Faculty in mathematics education are in high demand. In recent years at universities nationwide, fewer than half the positions for faculty who prepare future math teachers have been filled by qualified candidates.
Jo Olson is in that enviable position. In 2003, she had four job offers and chose the University of Colorado at Denver. In 2006, she applied at only one university, WSU, and is now an assistant professor of math education at the Pullman campus.
Why did she select WSU? It wasn’t the money.
“I value climate and collegiality above pay,” Olson said. “I decided that it was worth up to $5,000 (less) annually in pay to me to go to a university that offered the kind of job satisfaction I wanted.”
Olson is not alone in her preferences. According to a recent Harvard survey of 4,500 tenure-track faculty nationwide, departmental culture is five times more important than compensation in predicting job satisfaction.
“Of course, money isn’t everything,” agreed Erica Austin, professor and interim director of the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication. “It’s difficult to retain faculty and staff without adequate salaries; however, it’s not enough to just provide good pay.
“An institution keeps good people … by maintaining an atmosphere of shared governance, a collaborative environment and a fulfilling workplace.”
A series of surveys completed in 2001, 2003 and 2005 by Patty Sias, associate professor of communication, documents the importance of trust and respect at WSU. Of the four university strategic goals, building an environment of trust and respect had the highest level of support among employees.
None of this is a surprise to Jim Short, who arrived in 1951 as an acting assistant instructor and taught at WSU until his retirement as a professor of sociology in 1994.
“I never felt like a second-class citizen in my department,” Short recalled.
“After I started here, and over the next 30 years, Yale, the University of Wisconsin and others tried to hire me with jobs at higher pay. We stayed because we always felt at home here.”