Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE)

WPI is a proud partner in the work of the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE), a research-practice partnership within the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. Our participation in the COACHE Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey and the Faculty Retention and Exit Survey signals our commitment to understand and improve the experience of diverse faculty at WPI as well as to contribute to collective inquiry, insight, and action in these areas across higher education in the U.S.

Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey

Since 2014, WPI has been a regular participant in the COACHE faculty job satisfaction survey as part of our commitment to continuous improvement. Our process engages faculty governance, faculty-at-large, the President, Provost, Deans, Department Heads, and other stakeholders in making sense of the data and acting on it. COACHE data were the primary driver in a major effort to reform our Associate-to-Full promotion system to recognize and reward a broader of faculty work, for faculty on and off the tenure track. Data compiled as part of our ADVANCE grant show that changes in policy and practices are making a difference.

WPI participated in the survey in spring 2021 to monitor progress and to identify current strengths and weaknesses. We are using the data to initiate conversations and take actions toward our goal of making WPI a place where all faculty members thrive.

In fall 2021, a faculty Steering Committee was formed to lead the first phase of communication and engagement in the data: engaging the community in the top-level survey findings, starting initial conversations, and recommending priority areas for additional inquiry and action based on top-level survey results and community input.

Faculty Retention and Exit Survey

WPI is also partnering with COACHE from 2021-2023 to participate in a first-of-its-kind national study of faculty departures and retentions.

Why has WPI decided to participate in this study?

We want to recruit and retain faculty who are an excellent fit for WPI, and that means we have to be willing to listen. The COACHE Faculty Retention & Exit Retention Study is designed to help us do that. COACHE is designed by Harvard researchers who specialize in the study of faculty and the academic workplace. COACHE understands that faculty are a unique type of employee whose circumstances require an instrument tailored for them. The instrument and methodology were developed in consultation with researchers, faculty, and academic leaders across the country and have been reviewed and approved by the Harvard Committee on the Use of Human Subjects and filed with the WPI IRB.

Another benefit is that COACHE gives us the opportunity to benchmark ourselves with other institutions. No other research study offers this type of comparative data. The peer data can help us understand where our strengths in faculty retention lie and where we have more work to do. (For a full list of the universities that have partnered with COACHE since its founding in 2005, visit the COACHE website.)

We see this as an opportunity to shed new light on our institutional practices related to faculty retention. At many institutions, the protocols and policies used to address outside offers are not codified to ensure equitable treatment for everyone. We want to understand whether this is the case at WPI so that we can take steps to improve the processes we use in retention actions.

Finally, even for faculty who move on to another institution, we care about their experiences and want to be sure they were treated well during the transition. We want faculty to recommend WPI to graduate students and other colleagues. We know we cannot retain everyone, but we can make everyone feel valued and respected.

Who will be invited to participate in the study?

If, in the past year, you received a formal outside offer and you shared that with someone at the institution, you will be invited to participate. This is regardless of whether you (a) accepted the offer and moved on or (b) you decided to stay. Also eligible are faculty who (c) received a pre-emptive adjustment to their employment status, like a salary increase or additional graduate student support, that was not part of a counteroffer.

What does the survey ask about?

Grounded in the literature on workplace mobility and the academic labor market, the survey focuses on issues such as the search process, the nature of the outside offer, the compelling factors to leave and to stay, the impact of spouses or partners on decision-making, any counteroffers, and the transition to a new institution when applicable.

The survey includes adaptive branching so that respondents only see the items related to their experience. The longest branch of the survey takes 20 to 25 minutes to complete; the shortest may take as few as 5 minutes.

If you would like to learn more about what might be learned from the results, this infographic summarizes some key findings from the pilot study.

Who from our institution is working with COACHE on this project?

Each campus needs a team to execute this study. The Provost’s Office and the academic deans have helped compile the data for this study. Anyone who has specific questions about our relationship with COACHE or how we plan to use these data may contact Prof. Chrys Demetry (, WPI’s COACHE team lead, who can answer specific questions about how WPI plans to use these results.

When will results be received?

Because the numbers of eligible survey participants is quite small, every institution in this study agrees to three years of data collection before receiving results.

Are responses anonymous?

All institutions will receive an anonymous report from COACHE. That report is designed to mask the identity of respondents by not reporting results with fewer than three eligible respondents and by redacting identifying information from open-text comments. WPI has decided to receive only aggregated data, not unit record data, in order to provide maximum assurance of anonymity.