Nov 082011
 
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Younger professors are increasingly becoming a part of the teaching faculty at CSU as part of a unique generational shift for the institution.

“My whole department is the Department of Finance and Real Estate in the College of Business, and our last three hires that we did were for three new assistant professors and they’re all quite young,” said Timothy Gallagher, who chairs the department and the university’s faculty council.

The amount of tenure-track faculty on campus 39 years old or younger has increased by 23 percent over the past 10 years. The number of professors ages 40 to 49, however, has decreased by 21 percent over the same time period, while those older than 60 has gone up by 17 percent.

But the same cannot be said about colleges and universities nationwide.

“Generally, most observers see the full-time faculty growing older,” said John Curtis, director of research at the American Association of University Professors. Other institutions are also hiring younger professors, he added, but usually on a part-time basis.

“Unfortunately, they’re in positions that don’t provide them enough support to allow them to really fully do their job of teaching and research,” Curtis said.

The quality of education the average CSU student receives, Gallagher said, stands to benefit from the shift.

“We go for the best people. Whoever those best people are, those are the ones that we hire,” he said. “I would say we’re getting an infusion of new blood. I would see that as a big positive for students. They’re getting a diversity of experience that maybe wasn’t there five years ago, or 10 years ago.”

Gallagher thinks this change is largely motivated by the fact that CSU’s “baby boom” generation teachers are retiring. Between approximately 1946 and 1957, the U.S. experienced an enormous population spike, with more than 77.3 million American births in a nine year time frame.

The average age of a baby boomer in 2011 is 63. Their children, however, are roughly 38 years old on average.

“You have a big bubble leaving the university, and you have a bubble of younger people entering the university,” Gallagher said.

What also partially motivated the shift, according to Francisco Palermo, is a concern for the university’s budget.

“Junior folks are cheaper,” said the 33-year-old human development and family studies assistant professor.

Not only are they cheaper, he added, but they can also conduct research. In order to compensate for a drop in funding, CSU has increased tuition and began to focus more on money-making research –– an effort to which young professors are crucial.

“Grant funds provide other sources of revenue for the university,” Palermo said. “They can only raise tuition so much before students just don’t come.”

Wendy Bowling, deputy director of university affairs at the Associated Students of CSU, said the flood of younger professors on campus comes mostly as a result of a university master’s program called Student Affairs in Higher Education.

In addition to having a rigorous curriculum, the two-year commitment places its participants in leadership positions around CSU, like in freshmen dorms.

Bowling said the combination of practical and theoretical education makes for excellent higher education teachers.

“We have a lot of really great students coming into both in state and out of state to this program, and they’ve become really great professors,” she said.

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

By the numbers

23

The percentage increase in CSU tenure-track faculty 39 years old and younger over the past 10 years.

21

The percentage decrease in CSU tenure-track faculty between 40 and 59 years old over the past 10 years.

17

The percentage increase in CSU tenure-track faculty 60 years old and older over the past 10 years.

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