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Non-tenure-track faculty brought into the limelight by MU Faculty Council

Monday, December 3, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:06 p.m. CST, Tuesday, December 4, 2012
MU professor Christine Seitz directs the Show-Me Opera during a rehearsal in McKee Gymnasium on Friday. Seitz joined the Department of Music faculty in the fall of 2008 as a professor of Voice/Opera and directs the Show-Me Opera.

COLUMBIA — Nicole Monnier uses a droll metaphor to describe what it's like to be a non-tenure-track faculty member at MU: They're like Canadians.

"I refer to NTTs as Canadians because we look just like everybody else," said Monnier, an associate teaching professor in the Department of German and Russian Studies. "There isn't a brand on our forehead, so it's not always clear to me that people know."

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Monnier is among more than 700 non-tenure-track faculty members who make up about 36 percent of ranked faculty — meaning they hold the title of assistant, associate or full professor. That figure excludes adjunct and visiting professors.

In early November, the MU Faculty Council, which represents the faculty to the administration, voted to change the definition of "faculty" to include all ranked members. A second vote approved allowing non-tenure-track faculty representatives on the council to vote in its decisions.

A forum is planned for next semester, after which the matter will go to all tenured and tenure-track faculty for a vote. If it passes, it will go to the University of Missouri System's Board of Curators for final approval. At that point, non-tenure-track faculty would be able to vote in campus matters except on promotions for tenure-track faculty.

Profiles of four non-tenure-track faculty members show their day-to-day experiences working in the schools of medicine, music and journalism and at MU Extension. Each feels an equal stake in the university and supports having a share in decision-making.

"I'm in favor of the people who have to abide by these rules having a say in these rules," said Robin Kruse, a research associate professor who is a non-tenure-track faculty member in the School of Medicine.

First, what's the difference?

Non-tenure-track faculty are hired on one- to three-year contracts without the possibility of tenure, which carries long-term job security.

Tenure-track and tenured faculty are evaluated in three ways: for teaching, research and service, which includes participating in departmental and other committees and advising students.

Non-tenure-track faculty are evaluated in two of those three categories, depending on their job description.

Like their tenure-track and tenured colleagues, many non-tenure-track faculty have extensive academic backgrounds. Monnier has doctoral and master's degrees in Slavic languages and literature from Princeton University and a bachelor's degree in Russian from Mount Holyoke College.

On the Faculty Council, Monnier represents teaching faculty, one of the five categories of non-tenure-track faculty at MU. The others are research, extension, professional practice and clinical.

Clinical faculty members spend most of their time practicing medicine in the university hospitals and clinics. They are teaching doctors, teaching and treating patients alongside medical students, residents and fellows. 

The School of Medicine relies heavily on clinical faculty members because they're more focused on patient care and teaching instead of publishing scholarly work, said Michael Misfeldt, senior associate dean for faculty affairs and a tenured professor in the School of Medicine.

Misfeldt has a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Iowa and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institutes of Health, according to the School of Medicine website.

Of the 519 faculty members in the School of Medicine, 294 of them, or 57 percent, are clinical faculty.

Using research in the fields

Extension Professor Ray Massey reviews the risks of food-borne illnesses and the potential defenses agriculture businesses take to lessen the impact of inevitable contamination. (Photo: BOBBY WATSON/Missourian)

In 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency wanted to regulate how livestock producers dispose of manure without releasing chemicals into freshwater streams. This presented a problem for farmers who were at risk of violating these regulations if it rained too much and the ponds that store animal waste overflowed.

MU Extension Professor Ray Massey provided a solution to this problem. He got a grant from the EPA and developed a system warning farmers across the state about incoming weather so they're more prepared and can avoid violating EPA regulations.

The key to success was finding the right incentives for farmers, Massey said. Through a weekly email, more than 500 farmers across the state are made more aware of weather problems that pose a threat to their business. That also makes it easier to work within EPA regulations. They protect their investments and the local environment at the same time, Massey said.

MU Extension was created to extend research done at the university to people who could apply it to their work. Massey works with the Commercial Agriculture Program, which focuses on applying research to make Missouri farmers more efficient. 

"My desire is to extend what creators of information develop to the users of information," Massey said.

All faculty members in the Commercial Agriculture Program are non-tenure-track, which Massey said enables them to focus on multidisciplinary projects because they are less tied to working with their own disciplines. He combines his expertise as a crops economist with an irrigation engineer and specialists in plant, environment and soil science.

The main component of Massey's job is outreach efforts, but he teaches a fall semester class on risk management for upper-level agriculture students. He has to affirm that teaching the class is voluntary so that he won't be evaluated on it; he is being looked at for his research and service.

Massey spends the rest of his work life conducting applied research, compiling reports, speaking at conferences and visiting farmers. 

