Tag Archives: tenure

Unveiling the Secret to Tenure Expectations

picture of Tanya Golash-Boza

Professor Tanya Golash-Boza

Tanya Golash-Boza (2015 Mujeres Talk Contributing Blogger)

Imagine this: Your first year on the tenure-track, you sit down with your department chair and ask him what the expectations for tenure are. He hands you a written document that indicates that you have to publish six articles, and that you must be first author on at least four. He provides you with a list of acceptable journals and makes it clear that this is the hurdle you have to cross for tenure. You meet with other senior colleagues in your department and across the university, and everyone agrees on the research component of the tenure expectations. You know exactly what you need to do and the only thing left to figure out is how to do it.

This situation, for better or for worse, is remarkably uncommon. Most new faculty members are never told exactly what they need for tenure. Senior colleagues are reluctant to give an exact number of how many articles you need to publish, whether you need articles in addition to a book, which journals are considered important, whether or not you need a major grant, and whether or not book reviews, conference presentations, and book chapters in edited volumes count for anything. Your senior colleagues are most likely to tell you that the tenure expectations are individualized and that a wide variety of portfolios can make an excellent tenure case. They will likely tell you that they are looking for a research profile that demonstrates excellence and an upward trajectory.

As a new faculty member at a research institution, I found this very frustrating. I thought to myself: why can’t they just tell me what I need to do so that I can do it? If you are in this sort of situation, where you are not clear on what the expectations are, one thing is certain: it is in your interest to find out anyway. How do you do that?

It turns out that there are a number of ways for you to figure out what a solid tenure case would look like. You just need to approach this as you would any other research project: ask around, investigate, and look at a variety of cases. Here are four strategies for you to figure out what your research portfolio should look like.

A pen resting on top of an open journal with writing faintly apparent.

On the importance of asking for clarity regarding tenure expectations. Photo by Sebastien Wiertz. CC BY 2.0

  • Ask around at your institution. In your first semester, you should meet with your department chair and with your faculty mentor. Ask both of them to give you advice on what the publication expectations are. They might be vague, but they will communicate something to you. You also can ask other colleagues around the institution, especially if you can find people who have served on the campus Promotion and Tenure committees.
  • Look at the CVs of people recently promoted in your department. If there is anyone who has been promoted in the past five years in your department, you should look at their CV and figure out what they needed to get tenure. Tenure expectations are a moving target, so the more recent candidates are a better comparison case than your older colleagues. You may even be able to ask recently tenured colleagues to share their tenure materials with you so that you can see exactly how they put their case together.
  • Look at the CVs of people recently promoted at other comparable institutions. Most departments post their faculty members’ CVs online. And, since promotion and tenure require updating the CV, most recently tenured faculty have updated CVs online. Look at several CVs of people who were recently tenured in your field and figure out what they had that allowed them to make a compelling tenure case. If no one has been tenured recently in your own department, this strategy can be particularly helpful.
  • Develop your own expectations, and share them with a trusted mentor. After you have compiled all of this information, use it to make explicit expectations for yourself. Suppose, after this research, you determine that you would need a book published at a university press, two single-authored articles in top tier peer-reviewed journals, one co-authored peer-reviewed articles, and at least six conference presentations. Take this information back to your department chair and your mentor and ask them if that would make a reasonable tenure case in your department. Tell them that you have set these goals for yourself, and that you would like their feedback on your goals. Their responses should be enlightening.

This last step is very important. Senior faculty are often reluctant to tell you exactly what you need because they don’t want to be wrong, but also because they do not want you to limit your options. If, however, you decide for yourself what your goals are and make it clear that you want their feedback, they likely will be willing to provide it.

The quest for tenure can be stressful, and the lack of clear expectations makes it more so. Figuring out what the expectations are yourself can be one step towards achieving clarity for yourself, and, in the process, to relieving some of the stress.

Tanya Golash-Boza is a Mujeres Talk 2015 Contributing Blogger. Her academic blog site, Get a Life, PhD, has been online since 2010 and offers “how to” advice for college professors on topics such as how to write a book proposal, revise an academic article, or organize work time in a semester. Dr. Tanya Golash-Boza also leads two other academic blog sites, Social Scientists for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Are We There Yet? World Travels with Three Kids. An Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California Merced, Golash-Boza is the author of four books: Due Process Denied (2012), Immigration Nation (2012), Yo Soy Negro: Blackness in Peru (2011), and Race and Racisms: A Critical Approach (2014). She has also written for Al Jazeera, The Nation, and Counterpunch. She has  a new book out in December: Deported: Immigrant Policing, Disposable Labor and Global Capitalism.

DICHOS: Tips on Seeking Tenure

April 29, 2013

Step Junction by Prof Shorthair. Flickr/Creative Commons License.
Step Junction by Prof Shorthair. Flickr/Creative Commons License.

