Academic Exchange Quarterly     Winter   2004    ISSN 1096-1453    Volume 8, Issue 4

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Strategically Increasing Faculty Productivity

Scott C. Hammond, Utah Valley State College

Susan R. Madsen, Utah Valley State College

James W. Fenton, Jr., Utah Valley State College


Hammond, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of International Business and Management and an independent change consultant; Madsen, Ed.D., is an Assistant Professor of Management and an Organization Development consultant; and Fenton, Ph.D., is the Dean of the School of Business and a Professor of Management.


The School of Business at Utah Valley State College is working toward AACSB accreditation. With a relatively new Dean and Faculty Scholarship Committee, carefully designed strategies for change have been implemented, specifically related to increasing faculty research productivity. Improving this productivity is a major concern and difficult task for many schools, colleges, and universities. This article cases Utah Valley State College to provide other institutions with ideas and a framework for consideration in how to strategically increase faculty research productivity. 


The School of Business at Utah Valley State College (UVSC), with over 4,300 students, is one of the largest undergraduate student bodies of any business school in Utah and one of the largest in the Rocky Mountain region. With annual growth rates between 8 and 12 percent, UVSC is adding over 2,000 students per year while the School of Business is attracting between 400 and 500. UVSC has gone from a technical school to community college to state college in 15 years and is now facing the challenge of potentially gaining university status in a state that already has five universities.  Within three years it is anticipated that UVSC will have a larger student body than neighboring Brigham Young University and the University of Utah.

The School of Business faces rapid growth, accreditation, and the challenge to move towards university status.  At the beginning of the 2002-03 academic year, the School of Business was two years into its candidacy for business accreditation with AACSB International—the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. About 50 percent of the 63 member faculty had been hired when UVSC was a two year technical school.  Nearly 50 percent of the faculty hold masters degrees and have no experience in research and publication.  Yet, accreditation for graduate degree programs requires that 90 percent of the faculty be academically qualified (AACSB, 2001). As such, the faculty must be involved in bona fide scholarly activity.

Other researchers and educators have also reported similar challenges and pressures to increase scholarly publications as well as to determine applicable faculty research directions. Blackburn, Bieber, Lawrence, and Trautvetter (1991) explained that today “faculty in almost every institutional type perceive pressure to obtain external funding, conduct research, and publish their findings (p. 385). Bentley and Blackburn (1990) studied the data from four national surveys of the American professoriate and found that research and publishing had intensified at all institutional types (research, comprehensive, liberal arts, and two-year community, junior, and technical colleges). However, the debate has continued regarding the appropriate balance, role, and type of research and publishing for these various types of institutions (McKenna, Cotton, & Van Auken, 1995). For example, Martinez, Toyne, and Menger (2000) found that deans of high-teaching-emphasis schools placed a “significantly greater importance on teaching-oriented and cross-disciplinary research” (p. 773-774) than other types. According to Cotton, McKenna, Auken, and Meuter (2001), business schools are being pulled in two opposing directions. “The academy, where they live, pulls them to emphasize science and its values, and to focus on expanding the field of knowledge” (p. 227). While the profession, “into which their graduates move, pulls them to deal with immediately relevant, practical problems” (p. 227). Further, Westerbeck (2004) purported that business schools need a more experimental and aspirational approach to research. “They must be willing to go inside organizations and experiment with new approaches to business problems” (p. 39).

Although the literature has addressed these various research issues, few cases have been published that center on a dean or committee’s specific efforts to increase research productivity. This article does just that. It focuses on the efforts, in our School of Business, to strategically increase faculty research productivity for the primary purpose of obtaining accreditation.

Different People Require Different Strategies for Faculty Development

At the beginning of the 2002-03 academic year, 20 to 30 percent of the faculty members were involved in active research programs. While some embraced the challenge of adding research and publication as a job requirement, others felt they were being asked to extend beyond their training. In the fall of 2002, the Faculty Scholarship Committee members interviewed every faculty member and identified strategies to support increased contributions from each category of faculty member.

We noted that faculty members fell into four basic scholarship categories, and that each category required slightly, and sometimes vastly, different strategies for support: 1) high motivation—high ability; 2) high motivation—low ability; 3) low motivation—high ability; and 4) low motivation—low ability. While we did not identify individual faculty members in each category, it was clear that there was a critical mass in each quadrant.                            

High Motivation – High Ability. The first type of faculty scholarship mindset included faculty who had high motivation and high ability to research and publish. These faculty were characterized by a strong desire to have research that informs their teaching. They generally taught three to four classes per semester, but found time during the week, in the evenings, and during the summers to develop research programs.  Most of the faculty in this category had doctorate degrees, with a few notable exceptions.  Many were still involved in research that had begun with their advisors and doctoral programs.  Most also had strong collegial relationships outside UVSC that encouraged their continued research.

