Pearls of Wisdom–The Blog

~~ “You tell the truth, you tell it well. In the crowded and fetid swamp that is the job market, that is oxygen.” – a reader

The_Professor_Is_In.inddLove the blog? Now get it in handy book form!

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It also makes a great gift for all those struggling grad students in your life!

For bulk orders for use in classes, seminars, and workshops, please call Crown Publishing  (Random House) Customer Service at 1-800-733-3000.

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MORE ABOUT THE BOOK

The definitive career guide for grad students, adjuncts, post-docs and anyone else eager to get tenure or turn their Ph.D.  into their ideal job.

Karen Kelsky has made it her mission to help readers join the select few who get the most out of their Ph.D. As a former tenured professor and department head who oversaw numerous academic job searches, she knows from experience exactly what gets an academic applicant a job. And as the creator of the popular and widely respected advice site The Professor is In, she has helped countless Ph.D.’s turn themselves into stronger applicants and land their dream careers.

Now, for the first time ever, Karen has poured all her best advice into a single handy guide that addresses the most important issues facing any Ph.D., including:

-When, where, and what to publish
-Writing a foolproof grant application
-Cultivating references and crafting the perfect CV
-Acing the job talk and campus interview
-Avoiding the adjunct trap
-Making the leap to nonacademic work, when the time is right

The Professor Is In addresses all of these issues, and many more.

If you would like your academic career to begin in delusion and end in disillusionment, then by all means, ignore Karen Kelsky. If, however, you want unvarnished straight talk about the academic job market—and how to navigate it—then heed her, and heed her now.” —Rebecca Schuman, education columnist for Slate.

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ABOUT THE BLOG

I post once a week, usually on Friday, on topics related to the academic job market, academic life and politics, general professionalization skills related to writing, publishing, conferencing, networking, and scholarly comportment, and the tenure process.

I also put up posts on the Post-Ac/Non-Ac job search by my Panel of Post-Ac Experts, on Monday or Tuesday.

Let me know if there’s a topic you want to see me post on!  I am always happy to put Special Requests into the queue. Comment here, or email me at: gettenure@gmail.com.

You can  always get to a particular Category by clicking it in the Categories column to the right.———>

Please note that as of January 2013  the rate of comments to this blog has exceeded my ability to respond individually to each one. I’m sorry that not all comments will get a personal response by Dr. Karen.  If you have a really pressing question, do consider getting in touch to get on my calendar to work together.  I strive to make services affordable to all.

Here’s a short glossary to help you follow the discussions in the blog:

  • TT– tenure track
  • VAP–visiting assistant professor (position)
  • ABD–all but dissertation (status)
  • SLAC–small liberal arts college
  • R1–top ranked research-intensive institution with Ph.D.-granting departments, such as University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan, etc.
  • R2–research institution with primarily MA-granting departments

A Provost Leaves Academia, Part II – #Postac Guest Post Series

Dr. Terri Givens is a consultant in higher ed, and soon to be former provost at Menlo College. She has been a professor at the University of Washington and University of Texas at Austin, and is the proud mother of two teenage boys.

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KK:  I encountered Dr. Givens’ story of imminent #postac departure on social media and immediately asked her if she’d be willing to share thoughts of her transition with us. She generously agreed, and this is her first of several posts. I encourage you to click through all of her links, especially on the theme of mental illness and higher ed.

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As I discussed in my previous post, my journey to leaving academia began many years ago, when I realized that I would never be valued the way that I should be. I could give everything I had, and it wouldn’t matter. In fact, I had given everything I had, started new programs and majors, been a successful research and teacher, involved in the community, everything a university should want in a faculty member and leader. But it became very clear to me, that as a black woman, I would never be rewarded the way that my white male colleagues were for just doing the minimum. I went for 6 years without a pay raise and had minimal support for my research. Academia is not designed to reward those who don’t fit into a particular profile.

However, I did make it to provost once I left my previous institution and my next logical step should have been to become a college president. Having seen the life of several college presidents up close, it was clear to me that the job can be even harder than being a provost. You have to take responsibility for everything that happens under you, whether you knew about it or not, you have to raise tons of money, and you have to work with a board of trustees that in my case, would likely only tolerate me, because I’m a black female.

I also know that my desire to be politically active is inconsistent with the constraints that both a provost and a president must deal with. I have been a news junkie from the time I was old enough to sit in front of a TV. I grew up obsessed with network news and looked forward to the Democratic convention every four years – one of my favorite childhood memories is of watching Barbara Jordan speak at the Watergate hearings and at the Democratic National Convention. I also have fond memories of knocking on doors with my sisters to campaign for George McGovern. So, it is not surprising that I chose political science when it came time to choose a major.

One of the unfortunate truths about being an academic, particularly in my field of political science, is that it is hard to be politically active or to address current events in one’s writing. My research had to be empirical and objective. That didn’t keep me from studying topics that others considered on the fringes of the field, i.e., immigration, populism, antidiscrimination policy, which are all of a sudden considered important. I did manage to find ways to incorporate some forms of activism into my research. I worked with organizations like the German Marshall Fund that were working to develop young leaders from minority groups on both sides of the Atlantic. I also work very hard to provide clear facts about immigration policy both in the U.S. and Europe.

It is true that the opportunities for public scholarship have improved greatly, but I will feel much more comfortable about being outspoken regarding current issues when I’m no longer in an institution that frowns on such actions. I have felt even more constrained when I have been in administrative positions where the things that I say may be construed as official positions of the college. It will take me a while to develop the muscles that will allow me to be more vocal, and to figure out how I want to use the platform that I have in a positive way.

I have been on twitter for several years and have slowly developed a following. I am clearly on the side of the #Resistance and have promoted movements related to the murder of Trayvon Martin, Black Lives Matter, Gun Sense and the Women’s March. I have used my personal blog to discuss relevant political issues, and I hope to expand on that going forward. Current events with the rise of populism, anti-immigrant sentiment and racism are pushing me to move toward the front lines to fight for the future of my boys. We are in a critical historical moment, and I want to believe in the words of Martin

#MakeupMonday: A Complete Look From Start to Finish

1) Illuminating primer (LW; Becca)

The biggest thing I’ve learned in makeup as a middle-aged person is that skillful application and satisfying outcomes require a lot of small, incremental steps, rather than a few dramatic splashes. I’ve learned this both from watching Youtube videos, and from my own trial and error (mostly the latter). The fact is, to get a really excellent outcome, you have to build up through almost imperceptible stages; only when you compare the before and after is the true transformation visible.