He has a doctorate in agricultural economics from Oklahoma State University and attended New Mexico State University, where he received his master's degree in agricultural economics and bachelor's degree in animal science, according to the MU Extension website.

Keeping the class in tune

Members of the Show-Me Opera rehearse under the group's director Christine Seitz on Friday. (Photo: KILE BREWER/Missourian)

A gesture is like a sentence, Christine Seitz recently told her students — it should have a beginning, middle and end. Seitz stood next to them while rehearsing a scene of "Dido and Aeneas," gesturing grandly and coaching a student on how to manipulate her character's flowing purple costume.

Seitz is an associate teaching professor in the School of Music and director of Show-Me Opera. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she earned bachelor's degrees in applied voice and music education as well as a master's degree in applied voice, according to the School of Music website.

This rehearsal was for fall opera workshop, an annual performance of scenes from 12 operas. She is in charge of directing, casting, staging and rehearsing the 35-student ensemble in the workshop and a full opera production every spring. 

Seitz also teaches private voice lessons for six music students and a class in pronunciation of foreign languages. She said that spending most of her time hands-on with students in rehearsal or private lessons is normal for music performance faculty but that her job evaluations have less emphasis on outside performances.

Instead of publishing traditional research, she said, one thing tenured and tenure-track performance faculty in the School of Music are evaluated on is how often they perform with professional ensembles or in master classes outside the school.

Seitz said being non-tenure-track makes her job possible because she's evaluated differently than tenure-track faculty. She's evaluated on her work with students more than her work as a professional stage director. Seitz stays on campus through each semester and works professionally as a stage director in the summer, instead of traveling throughout the year.

"My (School of Music) director is happier that this is a teaching professor position right now because it mandates that I stay on campus and be able to work with the students during the semester," Seitz said. "I actually like being able to work with them ongoing through the semester and not having to leave."

Learning outside the classroom

Elizabeth Frogge, a non-tenure-track faculty member and producer at KOMU, works in the KOMU newsroom. (Photo: SARAH BRICKER/Missourian)

At least four days a week, you'll find Elizabeth Frogge in the newsroom at KOMU/NBC. Frogge immerses fledgling reporters and producers in a professional experience.

"I think that students who really want to succeed come here knowing that there are going to be faculty members ready to give them constant support — that we are going to be there for them pretty much all the time," she said.

Frogge is an assistant professional-practice professor in radio and television journalism and serves as managing editor for the news station. She graduated from MU with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

She uses her years of experience as a reporter, news anchor and producer to evaluate student work before it airs on KOMU's news broadcast or is posted on its website. Frogge also teaches an advanced reporting class for upper-level broadcast journalism students.

Non-tenure-track faculty make up about 67 percent of the Missouri School of Journalism and play a big role in leading the hands-on "Missouri Method." This teaching philosophy has students working in professional newsrooms such as KOMU, KBIA/91.3 FM or the Columbia Missourian as part of their coursework.

Almost all faculty editors at the Missourian have professional-practice status.

Turning numbers into better health care

Research Associate Professor Robin Kruse analyzes post-surgery admission rates in her office. (Photo: ALLI INGLEBRIGHT/Missourian)

Predicting death or illness might sound like medical science fiction, but one research professor spent five years helping develop a model to predict how likely it is that someone will die from a respiratory infection. MU Health Care now uses the model to make better informed treatment decisions for elderly patients.

Kruse was part of this project in the Department of Family and Community Medicine.Her research is based mostly on analyzing data collected by the government or health care providers. In the respiratory infection study, the researchers spent two years collecting data and analyzing information about more than 1,400 patients.

Kruse began working as a research assistant and was hired as a research assistant professor after a postdoctoral fellowship to receive her master's degree in public health at MU. She received her doctorate and master's degree in environmental and forest biology from The State University of New York and a bachelor's degree in biology from Bryn Mawr College.

Her initial interest was health care for young children, but she ended up on the other end of the spectrum. After participating in several research projects based on gerontology, she began to focus more on keeping people healthy as they age. 

Kruse doesn't teach outside of helping with the occasional research project. Her other duties are writing for medical journals and serving as the chairwoman of the School of Medicine Faculty Affairs Committee.

"Your goal is to help people, to make the delivery of health care better and to inform patients better," Kruse said.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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Comments

Michael Williams December 3, 2012 | 4:44 p.m.

As a growing university, I sure hope UMC is planning for better economic times with its faculty. When those days come back, UMC will need to retain all those NTTs plus adjunct faculty, and the competition among universities/colleges will be stiff. After all, in a better economy, NTTs and adjuncts will be looking for more stability and better pay/benefits. That "better" position may NOT be here. Class sizes will get larger in a real hurry...and so will the teaching responsibilities of the remaining tenure-track group.

That prospect should raise some eyebrows among tenure-track faculty and the end result is gonna cost a bunch of money if those NTTs and adjuncts have to be replaced with tenure-track folks.

Competition-R-Us

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