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Final Report (draft) of the 2020 Public Service Commission
Working Group on Faculty Rewards for Public Service Activities
9th April, 2000


Working group members: Robert Hull (Chair), Rich DeMong, Betsy Flanagan, Jim Kennan, Marcus Martin, Bob Novak, Kathy Thornton. Guest member: E. Kitch


The charge of the working group was to develop an initial set of recommendations for ensuring appropriate faculty recognition and reward for public service activities. While restricting itself to this charge, the group felt it also important to acknowledge the outstanding achievements of general faculty, staff and students in the public service arena. It is our sense that the faculty recognition and rewards proposed in this document are as appropriate for the general faculty as they are for the tenured and tenure-tracked faculty. We recommend that the Commission also consider how to enhance recognition and reward of public service activities by staff and students.


The five critical elements of a strategy for encouraging and supporting significant public service activities by individual faculty member are:

  • Ensuring strong and visible commitment to public service and outreach from the University leadership (i.e. President, Provost, Vice-Presidents and Deans)
  • Ensuring that there is wide acceptance and approval of these initiatives from the faculty members themselves
  • Promoting the message that public service activity represents an additional professional opportunity for faculty to contribute to the University’s overall mission
  • Ensuring appropriate reward and recognition structures, both in annual evaluation and promotion and tenure procedures.
  • Ensuring that faculty public service activities align with, and strengthen, teaching and research programs.

Public Service as a Professional Opportunity for Faculty

Public service should be emphasized as an additional opportunity for faculty members to contribute to the overall university mission, in addition to conventional teaching and research activities. It is critical that the concept of public service be clearly defined, and differentiated from university service (committees) and professional service (society membership, conference organization etc).

In most Schools and Colleges, contributions in the public service arena are currently regarded as, at best, a "junior partner" with respect to contributions in teaching and research. This is perhaps inevitable, given the present lack of recognition for public service activities. To combat this, we propose establishing mechanisms for institutionalizing recognition of public service activities. Traditionally, faculty members are evaluated primarily according to their contributions to teaching and research activities, with a greatly reduced secondary emphasis on "service". In this context, service generally encompasses activities internal to the university and activities external to professional bodies and to the public, with the balance of recognition for internal vs. professional vs. public service varying by School / College and Department. As a first major step towards an effective reward structure for public service activities, it is critical that there be a universal acceptance and application of the tenet that public service is at least as valuable as the other service categories. To further encourage substantial public service initiatives by faculty, we encourage schools / colleges to consider mechanisms whereby public service can be elevated to a "primary" activity. For example, a "dual ladder" for faculty professional development could be established, whereby faculty could opt to identify public service in combination with either research or teaching as their primary activities, with the remaining activity being of secondary importance in evaluating the individual’s contributions. (Note that this would not affect the requirement for quality in application of the secondary activity. For example, were teaching chosen by an individual as a secondary activity, this would translate into a lower number of courses taught, rather than a reduced commitment to quality of teaching). This would offer an exciting (even re-vitalizing) opportunity for many members of the faculty. The choice of which ladder to follow should not be irrevocable, and could change several times during an individual’s career according to opportunity and enthusiasm.

Each school / college would be expected to develop and implement a mechanism for formal recognition of public service activities (either the dual ladder model above, or an alternative system), according to their needs, their strengths, and their mission.

We recognize that with their current responsibilities and work-loads, faculty members are typically over-extended. Thus we believe it to be critical to determine which elements of the public service mission will be appropriate to different segments of the University community (i.e. faculty, staff, students). It is the belief of the Working Group that faculty efforts should generally be directed towards those public service activities that integrate with, and enhance, research and teaching programs.

Reward Structures

Faculty members will need to be convinced that they will be appropriately rewarded if they devote significant fractions of their time to public service activities. In addition, it is critical that contributions to the public service mission of the university not be (or be perceived to be) detrimental to an individual’s success in the promotion and tenure process, but rather that such contributions be regarded as an integral and important component of a successful case. Finally, peer recognition of public service activities will be very important. To ensure that these goals are met, it is necessary that a process be established such that contributions to the public service mission be recognized to be in the interest of the department and school / college, as well as the individual.

To achieve the above, we recommend the following measures:

