aims to build the ACW community by sharing the experiences of academic writers.
Think of the review process not as judgment, but as one of well-deserved recognition, in which you share with your colleagues all you have accomplished as you climb toward tenure.Read more
As you mount the final part of the trek, the application for tenure, the path will become strenuous. Ask for help from your network of champions, mentors, coaches, and peer supporters.Read more
Your teaching, research, and service achievements will determine if you get tenure, but you will need to craft your scholarly identity and ?toot your horn? to accentuate your unique contribution.Read more
Service to the department and university is expected for tenure and promotion. Yet, service requirements are often unclear. What is enough and what is too much?Read more
Scholarship is often a solitary activity. Working in isolation, you may lose sight of your path. Look for mentors and experienced coaches to guide you on your tenure trek.Read more
Initially, the terrain may not look treacherous, but the challenge is to become an effective teacher without disappearing in a never-ending cycle of course preparation, office hours, and grading.Read more
The transition from graduate student to full-time faculty member can be overwhelming. With your faculty appointment, you will find yourself in unfamiliar territory. Create a roadmap for a successful tenure trek.Read more
Tenure may appear as an insurmountable peak off in the distance, but if you plan ahead and acquire the tools you need, you will be prepared for the final ascent.Read more
Tenure may appear as an insurmountable peak off in the distance, but if you plan ahead and acquire the tools you need, you will be prepared for the final ascent.
From where you stand, tenure appears as a distant peak. If you look closely, there are a number of discernable landmarks along the path you will traverse to achieve tenure. Your progress toward tenure generally will be evaluated on some mix of the “big three”—teaching, research, and service.
Prepare for your tenure trek by assembling the gear that you need. Include the following in your “backpack of tools” so that you are prepared to meet the challenges of the tenure evaluation process:
The criteria for evaluation. Find out how teaching effectiveness is determined and how student evaluations and classroom observations are calculated. Inquire about how research potential and productivity are measured, including conference papers, publications, and success in grant applications. Check to see what counts as service as well as what type of service is most valued.
The timeline. Check the tenure guidelines for the review process time frame. Approach each evaluation, informal or formal, as an opportunity to showcase your abilities and achievements.
A list of your reviewers. Determine the academic levels (department, college) and personnel involved in your evaluation. Don't underestimate the role of interpersonal relationships. The longer you are at the university, the better sense you will have of who is supportive.
Avoid a sprint to the top of the mountain at the last minute. Earning tenure involves steady progress and demonstrating your achievements along the way.
The transition from graduate student to full-time faculty member can be overwhelming. With your faculty appointment, you will find yourself in unfamiliar territory. Create a roadmap for a successful tenure trek.
To successfully juggle all your faculty responsibilities, prioritize the “big three” (teaching, research, and service) and map out time for each.
Don’t allow teaching responsibilities to derail you. From the outset make a pledge to never let your research fall by the wayside. Use these tools to stay on track:
Create a tenure plan. Revisit the research agenda statement you prepared for your job search, and establish a timeline that fits with your tenure review process. Identify immediate goals (i.e., dissertation publication) and set deadlines.
Schedule time to research and write. Create a schedule that works for the academic year, and one that works for the summer months. Block out writing time on your calendar and stick to your plan.
Review the tenure map with senior faculty. Once a semester, update your tenure plan and review it with someone who understands the expectations for tenure in your department to ensure that you stay on your path to tenure.
Ask for guidance from your mentor or department chair about service expectations for new faculty. Be strategic about the service commitments you make and schedule them in a way that will not overwhelm your other commitments.
Form good habits at the beginning of your tenure trek. The first year is often the hardest in terms of adjusting to your new faculty position. Map out time for teaching, research, and service, and you will be on solid footing as you set off on your trek.
Initially, the terrain may not look treacherous, but the challenge is to become an effective teacher without disappearing in a never-ending cycle of course preparation, office hours, and grading.
You may spend your first year as a tenure-track faculty member figuring out your approach to teaching, preparing teaching materials, and managing students and TAs. It may seem a little daunting. Even if you are a classroom veteran, a new position at a new school requires preparation for new courses and new students.