2) Undereye primer (LW; Becca) and foundation (Becca AquaLuminous)

I thought I’d share that today, by sharing one complete process. This is a more “made up” look for an event or appearance, although even then I use very sheer coverage foundation and no concealers, because I dislike anything cakey or overly “covered”-looking. My freckles stay visible! Start to finish, about 30 minutes. My more daily looks skip a few steps like undereye primer, highlighter and finishing powder, and take about 15 minutes. As always, no filters! I’m happy to answer questions about the products–please put them on FB (see below).

One thing about my process is that several products are totally invisible, and exist only to boost functionality–in my case, extreme long-wear, which is my number one makeup criterion. I will mark those products with “(LW).” Because of primers and finishers (and the LW products I exclusively use), my makeup doesn’t budge even in a 12 hour day.

And remember: Comment substantively on the FB thread to be included in a drawing for a packet of samples! Because of my savvy online shopping skillz, all of my orders come with at least 3 and usually 5 or more samples. I generally pass these right along to you, my faithful reader-commenters! Just leave a comment on FB and I’ll pick someone at random next Monday.  (And, sorry I forgot my Makeup Monday post last week!  We were visiting my son at his residential program in Utah and I was completely occupied. It was a wonderful visit! 🙂  )

3) Foundation blended, eyelid primer (LW; Tarte ShapeTape) applied

4) Contouring applied (nose, cheeks, jawline; Kevin Aucoin)

5) Contouring blended

6) Eyeshadow (3 shades; Smashbox PhotoOp Palette) [weird face from checking shadow symmetry!]

7) Eyeliner (Smashbox PhotoOp), lash primer (LW; Clinique), mascara (Eyeko Sport)

8) Blush (while “making cheeks”; Hourglass Ambient Blush in Mood Exposure – also a new holy grail item)

9) Brows (Beauty Bakerie)

11) Finishing Powder (LW; Becca HydraMist-I’m a new convert!*)

12) Lipcolor (Beauty Bakerie Lip Whip in Syruptitious)

13) Blush top-off, highlighter (YSL Touche Eclat under eyes and around mouth) [ignore shift in color tone]

14) Final blend, setting spray (LW; NYX in Dewy) and…earrings!

15) Hair fixed (Keune Blend Volume Powder and American Crew Fiber) [overhead light turned off on way out]

16) Pleased with results 🙂

Remember “Before”!

Out in my usual living room selfie location (for comparison)

*Becca Hydra-Mist Set and Refresh Powder. This is a new holy grail product for me. It’s getting a whole post. So is my to-die-for blush, the outcome of a full two years of searching (not kidding): Hourglass Ambient in Mood Exposure.

**Happy to share hair product info if you’re interested. LMK.  OK–added.

Your External Reviewers for Tenure

I’ll begin with the usual caveat: all tenure processes are local. You MUST research your own department and campus to understand formal policies, informal practices, precedent, horror stories, and so on.  No general advice such as I provide can replace that. My hope that this series of posts on tenure will give you a starting point for your strategizing and queries.

R1 and R2 institutions and elite liberal arts colleges depend on external reviewers for tenure.  Small teaching colleges and community colleges may well skip external reviewers entirely and require only internal letters of support. At institutions that use external reviewers, the import of these letters cannot be overstated.  In my experience as a department head managing tenure cases, there was literally NO WAY that a case could be successful with even a single negative letter. Therefore the process of choosing the tenure reviewers is of utmost importance.

As I’ve already explained, tenured faculty in your department will generate a list of names (about 8) and you the candidate will generate a list of names, and the T&P committee chair or department head will cull this double list into one final list of approximately 6 names, 3 or 4 of which will be from the department, and 3 or 2 of which will be from the candidate. The department names will carry more weight because they are perceived, rightfully or not, as being more objective. As I explained in my earlier post, some departments will secretly strategize with you the candidate to ensure that the “best” people are on the department list, for that reason. If this occurs (and it happens in departments that want to pull out all stops in their support of you), it will be behind closed doors with no paper trail. The department head will have to work to find six people who will actually agree to do the review of your packet, due to other commitments, illness, leave, and so on.

When the list is finalized, the department head will send out your complete packet of publications  – as well as your research summary (in most cases)  – to each external reviewer in about mid-May. The reviewers have until about mid-August to complete their review of all your writings, and write their usually 3-5 page letter evaluating your tenurability. They will typically be asked to include the answer to the question, “would this individual get tenure at your institution?”

Not all departments will enclose the candidate’s research summary with the publications, but generally it’s good practice as the summary allows the external reviewers to have more complete context for the  larger intellectual project of the publications they are reading. This is particularly important because the external reviewer may well not have ever met you before. More on that below.

The research summary (or statement) ranges in length depending on departmental norms, but should fall between 1 and 5 pages in length.  To my mind, 3 pages is ideal. This document may not need to be identical to the research statement you are required to submit for the campus tenure process itself. For one thing, you have to have it completed by May of the year prior to your tenure year. So, it can truly just be a summary of your research record and profile, while the ultimate research statement you produce for your formal tenure file, which should be completed by August or September of the tenure year, may be much longer and more detailed. Remember that the external reviewers are doing this service work of reading and evaluating every major publication you’ve produced uncompensated and out of the goodness of their hearts, so please, keep the summary concise.

The rest of this post is about building the list of external reviewers, because this process is generally shrouded in mystery. Here are some standard criteria:

Must be tenured

Should not be retired/emeritus; there may be exceptions to this, however.

Should be Full Professors, rather than Associate (in cases I handled, out of six final names, 5 had to be Full, with scope for perhaps 1 to be Associate)

Must be at equivalent or above-ranked institutions. Meaning, if you are at an R1, no names can be from R2s or SLACs, no matter how illustrious the individual, and the R1s had to be of equal or greater status.

Should be well-regarded and well-known – tl;dr: the more famous the better as long as the letter is detailed and stellar. (In other words, if Neil DeGrasse Tyson writes for you, but only writes 2 lines, that doesn’t help). In 2011 one of my first TPII posts was titled, “Hooray for Elite White Men” and was about how when I was a department head I was told that I needed to make sure to stack my tenure candidates’ lists with enough white men, as an over-abundance of women or people of color would suggest a weak case. I kid you not.

Must represent your field or fields.  The six names should cover ALL of your areas–for example, as a Japan anthropologist of gender, my six individuals had to include cultural anthropologists, Japan scholars, and gender scholars.

Must not be former teachers in any capacity.

Must not be friends.

