March 2012
Capstone March 2012 Howard University  

Faculty Renewal Underway at Howard
Program allows for a smooth transition of faculty retirements

By Nneka Witter, intern, Office of University Communications
Joan Payne, Ph.D., a professor for 40 years, says the PRP will allow her to focus more time on working with students and also mentor new faculty. (Justin D. Knight)

Howard University is committed to a 21st-century vision that builds upon its rich legacy and prepares for a future generation of students. Central to Howard is its faculty who are responsible for teaching and mentoring students, conducting research and performing service to the community. Many of Howard’s longest-serving faculty members have expressed a desire to retire over the next few years and the University has introduced a voluntary Phased Retirement Plan (PRP).

Four hundred and fifty faculty members were eligible to participate in the PRP and by the end of the sign-up period last November approximately 200 took the first steps to participate. This includes those who plan to retire as early as June of this year up until June 30, 2017. The program is part of the University’s overall renewal strategy aimed at supporting faculty.

“The University has focused on renewal strategies for the past few years, including academic, facilities and administrative renewal,” said Jannette Dates, Ph.D., former dean of the School of Communications. “Faculty renewal organizes the pace with which faculty members retire so that the retirements are completed in a manner that supports the ability of non-retiring faculty members to retain the strength and integrity of their academic programs.”

The PRP provides participating faculty members with benefits, including a retirement incentive payment based on years of service. All faculty eligible to participate were offered individual retirement and financial planning to help them prepare for a major change in their lives, and to allow them to be confident in the voluntary choice they are making to retire through the PRP.

Communications Sciences and Disorders Professor Joan Payne, Ph.D., an alumna and a professor for almost 40 years, plans on retiring in five years. Payne says that her decision to choose the PRP gives her an opportunity to participate in what she loves—working with students, while caring for and promoting the University by upholding departmental standards and allowing innovation from new faculty to come in and advance departmental studies. “It [PRP] was conceived and introduced in a way that was respectful to the time we have put into the University."

“I am free from the minutia and the day-to-day grind and still have an opportunity to do what I love,” said Payne. “It [PRP] was conceived and introduced
in a way that was respectful to the time we have put into the University and I trust President Ribeau and the people he has put in leadership positions.”

The PRP also provides faculty participants with pre-agreed rates of compensation based on their current pay for the duration of their phase-out period. Even prior to full retirement, PRP participants who are 62 of age or older may elect to concurrently collect payments from the Howard University Defined Benefit Plan, to which they contributed during their years of service to the University. 

“PRP allows the interests of each individual faculty member to be meshed with the needs of their academic department, to allow the continued smooth operation of every academic program as faculty move toward retirement,” said Donald Bell, Ph.D., vice president for Presidential Initiatives. “To allow this to happen, the PRP outlines three things for each faculty participant: the number of years of service prior to full retirement, the proportion of time worked for each of these years and the duties including teaching, research and service the faculty member will perform.”

After retirement, faculty members are encouraged to stay involved with the University through the Howard Retiree Association. Involvement can include participation in faculty meetings, mentoring students and faculty, teaching and conducting research.

“I expect to be extremely productive in the next five years,” said Payne. “I hope to leave the department in better shape than it was when I got here by exploring creative endeavors, assisting current faculty members, mentoring new faculty and helping them enjoy this University as much as I have.”  

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