What does it mean to be well? We all seem to know what it is but have difficulty defining. Well-being is a multidimensional construct often mentioned in relation to health, but it goes beyond that. The definition below seems to suggest that well-being entails reaching higher order goals:
. . . As well as feeling satisfied and happy, well-being means developing as a person, being fulfilled, and making a contribution to the community.”1
Notably missing from the definition above are economic/financial factors. Does the ability to ‘make a comfortable living,’ (i.e. income) relate at all to well-being? The United States government publishes annual reports on the financial well-being of the country. In 2016, 40% of adults with less than a college degree reported poor financial well-being2.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) measured well-being more comprehensively. Their assessment included “both material well-being (such as income, jobs, and housing) and the broader quality of people’s lives (such as their health, education, work-life balance, environment, social connections, civic engagement, subjective well-being and safety).”3 Here again, across many countries, higher education was associated with better well-being.
It seems that the work we do at IUPUI educating students contributes significantly to the well-being of individuals and communities.
But what about our own well-being as faculty? This is what I am working on for my faculty fellowship. For faculty, in addition to the many factors mentioned above, well-being includes:
- faculty development
- career acceptance
- support from other faculty
- generativity (having an impact on students)
- individual and group pedagogy
- recognition and rewards
I found these aspects specific to faculty work across many resources focused on faculty well-being including the Inventory on Faculty Well-Being, References on Faculty Vitality and Well-Being, the Optimal Places to Work in Higher Education report, and the Inventory of Elements of Your Institutional Well-Being Plan document.
Why would we care about faculty well-being? Well, for many reasons. First of all, well-being is associated with faculty satisfaction. In 2015, IUPUI sent out a climate survey to all faculty. I examined general satisfaction by school and correlated it with satisfaction with various aspects of faculty life. Across all schools, general satisfaction with IUPUI was associated with autonomy at r = .31 or higher, as well as with an item assessing opportunities to provide input to one’s unit. Salary was associated with most, but not all, units’ satisfaction scores.
Faculty that experience well-being are more likely to have, among other things, “a broader scope of attention….increased creativity….an increased capacity to adapt, change and grow….satisfaction with work life…..”4 all states that support faculty development and quality teaching. In addition to increased productivity5, there is more commitment to the institution6 among faculty that scores their institutions high on factors that promote well-being.
These findings support the focus on faculty well-being as an area of study and development. For my fellowship project, I will expand an existing instrument to measure well-being, based on the results of interviews with faculty from various units and at various stages of their professional life. The instrument will be sent out to all faculty in the spring, and based on the results, I will make recommendations for improving well-being at IUPUI.
So stay tuned, and if you get an email from me asking you to meet with me, or to fill out a survey…..please do!
- Kazi, Joshua. ‘Is Well-Being an Individual Matter?’ Well-being and higher education: a strategy for change and the realization of education’s greater purposes. Eds. Donald Harward. Washington, DC, 2016. 73. Print.
- Keyes, C. (2007). Promoting and protecting mental health as flourishing: A complementary strategy for improving national mental health. American Psychologist, 62, 95-108