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Academic Leadership Journal

Abstract

The confluence of four major factors is taking many colleges and universities to the “edge of chaos” where complex, adaptive systems exhibit characteristics of both chaos and order (Hock, p.116). Present and impending retirements, competition for new hires, realities of the ever-changing professoriate, and generational diversity in colleges and universities comprise these factors that are simultaneously chaotic and orderly. For example, faculty members in today’s colleges and universities represent five decades of transitional ages in higher education. Those who began their teaching careers in the 60’s are were a part of the Age of the Scholar, those in the 70’s, the Age of the Teacher, those in the 80’s the Age of the Developer, those in the 90’s the Age of the Learner, and those in the new millennium the Age of the Network (Sorinelli, Austin, Eddy, and Beach, 2006). Each decade has created change in faculty roles, with the consistent theme of higher expectations. At the same time, the makeup of the professoriate has changed radically. According to Katz (2006), “The professoriate is a mansion of many rooms. It is very hard to say what it means to be “a professor” in the contemporary United States, and it is difficult to know whether there is still such a thing as ‘the professoriate.’” (p. B8). Couple the disparity of age, experience and assignment with the huge pool of near-retirement professors (Leubsdorf, 2006), and a talent squeeze will enter the already-complex dynamics of higher education.

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