Motherhood in Academe (A Provost Leaves Academia, Part III) – A #Postac Guest Post Series

This is number three in the #Postac series, A Provost Leaves Academia,” by Dr. Terri Givens.

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.


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. I encourage you to click through all of her links, especially on the theme of mental illness and higher ed.


It was never a question of “if” my husband and I would have kids, it was a matter of when. I knew that being an academic and having kids could be a challenge, but I was determined to make it work, and I knew I had a partner who would play an active role in the life of his children. It took us several years to have a successful pregnancy, and we were thrilled when our son Andrew entered our lives in September of my second year as a professor at the University of Washington. We were fortunate to have lots of family in the area, and my sister offered to help take care of Andrew part-time when I went back to teaching, so we didn’t have to put him into daycare right away. We were also able to travel to Europe the first summer after he was born, so I could conduct research on my book project. Andrew celebrated his first birthday in Cologne, Germany, right before 9/11/2001.

When we returned to Seattle, we were able to find a good daycare for him near campus. So far, so good; I was making progress on my writing, my husband and I had found a good balance in our parenting, and he was doing well in his job as an engineer.

Then in the spring of 2002, the dot-com bust hit. Mike lost his job, and there weren’t many options for a hardware engineer in a software town. I knew that our days in Seattle were numbered. I was fortunate to get a Ford post-doctoral fellowship, so we moved temporarily to Silicon Valley where he had a job offer and I went on the job market. I interviewed at UT Austin in the winter of 2003, and promptly got pregnant a week later. Surprise! We knew we wanted a second child, but we weren’t expecting him in the middle of a major life change.

The move to Austin that summer was not the smoothest…lots of stress with buying a house and the move, the mover left a bunch of our stuff in Seattle, my car got hit by a drunk driver when I was 8 months pregnant, etc. Brandon was born a month early, luckily very healthy. I had asked for my first semester off, which was helpful, given that UT didn’t have a maternity leave policy at the time. Once again, I was blessed with a sister who agreed to come and be a live-in nanny until Brandon was a year old and could transition to daycare. Brandon got to spend his first summer in Paris, although we were back home by the time he turned 1.

So now we had two boys. We had daycare near campus, and eventually on campus. We transitioned into a routine that allowed me to get my book done, and tenure! But within a year, everything would change. I had started a Center for European Studies on campus and gotten on the radar screen of the administration. A new president had started in January of 2006 and the provost had resigned that summer. One day in early September, the interim provost called me into his office. I had no idea I was about to be offered the job of vice provost of undergraduate curriculum. How would a new in rank associate professor with two kids manage that kind of job?

Never one to turn down a challenge, I agreed to take on the job. However, I made it clear that I had to leave every day in time to pick my kids up from daycare. I also didn’t work weekends, and evenings would have to be negotiated. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was probably the easiest time for me to take on this kind of job. My kids were in school and then aftercare until 5:30 most days, so I didn’t have to worry about leaving work early. They had soccer a couple of times per week, but that didn’t impinge much on my work time, either.

Now jump to the teen-age years. I call myself the mom-shuttle. I have indeed been a soccer mom, with a Honda Odyssey mini-van and all the trappings. However, I didn’t run into much trouble with the job and the shuttling until my boys got into middle and high school. I had left the provost’s office at UT in 2009, when Andrew was 9 and Brandon was 6, so as a faculty member my time was pretty flexible, and I could handle their activities. When I became provost at Menlo College, Andrew was 14 and Brandon was 11.  Andrew immediately joined a soccer team, and Brandon started taekwondo that fall. The mom-shuttle life began in earnest, which made any meetings after 5 difficult. For some reason, the faculty at Menlo College like to have meetings in the evenings. Faculty Senate meetings were at 5, some committee meetings were at 5, etc. I would stay as long as I could and then head out to take my kids to their events. Mike was able to pick them up when they were done, but he generally couldn’t drop them off, work for him (and engineers in general) tends to start around 10am, so leaving at 5 wasn’t possible.

I know it raised eyebrows that I couldn’t stay for meetings, but frankly I didn’t care. I wasn’t the only person who had childcare duties in the evenings, and the faculty didn’t seem interested in moving the meetings to make it more convenient for those of us who had to leave before 6. I could have made a fuss, but I disliked the meetings, anyway.

In the end, I would always put my family first. Meetings can be important, and when necessary, I would try to make other arrangements, but I also wasn’t going to miss out on my kids’ activities for something as silly as a meeting. I think that it’s against common sense (and potentially discriminatory) to have meetings that run past 5pm. But I’m done with all of that now. Up next – the big transition!

#MakeupMonday: Trying New Colors

Today marks the start of my summer vacation season (don’t worry–editing and negotiating help continues!) so I’ll be brief.