Inexperienced trekkers sabotage themselves by concentrating on their teaching and ignoring the importance of maintaining their research, writing, and service commitments. You need to be effective in the classroom—but not at the expense of research and service.
Here are three tools to manage teaching and bridge the imbalance between teaching and other commitments.
Reduce your teaching load. Your school may offer a reduced load for new faculty or for faculty who negotiate release time for course development or for specific research or service projects. Explore the possibilities.
Keep it simple. Preparing courses for the first time is an arduous task. Request copies of the previous syllabus for each course. Seek out colleagues who taught courses you have been assigned to see if they are willing to share lecture notes, assignments, PowerPoint presentations, and other resources. Start with what you have. Shape your courses incrementally with the feedback you receive over time. Avoid overly ambitious assignments and projects until you get to know the department and the students and until you have established a balance between your teaching, research, and service commitments.
Contain your time. Set office hours and stick to them. Look for ways to minimize the grading load. Stagger due dates for assignments and avoid “back loading” your course, in which most of your assessment is toward the end of the semester. Give feedback early. Your students will benefit as well.
Scholarship is often a solitary activity. Working in isolation, you may lose sight of your path. Look for mentors and experienced coaches to guide you on your tenure trek.
You no longer have your graduate school mentor or adviser to push you to finish your research and to help you polish your writing. You have left behind your fellow graduate students and your community, with whom you worked for the last few years. Look for a new research community, such as an informal “brown bag” discussion group or weekly colloquia. You also may be able to rely on faculty outside of your university, particularly if your research area differs from the research in your department. Networking at academic conferences helps develop these contacts.
These are the tools you can rely on to traverse the Isolation Gorge:
Identify mentors. Ideally, a tenured faculty member in your department will step into the role of mentor even if the department is not required to assign one. If not, approach senior faculty members with whom you have established rapport. Seek mentors from outside your department as well as within.
Find peer supporters. Join a group established specifically for junior faculty, whether it is in your department or draws from across the university. Such groups may help you realize that others share your concerns.
Seek an impartial coach. An experienced coach fills many roles when mentors are not available. Look for a coach who meets your needs for career advancement and/or for writing accountability.
Create an academic support network. Build relationships early and continue to grow your support network. Your journey along the path to tenure will become easier.
Service to the department and university is expected for tenure and promotion. Yet, service requirements are often unclear. What is enough and what is too much?
Don’t lose sight of your tenure path and get buried in an avalanche of nonstop service commitments. Minority faculty, in particular, are likely to face pressure to serve on numerous committees to demonstrate “diversity.” Be careful about volunteering for service that requires too much time and effort and compromises your teaching and research.
Some universities prefer to have new faculty concentrate on teaching and research. Department chairs may steer junior faculty into committees that are less time-consuming. Other universities, however, view junior faculty as newcomers who need to be initiated into the culture and the inevitable work that goes along with running an institution. Consult with your department chair and senior faculty to determine what service commitments are expected and what assignments are valued during the tenure evaluation.
Here are some tools to circumvent the Service Impasse:
Plan your service commitments. At the beginning of your tenure trek, map out your service assignments as part of your larger tenure plan. Share your plan with your department chair and mentors in the department to garner their support.
Balance your service commitments. Some committees are more time-consuming than others. If you take on an assignment that is labor intensive, be certain it will be considered as a strong service contribution when you are evaluated for tenure.
Learn to say “No.” Don’t accept a new service commitment if it will sabotage your teaching and writing. Respect the commitments you’ve made to yourself and follow the tenure map you’ve created.
Your teaching, research, and service achievements will determine if you get tenure, but you will need to craft your scholarly identity and ?toot your horn? to accentuate your unique contribution.
If you have followed your tenure map, you are in good shape, and the end is in sight. Now is the time to take stock of your achievements. Identify your unique scholarly contribution, carefully craft your identity, and, from time to time, “toot your horn” to let others know about your accomplishments.
