50 Roles for College Faculty

The Top 50 Roles College Instructors Perform

How Many Hats Do You Wear?

The job of a college instructor is extremely demanding.  A successful faculty member must wear many, many hats.  I decided to create my list of the top 10 roles an instructor plays.  Before long I had 30.  I challenged myself to hit 50, and in the end identified more than 60 roles.  Some of these roles relate directly to teaching; some do not.  Some of these roles are thrust on instructors through no will of their own.  Some of these roles are the compensation strategies that faculty develop to deal with challenges.

The roles I left off my list included band leader, coach, communicator, trip escort, trainer, and speaker.  Oh, I also left off magician and mind reader.  I know these are two of the most important roles, but I didn’t want those of us who lack these abilities to feel bad. 🙂

The 50 Roles for College Faculty

Here is my list of 50 roles in alphabetical order.

  1. Academic Counselor
  2. Actor
  3. Career Counselor
  4. Cheerleader
  5. Classroom Manager
  6. College Ambassador
  7. Committee Member
  8. Community Service Worker
  9. Computer Specialist
  10. Conciliator
  11. Crisis/Emergency Responder
  12. Critic
  13. Curator
  14. Curriculum Developer
  15. Department Chair
  16. Educational Psychology Expert
  17. Empathy Provider
  18. Grant Writer
  19. Humorist
  20. Instructional Designer
  21. Investigator
  22. Laboratory Clinician
  23. Leader
  24. Learning Assessment Expert
  25. Learning Facilitator
  26. Lecturer
  27. Mediator
  28. Mentor
  29. Motivational Speaker
  30. Performer
  31. Personal Counselor
  32. Problem Solver
  33. Program Advocate
  34. Public Relations Specialist
  35. Researcher
  36. Role Model
  37. Social Worker
  38. Story Teller
  39. Stress Management Expert
  40. Student
  41. Student Advocate
  42. Student Organization Adviser
  43. Study Skills Instructor
  44. Subject Matter Expert
  45. Teacher
  46. Team Builder
  47. Technician
  48. Tutor
  49. Visionary
  50. Writer

Adjunct Faculty Challenges

Adjuncts may not be called upon to fill as many roles as full-time faculty, but that does not mean their challenges are any less.  If you are an adjunct who holds down a full-time “day job” or one who teaches ate two or three different colleges, I know you will agree.  You have many more roles that you play in your other positions.

The adjunct challenge is to identify and perform well in the roles that are important to your student and you, the ones you must do well if your students are to succeed.

The Faculty Role Challenge

If you are one of my frequent readers, you know I like to assign homework. You are getting off easy today. I am not going to collect and grade this assignment. However, don’t be surprised if some of this shows up on the final.

  1. Add other roles to the list, ones that apply for you.
  2. Use the list to identify the roles you play well.
  3. Identify the roles where you could do better, the ones that would be helpful to you and your students if you played them really well.
  4. Set goals for yourself and make plans to improve your ability to perform those roles.

This is my advice to help you keep your teaching career ROLLING ALONG.

© 2010 Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

Posted May 17, 2010

About Dr. Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

My name is Paul Hummel, and I often introduce myself to others as a recovering engineer. If you are familiar with the Dilbert cartoons, let me simply say that I lived all of that. I started my college saga at Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. I worked for many years in industry, and during this time I did some college adjunct teaching. During my career I held several managerial positions in industry, the last as Director of Technology of a division of a Fortune 500 corporation. Then, in 1996, with minimal planning or forethought, I found myself working as a manufacturing consultant on behalf of Elgin Community College (ECC). My career in higher education began to take shape. I fell in love with ECC and with the mission of community colleges in general. I worked fulltime and occasionally taught college courses for my institution and two other colleges. After a couple years I set a goal to move over to the “credit side of the college” and eventually become a college administrator. In 2006, having earned my doctorate in education, I achieved that goal. I was hired by Waubonsee Community College as Dean for Technology, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. I have had the great fortune of working at two excellent colleges. The insights I want to share are drawn from the various college positions I have held. At ECC, in addition to my consulting role, I coordinated non-credit professional development training programs for three years and spent four years advising students in the TRiO Student Support Services program. That position helped me understand college education from the perspective of today’s college students. After seven years at Waubonsee, I retired April 30, 2013. I now devote my knowledge and skills to upgrading and expanding the websites I created beginning with Adjunct Assistance. I have three other websites: College Teaching Tips, Keys for College Success and Lighthouse for Learning. A lot of work lies ahead for me in terms of upgrading and expanding each of these websites, but I could not be more excited about fulfilling the vision I have for helping college instructors and their students succeed.


50 Roles for College Faculty — 6 Comments

  1. Hello Paul, I adore your list, can see myself in many of these roles. The more the merrier, never boring, always changing. I contribute to your list with: Marketing Assistant, After-hours Administrator and an IM Buddy.


  2. Paul,

    You forgot textbook evaluator, committee membership, professional growth, and goal setters. I like Maria’s idea of the mind mapping method for the brainstorming and organization process.
    I look forward to your posts.

    • What can I say. Those are great additions! I need to find an catchy alliterative title for this expanding list. Ten Thousand Teacher Tasks may be going too far. A Plethora of Professorial Prerequisites might work.

  3. Paul, interesting list! Very helpful!

    I think it would be easier to use if it were organized into some categories. Of course, different people clump roles differently. For example, one person can put Humorist with Cheerleader, under Emotional Support, and another Humorist with Visionary, under Meta-Skills. Still, a starting mind map would be nice. You can embed the outputs of online concept mapping software into your blog.

    • Maria,

      Great suggestion! As you surely noted, I organized the list alphabetically. I did not want to convey any personal biases about which roles were more important or of a higher priority for faculty. However, I am a huge proponent of mind mapping. I hope to find some time soon to work on this. Thanks!


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