Volume 1, Issue 1

An Exploration of How Non-Tenure-Track Community College Faculty Experience Non-Work, Well-Being in Higher Education

Person in white pants standing on a beach

Corresponding Author: Turhan L. Potter, Ed.D.

Email: tpotter@desu.edu
Institutional/Organizational Affiliation: Liberal and Integrated Studies, College of Humanities, Education, and Social Sciences (CHESS), Delaware State University


The purpose of this qualitative descriptive phenomenological study was to explore how non-tenure-track community college faculty experience non-work well-being in higher education institutions located in the state of Maryland. The problem statement for this research study was: It is not known how non-tenure-track community college faculty experience non-work well-being. The conceptual framework utilized in this study was Ryff’s (1989b) six dimensions of psychological well-being. These dimensions are: (a) self-acceptance, (b) positive relations with other people, (c) autonomy, (d) environmental mastery, (e) purpose in life, and (f) personal growth. Two research questions were devised for this study:

  1. How do part-time non-tenure-track faculty describe the factors that affect their non-work wellbeing?
  2. How do part-time non-tenure-track faculty attribute meaning to factors that affect their non-work wellbeing?

A qualitative methodology and a descriptive phenomenological research design was used to gain rich and comprehensive descriptions from each of the research participants about their non-work wellbeing. The research sample size for the study consisted of nine part-time community college faculty. All participants were interviewed using a semi-structured interview format and fourteen interview questions. Colaizzi’s (1978) descriptive data analysis method was utilized to analyze the data. Coding was completed by hand without the use of any qualitative software. Five prevalent themes emerged from the data: (a) self-fulfillment, (b) institutional practices, (c) the position of non-tenure-track faculty, (d) wellbeing, and (e) sacrifices. The findings from this research study may help improve the lives of non-tenure-track faculty members and their family members.


Higher education institutions have become increasingly dependent upon non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty for instruction. Non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty members are full- and part-time contingent faculty who are employed off the tenure-track (TT) without the opportunity for tenure (Madden, Kidder, Eddleston, Litzky, & Kellermanns, 2017; Reevy & Deason, 2014; Spinrad, Relles, & Watson, 2022). In 1970, part-time faculty members consisted of 20% of the faculty workforce in higher education. Currently, part-time faculty members make up nearly 75% of higher education institutional faculty within the United States (Curtis, Mahabir, & Vitullo, 2016; Daniel, 2016; Kezar, 2013). NTT faculty deal with the ambiguity of course availability, low wages, food stamps, lack of benefits (e.g., health care, retirement), and limited participation in institutional governance (AAUP, 2017; Caruth & Caruth, 2013; Daniels & Allen-Wayman, 2015). Many NTT faculty have graduate and post-graduate degrees, but are paid less than their tenured counterparts (Caruth & Caruth, 2013; Crick, Larson, & Seipel, 2019). The average salary for a part-time contingent faculty member ranges between $20,000 and $25,000 annually (Sanchez, 2013).

Non-tenure-track faculty make numerous personal sacrifices for the sake of their careers, such as low pay, little job security, no health insurance, and significant time spent earning a graduate or post-graduate degree (Coalition on the American Workforce, 2012). However, the consequences of making these sacrifices have often forced NTT faculty to make difficult financial and personal choices such as paying for rent or groceries, declaring bankruptcy or accruing credit card debt, and neglecting other expenditures (California Faculty Association, 2015; Goldstene, 2012). The sacrifices NTT faculty make affect not only their livelihood but also their psychological well-being (Reevy & Deason, 2014). Empirical research has revealed that the most committed contingent faculty are the ones whose well-being suffers the most (Reevy & Deason, 2014).

