Project Overview

The nature of the American academic workforce has fundamentally shifted over the past several decades. Whereas full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty were once the norm, more than two-thirds of the professoriate in non-profit postsecondary education is now comprised of non-tenure-track faculty, many who encounter working conditions that constrain their capacity to provide the highest quality instruction and educational experience for their students. New hires across all institutional types are now largely contingent and this number will continue to grow unless trends change.

The Delphi Project was initiated to support a better understanding of factors that led to a majority of faculty being hired off the tenure track, the impact of these circumstances on teaching and learning; and potential strategies for addressing issues of rising contingency together.  It is a project of the Earl and Pauline Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California in partnership with the Association of American College and Universities (AAC&U) and includes more than 30 representatives from across higher education. The project has received generous funding from The Spencer Foundation, The Teagle Foundation, and The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

The original study utilized a modified Delphi method approach, in which a group of experts is consulted and then brought together to develop solutions to complex national problems.  Key experts representing a broad cross-section of institutional sectors, unions, professional and disciplinary organizations, as well as other perspectives and interests from higher education participated in the study. These participants completed surveys addressing key issues related to the changing composition of the professoriate, reliance on non-tenure-track faculty, and potential solutions – all within the context of challenges facing higher education including declining state budgets, rapid changes within fields of study, changing student interests and demographics, and other issues that are attributed to the rise of non-tenure-track faculty. The participants were convened in May 2012 to discuss alternative approaches, to question underlying assumptions, and to contribute to the creation of solutions to change the nature of the professoriate. The findings were prepared and disseminated as a policy report.

In addition to conducting original research on non-tenure-track faculty, we are producing important resources for use by leaders on campuses and among higher education organizations to create a better understanding of non-tenure-track faculty working conditions and the implications for student learning toward promoting change.

The project, an initiative of the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, is a partnership with the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

>>Click here to download a copy of the Report from the Working Meeting

More recently, the project has been guided by two meta-strategies developed by the original working group.  They are detailed in the report from our 2012 project working group meeting:

  1. Creating a vision for new, future faculty models for improving student success, and
  2. Building a broad base of stakeholder support for improving conditions facing non-tenure-track faculty.

The Delphi Project continues to develop partnerships with a wide range of higher education organizations and institutions in our efforts to achieve these goals.

Project Participants

More than 30 key experts representing a broad cross section of institutional sectors, unions, professional and disciplinary organizations, as well as other perspectives and interests from higher education are participated in the project’s original research and are helping to design solutions around the two main strategies articulated in our recent report.

>>Click here for a complete list of original project participants

Project Team

Adrianna Kezar, Ph.D.
Project Co-Director and Principal Investigator

Dr. Adrianna Kezar is Professor of Higher Education in the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education and Co-Director of the Earl and Pauline Pullias Center for Higher Education. Kezar holds a Ph.D. 1996 and M.A. 1992 in higher education administration from the University of Michigan and a B.A. 1989 from the University of California, Los Angeles. She joined the faculty at USC in 2003. She has several years administrative experience in higher education as well both in academic and student affairs. Dr. Kezar is a national expert of change and leadership in higher education and her research agenda explores the change process in higher education institutions and the role of leadership in creating change. Dr. Kezar is also a well-known qualitative researcher and has written several texts and articles about ways to improve qualitative research in education.

>>Click here to contact Dr. Kezar

Elizabeth Holcombe, M.A. Politics and Education

Elizabeth Holcombe graduated from Vanderbilt University with a double major in Political Science and Spanish. After teaching elementary school in Atlanta with Teach for America, she moved to New York City to pursue a Master’s degree in Politics and Education at Teachers College. Upon completing her Master’s degree, Elizabeth began working at Mercy College. Elizabeth managed several programs at Mercy, including a college access partnership, an academic advising and mentoring program, and a new co- and extra-curricular assessment initiative within the Division of Student Affairs. Currently, Elizabeth is pursuing her PhD in Urban Education Policy with a focus on Higher Education.