Must not be direct collaborators or co-authors.

Should generally be US-based. Out of six letters, one could be international, in all the cases I handled. However, there may be exceptions to this rule depending on your field.

Should be “arms-length” colleagues in the field. Meaning, you know OF them/they know OF you; you’ve met but not collaborated formally, you’ve served on a panel together but not co-organized a panel; etc. It is possible that you may never have met directly.

Know that in the VAST majority of cases, external reviewers understand the stakes perfectly, want you to get tenure, and will write a letter that does everything possible to ensure that outcome. If a person does not support your tenure, they generally will refuse to write for you in the first place. Overt sabotage is VERY RARE.

However, there are issues with international writers, who do not understand American conventions of hyperbole and encomium.  I once had a German writer who proposed to “provide a careful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of XXX’s research.”  This would have been disastrous. There can be no “weaknesses” mentioned in an external letter. For better or worse, these letters, while engaging substantively with the scholarly project, can include only supportive sentiments and engagement. Beware putting international scholars on your tenure writer list for this reason.

Know that the slightest breath of ambiguity or ambivalence in any letter will be closely examined and vigorously discussed at every level, from department through campus-level committee. It is your department head’s job to provide proper context and rationale for the external letters, particularly anything slightly ambiguous.

Some final notes: you as candidate NEVER formally ask someone to serve as a tenure reviewer. Rather, you merely grow your reputation and network organically through active conference participation, meeting scholars who visit campus, publishing, and so on.  At the end of five years of that, you should have an excellent sense of your field(s), and be able to list off ten names of Full Professors in your main and secondary disciplines, teaching at equivalent or above institutions, whose work intersects with yours, with whom you have a nice nodding relationship, or know merely by reputation.  Those are your potential tenure reviewers. To repeat: tenure reviewers do NOT have to have met you before. Gathering and editing that list should be one of your ongoing tasks as an assistant professor.  It is good to consult on your list and this process with a trusted senior colleague on campus, in an ongoing way over your probationary period.

 

 

 

A Provost Leaves Academia: A #Postac Post

Dr. Terri Givens is a consultant in higher ed, and soon to be former provost at Menlo College. She has been a professor at the University of Washington and University of Texas at Austin, and is the proud mother of two teenage boys.

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KK:  I encountered Dr. Givens’ story of imminent #postac departure on social media and immediately asked her if she’d be willing to share thoughts of her transition with us. She generously agreed, and this is her first of several posts. I encourage you to click through all of her links, especially on the theme of mental illness and higher ed.

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My story of leaving academe is not the typical one – I’m not a graduate student, I didn’t get turned down for tenure, and I’m not retiring. I’m at the top of my career, a provost who could return to the faculty, or try for another administrative post. But there’s something to be said about leaving when you are at the top of your game. As an athlete, I like to use sports analogies. I ran a good race, quit while I was ahead, etc. I am grateful that I am leaving academe on my own terms. When people ask me why I don’t want to try to be a college president, I tell them that would be the worst possible move I could make at this point in my life. It would mean that I would have to move, and I am very happy with where I am living (Menlo Park, CA), my kids are going to great schools, my husband has a great job, and we are close to relatives.

As a first-generation college-goer I have always been acutely aware of my need to learn norms as I make my way through worlds where I have no experience. Luckily, I have had many friends and mentors who have helped me make my way through this crazy world, but I also feel that I have been too quick to follow the rules and jump through the hurdles without much thought to whether they made sense or not. It also became clear over time that the rules applied differently to men and women, as well as other categories that arose, e.g., people with children vs not, etc. I worked very hard and always managed to do more, despite having children, taking on major service duties and publishing like crazy.

The reality is that I haven’t been happy in academe for a while. Perhaps the last straw was losing my friend, Mark Sawyer, last year. He was a successful political scientist who had struggled with mental and physical health issues. His untimely death forced me to review my own path in academe, and I did it in a very public way (a series of columns in Inside Higher Ed), hoping to help others to see that successful academics often faced serious challenges. Mental health issues have been a serious concern of mine throughout my career, given the challenges I have seen in my own family and with friends. I have always tried to maintain a healthy approach to my priorities but the issues that were raised strengthened my resolve to pursue what I felt was right for me.

In many ways I feel sorry for the institutions that have lost me. They struggle to nurture talent and aren’t necessarily prepared to support the careers of women leaders. Upper levels of administration and boards of trustees or regents tend to be predominantly white males who don’t understand how or care to support racial and gender equity. Although I did have many men who were supportive of my career, I had to develop a strong sense of my own abilities, and not allow myself to be defined by the judgement of those whose opinions I didn’t respect. My field of political science is particularly negligent in terms of supporting the careers of women and minorities, although it is getting better for early career faculty. I have done a lot of mentoring and sharing experiences at our annual meeting on how to recruit minority and women faculty, and I will continue to do so, along with others who are picking up the torch.

I can only point to one period in my career where I felt that I had full support from my department chair, dean and provost. It was from the time that I arrived at the University of Texas at Austin in 2003 until the year after I left the provost’s office in 2010.  I call those the golden years, for both me and the university. It was a time of growth in the faculty and the development of new programs, some of which I created. My career took off like a shooting star.

Then politics, budget cuts and a new chair and dean meant that support went away, and I felt betrayed. Once a campus leader, I was left to fend for myself and go on the job market. I worked toward completing my research so that I could go on the job market as a full professor. I landed a good job, in a location that was good for my family, but one of the things that I found frustrating as a high-level administrator, was my inability to be outspoken during a time of political crisis. In my next post, I’ll discuss my political activism and how it helped me to decide to leave academe.

The Role of Your Tenure Committee and Department Head

Continuing in the new series on tenure (this is #4, although I do have some earlier prior posts on the tenure process, all of which can be found in the “Tenure – How To Get It” Category) —->

Today I want to say a few words about the roles played by your tenure committee and the department head.

As with all things tenure-related, processes and policies will vary greatly among institutions and departments. No advice can be universal.  I will share what I have observed but as I note in every post, you must confirm the case for your own situation with tenured colleagues in your own department.

Tenure committees can take two forms in my observation. You can have your own dedicated tenure committee that is convened to consider your individual case, or the department as a whole can maintain a general Tenure and Promotion Committee, whose purpose is to manage all of the tenure cases in the department.  In my own career, I exclusively encountered the former, but I have heard of the latter.