Current literature examining NTT faculty is typically focused on motivation, job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and perceptions of the academic environment. However, few studies examine psychological well-being (Reevy & Deason, 2014). Unfortunately, this has led to a gap in the literature that has caused this group of workers to be underrepresented in the psychological and educational literature (Seipel & Larson, 2018). This gap in the literature regarding the well-being of NTT faculty is especially prominent as it relates to their non-work well-being (Larson et al., 2017; Levecque, Anseel, De Beuckelaer, Van der Heyden, & Gisle, 2017; Mountz, 2016; Reevy & Deason, 2014; Seipel & Larson, 2018). Non-work is a term that describes an individual’s off-job experiences. These experiences include their private and leisure time (Shimazu et al., 2016). Scholars recognize this gap and have therefore recommended that future studies examine the well-being of contingent faculty by investigating their non-work experiences (Reevy & Deason, 2014).

Unfortunately, this problem is not only an individual concern. It also poses a threat to organizational health (Kaplan et al., 2014). According to Kaplan et al., (2014) “Employee psychological well-being has substantial consequences for individual and organizational health and functioning” (p. 367). Spence (2015) referred to employee well-being as an issue of global significance and concluded that the issue of workplace stress is affecting western industrialized societies in epic proportions. This research study will not only be applicable within the confines of higher education institutions but will also contribute to professional and societal needs. Spence (2015) argued that the “economic and material basis of any society is dependent on the productive capacity of its workforce” (p. 110). Therefore, this researcher examined the non-work, well-being of non-tenure-track faculty in non-work areas using a qualitative descriptive phenomenological research design.



The aim of this qualitative descriptive phenomenological study was to understand how NTT community college faculty experience non-work well-being in higher education institutions located in the state of Maryland. The research questions in this qualitative descriptive phenomenological research study were designed to allow the researcher to examine the phenomenon being studied. It is not known how non-tenure-track community college faculty experience non-work well-being. Two research questions guided this descriptive phenomenological research study:

RQ1: How do part-time, non-tenure-track faculty describe the factors that affect their non-work well-being? 

RQ2: How do part-time, non-tenure-track faculty attribute meaning to factors that affect their non-work well-being?


For this qualitative research study, the researcher utilized a descriptive phenomenological research design and utilized the Colaizzi (1978) method of data analysis to explore the research questions. Phenomenology has been attributed to German philosopher Edmond Husserl (Gill, 2014). Husserl’s phenomenological philosophy (also known as transcendental phenomenology) addresses descriptive phenomenological methodologies (Gill, 2014; Marlier, 2014). Descriptive phenomenology is when an observer is able to “transcend the phenomena and meanings being investigated to take a global view of the essences discovered” (Sloan & Bowe, 2014, p. 6).

Husserl also spoke of descriptive phenomenology in terms of “reduction” which lends support to other phenomenological methodologies concerning intentional analysis of a phenomenon (Gill, 2014). Phenomenological reduction requires epoché or bracketing. Bracketing requires the researcher to suspend or put aside their own beliefs about the phenomenon, as well as what they already know about the subject prior to and throughout the investigation (Chan et al., 2013; Dowling, 2007; Gill, 2014; Moustakas, 1994). This allows the researcher to experience a deeper level of reflection that stretches across all stages of the qualitative research study (Tufford & Newman, 2012). Descriptive approaches describe the lived experiences of participants using raw data (Giorgi, Giorgi, & Morley, 2017). The researcher reviewed the life stories of NTT faculty to determine the themes that emerged from the data. These themes will lead to an understanding of how NTT faculty experience non-work well-being. 

Population and Sample Selection

The target population for this research study consisted of part-time, non-tenure-track community college faculty. Findings from prior research indicate that NTT faculty constitute over 50% of the faculty workforce in higher education and represent more than 70% of faculty members at community colleges (AAUP, 2017; Dougherty, Rhoades, & Smith, 2016). The sample size for this qualitative descriptive phenomenological study consisted of nine part-time, non-tenure track community college faculty located in the state of Maryland. Creswell (1998) suggested that researchers consider between five to twenty-five participants for phenomenological studies, whereas Morse (1994) suggested that the researcher have at least six participants. However, qualitative researchers should recruit to account for attrition (Morse, 1994).

This research study utilized the following criteria to gain a purposeful sample: (a) the participant must be currently employed part-time at a community college; (b) the participant must have taught part-time for at least five years; (c) the participant must be teaching at least three or more courses a year; (d) the participant is currently looking for full-time tenure or non-tenure-track employment; (e) the participant must have a need to supplement their income; (f) the participant must teach in the state of Maryland.

