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How Institutional Surveys inform Institutional Strategy

March 2024 | Courtney Thornton 

Wolfpack 2030 Metrics are used to gain insight on what the university has accomplished so far, and to provide direction on where we go next.

Between 2011 and 2030 – a twenty-year period spanning two university strategic plans – NC State faculty will have participated in seven Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) surveys. That’s a lot of rich information about the experiences and satisfaction of NC State faculty over time.

Seven COACHE survey items are among the metrics for NC State’s current strategic plan, Wolfpack 2030:Powering the Extraordinary. Three items examine faculty satisfaction with the support they receive to improve teaching and to obtain and manage externally funded grants. Other items ask whether faculty agree that campus facilities are conducive to interdisciplinary work, or that the institution has visible leadership that supports and promotes diversity on campus. Faculty are also asked whether they agree that they are proud to work at NC State.

This month, I caught up with Dr. Nancy Whelchel, assistant vice provost for institutional survey research and analysis, to learn more about how longitudinal survey efforts like COACHE help inform institutional strategy.

Insights: How does NC State’s long standing participation in surveys like COACHE benefit the university’s strategic planning efforts?

Whelchel: Strategic plans drive change, and some of those changes take a long time to put into effect and to yield results. By participating regularly in surveys like COACHE, NC State is well positioned to see whether some of its strategic initiatives and investments are yielding the intended results regarding faculty satisfaction. Take new buildings, or updates to existing ones, for example. These projects can take a long time, from design to build to implementation and use. Our data since 2011 show that our faculty are increasingly finding campus facilities to be conducive to interdisciplinary work. While it’s impossible to establish causality, intentional investments in recent years appear to be making a difference. We might expect that trend to continue as major initiatives like the Integrative Sciences Building and Integrative Sciences Initiative are realized.

Insights: That’s a great example of how survey responses reflect the impact of new strategic directions over time. What about cases where survey results themselves informed or helped identify those new strategic directions?

Whelchel: The Provost’s Office has a long track record of reviewing COACHE results to identify and address opportunities for improvement. Two such areas identified in past survey results are institutional support for interdisciplinary work and clarity around faculty promotion policies.

In looking at the results from the 2018 survey, the Office of Faculty Excellence saw room for improvement regarding the effectiveness of faculty mentoring. They’ve developed several  new mentoring resources in response. And, as faculty satisfaction with mentoring grows, that will positively affect NC State’s brand and reputation, which is one of the current strategic goals.

Insights: Why should faculty take the time to participate in the COACHE survey?

Whelchel:   COACHE is a comprehensive, well respected national survey initiative. It provides the university with valuable peer comparisons and trend data on experiences known to affect faculty well-being, satisfaction, recruitment and retention.

And of course, several items from the COACHE survey are used as Wolfpack 2030 metrics. The more faculty that participate the more confident we can feel that the results reflect the overall opinions and experiences of faculty at NC State.

Read more:

The 2024 COACHE Faculty Satisfaction Survey is available now through early April. Visit this site to see response rates by college and unit, FAQs, and examples of the COACHE survey’s impact at NC State.

Access prior COACHE Survey results and dashboards through the ISA Faculty Surveys page.

More questions about the COACHE Survey? Contact Dr. Nancy Whelchel, assistant vice provost, Institutional Strategy and Analysis and Kimberly Grainger, J.D., associate vice provost for academic personnel and policy, Office of Faculty Excellence.