The committee (whichever form it takes) will work with you to make sure all of your materials for evaluation are collected in a timely manner.  It is generally convened in the Spring prior to your tenure year because the task of collecting your materials to send to the external reviewers happens then. They will also examine the materials to make sure they are complete. If you are lacking teaching observations (which often happens in disorganized or irresponsible departments, so as you move through your probationary period, PLEASE take the initiative to make sure you are regularly observed and a record put in your file) members of the committee may rush to observe you in that Spring or in the early Fall of your tenure year.

T & P committee members may also work with you to help you collect your set of names of external reviewers, and also make sure that the department generates its list of names in a timely manner.  The committee, especially the chair, should ensure that your particular research area is properly understood and reflected in the list of reviewers.  This cannot be guaranteed, and many assistant professors experience much anxiety about doing work that is not well understood or respected by their colleagues. Often they may have been hired to do “experimental” or “cutting edge” or “interdisciplinary” work, only to find it met with confusion, ignorance, or dislike at the time of tenure. It is important that the candidate do everything in their power to talk to the committee members to explain their true profile, and alert the committee to possible points of controversy or danger.

In particular, in the list of external reviewer names that the candidate is permitted to supply, generally there can also be a short list of one or two names of scholars who must not be asked for letters, precisely because of intellectual tensions or fractures in the field. Again, the committee should be alerted to this intellectual landscape.

The committee will also gather the tenured faculty’s list of names, and may well have the task of culling an over-long list to an appropriate length, based again on what they have learned of the candidate’s profile and location in the field or fields.

In the standard procedure I’m familiar with, the committee will combine the candidate’s list of names, and the department’s list of names, into one master list of approximately 10-12 names, and present that to the department head, who will have the responsibility of making the final decision as to the order of contact, and also, managing the process of getting 5 to 6 individuals to actually commit to the work (difficult because of potential reviewers’ illness, research leave, sabbatical, overcommitment, and so on).

After the letters come in, in early Fall, the committee then thoroughly studies them, as well as the candidate’ teaching, research and service record, confers closely in one or more meetings, and then writes up a report summarizing the candidate’s record, and their recommendation for or against tenure.

They present this document to the tenured members of the department, which then devotes a meeting to lengthy and intensive discussion of the candidate’s suitability for tenure, and a vote.

I explained this in more detail in the previous post:

“Mid-Fall, year 6, a departmental tenure vote is held at a special meeting that leaves time for extensive discussion of your file. This vote is supposed to be confidential but somebody may leak the outcome to you, especially if it’s positive.

Mid-Fall, year 6, the department Head takes the results of the committee report, the departmental vote, the departmental discussion (including aspects of the case that may have been shared verbally but not reflected in the vote), and the recommendations of the external reviewers, and synthesizes them in a lengthy “Head’s Report and Recommendation.” This lays out the case for or against your tenure for the upper-level committees who will be evaluating you next. This document is the most important element of your tenure case. This document will draw heavily from the tenure and promotion committee’s report and recommendation, but will elaborate further based on the department-wide discussion, and the Head’s wider perspective on you in comparison to other tenure candidates past and present.”

The department head plays an absolutely critical role in this juncture, when the file moves from the department- where everybody knows the candidate – to the college level, where they don’t.  Assuming the department vote was positive, the department head is the “translator,” using her knowledge of the field and its disputes and tensions to contextualize the candidate’s work, boost up the achievements, and provide explanation for any red flags. Particularly when an external letter has some whispers of doubt, the department head is indispensable in laying those to rest by providing wider context.

If the department’s vote is negative, the department head is equally critical in articulating the reasons why. Because negative tenure votes at most institutions are such a deviation from the norm, they don’t reflect well on departments (which, the thinking goes, should have done a better job of mentoring and supporting the candidate), so the head has to provide compelling evidence that the candidate’s record is truly insufficient, and that the negative vote is not just evidence of a dysfunctional department.

Indeed, if there are concerns at the College level, the department head may be called before the College T & P committee to defend the candidate’s file and/or the departmental vote.

So, as candidate,you want to have as strong a connection with your department head as you possibly can. Because that individual will play a major role in the “articulation” of your tenurability for those constituencies on campus who do not personally know you. Not all department heads are equally skilled at this. As I wrote last time:

“Finally, in a close case, much hinges on the skill of the department head – is she savvy enough and a skilled enough writer to successfully contextualize any weaknesses and play up all possible strengths?  I once had a department head who truly could only be called an academic Eyeore.  He could take anything, no matter how exuberantly positive, and render it dismal. His praise was so faint as to be invisible: “she usually completed all service tasks in a timely manner and mostly performed adequately in the classroom.””

You can’t transform your department head into a brilliant and compelling writer, but you can work to ensure that your relations with the head, and all senior colleagues, are as warm and collegial as possible. This does NOT mean you sacrifice yourself on the altar of service. Far from it. What they want is a robust publishing/grant/teaching record that allows for a “slam dunk” case.  But while executing all of that publishing and teaching, work to make yourself, as far as this is possible, a well-liked member of the department, and a central element of the departmental community.  When I advise on tenure I always say that it’s equal parts an academic and a social process. You MUST have the required record, but you NEED the good-will of your tenured colleagues. Don’t neglect either.

#MakeupMonday: You Need Light!

Last week I went into a friend’s bathroom and had the sudden sickening realization that all this time I’ve been doing my makeup in the dark. I *thought* I had adequate lighting thanks to a very good lighted magnified makeup mirror.  Ha.

Looking into that bathroom mirror, which had lighting like this – ———>

I realized my lighting to date has been totally inadequate.

I could immediately see skin and makeup issues I’d never noticed, and was confronted with alarming questions about my color choices and blending abilities.

Like I said, it was a tad bit shocking.

I live in an old house that has an aged bathroom with a pedestal sink and terrible lighting, so I have my makeup setup in the bedroom. It looks like this:

 

Brushes in a zaru soba tsuyu cup, small items in an incense burner, both from Japan! 🙂

I have a policy: everything I use has to fit in this space-so if I add something, something has to go

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not about to redo my bedroom lighting, so I went to the trusty internet to see if solutions exist.

And lo, there are solutions! So. Many. Solutions! And they are cheap!

I considered this set of stick-on bulbs ($22.99):

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this stick-on light bar ($12.99):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But ultimately I went with this stick-on strip of continuous tiny lights ($14.99):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I liked the way it provides a continual line of lighting on all sides.  It’s also completely adjustable from dim to bright light. And it’s a breeze to install–just peel off the tape and stick it up.  And you can trim it to size.