The purpose of this criterion was to affirm that the researcher had a purposeful sample. Purposeful sampling is utilized when the researcher makes a deliberate selection of the research participants based on the qualities they possess (Etikan, Musa, & Alkassim, 2016). The researcher sought to receive copious data and through descriptions from each of the research participants to help answer the research questions.

Recruitment Process

An initial letter of recruitment through e-mail was devised by the researcher that specifically targeted part-time non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty members through the college listserv. This initial letter of recruitment was sent on October 7, 2019. The purpose of this initial e-mail was to acquire a pool of purposeful participants who were able to self-identify and self-select their participation in the study according to the criteria set forth by the researcher outlined in the initial e-mail. Due to a low response rate, a follow-up letter of invitation was sent by e-mail after a week had passed since the initial e-mail to potential participants who were qualified to participate in the study based on the aforementioned criteria. Initially, a total of 15 participants self-identified and self-selected themselves as eligible to participate in the research study. However, two participants had to rescind their commitment due to scheduling conflicts and four participants never responded to a follow-up e-mail from the researcher after they had expressed interest to participate in the study. As a result, nine eligible participants remained.

Data Collection Tools

A pre-demographic questionnaire was given to each research participant to gain a descriptive profile about each individual and to ensure that the researcher had a purposeful sample. The questionnaire provided vital data about the research participants such as: age, race, gender, level of education, number of children, marital status, faculty status, number of courses taught a year, current teaching status, number of years teaching at the community college level, desire (if any) for full-time employment, and the state in which they teach. 

The researcher employed the use of 14 open-ended interview questions. For Research Question 1 seven interview questions were utilized and for Research Question 2 an additional seven interview questions were used. At the end of each interview an overarching interview question was asked by the researcher to each participant: “Is there anything more you would share with me about your experience or your non-work well-being?”

Data Collection

On the day of the interview the researcher initiated the interview protocol by establishing introductions. This was done to create a welcoming environment and build rapport (Rabionet, 2011). By doing this, the researcher created an environment that stimulated reflection and brought out truthful statements from the participant (Rabionet, 2011). Afterwards, the researcher outlined the ethical guidelines of researching and explained the informed consent form. The consent form covered: the purpose of the research, how long the research will take, confidentiality, whether or not participation in the study would result in harm, the benefits of participating in the study, and the contacts for questions and concerns about the research. Also, the researcher discussed resources that were readily available should there be any distress caused by participants sharing their personal narratives. Participants were reminded that participation in this study was strictly on a volunteer basis and that they could withdraw their participation at any time with no repercussions. The researcher also informed the participants that should any clarification issues arise regarding any themes during the coding process, the researcher will contact them for a follow-up interview for further explanation. As soon as the participant determined that all the information discussed was satisfactory, a signature was obtained on the informed consent form.

Next, the researcher reviewed the pre-interview demographic questionnaire with the participant and allowed them five minutes to complete it. The questionnaire had12 questions, and the   and was used to validate that the participant was qualified to participate in the research study and to gain a descriptive profile of each participant (Callary, Rathwell, & Young, 2015; Padilla-Díaz, 2015). Table 1 outlines the demographic data collected from each individual who participated in the study.

Table 1

Demographic Profile of Research Participants

ParticipantAgeGenderRaceLevel of EducationMarital StatusChildren
P450-59MaleAsianMasterMarried4 or more
Participant demographics

Following the dissemination of the pre-interview demographic questionnaire, the researcher proceeded with the semi-structured interviews. As previously stated, semi-structured interviews served as the primary source for data collection. To protect the identity of the participants, alphanumeric codes (e.g., P1, P2, P3, etc.) and a pseudonym were given to all study participants and their information. Interviews were conducted between October 28, 2019, and December 9, 2019. The longest interview lasted 58 minutes and the shortest interview lasted 28 minutes. The total number of combined hours for all interviews totaled five hours and 44 minutes. Following each interview, the mp3 audio recording was uploaded to the online transcription company Rev.com. The average number of transcribed pages for each participant was 12-13 pages and the total number of transcribed pages for all participants was 121 single-spaced pages.

