Faculty: The Driving Force Behind Academic Excellence

Buena Vista University is a leading example of small, independent schools where faculty are not only teachers and scholars, but also students’ advisors, mentors, research colleagues, and, in many cases, friends.

“An excellent faculty is at the core of what we do as a university,” says Dr. David Evans, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty. “One of the great things about BVU is that we can claim absolutely, truthfully, that we have an outstanding faculty really committed to working with students.”

The quality of BVU’s academic program and its faculty was reaffirmed last year through the successful completion of a 10-year reaccreditation review by the Higher Learning Commission.

To stay at the forefront of their disciplines and best practices in teaching, it is critical for faculty members to be lifelong learners so that students’ education is relevant to the needs of their chosen professions, both now and in the future.

“Having a wide variety of professional development opportunities shows that BVU cares about our faculty members as scholars and creative people, and demonstrates our belief in their ongoing intellectual, scholarly and creative lives,” says Evans. 

He says opportunities for faculty development at Buena Vista range from paid sabbaticals (after six years of service) and basic individual stipends of $1,500 a year, to additional funds granted on a competitive basis by the Faculty Development Committee; workshops; campus visits by external scholars and artists; reading groups; peer mentoring; and international and domestic travel to prepare faculty for leading student academic trips. The most prestigious professional development honors are the George

Wythe Award for excellence in teaching and the McCorkle Fellows international travel program.

“I try very hard to fund faculty members who come to me with worthy projects that will add value to their work on campus, primarily, but not exclusively, with students,” says Evans. 

As BVU’s chief academic officer, Evans believes it is important for him to serve as a model for participation in professional growth activities. He is particularly interested in those that cultivate a greater global perspective in students, which is an emphasis of BVU’s academic program.

Since coming to BVU in 2008, Evans has traveled twice to Turkey — once on the 2009 McCorkle Fellows trip and again last July as co-leader of a nine-day tour by several of Iowa’s state and community officials.

“I am working towards developing opportunities for BVU students to have short- and long-term English teaching experiences in Turkish schools and to create possible student and faculty exchanges with Turkish universities.”

Before joining BVU’s executive staff, Evans was well acquainted with Turkey, having traveled there six times since 1992 while working at other schools.

Evans wants to broaden faculty participation in activities, such as the McCorkle Fellows, that promote global awareness and understanding. He also wants to encourage more faculty members to share with the BVU community what they have learned from their professional development activities. One popular campus program for sharing is the “Faculty Fridays” luncheon, which was established many years ago.

“We schedule one whenever a faculty member has a presentation, which for the last couple of years has been nearly every week during each semester.”

Evans is also a contributor to scholarly publications and is a regular blogger on academic hiring issues in The Chronicle of Higher Education.