Unlit, it is not attractive–it’s completely an industrial item never meant to be part of anyone’s decor. —->

Some might object for this reason.  But I don’t mind.  The strip is small and unobtrusive, so not very noticeable, and when it’s lit–well, it’s quite amazing. As evidence, I provide these photos:

Just my overhead light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With only my lighted makeup mirror hitting one side of face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With new lights at half-power

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the new lights at full power

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, it’s consistent full-circle lighting, that fills even the darkest space evenly, and can be adjusted to the light-level of your destination.

So: If you care about makeup, drop what you’re doing and get yourself one of these lighting options. They won’t break the bank, and believe me, your makeup experience will never be the same.

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I’m still de-stashing, so let’s continue the weekly giveaway!  Last week only ONE person did the thing I asked, which was to tag someone in an FB comment: Charlotte Noble, a Ph.D. student at USF (shared with permission). So, Charlotte is the default winner of this week’s makeup sample set!

I can see that you all love to comment, but still don’t love to post selfies or tag your friends….  So, for this week, let’s go back to the original rules:  comment on the FB thread with some substantive comment about makeup or skin care  – what you use, why you use it, what you think of my post, comments about makeup and feminism, makeup and politics, makeup and race, makeup and LGBTQ identity (it’s Pride Month!), anything at all (but no makeup shaming!) – and I’ll randomly choose someone (using random.org) from among the commenters to get a box of my unused or barely used sample items. Brands include Urban Decay, Smashbox, Tarte, and so on…

But, new tweak: if you DO post a selfie or tag a friend, you get counted double!  I want to see selfies!!

 

 

 

On Being a Grad School Quitter, Part II – Guest Post by Adrienne Posner

Adrienne Posner quit grad school cold turkey in 2015 mid-dissertation and now works at Google as a Program Manager for various educational initiatives.  She received her BA in Art History from UCSC and an MA in Art History from UCLA, and then an MA and a CPhil in Comparative Literature from UCLA. She lives in Oakland.

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This post is a continuation of my last post, where I started to talk about what lead me to quit grad school mid-way through my dissertation. You’ll want to read the first post for context before continuing on with how I transitioned from Comp Lit PhD candidate to the tech industry.

I think it’s important to say this very directly: I quit grad school. I didn’t hedge my bets and take a leave of absence, I didn’t move away and try something new while I pretended to make progress on my dissertation, I didn’t transition to a new field. Those are fine choices, of course. But hopefully it will be a breath of fresh air to some readers to hear that I happily admit that I am grad school quitter. Quitting is the word for it, and no other.

I also think it is important to say that I struggled with some shame around quitting for a time. I did go through a difficult period that I can only describe as melancholy, where I wrestled with feeling like I had lost an essential part of my own identity – that 5 year old self who wanted to really understand and know things, and wanted to be really listened to in turn – and then another period that felt more like mourning, where I was just really, really sad. It wasn’t at all easy. I had to do the unflattering work of changing my conception of myself, of acknowledging that the very idea of “following one’s passion” was privileged and problematic, that my dream of being a professor was couched more in a fantasy – a common, shared fantasy, but one that I had also deeply internalized – than in any experiential knowledge of the culture of academia or familiarity with what it really means these days to actually be a professor. I had to confront the fact that academia, the real version of it and not the one I had imagined, was not for me. I had to accept and eventually learn to be happy with being a quitter.

Now, when I talk to grad students or meet an old colleague for drinks, I’ll occasionally get nostalgic about what my wonderful undergraduate advisor liked to call “the life of the mind.” But then I remind myself: that was always already a myth. And then, even more importantly, I remember the long list of things I don’t miss, which was always so top heavy with the largest questions of all: will this degree that I’m putting all my intellectual and emotional energy into getting actually result in a job that feeds me and pays my rent? Is “being a professor,” whatever that means these days, worth all of that? To be free of that fundamental anxiety, to have quit, is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. It was a decision that filled a deep need for better self care and, paradoxically, felt less selfish than staying. It was a decision that allowed me to critically examine my own participation in academia and to understand that I felt that participation to be problematic. It was a decision that provided a deep sense of relief, one that has helped me to better trust myself.

It was also a decision that opened up real options. An investment in education and a love of teaching are fundamental to who I am, but quitting helped me to see that being a professor wasn’t the only or even the best way to engage in work that I care about.

This is part one in a series of blog posts. In my next post, I am going to talk very honestly about transferable skills, the cultural norms, communication styles and ways of thinking that easily translate from academia to the tech industry, as well as those that don’t seem to translate at all. For those that are interested, I will follow that up with posts about what tech jobs are available to grad students, both with and without PhDs, and how to find and apply for them.

 

Productivity Tuesday: Not What I Had Planned (What my less than successful backpacking trip can teach you about writing)

by Kellee Weinhold, Unstuck Productivity Coach

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I went backpacking with friends this Memorial Day weekend. The plan was to do a 5x5x5 mile triangle. One night at the first lake. Two at the second and then back to the car.

It didn’t quite work out that way we planned it. Which is pretty much just like writing.

How Writing is Like Backpacking, Lesson One: Planning matters.

I was more than a little anxious about this trip. I have not been hiking much this year and I had done absolutely no pack hiking as prep. Last year, I was planning a two-week Pacific Crest Trail hike and was extremely careful to prepare, hiking increasing distances near where I live with a pack. I have autoimmune issues that make carrying 35 pounds on my back challenging even on a good day so I needed to understand the potential outcomes. But that was last year. This year, I told myself I was just too busy to do the preparation required. I packed my pack and hoped for the best.

We set out on Friday afternoon, found the trail head with no problem, and we were off! From the looks of it, we were golden.

This tale of backpacking as metaphor for writing will make one thing perfectly clear: Setting off into unknown wilderness without an overabundance of preparation for what’s in store is not a good idea.

Setting out on on a big writing project without the proper preparation — ie: an outline; an argument; a clearly defined stopping point and ultimate destination — is guaranteed to deliver misery at some point. For us, that point was 10 miles in. More on that later.

How Writing is Like Backpacking, Lesson Two: Worrying Will Not Change the Outcome.

Worrying about what might happen gets you nothing but a stress cloud enveloping what would otherwise be a perfectly pleasant experience. For me the self-inflicted stress included: How would my body hold up? What if forgot something important? What if I wake up tomorrow and I’m too stiff and sore to do Day Two?

You are no doubt aware of the writing equivalents: What if it doesn’t get accepted? What if I made an error? What if I missed a key piece of literature? What if I am not smart enough to do this?