Ethical Issues

Before the commencement of this study, this researcher received ethical training and certification from the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI). CITI is a training program that certifies potential researchers in the basic knowledge of human research, as well as laws and ethics regarding research.

This research study was faced with a few ethical challenges. During the interview process, the researcher was exposed to some alarming personal narratives from participants about how their career aspirations may have affected their relationships and finances which stirred some strong emotions in the participants. To address situations like these, a list of counselors in the surrounding area was provided to the participants should they feel the need to speak with a personal counselor concerning these issues. Moreover, not all of Maryland’s community colleges have tenure. Therefore, protecting the privacy of faculty members is critical. To mitigate these challenges, the researcher utilized the process of confidentiality. By not discussing information provided by the participants with anyone and by using the process of data anonymization, confidentiality can be protected (Wiles, Crow, Heath, & Charles, 2008). Data anonymization was achieved by using pseudonyms (Wiles et al., 2008). To protect the anonymity of the research participants, the researcher assigned alphanumeric codes and pseudonyms to all participants, as well as their identifiable pieces of information.

Contact information such as contingency faculty members’ e-mails are easily available online through the college website; however, the researcher had to assure the participants that they could opt-out of the study at any time and that their participation was strictly voluntary. Additionally, the researcher informed the participants that no data would be solicited that could identify them as participants or the higher education institutions they represent. All identifying characteristics about the participants (e.g., college, city, and background) was concealed. All participants provided informed consent.


This researcher established trustworthiness according to the following criteria established by Lincoln and Guba (1985): credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability. To ensure credibility, this researcher employed the use of member checking by giving each participant the opportunity to review the interpretation of the data they provided to the researcher and to see whether or not it is consistent with their own personal experiences (Carlson, 2010). To achieve transferability, the researcher provided thorough descriptions of the background data regarding non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty and a detailed description of the phenomenon. The researcher provided a thorough review of the methodology, context, and research process to assist future researchers in the replication of this study (Anney, 2014). To ensure dependability, this researcher created an audit trail, which is similar to a financial audit (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The researcher accounted for every research decision and activity to show how the data was collected, recorded, and analyzed (Anney, 2014). Lastly, confirmability was achieved by the researcher participating in a phenomenological attitude called epoché, also known as bracketing. Giorgi (2009) believed this step to be part of the phenomenological reduction process, where the researcher temporarily set aside any past knowledge or non-presented pre-suppositions about the phenomenon. This approach involves the researcher not allowing past knowledge to interfere with determining the mode and content of the participant’s present experience (Giorgi, 2009).

Data Analysis

The researcher engaged the participants in a semi-structured interview session using open-ended questions that were recorded on an ACEE DEAL Digital Voice Recorder. To properly understand the structure of the phenomenon the researcher had to utilize a data analysis method that would not only increase the trustworthiness of the study but also aid the researcher in fulfilling the overall purpose of the research study. Therefore, this researcher utilized Colaizzi’s (1978) method of data analysis, which involved seven steps (as cited in Morrow, Rodriguez, & King, 2015; Shosha, 2012; Wirihana et al., 2018):

  1. The researcher familiarized himself with the data by reading and rereading through each of the participant transcripts to get a sense of the whole phenomenon.
  2. The researcher identified significant statements within the transcript that pertained to the phenomenon and placed them into a table created in Microsoft Word.
  3. Each of the significant statements were formulated into meanings and placed in a separate table in Microsoft Word which displayed three columns: significant statements, transcript number, and formulated meanings.
  4. The formulated meanings were placed into categories, cluster of themes and emergent themes.
  5. The researcher composed an exhaustive description of the phenomenon.
  6. A condensed version of the exhaustive description was devised by removing any redundant or misused descriptions (Shosha, 2012).
  7. A final thematic map was created that outlined the fundamental structure of the phenomenon.

