IT Catalyst at San Francisco State University

Photo: Scientists study specimen shoulder-to-shoulder

The role of service at San Francisco State University, as well as other large public institutions, has undergone significant changes due to transformations in hiring practices. Over the past decade, as a result of state funding contraction and budget cuts, one way in which the university has met the increase in student numbers is by hiring more lecturers rather than tenure-track (TT) faculty. A net result of these hiring practices is that the increase in committee workload and student mentoring fall on a smaller pool of TT faculty. Understanding the effect of such institutional change on the workload of women and women of color STEM-SBS faculty is of high significance as it may burden these individuals with higher service demands, thus creating potential barriers to academic success and career advancement. 

Preliminary data conducted with SF State faculty highlight a common issue with respect to the role of service on women’s advancement: Women faculty, in particular women of color, reported a heavy burden for service activities. While the definition of service itself and its role in the tenure and promotion process varies tremendously across departments and is often an ambiguous requirement, the experience of service and its relationship to professional success requires in-depth study. 

Through survey, interviews and RTP guidelines reviews, this research seeks to understand the contours and distribution of service at SF State and to assess the potential consequence that a heavy service load may contribute to the productivity and overall success of women and women of color faculty in STEM-SBS.  While the focus is on women and women of color in STEM and SBS fields, the overall goal of this research is to gain knowledge to transform the value and distribution of service, and ultimately the career success, of all faculty at SF State.  With this knowledge, our team will apply for an NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant to create institutional policies and procedures with regards to service activities that address challenges of fairness and equity across the California State University (CSU) system and other comparable universities in our nation.