Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Fundamental Considerations for Navigating the Tenure and Promotion Process in Higher Education

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Fundamental Considerations for Navigating the Tenure and Promotion Process in Higher Education

Article excerpt

For many junior faculty in higher education, the reappointment, tenure, and promotion (RTP) process often proves to be stressful. Developing a strategy that includes a comprehensive understanding of department, college, and university expectations may assist junior faculty during the RTP process. The purpose of this article is to provide junior faculty with fundamental considerations for achieving success in higher education while staying true to personal convictions without compromising the integrity and expectations of the university and self. Considerations for navigating the tenure and promotion process serve as a generic guide for junior faculty embarking on a career in higher education.

Among the scholars who annually earn a doctoral degree, many will share certain commonalities. First, equipped with a terminal degree that indicates acceptance into the "guild of scholars," many graduates will pursue a career in higher education as educators and researchers. Second, most will have a sincere desire to make a difference in their respective disciplines. This includes communicating knowledge through teaching and writing, by contributing to community needs, and by investigating issues that may lead to new knowledge. Third, many will carry a belief that institutions of higher education value each of these contributions equally. As scholars advance toward tenure, many will discover that equal consideration for various faculty responsibilities (e.g., teaching, research, and service) is rare during annual evaluations (Duderstadt, 2000).

During the early stages of a career in higher education, most will start as Assistant Professors and concentrate on developing a line of research (Duderstadt, 2000). Although the length of time necessary to earn tenure varies by university, it typically averages between five and seven years. During the reappointment, tenure, and promotion (RTP) process, several factors are considered, (e.g., teaching, research, and service). Invariably, this includes the development of a peer-reviewed publication record as a key core. It is conceivable that pressure to focus first on developing a line of research during those formative years could eclipse initial interests of equally balancing teaching, research, and service. Secondary to that focus may be effective teaching ability, and lastly, various service commitments.

The demands placed upon university professors often present an interesting paradox. When considering what is at stake, (e.g., promotion, tenure, etc.), university faculty must often make difficult choices. Not surprisingly, many new faculty members experience an inordinate amount of stress while attempting to discover a balance between the demands of the professional life and the personal life (Austin, 2002; Lucas 2002). Unfortunately, many doctoral programs simply do not adequately prepare future professionals for the rigorous demands and responsibilities of a full time faculty member, and the stress to adjust can be overwhelming (Austin, 2003).

The purpose of this article is to provide junior faculty with fundamental considerations for achieving success in higher education while staying true to personal convictions and without compromising the integrity and expectations of the university and self. In doing so, several considerations listed below may serve as a practical guide for junior faculty traveling the road toward tenure and beyond.

Choose the Most Appropriate Setting

Regardless of whether young scholars decide to leave doctoral degree programs ABD (All But Dissertation), or stay the course until the dissertation is complete, many pursue the career option of teaching in higher education. Job postings are easily found through a number of media outlets with descriptions designed to assist potential candidates in making preliminary decisions about where to apply, (e.g., geographical location, cost of living expenses, etc.).

Factors that could help a candidate choose the best setting may perhaps be considered. …

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