To strengthen the credibility of the study, the researcher participated in a second round of member checking by asking the participants to verify if the thematic structure captured their own personal experiences. All coding was completed by hand, without the use of any qualitative software. According to Saldaña (2016) novice researchers should code by hand so that they can focus on the data rather than the software.


The researcher sought to understand the lived experiences of part-time NTT community college faculty by using a qualitative research methodology and a descriptive phenomenological research design. Five major themes emerged from the data analysis: self-fulfillment, institutional practices, the NTT faculty position, well-being, and sacrifices. To highlight the participants’ lived experiences, excerpts from their interviews will be used to describe each theme. The results of this qualitative descriptive phenomenological study will be presented in two sections. One section dedicated to addressing research question one, and the other section focusing on research question two.


The results of the study revealed that part-time NTT community college faculty can describe the factors within their work that affect their non-work well-being. The study indicated that NTT faculty experience a sense of self-fulfillment and that the institutional practices of the college, along with their faculty position, contribute to their well-being outside of work. The study also revealed that NTT faculty can attribute meaning to the factors that impact their well-being beyond work. A considerable number of participants grapple with stress due to their sacrifices in multiple areas, including their personal lives, their connections with partners, children, and family and their roles as NTT faculty members.

Research Question 1.

How do part-time non-tenure-track faculty describe the factors that affect their non-work, well-being? Three dominant themes emerged from the participants’ responses: self-fulfillment, institutional practices, and the NTT faculty position.  

Theme 1. Self-fulfillment.

The first theme that emerged from the data regarding the factors that affect the non-work well-being of part-time NTT faculty is self-fulfillment. Out of the nine participants in this study, five expressed that they loved teaching or loved their work. While the other four did not specifically say they loved teaching, they did express self-fulfillment in other ways. P1 stated that “I love my work, I love the students so much and it’s a pleasure, and an honor to be teaching them.” P2 stated:

“I just love the teaching. I enjoy the subject matter. I really do love the field experience. I get to do what I love. I get to talk about topics that you can’t have in normal conversations because I teach history.” (P2)

Many participants not only conveyed their love for teaching but also experienced a sense of self-fulfillment through positively impacting the lives of their students and the community. NTT faculty believe that their contributions extend beyond personal pursuits, contributing to a larger, meaningful cause. For some, the job is like a calling (Chametzky, 2015). There is a drive within that propels them to teach. P4 states, “And I have been doing it for 20 years and I love it. And that’s the main drive for me to teach part-time.” Chametzky (2015) contends that the relationships formed by part-time faculty with students, both within and beyond the classroom, contribute to a feeling of making a substantial impact. P8 explains:

“I know you’re classifying as a non-tenure, but I think just the fact of being here and having the potential to make an impact in a student’s life.” (P8)

P4 stated, “I get to give something back to my community.” Because of their love for teaching and the impact they make in the lives of their students, Five NTT faculty members expressed gratitude for the opportunity to teach. They also were grateful for the institutions in which they serve. P3 stated, “The feeling I get from teaching. I mean, it makes me happy. You know that’s a good thing.” P4 also expressed, “I’m very happy about my choice.”                             

It is very important for institutions not to confuse a NTT faculty member’s love for what they do as the only reason they chose the job.  All the research participants love what they do. During their interviews, many of them lit up with joy as they talked about their love for the job and the institution they work for. However, research has shown that many NTT faculty teach for a variety of reasons (Gappa & Leslie, 1993). Institutions should learn what those reasons are so that they can better assist their contingent workers.

While NTT faculty may love their job, Miya Tokumitsu (2014) argues that the ‘Do What You Love’ (DWYL) mantra can be dangerous to faculty. Institutions can take an individual’s self-fulfillment and misconstrue it, thereby making them vulnerable to exploitation (Cardozo, 2017). Tokumitsu (2014) argues that women are especially vulnerable to these tactics. In fact, demographically, women make up the most part-time NTT faculty at community colleges (Bickerstaff & Chavarín, 2018). Due to this England and Ilyasova (2016) argued that the issue of low pay, lack of institutional rights, and fewer benefits, could be considered a social justice issue.

