Last night, Xavier University was one of 15 schools nationwide awarded a $100,000 grant from the American Council on Education and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for its innovative work in faculty retirement. The selected institutions – six from doctorate-granting universities, five from baccalaureate colleges, and four (including Xavier) from Master’s Large institutions – will together look to share and enhance their best practices around three culminating stages of faculty careers: the development of a legacy, the transition into retirement and the continuing involvement of faculty in the academic community post-retirement.
“Our intent in funding these awards is to broaden the national conversation and the agenda within higher education to take into account the full scope of the culminating stage of faculty careers,” said Kathleen Christensen, Working Longer program director, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “We are hopeful these award winning institutions can provide examples for our community of thoughtful approaches that can be modeled.”
As a Jesuit Catholic institution, Xavier’s mission includes the Jesuit value of “cura personalis,” care for the whole person, which guides it to support employees along the various stages of their career paths. Retired faculty have been provided with a range of opportunities to stay engaged in the life of the University, from continuing to receive basketball tickets to being asked to return and temporarily fill administrative roles when there has been need for strong leadership during moments of restructuring.
“Through the support of this grant,” says Scott A. Chadwick, Ph.D., Xavier’s provost and chief academic officer, “we plan to engage more late-career and retired faculty, as well as enhance opportunities for late-career faculty to craft legacy projects.”
Xavier has a long practice of awarding a semester-long sabbatical to retiring faculty at the university for 30 years or longer. This is seen as a significant recognition of their impact on shaping the institution. The most promising retirement transition practice started in 2009 called Second Fifty. Originally designed for alumni, it opened to retired faculty and staff. Created by a former vice president for mission, Rev. Leo Klein, S.J., it offers the opportunity to reflect on the meaning and spiritual direction of the second half of one’s life. Topics include studying your lifeline; contemplating your legacy; and letting go of work. Now there is an option for a Spiritual Companion, if participants want an additional person to talk with more specifically about the spiritual journey.
“The Second Fifty program,” says Chadwick, “fits very strongly with Xavier’s Jesuit Catholic mission and is well-aligned with the range of mission-oriented programs we offer to faculty and staff at early and middle stages of their careers. With ACE/Sloan grant funding, we hope to promote this program more extensively to later-career faculty as well as retirees.”
The names of the other institutions honored, along with summaries of their award-winning activities can be found on the ACE website. In addition, each of the winners will draft a chapter about their campus practices which will be included in an upcoming ACE monograph. They will also have the opportunity to disseminate their best practices at conferences and in other venues.
“With the generous support of the Sloan Foundation, ACE is pleased to recognize institutions like Xavier for creating win-win solutions that involve faculty in meaningful ways before, during and after retirement,” said Gretchen Bataille, senior vice president for Leadership and Lifelong Learning at ACE.
“Transitioning into retirement marks an important phase in a faculty career,” Senior Advisor and Project Director Claire Van Ummersen said. “These 15 colleges and universities are to be commended for their recognition of and positive actions in addressing this major milestone.”