I tried out a plum lipcolor for the first time ever, and I’m in love. I haven’t taken it off since I bought it. As always with new directions, I go cheap before I commit to expensive, so this is Maybelline Super-Stay 24 Liquid Lipstick in Unlimited Raisin.  (They also make a shade they actually call “plum” but that’s a true purple which is not something I want).  Naturally it’s ultra-long-wear. By no means the 24 hour wear they claim, but a solid 5-6 hour for sure.  I am not a huge fan of the product range overall–the majority have shimmer/glitter that seems out of date to me in this matte-centric world, and like many drugstore brands, many of the shades look cheap to me. But Unlimited Raisin is a winner! And look how it lasted through dance!

In a way it’s kind of surprising I haven’t tried plums before, because with my love of cool-blue toned makeup of all kinds, this would seem like an obvious choice. But, it’s taken me a long time to work up to really deep lipstick shades. I’ve been so self-conscious! I keep defaulting to rose and neutrals.

But, I’m there now!  I am now all about the bold lipcolors!  Can’t wait to share my experiments with you.

more plum than this looks

And that reminds me – one of the two current holy grail items I mentioned last week is ALSO a plum shade. It’s my new blush, the blush of my dreams, the blush that is truly worth the two years it took to find it – Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Mood Exposure.

how subtle is this blush?!

What’s nice about the Hourglass is you can get it in a travel size for $22 before you commit (and of course Sephora takes returns as does Hourglass itself). I can’t say enough about how subtle it is, how superbly natural, how delicately illuminating without any obvious shimmer or glitter, and of course–how great this sheer plum tone is for someone with cool-toned skin. —>


In other news, my daughter and I got summer mani-pedis this past weekend. And after years of resisting the siren-song of sparkly gel polish, I finally gave in. I got a gold sparkle manicure!  It glitters in the sun!

You might be surprised I got gold, but it’s actually a silvery gold – they tried to convince me on a range of yellow-golds, but I said no.

Like a magpie I cannot resist a shiny object and now I’m entranced by my own fingernails! Miyako got a beautiful salmon, just right for her work as a summer intern in our beloved Senator Ron Wyden’s office. (He and Jeff Merkeley are doing God’s work in our current migrant detention crisis. I’m proud of Miyako for supporting it. She told me never in her months of work there [she interned last summer as well] has she found that every single caller without exception speaking with a single voice: stop the family separation.)


Congrats to Vicki Hoskins, Ph.D. student in Theater and Performance Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, winner of the random weekly sample giveaway! She and I share a Pittsburgh-UIUC trajectory! (name shared with permission)

Remember to comment substantively on Facebook to this post about any topic at all related to makeup  – with thoughts, selfies, links, comments, opinions, etc. etc and I’ll put you in a random drawing for next week’s giveaway.



An Example Public R1 Departmental Tenure Timeline

Number 5 in my series on tenure.

After my previous posts The Path and Timeline of Your Tenure File, and The Role of Your Tenure Committee and Department Head, a reader sent in a timeline document of the Department Head’s duties in the tenure process that circulates at her Public R1 social sciences department.  I share it here (slightly anonymized) as more data for you to consider. Note that it stops at the departmental level and doesn’t include processes at the college and campus level. Note also that unlike the process I described, this one includes places for the candidate to respond in writing to the reports. I’d appreciate knowing from readers how common that practice is.

And remember, all tenure processes are local, and general advice such as that I provide in my blog post series on tenure cannot substitute for careful research of written and unwritten practices in your own field, department, and institution.


Timeline for Promotion Packages for Assistant Professors



  1. Meet with Assistant Professor, discuss general expectations for process

(a) personal statement, provide examples by previous Asst Profs

(b) timeline

(c) potential internal review committee members

  1. Name review committee.



  1. Meet with Assistant Professor, begin formal process

(a) Ask for first draft of personal statement from candidate by February 10

(b) Ask to think about potential external reviewers



  1. Assistant Professor, Department Chair, and Review Committee Chair discuss potential external reviewers



  1. Assistant Professor finalizes personal statement by March 25



  1. Candidate supplies 1 photocopy of all research materials (articles, chapters, books) on April 1
  • Dept staff keeps master copy, makes one copy for dept review committee
  • Dept staff make copies for external reviewers.
  • Dept buys any needed book copies for external reviews
  1. Candidate supplies 1 photocopy of all teaching materials (classes taught, peer and student evaluations, syllabi).
  • Dept staff keeps master copy, makes one copy for dept review committee
  • Dept staff make copies for external reviewers.
  1. Candidate supplies 1 photocopy of additional materials: personal statement, CV, YARS [KK: I assume this means yearly annual research statements].
  2. All materials go to the internal review committee, with deadline of initial response to chair May 10
  3. Contact possible external reviewers by email (contact 5; need 3)
  • Packets to them by May 15 and would need to hear back by September 1
  • This is query letter, not formal letter dictated by the College
  • If all 5 don’t say yes, then take next names from lists



  1. On May 15, send out official letters of review request, research materials, candidate’s personal statement, and candidate’s CV to external reviewers. Request letters by September 1.