Theme 2. Institutional practices.

Another prevalent theme that emerged from the research data was institutional practices. More than half of all the participants shared how institutional politics and policies have affected their non-work well-being. One participant shared how he did not like the politicking that goes on at the institution. Another participant shared that instead of opening her mouth she chooses not to rock the boat and therefore keeps her mouth shut. A review of the literature has shown that the current political and economic climate has played a role in contingent faculty employment (Goldstene, 2012; Kezar, 2013). Morton (2012) compared higher education institutions to local churches, in that each institution takes on its own individual personality.

Participants in the study shared that one of the policies that affect their non-work well-being is the cap on work hours. At some institutions, part-time faculty can teach no more than two classes a semester (CAW, 2012; Maynard & Joseph, 2008). Having a cap on the number of work hours is due to diminishing budgets, which makes hiring NTT faculty an economic problem (Halcrow & Olson, 2008). Other participants shared that classes can be taken away at the last minute and that it is hard to find coverage for absences. P6 states:

 “Our department’s policy is that if you, for instance, have some foreseeable reason to be absent and you need to get somebody to cover for you, that needs to be arranged by you. The department does not assist in any way in helping to find you coverage. And this is kind of the interesting part, you’re supposed to find coverage, but you cannot-the college will not pay for that other faculty member to cover for you. And they prohibit you from paying.” (P6)

Other respondents highlighted that they feel as though their institution participates in institutional bias, especially when it comes to hiring full-time. The biases that were highlighted by the participants in this study were ageism, gender, and minority status. One participant believes that institutions now know how to use code words that are not known to the applicant to decide what type of person they want to hire. P5 states:

“I think that management has learned through the years not to say the words that are going to cause them a problem. “I’m not hiring you because you’re Muslim, I’m not hiring you because you’re a woman.” They’ll come up with other things, you know, to go around that.”

According to Leiter (2018), for legal reasons, no job ad can say, “Only women should apply,” or “This job is open only to spouses of very famous members of our department.” Sometimes, there may be codes or signals that suggest that an unmentioned hiring criterion is at work.

Theme 3. The NTT faculty position.

The position of being an NTT faculty member alone emerged from the data as a predominant theme. According to Feldman and Turnley (2001), some NTT faculty members are satisfied with the flexibility of the job, which is one of the main reasons why they took the job. This is particularly relevant to those who have children. Chametzky (2015) also stated that some individuals decide to become contingent faculty because of the flexibility to deal with family or personal issues.

P9 shared that the flexibility of working as a part-time NTT faculty member afforded her the opportunity to schedule her daughter’s doctor’s appointments. Another participant shared that working part-time provides an opportunity for downtime. P6 states:

“Now at the same time, I might say that, not having the standard 40 hours a week, 9:00 to 5:00 job like others I know, does give me a greater flexibility and downtime. And of course, who doesn’t enjoy that?”

Having an opportunity to gain full-time employment was very important in this study. All the participants (100%) are looking to get their foot in the door, which was a criterion for the study. However, half of the research participants reaffirmed this notion during their interview. For example, P1 stated:

“So at this point, I’m still part-time and I decided to do that because I thought that was my foot in the door and as long as I was already teaching, then when full time came up, I thought I’d be a prime candidate.” (P1)

This notion of part-time NTT faculty of getting their foot in the door affirms what is mentioned in the literature. Seminal literature identifies this group of workers as aspiring academics (Gappa & Leslie, 1993). Aspiring academics are those part-time faculty members who are looking for full-time employment. Pons et al., (2017) pointed out that “Among those under age 50, the percentage preferring full-time teaching work increased to 60%” (as cited in AFT Higher Education, 2010).

Of the 9 participants in this study, only 2 participants were under the age of 50. The other 7 participants were age 50 and above. Pons et al. (2017) argued that in their study, “participants over the age of 50 were more likely than those younger than 50 to report they were motivated to teach in their profession” (p.50). In a study conducted by CAW (2012) it was revealed there is a significant desire for part-time NTT faculty to transition to full-time employment.

