Weber State University encouraged its adjunct faculty to attend an adjunct retreat in February, saying those adjuncts are a bargain for the school. In this economy, when higher education funds are slashed like the rest, adjunct professors provide in-field experience for students at a nice price.
Although a program can’t be built without full-time faculty members, adjunct professors at various universities provide students with professional experience they wouldn’t get without those adjuncts. Adjunct professors are typically hired directly from the field and teach one or two classes that have a direct correlation to their field.
“The students really appreciate the connections an adjunct professor can provide from their subject to a career,” said Bruce Davis, Vice Provost and Dean of Continuing Education at Weber State University.
“For the students, we get a variety of these teachers at all different times. We’re able to get people who have an engineering position at ATK to come teach a math class and make that connection,” said Adam Johnston, a professor in the physics department at WSU and director of the teaching and learning forum.
While students and universities appreciate the experience adjunct professors bring, they also recognize there are many things adjunct professors can’t do for a university. Full-time professors are required to take on career advisement, further professional development and education, field research, academic advisement and more.
“A lot of students will want to work with a full-time professor on career and academic advice,” said Davis.
What adjuncts provide is a direct connection from content area classes such as English, to careers in business and sales.
“My one adjunct professor is available to us as students, and I think he does a good job bringing his professional experience into the classroom setting,” said Bountiful resident and University of Utah graduate student Matthew Upton.
“At Weber State, we have a lot of classes at different times of day. That’s when adjunct professors can be very useful for us,” said Johnston.
Johnston and Davis both attributed many late afternoon and night classes to adjunct professors. “We do have a large number, especially in English, communications and mathematics,” said Johnston.
Adjunct professors at Weber State University are paid per credit hour they teach. Typically, an adjunct teaching one three-credit hour course will earn about $2,700 per semester.
“We know we have to treat our adjuncts well, and we work on getting them professional development,” said Johnston. The retreat this February is geared toward professional development for adjunct professors.
Adjuncts typically have at least a master’s degree and experience in their field. Johnston and Davis said they don’t believe students notice much of a difference, other than getting a professional connection. Some students, however, notice teaching ability.
“In my experience at WSU, the professors with doctorates teaching students were great. I normally see a bit of a decline in teaching ability with the ones who are just working on their Ph.D,” said Kaysville resident and WSU physics student Trent Dortzbach.
“I don’t think it is a bad idea to get a chance to have other perspectives in the classroom,” said Upton. He also suggested checking out a professor’s ratings if there is a concern.
Davis said for larger departments like English and mathematics, students do look for that connection to business and other fields.