  1. On August 10, send email checking in, remind external reviewers of letter return by September 1.
  2. When letters arrive, keep original in dept materials, give copies to the review committee chair.



  1. On September 15, final report received from review committee (with references to external reviews)
  2. Provide review report to candidate (with references to external reviewers redacted).
  3. Candidate has one week to respond. Some response is required — anything from got it, read it, thank you, to offering corrections, responses, clarifications.
  • Candidate’s response included in package for full faculty and College Council



  1. Faculty have 10 days to review full package.
  1. Faculty meet, discuss, vote.
  2. Synopsis of this discussion provided to candidate.
  3. Candidate has one week to respond. Some response is required — same as earlier
  • Candidate’s response included in package for College Council
  1. Chair writes letter: includes faculty discussion and vote, and own assessment



  1. All materials assembled, copies made, delivered to the College (usually by October 15).
  • Master copy retained in dept.

A TPII Alum Gives a Commencement Address!

I am so pleased to share this Commencement Address given this year at the Ellis School, by one of the earliest TPII clients: Dr. Jessica Hammer. To see someone I worked with go from applying for her first job to delivering a commencement address… well, it makes me feel all… verklempt!

My favorite line? “My lab has rules like, ‘we cheer for rejected papers, because it means you were ambitious.’”

Jessica Hammer is an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, jointly appointed in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute and the Entertainment Technology Center. She combines game design with qualitative and quantitative research techniques to understand how games impact human behavior. In 2018, she won Carnegie Mellon University’s Teaching Innovation award for her work improving game design education. She also is an award-winning game designer.


The Ellis School Commencement Address 2018

Good evening everyone, and thank you so much for inviting me to speak to you tonight. Congratulations to the Class of 2018! Congratulations as well to your family and friends. I’m sure they are all very proud of you tonight.

As Ellis students, I know that you have worked hard over the past four years, and that you have many accomplishments under your belts. From robotics to journalism, from social justice to visual arts, your passions and interests are wide-ranging. I hope you also had some fun. I say that speaking as a game designer. If you’re not having fun, I’m out of a job.

Let me tell you a little bit about what I do. I’m a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and my research area is games and play. That means I make games, I study games, and I teach game design. In particular, I work on games that transform the way players think, feel, and behave. In just the last year, I’ve worked on games that help kids be more curious about science, games that help families talk more honestly about mental health, and games that teach players about women’s history.

Games aren’t a panacea for every problem, but in the right context, they can be transformational. For example, in our daily lives we usually want to eliminate obstacles, so that we can complete tasks more easily. In games, we do the reverse. We create rules that make it harder for us to accomplish the goals of the game, and then we celebrate playing by them. Imagine basketball with the hoop lying on the ground, hopscotch where walking is permitted, or a permanently invulnerable Mario. Even if it would be easier to achieve the goals of these games, they’d be a lot less fun. Games change our attitude toward rules, and mastering rules is a key skill for a game designer.

So, as you prepare to go out into the world, let me give you a game designer’s blessing.

First, may you know the rules.

Knowing the rules lets you play by them, and succeed. As a child, you are often told these rules explicitly. Do your homework. Eat your vegetables. Brush your teeth. As you get older, though, the rules will be more and more often left unspoken. What major should you choose? How can you meet new friends? When should you ask for promotion? Many people can give you advice about these questions, but few can articulate the hidden structures that shape what they tell you. To know the rules, you will need an analytic mind and a keen eye for observation, so that you can discover unspoken rules and puzzle out their effects.
Knowing how rules might affect you, though, is only half the battle. The novelist Anatole France wrote, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids both rich and poor to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.” A rule that has no practical effect on your life may have a profound and powerful effect on the lives of others. For example, in most of this country, it is legal to put someone in jail if they don’t pay municipal fines, like speeding tickets. For people with even a few hundred dollars in the bank, this might sound like a reasonable deterrent, since they always have the option of paying. But those who can’t pay end up in jail. This rule amounts to what the Civil Rights Corps calls wealth-based detention. Same rule, very different effects depending on who you are.

To truly know the rules, you will need the ability to listen closely and generously to the experiences of others, so that you can understand how rules play out for people who aren’t you. And you will need to know who you aren’t hearing, whose experiences with rules you don’t yet understand. Then, go and understand.