Research Question 2.

How do part-time non-tenure track faculty attribute meaning to the factors that affect their non-work well-being? Two themes emerged from research data given by the participants, which are listed below:

Theme 1. Well-being.

The first theme that emerged from the data that supports the research question is well-being. The results of the data have shown that most of the participants experience some type of stress in non-work areas because of the factors that affect their non-work well-being. Some of the stressor’s participants identified include overbooking oneself, grading, not being home with children, lack of healthcare, finances, not knowing the teaching schedule, being an NTT faculty member, and the individual themselves.

Previous research has examined the predictors of depression and stress among NTT faculty and has proven that it is on the rise (Larson et al., 2017; Levecque et al., 2017; Mountz, 2016; Reevy & Deason, 2014; Seipel & Larson, 2018). According to Harbison (2016) stress can affect productivity and the emotional well-being of faculty. P1 experiences worry, and stress outside of the job. She states:

“From time to time I have my worries. And I do kind of, like, I stress the job. It gets very busy sometimes and people have no idea how much work goes on outside of the classroom. Because you only get paid for the hours that you spend in the classroom, but most of your work takes place outside a classroom and… just the grading causes me a lot of stress.” (P1)

NTT faculty also exhibit signs of stress, such as depression, fatigue, highs and lows, sleepless nights, feelings of hopelessness, and being short with relatives. The literature review confirmed that stress has been linked to difficulties with sleep, decreased perception of sense of well-being, mood disorders, burnout, and mood disorders (Harbison, 2016). P6 states:

“I have some kind of crap coping mechanisms (laughs) for stress. So, a lot of overeating, sitting in front of the TV binging, instead of getting up and going to the gym like I’m supposed to be doing. So, it’s definitely had a really negative impact on my health.” (P6)

While most of the participants experience some type of stress, two participants shared that they do not experience any stress at all because of their previous life experiences. It was also revealed that many of the participants have activities outside of work to help foster a positive non-work well-being. Some participants described taking long walks, meditation techniques, yoga, going to the gym, bike-riding, volunteering, visiting faculty, and going to baseball games. Researchers discuss work-life balance and how schedule flexibility can be beneficial to NTT faculty satisfaction (Seipel & Larson, 2018).

P2 loves going to the park and doing yoga, while P3 finds satisfaction in volunteering for the Humane Society. P4 attends cookouts, as well as Oriole baseball games. P5 volunteers for community service, while P6 enjoys staying active by exercising and going to the movies. P6 stated: “I try to stay pretty active. I exercise quite a bit (laughs) – I enjoy movies, although I can’t really afford to go to the movies. But I enjoy watching things on TV.”

Theme 2. Sacrifices.

The last prevalent theme to answer the second research question is sacrifices. Various sacrifices made by NTT faculty include those related to family, partners, children, friendships, time, physical space, missed opportunities, personal commitments, and the absence of sacrifices. Out of the 9 participants, only 1 stated that they did not make any sacrifices in non-work areas. The findings of this study are consistent with the themes of previous studies on the well-being of NTT faculty.

CFA (2015) detailed the experiences of NTT faculty and the sacrifices they have made to teach in higher education. The research revealed themes, such as living with family to reduce cost, and the lack of investment in interpersonal relationships outside of work (e.g., family and friends) is just a short list of the sacrifices made by NTT faculty. In this study, part-time NTT community college faculty have sacrificed relationships with their children and families in order to teach. Some participants reported that they had to miss their children’s recitals and swim meets. For example, P2 states:

“She had a championship thing in Baltimore. They switched my schedule. Guess who missed the championship swim meet.”

Other faculty have expressed that they have turmoil in their marriage relationships because of finances, or that they live in undesirable living conditions in order to work as a NTT faculty member. The experience of coming home late for dinner and being unable to put their children to bed was shared by one participant. Some of the participants have missed important family events or opportunities. P7 states “I’m not going to break my commitment by getting a full-time job somewhere else. So, I pass up opportunities, other opportunities, to work.” Participants shared how they have given up space in their homes, which would have traditionally been used for something else, in order to have workspace.

