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Understanding the Promotion & Tenure Process

Module by: Rice ADVANCE. E-mail the author

Summary: Panel discussion presented by Jennifer West and Kathy Matthews at the 2010 NSF ADVANCE Workshop: Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position, A Workshop for Underrepresented PhDs and Postdocs in Science, Engineering and Psychology September 19-21, 2010

Goals

  • Institution
    • Tenure is a life-long commitment by the university to you
    • Successful faculty – innovators, leaders, producers
    • Research objectives in line with institutional directions
  • You
    • Faculty position that meets your own research and career objectives
    • Member of functional, innovative and forward-looking department and institution
    • Security offered by tenure

What can I do now?

  • Think about your steps all along the way
    • Consistently evaluate your own progress
      • Goals
      • Mechanisms to get there
      • Ways to learn from others and engage them
    • Keep data on all your activities
    • Ask for feedback
      • Grant writing
      • Papers
      • Teaching
      • Research program organization and development

This process is the accumulation of years of effort
THINK AHEAD!!

Understand the General Process

  • Learn about the promotion and tenure process at your institution
    • Ask about the process at every stage if you have questions
  • Request a copy of the policy
    • Be sure when you are interviewing that the policy is consistent with your personal goals
  • Understand the balance of teaching, research, and service that the institution AND the department will expect
  • Understand the audience(s) for the materials

General Process — The Dossier

  • Dossier
    • Summary of your independent career at institution
    • Information on all aspects of your career
      • Research summary (publications, grants, citations, awards)
      • Teaching summary (courses, evaluations, awards)
      • Service summary (activities, awards)
    • Inside reviews/letters
    • Outside letters****
      • Writers identified by department
      • Also usually writers identified by individual

Dossier Components

  • Summary of career
    • Education
    • Honors
    • Teaching/advising/mentoring
    • Citations
    • Grants
    • Publications
    • Research/teaching summary written by candidate
  • Outside letters

What Happens After Dossier Is Prepared?

  • Department review
    • Tenured faculty generally involved in decision to recommend or deny tenure
    • Department chair writes letter
      • Some schools have subcommittee
  • School review
    • Often school-level committee reviews and makes recommendation to dean
    • Dean makes recommendation
  • Promotion/Tenure Committee (Provost)
    • Makes recommendation to President
  • President sometimes makes final decision

What Happens After Dossier Is Prepared?

  • Department review
  • School review
  • Promotion/Tenure Committee (Provost)
  • President may make final decision
  • Multiple levels of review — no one person makes the decision! Many voices are part of the process.

General Process

  • Understand the timing of preparing the dossier, what you should submit and when
    • Think carefully about names for Outside Letters
  • Understand the process completely
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare your materials
    • Think about your research/teaching summary
    • Ensure that your papers are submitted in a timely way
  • Ask QUESTIONS if you do not understand

General Process

  • Outside letters
    • Highly influential in decision process
    • May have opportunity to suggest names
      • Develop relationships - create a network MARKET yourself!
    • Post-decision: Ask about possibility for feedback from the letters (can be useful)

Anticipate whom you would want to write letters and get to know those individuals

Factors Considered

  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Service

These factors combine to reach a decision, BUT the specific combination varies widely across institutions

Research

Publications

  • Used to assess your productivity
    • Numbers vary widely among disciplines
    • Type of publications expected also vary widely
    • Different expectations at different promotion points
  • Used to assess the quality of work produced
    • Citations, H-factor, Impact on the field

Research

Publications

  • Demonstrate your contributions
  • Provide evidence of your unique contributions, particularly in collaborative/cross-disciplinary activities
    • Issues of collaborators
      • How many? How much of your time?
    • Issues of cross-disciplinarity
      • Why did this matter? What did you and your discipline contribute?

Research

  • Grants — important national review of work
    • Demonstrate ability to secure funding for research
  • Presentations
    • Invitations reflect status in the field
  • Visibility/Engagement/Focus
    • Present at multiple conferences
    • Engage the leaders at those conferences
    • Invite leaders to your institution via department events
    • Reflect on level of focus in work and, if broad, engage multiple communities

Teaching

  • Effectiveness
    • Often evaluated by students
    • Ask assigned or selected mentor to provide review
  • Innovation
    • Think about ways to do it better/more effectively
    • Engage students
  • Range/breadth
    • Assignments may be focused or broad
    • Be prepared to teach beyond your comfort zone
  • Enthusiasm
    • Convey why you love what you do
    • Occasionally volunteer for something extra

Teaching

  • Develop a portfolio of your teaching
    • Syllabi
    • Handouts, other notes on courses developed
    • Problem sets
    • Other written materials
    • Computer-based materials, notes on courseware
    • Copies of software developed for courses
    • Examinations
    • Copies of graded papers where there is a significant writing component
    • Evaluation by a colleague
    • Student evaluations

Service

  • Department
    • Help your department accomplish the faculty’s goals
  • University
    • Engage in the broad community, but wisely — most P/T committees are broad
  • National Organizations
    • Choose wisely for visibility with minimum time
  • Civic/K12/Outreach Opportunities
    • Choose wisely, but make a difference

Keeping a Complete Record

Keep your CV up to date

  • Include students mentored at all levels (primary and secondary mentoring)
    • Undergraduates
    • Graduate Students
    • Post-doctoral Associates
  • Include advising responsibilities at all levels
  • Refereed publications
    • Some institutions request an evaluation of % effort on each
    • Citations — check your “h-factor”
  • Abstracts / Conference Proceedings/Presentations
    • Seminars/Workshops/Panels/etc.
    • Posters
    • Invited talks at meetings
  • Service within university, in community, at (inter)national level

P/T versus Performance Reviews

  • Ask your institution about frequency and nature of performance reviews
    • Can be very helpful in guiding activities
    • Opportunity for mid-term feedback
    • Provide an internal view of accomplishments
      • Some may have external letters
      • Dossier can be similar to promotion dossier

Are there answers to my questions?

  • How many publications do I need?
  • How much grant funding?
  • How many graduate students? Postdocs?
  • How many committees? Which ones?
  • How good must my teaching be? Does it matter?
  • How do I know if I’m doing enough?

There are no “right” answers to these questions, because the process is a composite of all of these and varies from place to place:

FIND OUT WHAT YOU CAN ABOUT YOUR INSTITUTION - ASK QUESTIONS!!!

Questions?

Ask many, ask often….

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