15 highlights from our annual tenure and promotion workshops

Every year, FAUW offers a series of workshops to help members prepare for career transitions and milestones.

  1. FAUW’s Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee (AF&T) can provide a range of support, from reviewing your application, to attending meetings with you, or helping you appeal a negative decision, if it comes to that. You’re entitled to have an “academic colleague” with you at all meetings, and faculty members often bring an AF&T member. You should definitely contact AF&T if you receive a letter expressing reservations or any other negative signs or decisions. We’ve seen a lot of those and can help you figure out how to respond.
  2. You can apply for tenure either one or two years after you’re reappointed, so you’re going through the tenure process during your fifth or sixth year. (Of course, your timeline will be affected by any leaves and extensions you take.) Both options are normal; neither is “early” or “late.”
    • “Applying early” refers to applying before either of those options, and requires agreement from your dean and departmental tenure & promotion committee (and is usually arranged when you’re hired and documented in your appointment letter).
  3. Make sure you address any concerns raised in performance reviews or your reappointment letter, and that you document signs of improvement in any areas where you’re struggling.
  4. We recommend that you take your pre-tenure sabbatical. It’s likely the only time you’ll get a six-month sabbatical at full pay, and it can give you essential time to work on preparing for tenure. It will impact the length and/or timing of your sabbaticals after tenure by using up the sabbatical credits you’ve accrued so far, but your primary goal at this time is making sure you get tenure. Those credits won’t do you any good later if you’re not here!
  5. When applying for tenure, you will be assessed on what you’ve accomplished since arriving at Waterloo. External referees will look at your whole careers, but the UW committees will focus on your work at UW. Your previous work is what got you hired; now you need to show what you’ve done since and where you’re going.
  6. The emphasis for promotion is usually on scholarship, but you can get promoted based on an outstanding teaching record, with long-standing, satisfactory scholarship.
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Applying for promotion to full professor: Advice for women

Every year, FAUW offers an information session about applying for promotion to full professor. In 2020, we offered a session specifically for women. Here are some of the highlights.

Applying for promotion to full professor: Advice for women
  1. It’s understandable if it’s not clear to you why you should bother applying. Some reasons to consider applying include being a role model to other women professors, more access to administrative positions where you can change how things are done, and increased status and recognition.
  2. It takes about a week to prepare your application—less time if you keep your CV up to date and file positive reviews and citations along the way.
  3. You don’t have to be invited to apply by your chair (though you do want their support).
  4. FAUW can review your application and provide an “academic colleague” to accompany you through the process. You can also find your own academic colleague—this role is established in university policy.
  5. If you’re debating whether to apply, you’re probably ready; women tend to be less sure about their readiness than men. Put another way: Men will generally promote themselves. You need to, too.
  6. A lot of expectations are discipline-specific, but since your application will be reviewed by people outside of your discipline and department, be sure to supply all the necessary context. If impact factor isn’t applicable in your discipline, note that (if it is applicable, academic librarians can help you sort it out). If your department has few PhD students, note that. In general, explain anything that might be different from the norm.
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The Full Promotion of Teaching

What one professor learned while applying for promotion with an emphasis on teaching.

—James Skidmore, Professor and Director, Waterloo Centre for German Studies

I recently applied for and received promotion to full professor. People have asked why I didn’t do this earlier, and I usually gave one of two responses. I would either say that I was under the impression that at UW, you first had to win the Nobel Prize in Physics to be promoted, or I would point out that I’ve been full of myself for years and didn’t think I needed a letter from the President of the University to tell me something I already knew.

The thing is, I’ve always been more interested in my work than in my career; fixating on “rank” was a distraction I’ve tried hard to avoid. Besides, I assumed my somewhat nonconformist academic path might prevent committees from supporting the submission. My work at universities shows a stronger-than-usual commitment to teaching and service than is the norm, and I wondered if that wouldn’t prove to be a dealbreaker.

After attending the FAUW workshop on applying for promotion, and then seeking out the advice and guidance of Lori Curtis (at the time chair of the Academic Freedom and Tenure committee) and Katie Damphouse (the AF&T and Policy officer), I was able to confirm that putting forward a promotion dossier where the emphasis would be on teaching was actually possible under Policy 77. But it’s certainly not the conventional approach, and it required some careful handling.

Thankfully, it seems to have worked. The application went through without a hitch. There were no requests for further information, no off-the-record discussions about holding off on applying, no security personnel arriving at my office to escort me off campus (though I’ve been working from home since the pandemic started, so perhaps they did come by but couldn’t find me). And since I kind of had to figure this out on my own—I didn’t know anyone who had emphasized teaching when applying for promotion—I’d like to share what I learned about the process and how I went about it. Perhaps it will prove useful to you if your situation is similar to mine, but also to anyone putting together a promotion dossier.

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