P4 would miss his children’s band recitals when they were younger. He shared how they would remind him that he missed their special activity:

“My children, when they were small, basically they would have band recitals and winter recitals and, spring recitals. Sometimes I would miss them, and my kids would say, “Dad, you missed it again, you going to miss our recitals. “Because I would work til ten o’clock, and my kids’ recitals would be like, six o’clock in the evening. So, yeah, that’s something that has been on my child’s mind and he make sure that he reminds me, every time. (Laughs).” (P4)

NTT faculty have had to sacrifice their time to grade papers. One participant has had to sacrifice her own healthcare needs. And trying to make new friends and cultivate the ones they have seems impossible. One participant has had to take additional work as a cocktail waitress to bring in money. P6 explains:

“I never thought in a million years, with a master’s degree from Columbia, I was gonna need to go put on a skirt and high heels and, cocktail at a casino to make money. And yet I made way more money doing that then I did teaching.”

In summary, the results of this descriptive phenomenological research study were consistent with the research findings of prior studies related to the well-being of NTT faculty. Each of the nine participants selected for this study shared their lived experiences as it relates to their non-work well-being.

Limitations and Future Research

Nine participants made up the sample size for this qualitative phenomenological study. Although having a purposeful sample size of nine allowed the researcher to reach data saturation, it is a small sample size. Sample size could pose as a limitation to the study because it could be perceived that nine participants are not a total representation of all non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty employed at community colleges or NTT faculty as a collective group. In addition, only two community colleges were represented in this research study; consequently, this posed a limitation by not making it generalizable or applicable to all community colleges.

At the time of the study, the researcher was a non-tenure-track faculty member at a community college. Therefore, the results of this study could be perceived as biased because the researcher could have become emotionally involved.

Future research should replicate this study by examining the non-work well-being of NTT community college faculty in urban areas or in different states across the U.S. to explore whether or not participant experiences and the meaning they ascribe align with this study’s findings. Researchers should also examine the non-work well-being of those NTT faculty who are not looking for full-time employment. It would be beneficial to see if there is a difference in the non-work well-being of those who are looking for employment and those who are not.

Another recommendation for future research pertains to the participant sample. Out of the nine research participants, only two participants were under the age of 50. Future researchers should seek to explore the non-work well-being of younger NTT faculty by using a more diverse sample population. According to Pons et al., (2017) “Among those under age 50, the percentage preferring full-time teaching work increased to 60%” (as cited in AFT Higher Education, 2010).

Future research should also involve the conceptual framework utilized in this study. The researcher utilized Ryff’s (1989b) six dimensions of psychological well-being as the conceptual framework for this study: self-acceptance, positive relations with other people, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth. However, the researcher did not incorporate the use of the Ryff’s Scales of Psychological Well-Being (PWB) questionnaire. Future research should incorporate the questionnaire to attain more data about the well-being of NTT faculty. Incorporating the questionnaire to any future study would validate the reliability of the research findings.


This current study examined the non-work well-being of part-time NTT faculty located in the state of Maryland. Studies revealed that the employment of contingent faculty is on the rise in higher education (McNaughtan, García, & Nehls, 2017). The likelihood of an NTT faculty member experiencing some type of stress because of their position is very likely (Reevy & Deason, 2014).

The findings of this research study suggest that the factors that affect the non-work, well-being of NTT faculty are self-fulfillment, the policies and practices of an institution, and the NTT position itself. Results also suggest that stress and self-sacrifice are the ways in which NTT faculty attribute meaning to the factors that affect their non-work well-being.

The non-work well-being of NTT faculty can be improved if institutions revisit their hiring policies and assess their diversity initiatives when hiring new faculty. Secondly, to improve the non-work well-being of NTT faculty, higher education institutions should do more hiring from within. Lastly, colleges should invest in finding out why NTT faculty are working at their institutions. NTT faculty seek employment at colleges and universities for a variety of reasons (Gappa & Leslie, 1993). By knowing these reasons, colleges and universities can enhance the lives of NTT faculty in work and non-work areas. 


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