary Stark, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said typically the college spends more time recruiting professors than retaining them.

“Once professors get here, we usually retain them,” Stark said. “We have a very faculty-friendly institution here at GVSU, and there are things already in place here that help people stay here.”

Bart Merkle, dean of students at GVSU, said that for the most part, faculty members seem to really enjoy their work at GVSU.

“We attract people who have a passion for teaching and are attentive to their students’ needs,” Merkle said. “The university is an attractive place to work, and the faculty enjoys working with each other and students across the board.”

He added that there are many support services that help to retain professors at GVSU. One of these resources is the Pew Faculty and Learning center, which offers a variety of workshops and provides grants that enable faculty to rework and develop courses. Another resource is the Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence, which helps faculty write grants and provides travel support conferences.

Godwin said when professors leave, the Human Resources department conducts an exit interview, and often times it reports that professors go because of better research opportunities, money or retirement.

“Professors don’t leave [often] enough where we say the retention rate is a problem we need to fix; it is more of a problem with students,” Godwin said.

In addition, Godwin added that the university tries to respond to professors’ wants and needs as much as possible, so that if there are any issues, they can be addressed.

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