Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Speaking from Experience: Advice to Junior Faculty for Navigating the Tenure-Track

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Speaking from Experience: Advice to Junior Faculty for Navigating the Tenure-Track

Article excerpt

Four faculty members of varying rank provide insight into beginning a career as a faculty member and the tenure process based on their experiences at three distinct universities in the United States. Examples of evaluation processes and documentation of activities are provided. Institutional support systems for teaching and scholarship are described; mentor programs are explored along with social support networks, and suggestions for becoming a part of the campus community are given. Recommendations for balancing teaching, research and service provide guidance for new faculty facing the reality of the responsibilities of a career in academe.

This article begins with a narrative from one of the coauthors providing a perspective that is both unique and informative. While told in first person, it represents multiple voices. Through the experiences of three junior faculty members and one senior faculty member, the authors provide concrete advice to new faculty on the following questions:

1. How do I find guidance with and without a mentor?

2. Where can I find support for my teaching, research and service?

3. How do I balance teaching, research and service?

4. How do I know I am doing a good job?

5. What do I do if I don't get a positive third year review?

Entering higher education, I certainly felt myself deeply entrenched in a period of transition. I felt a bit uneasy as I attempted to chart a course for my emerging professional identity. I remember sitting at meetings with senior faculty members discussing multiple projects, initiatives, and decisions that would profoundly impact our institution, our students and our individual research and teaching. Individuals who had built a legacy within our respective fields surrounded me. When asked my opinion about a myriad of topics, I couldn't help but wonder, what will be my legacy? What will be my scholarship? How will I serve my field, my institution, and my students? This article provides examples of learning developed through transformation, as we believe learning happens within one's own socio-cultural site (Webster-Wright, 2009).

During my first semesters, my top priority was preparing for new courses. This easily meant I might tuck myself away in my office. At the same time, I was very aware that my role in higher education was much larger and more demanding than my job as a teaching assistant at graduate school had been. I was suddenly faced with a bombardment of duties that were "behind the scenes." As a graduate student, I was familiar with balancing writing, presenting at conferences and performing my duties as a teaching assistant. Now, I WAS THE FACULTY MEMBER-students came to me with different needs and expectations. There were also multiple meetings; committees in the department, the college, the university and at the state and national level; academic advising; curriculum development and program plan decisions, scheduling, assessment, reporting, and more. My excitement of arriving within a higher education institution intermingled with my concern for managing these multiple roles bred tension; however, I also knew tension created opportunities (Mamiseishvil, 2012).

Beginning in a new setting of higher education is challenging and sometimes stressful. New faculty members need to find networks for social support within campus life as well as outside. It was clear from the beginning that in order to manage the multiple roles between teaching, research and service, I would need to build connections with others. I believed these relationships would foster the development of professional relationships, create a sense of community, and augment my roles in the college and the broader community. I searched for my new academic life to emerge into a "habitation of mind and heart" (Bateson, 1994, p. 215).

From the very beginning, my considerations for establishing a sense of home in my college started with living in the community where the college was located. …

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