If I had left my hiking “what ifs” unchallenged, I would have trudged along in a miserable state for the entire five miles. Instead, when I caught myself in an anxiety “trance” of what ifs, I paused the thought, took a deep breath, put my head on a swivel to enjoy the scenery and started an internal chant to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know it…”

“I am backpacking in Oregon with my friends. I am backpacking in Oregon with my friends. This is such beautiful country. I am here to enjoy it. I am backpacking in Oregon with my friends!”

The song was my way of reminding myself that right in that moment, I was fine; and if I stayed present, I could enjoy it. And I did. I saw wildflowers and pine trees and chipmunks and clouds giving way to blue sky, and I left human noise pollution behind. I was able to rest in the silence.

When we can separate ourselves even briefly from the nagging self doubts and questions, we can be present in the experience of writing and relax into the exploration.

You may instantly think, “But writing is not relaxing! I hate writing!”

Here’s the thing. I can pretty much guarantee you that you don’t hate writing. You hate all of the stories you have created around it. So when you get freaked out about what may come of your writing, come back to the present. Stick with the actual words on the page. The intellectual challenges of your project NOT the imagined negative outcomes.

Ah, if worrying were the only barrier to stress free experiences. How easy it would be to stay happily on course, But no. When anxiety takes a seat, comparison is always willing to jump up in its place.

How Writing is Like Backpacking Lesson Three: Comparison is the Thief of Joy.

“They are faster than I am.” “They are fitter than I am.” “They are enjoying this more than I am.” “They have more time on the trail than I have.” Blah. blah. Blah. blah.

Sounds a lot like when we latch on to comparison with our colleagues, doesn’t it? They are more productive than I am. They are more successful than I am. They write faster than I do. They understand the theory better than I do.

What is the value of comparison? Seriously, what good does it do us? (Spoiler alert: none.) Certainly, it didn’t help my back hurt any less. It just as certainly won’t help your project move forward. But it damned well might stop it.

As we clicked off miles and comparison tried to take control, I had to once again coach that negative attachment brain back to the moment: We were on the same path, covering the same distance, carrying the same loads and in the end, we would— all four of us — set up in the same camp next to the same lake to see the same moonlit sky and the same jaw-dropping sunrise. (I mean if everyone else had gotten out of bed in time.)

So, I added to my internal “I am backpacking… melody:  “Thank you feet, you’re doing a good job! Thank you knees, you’re doing good job! Thank you glutes, you’re doing a good job!”

I can tell you that my body was a lot more responsive and happy with that message than it was with “You’re miserable and slow and stupid for doing this.” (All gross lies and exaggerations by the way.) We were all walking our own paces and stayed well within each other’s line of sight.

In other words, no matter how “slow” your writing feels, you’ll eventually travel the exact path as every other author who finishes and delivers work, with the same exact endpoint: submitted. It’s not how fast you write; it is arriving at your chosen destination intact that counts. So, be kind to that brain that is working so hard. Congratulate and celebrate everything that is getting you there!

How Writing is Like Backpacking Lesson Four:  Shit Happens and Real Life Consequences Exist.

We set out on our second day with sunny skies, a clear path, and nine hours until sunset with only 5 miles to cover. Piece of cake.

Within 3 miles, we were in more than the “patchy snow” the ranger station had promised, without a clear path to return (long story.) Carry on, we must. The patchy snow became patchy bare ground and at mile 4.5 we lost the trail entirely.

We knew could not stay at our intended second campground, and we had already made the decision to hike back out to the car, but we had to FIND the intersection with the return trail.

We couldn’t go back. We couldn’t find forward. And we could only imagine where the way out might be hiding.

What did our little band of wanderers do? We followed protocol: STOP: Stop. Think. Observe. Plan. We stopped. We ate and drank water. We visually mapped where we would walk (in pairs) to look for the trail. We used a compass and our navigation skills. In a relatively short time, we found the trail intersection.

See what I am saying about it being like writing? Sometimes you get straight up lost. You can’t see where you took off from. Can’t see the end. You are stranded in the murky middle. And just like backpacking, the answer to being lost is stop, refuel, assess the situation and remember the resources that, in your increasing confusion, are easy to forget that you possess.

One more thing. That 30 minutes of losing our way (only 5 of which was continuing to walk) could be the entire focus of the trip: OH MY GOD, WE GOT LOST! But the other story to tell is that we were never actually lost, we were a little off course. And we had plenty of resources to survive until we figured it out. Use your resources, your colleagues, your advisor, your internal compass to keep heading in the general direction until you can spot the path again.

How Writing is Like Backpacking Lesson Five:  Overdoing It Kills Momentum.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, our five-mile sunny Saturday stroll became 11 miles, and a few hours became six hours and 50 minutes.  A three-night backpacking trip with three 5 mile legs had turned into a one night backpacking trip with one five mile leg and one 11 mile dog leg in the snow. Not at all what we planned, but what we had. And we did it.

Here’s the thing though. That extra 5+ miles in snow on incredibly uneven ground, meant something different to me in my body than my fellow hikers.

It meant that they decided to snag a room in a weird mountain hotel to look for adventure the next day. It meant I went home to an epsom salt bath, cbd oil and my own bed. Three days later, my body is still exhausted. I waffled and second guessed myself for a full day about whether to show up for our regular four-mile hike the following Tuesday. I sat in bed that morning completely unclear about what was exhaustion and what was an unwillingness to be uncomfortable again.

And we are back back to writing, again. We all have different levels of tolerance, everything from how long we can sit in the chair to how many hours a day we actually can devote to writing, but no matter who we are, we have a limit. When we go over that limit —and trust me when I say that binging is always over the limit— we will pay a price. When we write ourselves to exhaustion, our brains and bodies will reject the idea of returning to the work.

Yes, the goal is not see how much you can write in a single day, but how steadily you can write day by day. But, even with the best of intentions, we can also get ourselves in binds that require over doing it to get out. Once we are there, the goal becomes to slog through to the end while accepting without shame that it will take time to recover, i.e. We are allowed to coast for a bit until we get our mojo back.

But not too long.

How Writing is Like Backpacking Lesson Six: Sometimes You Just Have to Suck It Up.

Eventually, I put on my shoes and I went for my morning walk/hike with my friends. It was less than pleasant. My knee was twingy. My legs were TIRED. Still, getting back to exercise was the right choice. I had to once again face my limitations, but I wasn’t going to do myself any harm. Time to pick myself up and start moving again.

