North Central College - Naperville, IL

Sustaining Excellence: Academics

When U.S. News and World Report this fall placed North Central College among the top 80 institutions in the nation that have a special commitment to undergraduate teaching, it confirmed what students, alumni and the campus community already knew, that effective teaching has always been central to the mission and the performance of the College.

“To have engaged students you must have engaged faculty,” says Lisa Long, associate professor of English, a Ruge Fellow and faculty speaker for 2009-2011. “And to be an excellent teacher, you must be an engaged scholar.”

North Central College supports faculty development with funding for conferences, summer grants for research and trips with students abroad. Great teaching and research should be complementary pursuits, says Long, and many faculty use summer grants to fund student research assistants.

“I benefited from a summer grant for my work on White Scholars/African American Texts, a project that came out of my teaching,” says Long. “And a D-Term trip I took with students to Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand inspired my teaching and an article I authored on Hmong and Vietnamese gender roles in Southeast Asia and the United States. These opportunities rejuvenate your teaching and research, and you interact with students in a different context.”

Full-time faculty are eligible for a Professional Term every four years, which allows them to use a term outside the classroom for research, writing and/or other scholarly pursuits.

Recognition for faculty as teachers and scholars includes the annual Dissinger Awards, 10 endowed chairs—with the addition of the Grantman Professor in Business and Economics in 2008 and the Schneller Sisters Professor of Leadership, Ethics and Values announced in 2009—and the Ruge program established in 2006, which recognizes great teachers as Ruge Fellows.

New faculty find that the number-one qualification to earn tenure and promotion is teaching excellence. They are mentored by senior faculty and receive careful evaluations from department chairs and the Faculty Personnel Committee. Since 2004, the review process has also been extended to part-time, half-time and non-tenure-track faculty and its benefits became clear in the Self-Study Report prepared for the January 2010 visit by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

“The broadening of evaluation, development and reward beyond tenure-track faculty emerged as a key accomplishment,” says Peter Barger (left), director of institutional assessment and accreditation and dean of graduate and continuing education. “This has significantly enhanced the quality of teaching throughout the institution.”

Further support for teaching will come from the new Center for Teaching and Learning, established in 2009, to focus the College’s efforts on teaching excellence and using assessment feedback to improve student learning.

Annual Report 2009