(Thursday Post Category—Here’s How You Get Tenure)
This is a Special Request Post for Adeline. She wishes to know how to create a tenure portfolio.
While every tenure process differs slightly by campus, and you should confirm all expectations with your department chair in your first year and annually afterward, by and large your tenure dossier consists of 7 elements:
1. Your c.v. in correct tenure format
2. Your publications
3. Your teaching portfolio
4. Your tenure statement
5. Grants and awards
6. Evidence of service
7. Your external review letters
These documents will be reviewed by your tenure committee, and department head. The department head will transform the portfolio of materials into a lengthy tenure report on your case, which, with your external letters and some substantiating materials about teaching, will advance to the associate dean, dean, college committee, and campus committee. Ultimately your successful tenure will be approved by the Provost (or equivalent). Here is what each of these elements includes:
Your C.V. in Correct Format
Most institutions require a tenure c.v. to adhere to very strict guidelines. One of the elements of this is the marking of every publication as “peer-reviewed” “invited” “highly selective” etc., as well as strictly clarifying if the publication is published, in press, accepted, in revise and resubmit stage, or merely submitted. The c.v. format is meant to prevent “padding” and “obfuscation.”
All articles, books, book reviews, encyclopedia entries, and other items written by you. Whether your institution considers online writing such as blogs relevant to tenure is something you must discuss well in advance with your Head/Chair. This will also include reviews of your major works, as in reviews of your book in major journals. Some institutions may require evidence of citation of your work.
Your Teaching Portfolio
Your teaching statement/teaching philosophy, your student evaluations, all of your syllabi, some major assignments or projects from your classes, peer reviews of your teaching by colleagues, examples of teaching skill development through your campus’s Teaching Effectiveness Center (will have a different name on every campus). Will also include a list of your graduate student advisees and their status, and the committees on which you are a member. Also special intiatives and teaching to undergraduates, such as independent studies.
Your Tenure Statement
This is your own reflection on your research, teaching, and service, past, present and future. There are usually word limits and formatting requirements. Disregard these at your peril. It is typically approximately 5 pages long, single-spaced, and devotes 60% of its length to research, 30% to teaching, and 10% to service. (We will discuss the elements of an effective tenure statement in another post). It must primarily encapsulate your research accomplishments, contributions, and trajectory from past to future (a substantial second, post-tenure project is a key–but often overlooked–element of this statement) in language that can be comprehended by an interdisciplinary higher level committee from across the campus—ie, that can very well include faculty from biology, physics, English, cinema studies, economics, agricultural sciences, anthropology and French, all on one committee. In short, this piece of writing must make the case for your brilliance and productivity without using any field-specific jargon.
Grants and Awards
Evidence of monetary grants you received both large and small. This may include the proposals you wrote to apply successfully for the grants and the letters awarding you the grants. Both small on-campus grants and large multi-year grants should be included. Also includes non-monetary awards you received, such as best journal article in xx field by a junior scholar (this would also be in the Publications file), outstanding teacher awards, best undergraduate mentor award, etc.
Evidence of Service
Letters documenting your service on any department and campus committees and collectivities, such gender and equity committee, curriculum committee, faculty senate, search committees, tenure committees, etc. Also includes evidence of service to your discipline, such as manuscript reviews for refereed journals, grant proposal reviews, etc. Also includes outreach initiatives you might have pursued to the community, local schools and organizations, and media coverage of your research, etc.
Your External Review Letters
These are the 5-6 letters obtained by the department head/chair from illustrious senior scholars in your field/s. These individuals will have read a selection of your publications, and your tenure statement, over the previous summer, and will compose a lengthy single-spaced letter evaluating your work, its quantity, its pace, its import and originality, its impact on the field, and its likelihood to make you a leader in the field in the coming years. They will be asked, specifically “Would this candidate receive tenure at your institution,” which can make for some interesting language when the letter writers are Ivy League and are thinking “no” but have to write “yes.” The biggest risk is usually slightly less then completely effusive language, as even a phrase that even implies a question will be scrutinized intensively by the tenure committee, department head, associate dean, dean, college committee, and campus committee. However, the department head, in their larger statement of support for tenure, provides the summary and context of the letters and can often minimize any damage. Letter writers fully understand the stakes of tenure review. The norm is that anyone who is not fully supportive will not agree to write a letter in the first place. Few, few scholars make it their business to sabotage a junior colleague’s career and life. Of course it does happen, but rarely, very rarely.
Effective and organized departments will require you to create a dossier in your first year in the form of a binder or a box of files, and expect you to add these documents to it on a monthly or semester-ly basis.
Disorganized departments will find the secretary frantically calling to ask why your dossier isn’t ready when your tenure committee is scheduling its first meeting and the chair/head is on the verge of sending out her requests for letters to external reviewers.
Protect yourself, and keep good files. Keep every scrap of paper that crosses your desk thanking you for sitting on x committee, or congratulating you for winning that $250 for your media literacy initiative. Collect copies of not just your major publications, but the book reviews that you write, and every small publication that you produce, as well as published reviews of your work. Ana Salter has a great ProfHacker post that discusses the digital aspects of this.
DO NOT TRUST YOUR MEMORY. In year 5 you will have forgotten the 3 independent studies with undergraduates you (foolishly) agreed to do in your first term. You will have forgotten that you served as an external reviewer for a minor journal in your field. You will have forgotten that you served on the grievance committee in your 2nd and 3rd year, mostly because the committee never once convened.
You are your own advocate. Noone else has your back. The responsibility for protecting yourself and your tenure case lies with you. Besides productivity, organization is your best friend.
Do you have any questions about all of this? Please put them in comments below, and I will answer each and every one.