It’s easy when you have a challenging experience to focus on how hard it was instead of what you accomplished. It is far too easy to spend hours asking, how did this go so horribly awry? Easy and a waste of time and energy. Go ahead and ask the question to discern what you would do differently the next time. And, then remember, that is what matters: The next time.

This time was hard. It took you awhile to recover. Ok. That’s good. Now, when are you going to get back on track? What will you do in advance or accept letting go of to be ready and willing to make the journey again.

Writing is going to be harder than you expected sometimes. If you keep trudging along, you will eventually make it through it. And, you will be tired. And, you can still pick your slightly the worse for wear self up and start walking/writing again.

Because the only way to experience the journey is to be on it.

(And, for the record, it is a helluva lot less miserable with good company.)

#MakeupMonday: I’m So Cool

On last Thursday’s Facebook Live I premiered an entirely new vista of lipcolor: a bright vivid cranberry! Several people on the Live asked for a #MakeupMonday devoted to the look, and of course your wish is my command, so here it is:

The standout item is the lip, of course. It’s Beauty Bakerie Lip Whip in Cranberry Stiletto.

OH HOW I LOVE IT.

I’ve actually been seeking a bold red for about a year now! I’ve gone through SO MANY and not one was acceptable to me.

Lo and behold, it was my beloved Beauty Bakerie that held the key the whole time. And added bonus: like all Lip Whips, this will never ever ever fade or smear in any way shape or form, even through three meals and a shower (I’m serious!*), until it’s removed with a lipcolor remover (reminder: you can get the adorable Beauty Bakerie Lip Whip Remover to support this lovely black-woman-owned company, but full disclosure, you can also get ELF Kiss It Goodbye for $3, which works amazingly).

This bright red lipcolor challenge for me actually encapsulates a larger makeup challenge: finding correct colors for one’s face depending on not just skin coloring, but also skin tone and undertone, which I’d like to take today’s post to discuss further.  Ahem…

Turns out, I’m cool-toned. Very, very cool-toned.  One way they say to determine this is to ask yourself: do you always lean toward silver jewelry rather than gold?  Indeed, I wear silver exclusively, and have for decades, and have always been mystified at how gold looks so terrific on Miyako and so blah on me.  This is why.

It’s a real struggle to find makeup that is sufficiently cool-toned for my skin.  For some reason, the vast majority of products are in warm or neutral. Does anyone know why? I’d love to know.

But anyway, for those of you working on finding your best products, be aware that different brands often tend more toward warm or cool (although increasingly most do try to offer a range and are more and more careful about noting the tones in product descriptions).  So, Laura Mercier tends to warm/yellow, as does Fenty.  Becca tends toward cool, and so does Laura Geller and Kat Von D.  There is no substitute, however, to a dedicated hour or two at Sephora or Ulta swatching everything. It can feel like a pain, but it’s the only way you can figure this out for yourself.

Well, actually a consult with a staffperson might help too, but personality-wise, I will not trust some random 24-year-old to advise me on my foundation – Academic Skepticism in action – lol! (see below). Although again perhaps this is why I have SO MANY barely used makeup items (which I now share with you all – see below): for a long time I was buying stuff in the wrong tone. Excellent products that worked well… but weren’t quite right. But now I’m on track!

Red lipcolors are a particular challenge on this front.  Many, many reds are warm.  Few reds are cool.  Those that are cool can easily look cheap and purple-ish.  But now my search is finally over.  Expect to see Cranberry Stiletto in a lot of selfies from now on! I wore it to a wedding this weekend, and in Eugene, OR, land of Birkenstocks, you can bet I stood out. It may well have been the only lipstick of any color in the entire place.  I had to channel some of my makeup sheros (Ijeoma Oluo, author of the new book So You Want To Talk About Race, being the main one [going to hear her in Eugene this Thursday!]) to remember that standing out is ok.

Moving on, today’s look also features a new ultra-cool-toned eye shadow palette:  Laura Geller The Delectables in “Delicious Shades of Cool.” I got it at Nordstrom Rack for $22.99 (normally $45).  I bought this initially more as a fun play-item to share with Miyako, because the colors seemed a bit extreme. But when I started using it, I discovered that it’s actually ideal for daily wear, and better than all the other palettes I have been using–because it’s SO. EXTREMELY. COOL-TONED.

And also has amazing staying power, and very very slight sheen (perfectly poised between matte and shimmer which are both harsh).

I’m wearing Candy all over the lid, Slate in the crease, Plum as the outer-eye accent, and Carbon as liner.

Last of all in the cool-tone-challenge:  Contour.  After months of searching, I finally found some sufficiently cool-toned contour products:  MAC Sculpting Powder in “Sculpt” ($17) and Kevin Aucoin The Sculpting Powder in Medium ($44). As Sir John, Beyonce’s makeup artist, explained in a previous post, contour products should always be cool-toned and NOT bronzers, because the point is to look like shadows, not tan!  I think this point is too little understood! But it’s also extremely difficult to execute when the whole world is awash in warm-toned, bronzy so-called “contour” products. I had a weird experience at a MAC counter once, with a staffperson patiently explaining to me that contour products should be blue-ish, while standing there with a face covered top to bottom in orangey bronzer. #WhyIDontTrustCounterStaff

Kevin Aucoin: So cool

MAC in Sculpt

Anyway, MAC in Sculpt is an excellent grey-brown shade. The product comes in a few other shades–I think “Shadowy” is probably a good cool darker tone, which I might need if I get tan over summer. The Kevin Aucoin is even cooler–a true gray taupe.  While most people would probably be fine with the MAC, for my level of cool-tone, the Kevin Aucoin (sadly, given the price) is better.

Rounding out today’s look:  Beauty Bakerie BROWNies Eyebrow Gel in Dark Brown.  That’s right–I’ve left behind the pencil. My Anastasia pencil was wonderful, but wow– eyebrow gel pigment is a Millenial innovation that is worth getting behind!  It is so much more natural looking, with way more color payoff, and staying power, and a multi-dimensional layered feel.

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*Wait–turns out a Thai coconut milk-based curry will defeat it.  It’s the only thing so far I’ve found that does.

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The Giveaway Continues!  Thanks to all who commented on FB last week! The winner is #2 out of 11 comments – Aysenur Sagdc (shared with permission), Georgetown Ph.D. student in Linguistics!  I think I’ll ask Aysenur about undertone so I can select the best items!

