Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Writing Promotion and Tenure Letters

Those not in the academic world, may think that faculty, during the summer, when they are not officially teaching, are not working.

This is a big mistake.

Faculty when not instructing courses are still very involved in research and in service and even working with students.

Since returning from Europe where I spent two glorious months as a Visiting Professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and also traveling and speaking at conferences in Sicily and Greece,  I have been busy working with my doctoral students. Two of my doctoral students recently passed their comprehensive exams in Management Science (a big congrats to Shivani Shuukla and Sara Saberi). I've also revised and resubmitted 3 journal articles, and we are working on several others.

This is also the time when we are busy reviewing papers for journals and are also starting to prepare our materials for courses for the new academic year, which begins in early September.

In addition - and this is quite a time-consuming task - faculty who are at a senior level, typically, the Full Professor level, may be asked to review cases for promotion to Associate Professor with tenure or even promotion to Full Professor. Such requests come from other universities located in the US or in other countries.

This summer I have had 4 requests to evaluate cases, two based at major research universities in the US, one in Sweden, and one in Italy.

Tenure, as academics know, means a "job for life," so it is very important to make sure that the candidate is worthy and, typically, outside reviewers focus on the research contributions of the individual, and, to a lesser degree, on the teaching and service, since those may be harder for an independent outside evaluator to evaluate.

I have served on Departmental personnel committees and am now, again, serving on the School Personnel Committee at the Isenberg School, so I read letters that have been submitted as evaluations of our faculty members' records who are up for promotion.  Usually, the person who is up for the promotion waives her/his rights to see the letters, but not always so.

It takes time to read through the packets which consist of a dossier of the faculty member's cv, several publications, as well as research, teaching, and service statements.

I found it quite interesting that the Swedes pay (actually a good amount) for the evaluation of a promotion packet but this is rare. If my readers are aware of other countries that provide compensation for this professional service, do let me know. Nevertheless, doing this task is an essential professional service.

Of course, it is made easier if the individual you actually know (two of the cases that I am writing up now I know personally). And even easier, if the case is very positive and strong. Then writing a letter of support can actually be a true pleasure.

This past year, I had two of my former PhD students, Dr. Zugang "Leo" Liu and Dr. Trisha Wolley Anderson, receive promotions to Associate Professor with tenure at their respective institutions. They are my 10th and 11th doctoral students to become tenured professors.  Nice to see our great academic family growing and prospering.