  • To help ensure appropriate recognition of public service activities in annual faculty evaluations, each department should be required to demonstrate significant achievement in public service, consistent with that department’s realistic role (to be negotiated with the Dean of the relevant School or College) in the public service mission. A component of a department chair’s own evaluation would be based on this metric. Similarly a school or college would be expected to demonstrate commensurately scaled (to be defined by negotiation with the appropriate University official or body) achievement in the public service arena, which would represent a component of the Dean’s evaluation.
  • In general, a faculty member’s public service efforts would receive greater recognition (reward) if it is demonstrated that such activities are synergistic with his/her teaching and research activities.
  • To help ensure appropriate recognition of public service activities in promotion and tenure decisions, a school or college’s tenure and promotion committee would be required to demonstrate that the slate of candidates recommended for promotion and tenure in a given year have, as a group, made significant contributions to the public service mission. (This requirement would be restricted to those units where the number of candidates in a given year make determination of such an "average" or "net" contribution statistically viable. Otherwise this criterion will have to be applied over the sum of candidates from several years). One caveat to this requirement, however, is that schools / colleges should carefully consider whether encouraging substantial public service activities is in the best interest of tenure-track assistant and associate professors. While it should be assumed that sufficient achievement in this arena would be a strong component of a successful tenure case within UVa, it is probably realistic to acknowledge that if denied tenure at UVa, a faculty member who has devoted substantial fractions of his / her effort to public service initiatives (with correspondingly reduced efforts in research and teaching) may be less "marketable" in their search for an alternative position. It is certainly to be hoped that as the culture evolves at UVa and other institutions, this will become less of an issue, and such public service expertise will become greatly sought after.
  • University chairs in public service should be established. The number of chairs would correspond to at least one per school or college. These chairs would be rotating, so that an individual would hold the chair for a fixed period (we suggest five years). These chairs will be awarded to faculty who have made outstanding contributions to the public service mission of the university, with the expectation that awardees will continue a comparable level of achievement during tenure of the chair. The financing of such chairs, and the remuneration associated with them would be consistent with existing research and teaching chairs.
  • Additional faculty positions, one or two per school or college (depending on size and mission) should be established to recruit faculty who will make significant impact on the public service mission. Within the school or college, departments would compete for the faculty positions, which would be granted for an initial period of five years.
  • Annual university-wide public service awards (of comparable number and value to teaching awards) should be made. Schools / colleges and departments should be encouraged to make similar awards
  • Sabbaticals for public service activities should be granted, according to guidelines consistent with existing policies for research sabbaticals. Such sabbaticals should be available to academic, research and general faculty, as well as to administrative staff.
  • Significant publicity should be given to the above initiatives, including an annual award banquet hosted by the president and other leaders of the university. Such publicity would emphasize the importance of the public service mission both internally and externally.
  • We recommend that each school or college consider establishing an Assistant or Associate Dean for Public Service. These officials should coordinate their activities with a Vice President for Public Service (i.e. Public Service only).
  • We recommend that a competitive process be established within the university to solicit faculty proposals for new public service initiatives, with significant funding available for the best proposals. This will seed new high quality public service activities within the university, and stimulate discussion and awareness among faculty. It will also help faculty develop the track record to enable them to compete effectively for external funding of public service initiatives. Finally, it could be used as a vehicle to encourage inter-disciplinary programs across university units.

It should be emphasized that implementation of the above recommendations would require significant new resources to be allocated at the University level. It is not envisioned that the necessary resources to implement the above recommendations would be re-allocated from existing teaching or research programs.

Evaluation Metrics

Achievement in public service, by its nature, is more difficult to quantify than contributions to teaching (quantifiable through student evaluations, credit hours taught etc.) and research (overhead dollars generated, number of publications etc.) It will thus require commitment from faculty, department chairs and deans for effective evaluation.

We assume that each school or college would define its own public service mission, consistent with the University’s mission. Achievements of an individual, particularly if opting for public service as a primary activity, would then be evaluated in the context of that mission. Each school / college would be expected to develop a documented evaluation process for public service activities that addresses both quality and quantity of the public service contrinution. One example of such a process might be that the relative contributions of faculty in a given school / college who choose public service as a primary activity be evaluated by a faculty committee of that unit. Another example might be that an external or advisory board assume the evaluation responsibility. One metric for the effectiveness of the chosen evaluation method would be that the mean salary raise awarded to that group of faculty who adopt public service as a primary activity should be equal to that group of faculty who do not exercise that option, when averaged over several years and assuming comparable evaluation of the quantity and quality of the relative contributions. Whatever evaluation metric is adopted, it should be sufficiently flexible to encourage and reward co-operative activities across units within the university.


For these initiatives to succeed, it is critical that a significant majority of the faculty approve of the concept of placing public service contributions on a par with teaching and research activities, and that there be broad discussion and opportunity for suggesting improvements to the proposals outlined in this document. There will also need to be support (or, at a minimum, acceptance) by department heads, deans, vice-presidents, the provost and the president. In particular, we believe that it is critical that the senior university leadership affirm their commitment to the public service concept, and demonstrate a willingness to commit resources. We therefore envisage the following process for developing these proposals, and for building support.

  1. Input from the entire 2020 Public Service Commission. In particular a clear definition of "public service" is a pre-requisite for any meaningful discussion with faculty etc.
  2. Discussion with the president, provost and vice-presidents (check point: affirmation of commitment and willingness to commit resources)
  3. Input from the faculty. The following mechanisms are envisaged. (a) Informal discussion groups within the departments of subcommittee members (check point: is the scope of our proposals realistic?. (b) A questionnaire to the entire faculty of a selected school or college, (c) At a later stage, a presentation to the Faculty Senate.


We need to emphasize the great opportunities these proposals present to the faculty, departments, schools / colleges and the university:

  • The opportunity for increased external funding of university programs, for example through Foundation funding of public service programs, and for a more diverse range of options for donors in Capital Campaigns.
  • Enhanced visibility, recognition and ranking of the university nationally.
  • The opportunity for faculty to extend their range of professional contributions, and to be re-invigorated by a new spectrum of opportunities and challenges.
  • Experience gained from public service activities will provide new perspectives for teaching and research activities, and can be expected to lead to increased creativity in all areas.
  • Increased faculty involvement in public service activities should naturally lead to increased opportunities, and appreciation, for student activities in this arena.
  • Increased public awareness of the contributions of the university, schools / colleges and individuals to the well-being of the community and the Commonwealth.
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