When faculty consider the many ways in which they can be involved in student learning opportunities, there are a myriad of factors that affect the choices they make about how and where to engage. Work-integrated learning (WIL), which includes activities such as internships, clinical placements, practica, and co-op experiences, is one of the ways that faculty can work with students to foster both in- and out-of-class learning. When working with students in WIL, faculty are often part of a three-part team: the student who is completing the experience, the site supervisor who is the student’s contact/mentor at the placement, and then the faculty member who is responsible for the academic component on behalf of the university and in support of the student. Supporting students in WIL can be a wonderful and enriching experience for all involved, but it also requires a significant commitment of time and energy to the pedagogy.

In my role as Faculty Fellow for Internships in the College of Arts and Sciences at Elon, I have met with faculty from across almost all of the academic disciplines, and they have shared with me many reasons for and against their participation in WIL. As a part of my work with CEL’s research seminar focused on WIL, my team and I have looked into the research literature on faculty engagement in WIL, and between these two experiences I have a good sense of what pushes faculty towards and away from WIL participation. In particular, I am drawing on the work of Demb and Wade (2012), who built on their own model (Wade and Demb 2009), to conceptualize this push and pull for faculty as a cost-benefit analysis.

In their 2012 paper, Demb and Wade modeled the various factors related to faculty engagement in WIL. I will talk through some of the most prominent factors that they suggest and that have been discussed with me at Elon. Demb and Wade (2012) specified that there are generally four categories of factors, including personal, professional, communal, and institutional.

A diagram with a box in the center that says "Faculty Engagement." Surrounding this box are four bubbles with arrows pointing from each bubble to the box. The bottom-left bubble is titled "Personal," and the bulleted list below the title says "Identity," then "Values". The bottom-right bubble is titled "Professional," and the bulleted list below the title says "Status/rank," then "Work history." The top-right bubble is titled "Institutional," and the bulleted list below the title says "Mission/values," then "Budget," then "Policies." In addition to pointing at the box in the center of the diagram, this bubble also has an arrow pointing to the top-left bubble, which is titled "Communal." The bulleted list below the title says "Department support," then "Professional community support."
Adapted from figure 2 in Demb and Wade 2012, 361

The personal factors include demographics such as age and race, along with personal values. The professional factors include length of time at institution and faculty rank (Demb and Wade 2012). Taken together, research suggests that women in tenured roles tend to take on more experiential education opportunities (Wade and Demb 2009). Research is mixed with regard to racial identity—some aspects of WIL appear to be more heavily engaged in by faculty of color and some more by white faculty (Demb and Wade 2012; Wade and Demb 2009). In my experience in Elon, the breakdown of mentors by gender tends to vary with discipline, but on the whole more women mentor than men in the College of Arts and Sciences. We do have some junior faculty involved, often because they were hired specifically to do WIL programs, but many junior faculty report that figuring out the process and best practices is overwhelming as they learn to navigate the larger university. In general, it seems that we need better support of specific WIL-focused pedagogy for new faculty, especially as this training is something that may not be included in graduate programs. It is also important to consider providing additional support and compensation to offset the undue burden often placed on faculty in minority groups who frequently shoulder a heavier burden than their white male counterparts in terms of direct student mentorship.

The institutional factors, such as mission and budget, interplay with the communal aspects, such as department support. Professional community support is another important communal aspect. Faculty in past studies have suggested that the priority of WIL and related activities as it relates to faculty evaluation, promotion, and tenure decisions was the most important factor in their participation (Demb and Wade 2012). Likewise, knowing that the activity is adequately supported with infrastructure and compensation was a tremendously significant factor. Faculty at Elon have said much the same—although internships and related activities are highly valued here as a part of our experiential education program, internships are not always as well-resourced and valued. Relatedly, discipline plays a major role in WIL engagement. At Elon and in past research (Wade and Demb 2009), faculty have discussed that their discipline plays a leading role in their educational practices. Fields where hands-on work is valued and encouraged (i.e., helping professions, engineering, social sciences, professional disciplines) tend toward WIL in major ways, while fields where research or teaching activities are primary (i.e. basic sciences, humanities) tend away from WIL. Favorable disciplinary norms paired with institutional values and support are necessary for successful WIL engagement.

I leave you with questions:

  1. What do you feel has most impacted your engagement (or lack thereof) with WIL activities?
  2. At your university, how valued and prioritized is WIL work? Is there anything you can do to advocate for faculty engagement in WIL?
  3. How have your personal and professional identities impacted your involvement with WIL?
  4. If you’re an administrator or otherwise in a position to change things: How can you advocate for and support WIL activities equitably?


Demb, Ada, and Amy Wade. 2012. “Reality Check: Faculty Involvement in Outreach & Engagement.” The Journal of Higher Education 83 (3): 337–66.

Wade, Amy, and Ada Demb. 2009. “A Conceptual Model to Explore Faculty Community Engagement.” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning 15 (2): 5–16.

CJ Eubanks Fleming is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Elon University, where she serves as the Faculty Fellow for Internships in the College of Arts and Sciences. In this role she evaluates department- and university-level data regarding internship outcomes, shares internship best practices with faculty, and serves as a liaison between faculty/students and the university’s career center. She also serves as a seminar leader for the 2022-2024 research seminar on Work-Integrated Learning.

How to Cite this Post

Fleming, CJ. 2024. “Tipping the Cost-Benefit Analysis to Support Faculty Engagement in Work-Integrated Learning.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. March 19, 2024. https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/tipping-the-cost-benefit-analysis-to-support-faculty-engagement-in-work-integrated-learning.