Let’s keep it going.  This week, comment on the FB thread with a substantive comment. This time, let me try another experiment. The “post a photo” one didnn’t work, but how about this:  tag somebody in your comment. I really love #MakeupMonday and love hearing from you all what you use, why you use it, and how you thinnk about makeup and skincare. So, let’s bring more people into the convo.  Comment and tag someone and I’ll enter you in the random drawing for a package of my de-stashed items. Brands include, as always: Urban Decay, Becca, Smashbox, Hempz, Hourglass…

The Path and Timeline of Your Tenure Application

Part 2 of my series on Tenure

Every institution has its own conventions, expectations and practices for tenure, and the single most important thing you must do, if you are on the tenure track, is bring your research A-game to the task of figuring out what those are for YOUR field, in YOUR department, in YOUR college, on YOUR campus.  No general advice of the kind I can provide here can anticipate every variation on tenure timelines and policies.

Speak first and most often to your department head, but don’t stop there – also talk to other senior members of your department. The fact is, your head may not be experienced or savvy, and may have only the dimmest ideas of what constitutes a normative tenure case. So, seek information widely.  And, utilize ALL resources at your disposal, including any and all tenure workshops given by your department, college, or campus. And go to these regularly each year, so that you can track evolving tenure expectations. Because these are always in flux, especially at “aspirational” mid-tier campuses, which are getting increasingly greedy for research outputs. More on that later.

Anyway, all of that to say that the path and timeline of tenure on your campus may deviate from what I write here. In particular, be aware that small teaching colleges and regional public institutions may not include any external reviewers in their tenure process. They may rely only on selected internal reviewers.  And likewise, some campuses may have a 5, 7 or a 9 year tenure timeline (instead of the more typical 6), while for some individuals your timeline may be shorter because you have arranged to come up early.

But in all four of my departments on two public R1 campuses, this is what it looked like:

Late Spring of candidate’s year 5, the Head calls you into the office to tell you your tenure process is starting.  She tells you who is on your committee and the timeline, with a deadline for your submission of all publications to be sent to external reviewers in about May.

Late Spring of candidate’s year 5, the chair of the tenure and promotion committee schedules a meeting, goes over the timeline, asks for your list of approximately 5 names of external reviewers. Your list will be added to the department-generated list of approximately 5 names, and the committee chair and/or the department head will cull that list to one master list of approximately 6 names, with 3 or 4 from department list, and 3 or 2 from your list.  The departmental names will “count” for more in the ultimate tenure evaluation, as they are perceived to be more “objective.” [I will discuss the criteria by which names are chosen in another blog post].

Possible:  the committee chair will quietly, behind closed doors, ask you for some names that you’d like to see on the department’s list, so that he/she can be sure and propose those, and work with you to ensure that the final master list has all “good” names on it. The purpose of this exercise is to make sure that the departmental list has no dangerous names on it, and also that the “best” and highest status people come from the department rather than you, the candidate. Note: not all departments will do this informal step for all candidates, so it may not occur and should not be expected as a matter of course.

The Head may have to move through many names to get to a list of 6 or so who will agree, due to potential evaluators’ illness, overcommitment, research leave, etc.

End of Spring, Candidate’s year 5, department Head sends out your packet of all major publications and the CV, and sometimes a draft/provisional tenure research statement, to all of the reviewers to read over the summer.

Early Fall of Candidate’s year 6, tenure reviewers send back their external review letters, evaluating the strength of your research and publication record and answering the question: “would this candidate get tenure at my institution?”

Early Fall of Candidate’s year 6, you submit ALL elements of your record to the department:  all publications, syllabi and supporting teaching materials, evaluations, records of service, awards, and so on.  You also submit all required tenure statements, covering research, teaching, service, and any other major element of your position (such as outreach and/or administration). All of these elements are held in a tenure “box” (or digital file), to be reviewed first by the tenure and promotion committee.

Mid-Fall, year 6, the tenure and promotion committee evaluates all of your submitted materials and the external review letters, and writes up a report making a recommendation to the department for or against your tenure.

Mid-Fall, year 6, this committee report is shared with all tenured faculty members in the department, and your complete file of materials is made available for review by them.

Mid-Fall, year 6, a departmental tenure vote is held at a special meeting that leaves time for extensive discussion of your file. This vote is supposed to be confidential but somebody may leak the outcome to you, especially if it’s positive.

Mid-Fall, year 6, the department Head takes the results of the committee report, the departmental vote, the departmental discussion (including aspects of the case that may have been shared verbally but not reflected in the vote), and the recommendations of the external reviewers, and synthesizes them in a lengthy “Head’s Report and Recommendation.” This lays out the case for or against your tenure for the upper-level committees who will be evaluating you next. This document is the most important element of your tenure case. This document will draw heavily from the tenure and promotion committee’s report and recommendation, but will elaborate further based on the department-wide discussion, and the Head’s wider perspective on you in comparison to other tenure candidates past and present.

Late Fall, year 6, the entire file, plus the Head’s Report, is given to the College level tenure and promotion committee for review and vote.

Early Spring, year 6, the entire file, Head’s Report, and completed vote/report of the College committee is sent to the Campus level tenure and promotion committee for review and vote.

Mid-Spring, year 6, all elements of the file are sent to the Chancellor’s office for a final review and approval.

Mid-Late-Spring, year 6, the final campus decision on tenure is communicated to the department Head and to you, the candidate.

While in the majority of cases a successful departmental vote bodes well for all other votes moving up the food chain, it does NOT guarantee it.  Deans have been known to overturn departmental votes, as have Campus-level committees.  There are politics at play at every level.  Some campuses have a culture of trust in departmental judgment, and some do not. In addition, there are departments that due to histories of dysfunction have little or no credibility on campus, and so their tenure decisions are held in doubt and closely scrutinized.

Finally, in a close case, much hinges on the skill of the department head – is she savvy enough and a skilled enough writer to successfully contextualize any weaknesses and play up all possible strengths?  I once had a department head who truly could only be called an academic Eyeore.  He could take anything, no matter how exuberantly positive, and render it dismal. His praise was so faint as to be invisible: “she usually completed all service tasks in a timely manner and mostly performed adequately in the classroom.”

The best way to get around these issues is not to have a close case. What you want is a “slam dunk” case that cannot be undermined no matter how ham-fisted your Head, how racist or sexist your colleagues. I realize the latter issues constitute a potential penalty in themselves, but there it is: white women and people of color must do twice as much for half the credit. I will elaborate on this point many times in the tenure posts to come. The most important thing you can do is to accurately determine what actually counts for tenure in your department and campus and put laser focus on producing exactly that. Do not spend your time and energy on what you think “should” count, spend it on what DOES count.