Perhaps because many of these faculty members had learned to do research in institutions whose main focus was teaching, there was concern about whether other faculty would value a research contribution in the tenure process. Some expressed concern that research success might be seen as coming at the expense of quality teaching. Also, there was a great deal of concern over burnout. Others who enjoyed and were involved in research said that if research and publication were not rewarded they would “write themselves to a better institution.”

The Faculty Scholarship Committee and the Dean of the School of Business identified this group as critical to AACSB accreditation. All the strategies for increasing the contribution of other faculty were dependent on the willingness of this group to share their abilities and excitement with others. The challenge with this group was to motivate them to expand their contributions by assisting and mentoring less experienced faculty with regards to research and publishing. The School of Business Dean once stated that “It is not enough to do your own research and publishing. You are expected to share your expertise by assisting less experienced faculty members. This is the primary vehicle necessary to yield wide-spread faculty success.” As a result, the following strategies were developed to support motivated faculty with the ability to do research:

  1. Some teaching load reductions were offered to those who had or were publishing.
  2. Recognition and support was offered for those willing to mentor other faculty.
  3. Funds were diverted for summer faculty research grants.
  4. There was increased funding for conferences with preference given to people presenting papers.
  5. Finally, almost daily the Associate Dean published an “e” letter called “Cheers” that highlighted any scholarly successes.

High Motivation – Low Ability. The second type of faculty scholarship mindset included faculty who had high motivation but low ability to research, write, and publish. This group was composed of faculty who had deliberately sought out a teaching institution. Some had doctorates but had not pursued research since their dissertations.  Others had master’s degrees and had become dedicated and experienced teachers. Many were highly committed to the institution and could see how research programs contributed to teaching success. They were also concerned that students needed to receive their degrees from an accredited business school. Hence, these faculty members were open, willing, and motivated to learn so that future UVSC students would benefit by obtaining degrees from a higher quality, more respected school.

The Committee identified this group as the most likely to make positive change. They were motivated, but generally lacked the ability to start research programs. Strategies for this group included the following:

  1. Mentor matches were made with research faculty with similar interests.  These matches were made informally, but encouraged by the committee.  Often junior faculty found themselves mentoring senior faculty on research projects.
  2. Workshops focusing on basic research skills were held every three weeks and included research basics such as developing a research question, SPSS basics, qualitative research, case publication, and the writing and editing process.  One third of the faculty attended each of these workshops during the year, with 75 percent attending at least one.
  3. Institutional support for those interested in completing a Ph.D. was developed.  Faculty who were five years or more from retirement were encouraged to enter into Ph.D. programs.  Faculty entering doctoral programs were rewarded with a one year sabbatical leave and a reduced load for an additional two years following the leave.
  4. A continuing education course titled “Writing for Scholarly Publication” was designed for delivery in the fall of 2004. It was limited to six faculty members, some of whom were in this quadrant. Additional criteria for the course included faculty who did not have Ph.D.s, were within two to six years of retirement, were not planning to start a doctoral program, and had not previously published as a principal author. All faculty members approached were interested and willing to participate. In fact, before the summer break all of these future class members had asked for a copy of the course text and a meeting with the professor so they could start reading and preparing during the summer months.
  5. Publishing success was also publicized through email, memo, and recognition at meetings.

While there is no way to measure this impression, we noted that this group was socially connected with the other groups within the School of Business. These faculty members were willing to serve on committees and interact with all types of faculty including those who had terminal degrees and enjoyed research (it is important to note that some faculty in the other categories actually distanced themselves from those who were successful researchers and writers). This group of faculty was open and willing to learn. In addition, they willingly and optimistically participated in seminars, workshops, and research teams. Their increased excitement over the academic year appeared to have a significant impact on the final two groups.

Low Motivation – High Ability. The third type of faculty scholarship mindset included faculty who have the ability to research and publish but, for various reasons, did not want to make an expanded contribution. This group was characterized by faculty who felt institutional betrayal, low trust, change fatigue, and increased social isolation. They formed a culture of mediocrity that was extremely defensive of the status quo. The Faculty Scholarship Committee was faced with the problematic challenge to motivate a group of highly independent intellectuals who were feeling that their contributions were diminishing in value in the new culture and under new leadership. With this group, trust was a significant issue. One committee member in this category told us, “I’ve been here before. I’ve reinvented myself. I learned how to teach what they needed. I wasn’t surprised when I wasn’t rewarded, but I didn’t expect to be sidelined or punished for it.” The faculty members in this category were difficult to categorize. One committee member said, “The ‘herding cats’ metaphor was optimistic.” Most just wanted to know that if they took the significant steps to begin a research and publication program they would be rewarded.