As you review your progress towards tenure and survey the path ahead, consider using these tools for a successful climb to the summit:
Identify your “Voice.” As you progress on your tenure trek, you gain confidence in who you are as a Scholar. As you have developed in your teaching and research, ask yourself “How do I stand out from my colleagues and how do my ideas differ from others in my field?” Clarify your unique contribution and make that your trademark or your scholarly “Identity.”
Brand yourself. Once you have developed your scholarly identity, consciously construct your message. Design your website, CV, and other materials to consistently convey your “brand.” Consider the merits of creating an ePortfolio to promote yourself but don’t go overboard with glitz that obscures the substance of your message.
Toot your horn. Self-promotion comes naturally to some people, but many academics have a hard time with what may seem like bragging. Do your best to sell yourself to your colleagues. Highlight your accomplishments and your unique identity whenever you have the opportunity, being careful neither to exaggerate nor to undersell your contributions. Definitely play up your achievements in your annual reviews and tenure application.
Think of the review process not as judgment, but as one of well-deserved recognition, in which you share with your colleagues all you have accomplished as you climb toward tenure.
From this panorama, you can view the major milestones you have traversed and consider the remaining portion of the tenure review process as applying to keep your job. Approach each evaluation cycle as an opportunity to showcase what you have accomplished. Use material from each evaluation as a benchmark for where you are in the tenure process and as an indication of where you need to go next.
These are the tools you can use to document your significant accomplishments:
Maintain a tenure file. Document your teaching, research, and service accomplishments. Keep your tenure file up to date, organized by semester and year. Do not wait until the end of the year to track down this information. As soon as you complete a project or receive an email, make note of it in your tenure file. Save everything you prepared for your reviews, as well as any written feedback you received after these reviews. If previous reviews have identified areas of concern, explain how you have addressed those areas. Sometimes, the university will require material from your evaluations as part of the tenure application. Avoid gaps in your record.
Build a professional tenure application and portfolio. The most time-consuming part of going up for tenure is the preparation of the tenure application and portfolio. Be prepared to spend the summer before your “tenure year” putting all your materials together. Be conscientious about preparing your materials to present your case in the best possible light and craft your materials to convey your unique contribution as a scholar.
Ask people to champion you. Throughout the tenure trek, cultivate relationships with powerful people who will advocate for you and influence decision makers. You may be asked to provide your department chair with a list of external evaluators for outside reviews. Select prominent people who are willing and able to speak highly about your abilities.
As you mount the final part of the trek, the application for tenure, the path will become strenuous. Ask for help from your network of champions, mentors, coaches, and peer supporters.
The final review is the culmination of the trek. Even though you have prepared and followed your plan, you may feel stress as you anticipate the outcome. If you have cultivated a network of supporters along the way, you will have assistance when you need it.
These are the tools you can rely on for the final Tenure Ascent:
Make sure your portfolio looks professional. Your tenure application and portfolio may be the most important documents you will prepare in your academic career. Review each document to ensure that it is readable and conveys your unique accomplishments. Ask someone else to check, too, because for some of us, it is hard to proofread our own work.
Tap your mentors and colleagues for support. You may be evaluated on your “collegiality,” as well as your research, teaching, and service. Your fellow professors want a colleague who is a good fit for the academic culture of the institution and a good colleague in the department. Connect with those in your support network and ask for the support that you need. Ask them to review your application. Role play tenure interviews to prepare you to field difficult questions.
Ask for help. It’s understandable if you feel that you want outside guidance during the tenure trek. Don’t be afraid to seek out an impartial coach for guidance, roadmaps, and feedback on crafting your message and your portfolio.
At this point, you have the satisfaction that you have done all you can do. You have reached the summit and can survey the path you have climbed. Acknowledge your hard work. Look for a letter informing you that you have earned tenure!
Within this ebook, the lengthy period of time it takes to demonstrate your scholarly accomplishments and achieve tenure is depicted as a trek to the top of a distant mountain with a number of distinct landmarks along the way. As you read about each of these landmarks, you will learn about the inherent pitfalls in your path as well as some tools or strategies you can use to meet these challenges.
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