Second, may you break the rules.

Breaking the rules is a tough one. I’m sure you can all think of people who break rules because they’re selfish, or reckless, or because they think the rules don’t apply to them.

But breaking the rules can also be heroic. As educated young women, you are here today because of generations of rule-breakers. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to graduate from medical school at a time when medical education was reserved for men. Grace Hopper, whose pioneering work on computer compilers still shapes our technology. Marsha P. Johnson, who fought for trans and gender-non-conforming women at Stonewall and beyond.

These women, and countless more like them, decided that society’s rules were unfair. They often faced harsh consequences for their rule-breaking. But, they opened the doors of male-only institutions and insisted that women be safe and free. They changed laws and standards of behavior. They insisted that all women be included in the gains some women made. They have made it possible for us to be here today, honoring your success and anticipating your bright future.

To break the rules, you will need wisdom and judgment, so that you can know when breaking the rules is necessary and when it is merely self-serving. And you will also need the courage to face the consequences. So, look around at your friends and family who are here today. These are the people who will help you cultivate wisdom, judgment, and courage, and who will stick with you when rule-breaking becomes necessary.

Third, may you make new rules.

Someday, each of you will hold power. That power might come with familiar external trappings: titles, money, status, prestige. It might come more quietly, with the realization that people look to you as a role model, or that you get to set the norms for behavior in your community of friends. No human being is all-powerful, but each of us has areas of power. It’s important to know what they are – because when you have power, you get to set the rules.

Every game designer knows that making rules is hard. Rules can be so complicated that no one can possibly follow them, or have unintended consequences, or that can be easily exploited. For example, in the game Ultima Online, it was illegal to steal someone else’s items. If you did, the town guards would attack you. But, it wasn’t illegal to pick up items from the ground – even if those items had been stolen a moment before. When players realized this, some people started pairing up for a life of crime. One player would use a throwaway character to steal items and drop them on the ground, and the other would pick them up. Eventually, the throwaway character would be attacked by the guards, while the partner walked away clean with the loot. So, getting the rules right can be pretty important.

Because people react to rules in unexpected ways, it’s often hard to tell whether new rules work until you try them out. Testing rules in a game is relatively easy. Write a rulebook or some code, and invite people to play. But testing rules outside of games is a lot harder – especially when you’re thinking inclusively about how rules affect people differently based on their life experience. You will need to be alert to unexpected consequences, and you will need the humility to live with being wrong on a regular basis.

Even though it means being wrong a lot, I think that the game design approach to rules is worthwhile, and I’d like to share a story from my life about what it can look like in practice.

When I went to college, I followed the rules. My father told me to take a computer science class, so I signed up for one. When it finished, I figured I’d take the next course, but I wasn’t sure I had enough experience. I decided to meet with the professor and get some advice about what to do. “No,” he told me. “You’re not ready for this class.” At that moment, I had a choice. I could follow the rules, and forget about computer science. Or, I could ignore the professor and take the class anyways.

You can probably guess what I decided to do.

Because of that decision, I ended up switching my major to computer science. But, I also paid attention to the experiences of women around me who couldn’t afford to risk breaking the rules, or who broke them less successfully. I promised myself that someday, I’d see that they didn’t have to break the rules to succeed.

Today I run an interdisciplinary lab at Carnegie Mellon University, where we blend computer science, social science, and game design. In my lab, I’m in charge, and the rules I make are designed to help everyone succeed. For example, academia is a high-pressure environment where rates of anxiety and depression far exceed the norm. These issues are systemic. Individuals who struggle with mental health can do things to look after themselves, like find a therapist or practice self-care. But those individual choices don’t affect things like the culture of overwork, or the pressure to always perform at your best.

It takes a system to beat a system. So, my lab has rules like “We cheer for rejected papers, because it means you were ambitious,” and “If you are working hard to hit a deadline, schedule extra time off afterward.” The day I found one of my graduate students advising an undergraduate about taking enough time off, I knew the rules were working.

These kinds of decisions may sound impossibly small in a world full of systems that need fixing. But I believe that by building equitable, accessible micro-cultures where we are able, we can inspire others to do the same, even if they haven’t yet mastered the work of rules. I believe that by practicing every chance we get, we can train ourselves to be responsible with power. And I believe that every life we change along the way matters.

So, may you know the rules, may you break the rules, and may you make new rules. And most of all, may you have fun doing it.



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.


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.


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 Luther King that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” but it can’t do that without some help from those of us who believe in equal justice for all. I know that I can do a better job of this outside of academia.

Photo credit, Dwayne Hills, Sr.,



#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.


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.


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.


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 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!!