 Unlike those who were motivated but not able, those who had ability but no motivation were withholding their abilities in order to gain power or status.  These were highly individualistic resistance tactics that could only be addressed at an individual level.  Individual members of the Committee worked one on one to create social ties with faculty in this category.  The objective was to identify their fears and insecurities and invite their participation where appropriate.  Success in motivating these faculty members was completely dependent on helping them built strong social ties and rebuild social trust. In one case a faculty member chose to retire. In several cases faculty entered into co-authorships that, in one case, produced one faculty member’s first publication after 30 years of teaching.

Low Motivation – Low Ability. The final type of faculty scholarship mindset included faculty members who had both low motivation and low ability. This group was generally characterized by older faculty who were approaching retirement, though it should be noted that there were several faculty in each of the groups described above who were approaching retirement. In addition, it is important to note that a few younger faculty members with no research or publishing education or experience also fell into this category. Most of the faculty members in this category did not have terminal degrees and, therefore, no education or experience in the research and publishing that most often comes with doctoral programs. A few had terminal degrees from institutions that did not require depth in research courses and did not encourage scholarly conference attendance or journal publication activities. While many of this group are tenured, they were generally bitter about the rapid change from a teaching to an increasingly research-oriented institution. They were focused in a narrow teaching specialty and some were marginally involved in citizenship activities. 

The Committee acknowledged that this faculty group was unlikely to contribute positively towards accreditation during the first academic year, but that they could also do a great deal to negatively impact the efforts of the Committee and administration. Most had strong social ties to the faculty, institution, and students. It was hoped that through both subtle and obvious change interventions (e.g., education, vision-building, friendships with newer faculty members, requirements from Dean, colleague interactions) that this group would increase motivation throughout the year at various levels. Thus the following strategies were adopted to deal with this category:

  1. The Dean of the School articulated a philosophy to the faculty that all faculty members, regardless of prior training, were capable of doing some form of scholarly activity that could and would have a positive contribution and impact toward accreditation. Collaboration in performance of scholarly activity was emphasized and encouraged. The Dean’s approach emphasized a change in faculty emphasis from a one-dimensional teaching focus to multidimensional teaching and scholarship focus. The Dean articulated the message to the faculty in a way that emphasized confidence in the faculty’s ability and willingness to respond to the change.
  2. Teaching and citizenship activities tied to the values of the past were kept intact in order to provide recognition for this group. 
  3. Department Chairs met individually with each faculty member and developed a plan for course load expectations, publishing requirements, and plans to retire.
  4. Faculty members without doctorates, who planned on being in the School of Business for more than five years, were strongly encouraged to enter into a Ph.D. program.
  5. A few faculty members, originally perceived to be in this quadrant, were invited to join the faculty writing course already discussed. To our surprise they accepted the invitation willingly and their motivation appears to be increasing as they now feel they have specific support and assistance to help in meeting the high expectations.


In addition to faculty development, the School of Business has embarked on an ambitious hiring program in an attempt to enhance research productivity.  New faculty members are expected to serve as mentors and collaborate with senior faculty on research while senior faculty mentor junior faculty on teaching and citizenship.  Although the comprehensive and far-reaching results are still unfolding, in 2003-04 there was more than a doubling of the number of articles published and almost 80 percent of faculty members now say they are involved in some kind of research activity.  But the most significant change is the least measurable; there has been a change in the culture within the School of Business. Scholarship and teaching appear to be equally valued by many faculty members. Collaboration between junior and senior faculty is valued and even cherished, particularly by senior faculty. One senior faculty member said,” When these changes started to hit us in the face, I started to look at retirement.  Now I’m going to stick around another year and see if this project has wheels.”


AACSB (2001, February 14). Standards for business accreditation. Retrieved July 2, 2004, from  

Bentley, R. & Blackburn, R. (1990). Changes in academic research performance over time: A study of institutional accumulative advantage. Research in Higher Education, 31(4), 327-345.

Blackburn, R. T., Bieber, J. P., Lawrence, J. H., & Trautvetter, L. (1991). Faculty at work: Focus on research, scholarship, and service. Research in Higher Education, 32(4), 385-413.

Cotton, C. C., McKenna, J. F., Auken, S. V., & Meuter, M. L. (2001). Action and reaction in the evolution of business school missions. Management Decision, 39(3), 227-234.

Martinez, Z. L., Toyne, B., & Menger, R. A. (2000). Research expectations at business schools: Responding to changing business education pressures. Journal of Marketing Management, 16, 761-778.

McKenna, J. F., Cotton, C. C., Van Auken, S. (1995). Business school emphasis on teaching, research and service to industry: Does where you sit determine where you stand? Journal of Organizational Change Management, 8(2), 3-17.

Westerbeck, T. (2004, July/August). Brave new world, bold new b-school. BizEd, 36-40.