By Catherine Ramírez and Karen Mary Davalos

Recently, the Mujeres Talk Collective asked successful women to share tips and advice on the tenure process. Below are two insightful contributions from Dras. Catherine Ramírez and Karen Mary Davalos:

Catherine S. Ramírez
Know your institution. Familiarize yourself with its policies, procedures, and expectations.  Ask colleagues who’ve recently been promoted to tenure for their CVs. (Increasingly, CVs are available online.) If you have the opportunity to write a statement for your file, quote your institution’s policy manual directly. For example, if the manual states that candidates must demonstrate “scholarly progress and productivity,” write, “I’ve demonstrated scholarly progress and productivity by…” In other words, show your colleagues that you’ve played by the rules of the game.

Build bridges. While it’s essential to have allies within your own department, it’s equally important and often more illuminating to forge ties with colleagues beyond it. Senior colleagues at other institutions will serve as your external reviewers when you’re up for tenure. Get to know them and make sure they know you (e.g., by attending conferences and serving on professional organization committees). Meanwhile, reach out to colleagues in other departments at your university. Find a mentor outside of your department. Forging ties with colleagues across campus can prevent you from becoming isolated. And if any irregularities arise in your tenure review, you’re more likely to be made aware of them if you have friends elsewhere.

Stay focused. If your institution requires a book for tenure, then write a book. Scholarly projects can be a bit like lovers: it’s easy to get bored with an old one and be tempted by a newer, less familiar one. As tempting as it is to drop the older project for the newer one, finish the former (or the bulk of it, at least) before moving on to the latter. Avoid over-conferencing. Attending conferences can be rewarding, but it can also be distracting, exhausting, and expensive.

Publish strategically. A publication in a refereed journal generally carries more weight than the very same publication in a special issue or anthology. Academic presses are almost always deemed more legitimate than others.

Hustle. While requirements and expectations vary, it’s safe to say that those of us at research institutions should publish and present our work publicly on a regular basis.

Karen Mary Davalos
Email is not your friend. Learn this lesson early in your academic career and you will avoid many of the common structural challenges of higher education. One minute you are checking email, and the next minute three hours slipped past. Email can alter the time-space continuum and take up precious time for scholarship.

More importantly, email does not help you create relationships, and as our society adds texting to its mode of communication, we come to assume that less is more. As a chair, email used to give me a sense that I am connected to my faculty, accessible and available. At one point on my campus, the model faculty member was imagined as the one who immediately answered email—and at all hours of the day. What about those poor fools who were routed through the slower servers and their email arrived or was sent hours later? Well, they just could not be trusted with departmental governance!  But don’t be fooled! Email is not anyone’s best tool to achieve leadership, communication, or relationships.

Try these ten simple tips to protect yourself from the vortex of email and from conflict and miscommunication in your department. The tips are not listed in any particular order, but if the institution’s legal counsel has been after you, then number three is at the top of your list. Email is a paper trail, even if it exists in virtual space. It is not private and nor does it belong to you if you are using the institution’s email address. If you find that you have been devoting several hours each day to email, then numbers 1 and 2 top your list. But stick to the plan, and don’t let one hour become three.

Finally, email is not your scapegoat. Don’t allow it to control how you use your day. You would not plan a meeting without an agenda, and you certainly would not meet with a faculty member “just to kill time.” If you need a break, take a walk. The effects will get so much more mileage than a hastily written email.

1) Turn off automatic email delivery.

2) Schedule time specifically for email retrieval and reply. Try one hour in the morning and one hour at the end of the day.

3) Never use email to discuss a personnel issue.

4) Proofread your email before you send. Email is letter writing. It counts.

5) Do not forward to another party without sender’s consent.

6) If you’re writing more than five sentences in reply, then walk over to the sender’s office and talk face-to-face.

7) If it’s a complicated reply, then call the sender for an appointment.

8) Use Reply-All with caution. Some communications should be shared with all department members, but if it really is something for everyone to know or discuss, then add it to the monthly agenda. Better yet: create an email culture in your department: Does everyone receive everything? Does every email require a confirmation of receipt? What is a reasonable time frame for reply? Talk about email communication expectations, since it’s still a relatively new genre and our cultural codes are being renegotiated.

9) Model professional communication. Don’t curse or gossip.

10) If email threads are the norm in your department, then use another application to manage electronic communication.

Catherine Ramírez is an Associate Professor in Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  She’s the author of The Woman in the Zoot Suit: Gender, Nationalism, and the Cultural Politics of Memory (Duke University Press, 2009) and is currently writing a history of assimilation in the United States.

Karen Mary Davalos is Chair and Professor of Chicana/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Her book, Yolanda M. López, (UCLA CSRC Press with distribution by University of Minnesota Press, 2008), brings together her research and teaching interests in Chicana feminist scholarship, spirituality, art, exhibition practices, and oral history.


Ella Diaz    April 29, 2013 at 1:24 PM

Thank you Catherine and Karen Mary for these sharp and distilled pieces of advice. Being on a tenure track and a new institution can be overwhelming and not easy to maneuver. Your direct suggestions cut through the fog. Much appreciated!
Ella Diaz