Education Leadership Conference

Document Type

Conference Proceeding





Let's build a talented workforce of physical therapy educators with diverse ideas who collaborate on projects and discover new knowledge! Faculty are the educational leaders in physical therapy. With growing demands on workload and time, it is essential to attract talent to academia and provide a supportive team to navigate the path toward a successful career. Scholarly productivity accreditation requirements are challenging, especially for new faculty with primary teaching responsibilities or those without an academic doctoral degree. Evidence suggests that network connections can improve faculty performance, innovation and retention. This study arose from concerns in recent years related to the large number of early career faculty joining physical therapy schools across the country. The purpose of this session is to show how effective professional networks for physical therapy faculty aid in success with scholarly activity. This session will apply key principles of the social capital theory to challenge future educational leaders to carefully examine their professional network connections and the role of these connections in their work-related outcomes. Social capital, marked by trust, reciprocity and cooperation can be acquired via professional network connections. One who has an effective network can leverage their social capital to access information and resources, retain support and cohesion, and attain introductions to new professional contacts from brokers within their network. In higher education, there is also evidence that knowing about the value of professional connections can aid in higher performance and varied collaborations - all important for faculty recruitment, development and retention.

Methods and/or Description of Project

During this session, we will explore the results of a one-year nationwide study of early career physical therapy faculty and the most effective professional network structure and composition. In addition, participants will have an opportunity to compare components of their own professional network against several existing models among physical therapy educators. There is no perfect network model however knowing about how network connections are built and maintained can help individuals leverage their network knowledge for purposeful advancement in their career path. During this session participants will identify individuals who are important sources of work-related information. We will review information about these network contacts such as gender, academic rank, location of work, and discuss connections among the individuals in the network. This information will be used to illustrate networks via network maps that visualize the connections. Participants will learn about certain elements of their network to better understand and characterize their professional network connections. In addition to the size of one's network, we will discuss interconnectedness (density), homophily (similarity to the faculty member), and heterogeneity (diversity of network characteristics), and what these concepts mean for professional network development.


Network composition results from over 50 early career PT faculty from 39 different institutions across the country will be shared. We assessed network size and density (connectedness) and six measures of homophily ( characteristics similar to the early career faculty member) and 18 measures of heterogeneity ( diversity). We used univariate analysis and multiple logistic regression to explore how the baseline network structure and composition predicted scholarly activity one year later. The results from this study demonstrated that a more open, less interconnected network was associated with greater quantity and higher-quality scholarly activity, even after controlling for the duration as a faculty member and achievement of an academic doctoral degree.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme

Key take-aways related to faculty development from this session include: 1) some early career faculty are productively using their network connections, despite the Carnegie Classification of their institution, duration in their faculty job, and earning an academic doctoral degree; 2) the structure of a most effective professional network for scholarly activity is open with low connectedness among contacts; and 3) mentors can guide early career faculty to systematically and strategically modify their network to be more effective and support their scholarly agendas.


Funding provided by the College of Allied Health Professions, University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Academy of Physical Therapy Education of the American Physical Therapy Association