Is Roberta Professor Mann's problem? A day in the life of Professor Gene Mann. (role of business professors in their students' search for employment)by Krzystofik, Anthony T.
The continuing recession has had a devastating impact on the job market for recent college graduates, including those who studied in business and accounting programs. We conducted a study of faculty attitudes toward recruiting.
How We Checked It out
We sent questionnaires to 137 members of the Northeast Business and Economics Association, comprised preponderantly of teaching faculty in business or economic programs. By the deadline date, some 60 individuals had responded, for a response rate of 44%. Although the sample size is small, we believe that the results are at least suggestive regarding three questions:
* Should faculty play a role in assisting students to find employment?
* Should faculty develop a relationship with prospective employers to enhance student employment opportunities?
* Should faculty counsel students about majors, careers, and employment opportunities?
We found that if Professor Mann is a prototypical business program professor, this is how he would respond to Roberta's question:
"Roberta, it should not be my responsibility as a professor to help you get a job. In fact, it's about the least important activity I could get involved in. On the other hand, you have every right to request that help from me. I am willing to help you if I can."
The Department's Policy
The first question asked the respondent to "Imagine yourself at a meeting of your department early in the semester. A colleague suggests that the department encourage each instructor to do certain things (as indicated below) in order to help students with their post graduation employment." The respondents were then asked to give a response ranging from "Agree Strongly," through "Indifferent" to "Disagree Strongly."
We added the responses "Agree Strongly" and "Agree" together as indicating support for the colleague's suggestion. "Disagree" was added to "Disagree Strongly" as indicating opposition. "Indifferent" was taken to mean just what it says. On that basis, the results are shown in Table 1.
Based on this data, we can see that:
* A majority of respondents support every suggestion.
* "Indifferent" ranges from 1/6 to 1/4 of the responses. Added to those who "Disagree," this could indicate a lack of support which would compromise the effectiveness of any policy decided upon by the department.
* The proposition of a dedicated class period to discuss careers had the least support among the suggestions. This may indicate a desire to protect class time and/or an unease among some professors about discussing careers. The latter possibility will be explored further below.
* Almost 2/3 of the respondents are willing to help develop relationships with prospective employers. However, does this expressed willingness conform to actual practice? Does this represent a faculty desire to help students or a hope to establish relationships which directly help the faculty member?
What's Important to Gene
Given the variety of activities in which a faculty member might be involved, which would he or she consider to be the most important? Respondents were asked to rank-order various activities according to their own perspective. In the aggregate, this is the order of eight possible important activities according to our respondents:
4. Academic advising;
5. Service to the educational institution;
6. Service to the general community;
7. Helping students find employment.
It is clear that helping students find employment is not viewed as important by our respondents. In fact, it is viewed as least important overall.
What does Gene Mann teach? Does he have tenure? Does he teach at a public or private institution?
It doesn't matter! Our data reveals no statistically significant difference on any of these points.
Gene Mann's Opinion Poll
The next section of the survey asked respondents to "indicate your opinion about the statements" indicated in Table 2. A summary of responses, again adding "Agree Strongly" to "Agree" and "Disagree" to "Disagree Strongly" is presented in the talk.
Several tendencies emerge from the responses:
* A plurality of respondents agree that helping students get a job is not one of their responsibilities. Still, a significant minority seems to feel that it is part of their job.
* Almost 75% of respondents seem to accept a student's right to expect career advice or corporate connections.
* Over 90% of respondents disagreed with the idea that faculty are "too busy with teaching or research" to give students advice about careers.
* Less than 1/4 of respondents agreed TABULAR DATA OMITTED that most faculty know more about the realities of corporate careers than the Career Center or placement people.
* A plurality agrees that help given students regarding career choices should strengthen a case for tenure. (Of course faculty who are indifferent or who disagree could put the kibosh on this idea in practice.)
* The preponderance of respondents (57 of 60) agreed that "Students should decide for themselves what risks they are going to take" and that "students should choose a major based on their talents and interests." A majority disagreed with the proposition that "Faculty should counsel students in general away from careers with limited job opportunities."
Taken together, these responses show a strong inclination toward avoiding specific advice about specific careers and letting the student make this kind of decision without strong faculty intervention.
* Surprisingly, about half of the respondents, although business faculty, supported the statement, "Faculty should advise students that a strong liberal education is the most practical experience for the long run."
* A plurality disagreed with the statement, "Faculty should still counsel students away from careers in this |your discipline" if your department needed enrollments. Some might interpret this as suggesting that faculty should induce students to enroll even if it would ill-serve the student's career.
Responses to this section indicate that faculty understand a student's expectation of receiving help with his/her career. Faculty tend to feel that career advice is not part of their job and is better left to the Career Center. We also see a tendency not to exert strong influence about student choices, whether of majors or careers.
Gene Mann's Lesson Plan
From our limited study of business and economics faculty, we have reached five conclusions:
* There is a pool of goodwill among faculty regardless of teaching discipline regarding helping students with their careers. Faculty seems to view the student's career in a term perspective when offering advice rather than focusing on short-term job problems.
* Faculty members jealously guard class time, but are not opposed to having TABULAR DATA OMITTED corporate speakers who will contribute to academic objectives.
* Faculty members in this study enjoy teaching, which is a flexible, creative, helping profession. Since corporate careers may be none of these things, faculty may have a personality type which skews their perception of corporate careers.
* We found no distinction based on tenure status, discipline taught, or public/private institution.
We feel that we can make three recommendations for accounting recruiters to consider:
* Employers should encourage colleges to establish Advising Committees composed of corporate representatives, faculty, admission counselors, and placement directors. The objectives would be to identify ways in which these four groups can work for everyone's betterment. For example, faculty can help students start good careers. A college's good placement record can attract a higher quality student. In turn, a better quality incoming class can make both teaching and career placement more effective, etc.
* Employers and firms can establish a mutually beneficial relationship with individual faculty to the betterment of student careers if firms provide material depicting problem solving, current issues, etc, rather than recruiting promotional.
* Since faculty members do not wish to be career counselors, career guidance, and firm promotional should be directed to the Placement office or directly to students. However, firms should keep faculty abreast of current career information to minimize the inadvertent spread of misinformation.
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