Hannah Yang, M.Ed.
Project Associate

Hannah Yang is a higher education researcher and a Project Associate for The Delphi Project on the Changing of Faculty and Student Success. She received her Masters in Education specializing in postsecondary education and student affairs from the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. She has worked on projects that included compiling an Inventory of Student Access and Success Programs for National College Access Network (NCAN), which included analyzing survey data, conducting interviews, and researching demographic and educational trends of Los Angeles County. She was also a Research Associate for Adrianna Kezar on the Individual Development Account – Postsecondary Access for your Success Project, which looked at a financial tool and financial education for low-income students. This project included conducting a survey, interviews, focus groups, and a case study. Hannah has an interest in the following research areas low-income students, financial education, student access and success issues including non-tenure-track faculty conditions, and using quantitative research to provide rich descriptive data to help support these populations.

Daniel Maxey, Ph.D.
Project Consultant

Daniel Maxey is currently Provost’s Fellow in the Office of the Provost at Santa Clara University. He previously was Dean’s Fellow in Urban Education Policy in the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education where he served as Co-Director of the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success and research assistant to Dr. Adrianna Kezar. Professor of Education, Co-Director of the Pullias Center, and Vice President of the Postsecondary Education Division of the American Educational Research Association.

>>Click here to contact Mr. Maxey

In partnership with the Association of American Colleges and Universities

AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises more than 1,250 member institutions-including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, and universities of every type and size.

>>Click here to visit the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ project partner site at aacu.org

Project Funding Generously Provided by:

The Spencer Foundation was established in 1962 by Lyle M. Spencer.  The Foundation is committed to investigating ways in which education, broadly conceived, can be improved around the world.  From the first, the Foundation has been dedicated to the belief that research is necessary to the improvement in education.  The Foundation is thus committed to supporting high-quality investigation of education through its research programs and to strengthening and renewing the educational research community through its fellowship and training programs and related activities.

The Teagle Foundation intends to be an influential national voice and a catalyst for change in higher education to improve undergraduate student learning in the arts and sciences.  The Foundation provides leadership by mobilizing the intellectual and financial resources that are necessary if today’s students are to have access to a challenging and transformative liberal education.  The benefits of such learning last for a lifetime and are best achieved when colleges set clear goals for liberal learning and systematically evaluate progress toward them.  In carrying out its work, the Foundation is committed to disseminating its findings widely, believing that the knowledge generated by our grantees—rather than the funding that enabled their work—is at the heart of our philanthropy.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York, founded by Andrew Carnegie, was envisioned as a foundation that would “promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.” In keeping with this mandate, our work incorporates an affirmation of our historic role as an education foundation but also honors Andrew Carnegie’s passion for international peace and the health of our democracy. Mr. Carnegie dedicated his foundation to the goal of doing “real and permanent good in this world” and deemed that its efforts should create “ladders on which the aspiring can rise.” In our current-day grantmaking we continue to carry out this mission through programs and initiatives that address today’s problems by drawing on the best ideas and cutting-edge strategies that draw strength from deep knowledge and scholarship. History guides us and the present informs us, but our work looks always toward the future.

TIAA-CREF Research Institute produces original research and insights on issues pertaining to financial security and organizational effectiveness of educational, nonprofit, and public sectors. Our mission is to advance thought leadership and inform decision-making across the markets we serve. Backed by the resources of TIAA-CREF, a not-for-profit Fortune 100 company serving the higher education community for over 90 years, the Institute is uniquely positioned to address particular themes of strategic importance to college and university leaders. As part of our mandate, we produce and commission in-depth, scholarly research; host thought leadership convenings of prominent scholars, academic and business leaders, and policymakers; collaborate with premier higher education associations; and implement a comprehensive communications strategy to facilitate the exchange of knowledge. In all we do, we strive to be a trusted, independent source of ideas and insights on matters of public interest.