March 5, 2009
Vol. 28 No. 11

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    Integrating work, life helps ensure retention of best faculty

    By Julia Morse
    News Office

    From the tenure clock to travel grants, the University is making changes to help faculty and staff balance work and life outside of work, efforts that will bolster the retention and continued recruitment of outstanding employees.

    “It is our goal to ensure that this institution is providing an environment that continuously fosters excellence,” said Mary Harvey, Associate Provost of Program Development. “We seek to remove obstacles to productivity, improve the integration of life and work, and continue to monitor job satisfaction. By acting on these responsibilities, we are enhancing our ability to attract and retain the best faculty in the world.”

    Provost Thomas Rosenbaum in January 2008 convened a Work-Life Task Force, which thoroughly examined current University practices and programs, issuing recommendations to improve the environment for the University community.

    Effective July 1, the University’s “Stopping the Clock on Tenure Review” policy will provide an automatic one-year extension of the tenure clock for assistant professors who welcome a new child into their families and have significant care-giving responsibilities. This will apply to both men and women and will include same-sex, registered domestic partners. Faculty who wish to do so may opt out of the automatic extension.

    “As an institution, we are committed to the careers of our junior faculty, and we certainly recognize the pressures and challenges that exist at that point in their careers,” said Kenneth Warren, Deputy Provost for Research & Minority Issues.

    “The more we continue to acknowledge and be supportive of the important balance of life and work, the more successful we will be in attracting and retaining them.”

    Also effective July 1, a small grant program will be offered to enable assistant professors to participate in career-advancing activities.

    This program, the “Dependent Care Professional Travel Grant Program,” will reimburse up to $500 in child-care expenses for junior faculty who need to travel for professional reasons or events.

    “We have a commitment to excellence—that is just the kind of institution we are,” Warren said. “The desire and commitment of our faculty and staff to succeed in their careers should not always be at odds with the responsibilities of their daily responsibilities or personal lives.”

    Several ongoing initiatives received continued support by the Work-Life Task Force, including a recognition of the need for institutional flexibility in setting workloads for faculty members who encounter exceptional life circumstances, such as illness, injury or providing care for a family member. Also ongoing is the University assistance provided in Dual Career Services, an office established in early 2008.

    “The demand for Dual Career Services is high,” Harvey said. “We will continue to provide University support and resources to ensure that partners of new or prospective faculty get the help they need in their own search for employment in the Chicago area. It’s crucial that we don’t only accommodate our potential new hires, but those who would be coming to Chicago along with them as well.”

    The Work-Life Task Force recommended long-term plans including the establishment of an on-campus child-care facility, which Harvey noted would be especially valuable for faculty and staff whose children are infants and young toddlers.

    “Child care on or very near campus strengthens the ability of our faculty and staff to meet demands in both their personal and professional lives simultaneously,” Harvey said. “Ultimately it affects their career success.”

    Additional child-care efforts will include further support of the existing Child Care Initiative, announced in 2006, which allocated $1 million of University funding to support the expansion or establishment of licensed child-care centers in Hyde Park and surrounding communities.

    Other suggestions from the Work-Life Task Force will continue to be reviewed and implemented over time, including the analysis of faculty teaching and service—an initiative that will assist deans and department chairs in better understanding faculty contributions in their academic units and also in the University as a whole.

    “The University will continue to be responsive to the needs of staff and faculty, in order to maintain an atmosphere of excellence,” Warren said.

    Harvey added, “This is an extraordinary place to work, and in order for us to ensure that our faculty and staff are provided the resources necessary to fully engage themselves in their work here, we must do whatever we can to support the integration of life and work—and that is exactly what we intend to do.”

    Related Link

    Office of the Provost: Work-Life Integration