Getting your faculty promotion dossier ready

If you are on a tenure-track faculty position, you will have to go through performance reviews. Most universities implement a third-year review for Assistant Professors, a review for tenure and promotion to Associate Professor during year 6, and later a review to Full Professor.  The reviews are based on a great deal of documentation and information about the candidate’s performance in areas of teaching, research and service.  Most of the documents have to be provided by the candidate to the appropriate department committee and ultimately to a college Promotions and Tenure committee.  Most universities provide some mentoring for new tenure-track faculty, but there is inconsistency  across the universities in the amount of mentoring toward preparing your dossier. This post is to alert those of you in tenure-track positions that the process of gathering all the information that your committees request is substantial and requires organization.  I will concentrate on reviews for Assistant Professors.

Know your deadlines:  Your third-year review usually starts at the beginning of the third year of employment, after two full years of employment + epsilon. Your department has exact dates when your dossier, containing all of the documents you have to submit, is due.  You must know this date like your birth date! It should never come as a surprise to you that your documents are due in a short period of time.  The departmental deadline usually comes first.  Later, there is a college-level deadline that you must be aware of also.

Follow instructions: It is key to follow the instructions provided by your department and school.  The two committees, department-level and college-level, may want things in slightly different format. Follow directions to the letter.

Sample documents: Among the documents you will need to develop are a research statement and a teaching statement.  A service/outreach statement may also be required. The research statement will include a description of your research and how it fits in the global picture of your area, the significance of your work so far and a plan of projects you expect to pursue in the next 5 years.  All aspects of this statement are critical.  It is not enough to express how important your work is but to provide supporting documentation that back up your claim.  The documentation might include a measure of the citations your papers have received, grant award panel reviews that say great things about your work, number and quality of invitations to present your work at conferences (regional, national and international), etc.  I am not writing a complete list here, just a sample to give you an idea of what you need to consider. The teaching statement is partly a description of your teaching philosophy and experience, where “teaching” is interpreted broadly to include classroom teaching, advising, project supervision, mentoring, activity with academic student clubs, etc.  Your supporting documentation might include teaching evaluations, student comments, copies of student project technical reports, publications with students, REU teaching experiences, names of advisees, participation in teaching conferences, teaching awards, etc.  I think you can begin to get the picture. There is a tremendous amount of material that should be included and it takes time to produce and compile it.

Start early: The main reason for writing this post is to urge you to start the process early and be as organized as you possibly can.  Ideally, you maintain an updated CV at all times so that all of your activities are there.  You can start months before the dossier deadline to gather documents and arrange them into electronic folders. Think of all possible documents that can support the impact that your work (including research and teaching) may have and gather copies. You can include copies of conference webpages that contain your name as speaker.  Many of these tasks can be done along the way so that you don’t have an enormous task to do all at once under a time-constraint pressure. It is advised that you begin a collection of documentation in an organized manner immediately upon starting as a new faculty member.

This is not a time to be modest: There will be moments when you will wonder whether to include some piece of information.  Maybe last year you talked to an REU group for 1 hour and you are wondering if this is worth mentioning. It is! This is the time to market your work to the fullest without modesty. It helps to think of groups of activities in a unified way. For example, you can have a section on mentoring undergraduates in which your REU presentation can fit nicely along with other activities that give the entire package the appropriate importance.  At the same time, when you list activities always start with the most important ones and highlight them.  Prioritize, but don’t exclude anything.

Ask a mentor to review your statements:  Write drafts of your statements well in advance and edit them a couple of times. Then ask a mentor to take a look and give you feedback. It goes without saying that your mentor should be very familiar with the process (don’t ask a colleague going through the same process with you).  Take note of their suggestions and edit your statements.

The entire process can seem overwhelming at times but you have to keep in mind that your professional advancement depends on it, so take the time to do the best job you can.

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