Supporting New Faculty on the Road to Success

Supporting New Faculty on the Road to SuccessThirty four years ago I began my faculty career as a tenure track faculty member at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. Like many faculty, I had just received my Ph.D. and although my graduate training had prepared me as a content expert in my field (cartography), I did not fully appreciate or know the multiple demands that would be placed on my time for teaching, research and service.

Tenure track faculty members often ask:

  • How will I decide how to spend my time and get constructive feedback on my work?
  • What accomplishments and efforts will stand out when it is time for my third and sixth year reviews?
  • How do I document my accomplishments and efforts?
  • How can I establish a collaborative scholarly community within and outside of my department?

As part of a series for faculty members that runs throughout the academic year, we held a session on Success in Your Role as a Tenure Track Faculty Member on February 13th for tenure track faculty members to help answer these and other questions (see end of blog for information on comparable session for non-tenure track faculty members).

Fourteen tenure track faculty members attended the session. I was joined by presenters Shelly Chabon, Vice Provost for Academic Personnel and Leadership Development; and Janelle Vogel, Director of Teaching, Learning, and Assessment. Four recently tenured faculty members: Annabelle Dolidon, Roberto Orellana, Christof Teuscher and Hyeyoung Woo, served as table facilitators. Donna Bergh, Special Assistant to the Provost, coordinated the event.

“The Essential College Professor” reading:  

The session addressed some of the discussion items from chapter 6 of The Essential College Professor by J. L. Buller. We provide this book to all new PSU faculty members during New Faculty Orientation. The book is also available at the Library Reserve (ask for the book listed as OAA 001) or at the Office of Academic Innovation resource library in SMSU 209M.

The session was characterized by lively conversation of some formal tips (see below) and table conversations.

How will you decide to spend your time and get constructive feedback on your work?

  • Find out the basis on which your tenure case will be evaluated from the very beginning.
  • The conundrum—how much time devoted to teaching, scholarship and service?
  • Make a 5-year plan.
  • Talk to your chair about developing realistic expectations.
  • Experiment with and discover the best balance for you among work, home life and relationships.
  • Use the mechanisms in place for feedback.
  • Do not wait for a mentor to find you (see PSU’s faculty mentoring program).
  • Do not wait for official feedback on your performance.
  • Be strategic about your choice of projects/assignments.

What accomplishments and efforts will stand out when it is time for your third and sixth year reviews? How do you document them?

  • Demonstrate how you’ve met the performance expectations of your Portland State Notice of Appointment/Supplemental Letter of Offer.
  • Highlight accomplishments that align with your department’s and the University’s mission.
  • Educate the reader of your portfolio about how your work fits into the national/international disciplinary context.
  • Convince the committee that you’ve acted on the feedback and recommendations from your annual evaluation.
  • Explain how your teaching, service, and research/scholarly activities are integrated such that they each enhance the other.
  • Address the elements in your department’s and the University’s Promotion and Tenure Guidelines with particular attention to your scholarly agenda.
  • Help the reader make connections among the various parts of your portfolio.
  • Ask yourself what each entry does for the overall argument/presentation.
  • Less is more. Be selective and strategic about what you display in your portfolio.
  • Organize your portfolio as if someone only has 15 minutes to view it. Use appendices.

How can you establish a collaborative scholarly community within and outside of your department?

  • Learn about your colleagues’ teaching and research interests.
  • Ask other faculty how they formed collaborative scholarly partnerships.
  • Don’t wait for opportunities to collaborate to present themselves. Make time each month for networking (coffee with colleagues to talk about their work, etc.).
  • Investigate funding opportunities that reward collaborative efforts.
  • Consider a blog or other communication venue where others can learn about your work.
  • Attend university functions that interest you and that you can potentially connect to your scholarly interests.
  • Take advantage of interdisciplinary faculty communities and resources in the Office of Academic Innovation.
    Examples include:
    * Resource Library
    * Jumpstart Academic Writing Program
    * Faculty Fellows Mini-grant Program
    * Workshops and Cross-discipline Faculty Interest Communities
    * Join the OAI listserv for periodic announcements of upcoming events

We are already following up on a few suggestions:

  • One suggestion was that multilingual faculty would benefit from assistance in developing and refining grant proposals, conference presentations, proposal summaries, and publications. A meeting is already being scheduled to explore what such a program would look like.
  • Another suggestion was to create ways for tenure track faulty to find senior faculty research collaborators across campus units. Some participants shared that they are using PDXscholar–a service of Portland State University Library that provides open access to a diverse collection of academic, scholarly, scientific and creative content produced by faculty, students and staff.
  • Faculty members can also contact Vice President for Research and Strategic Partnerships, Jon Fink.

Not a sink or swim

Faculty members at PSU should never feel this is a sink or swim environment. There are many persons and offices that serve as resources.

OAI offers many events and programs that bring faculty together to gain insight from each other through open conversations on teaching topics. These events are hosted as a series of online, face-to-face, or hybrid activities and are open to faculty at all levels: senior faculty, new faculty, or graduate assistants. Many programs are faculty-led and focus on the creation and facilitation of faculty learning communities.

A session, Success in Your Role as a Non-Tenure Track Faculty Member, will be held on Thursday, February 26, 2015, 12:00pm to 1:30pm in OAI-SMSU 209M. We hope many can attend.

We would love to hear if there is more that we can do to support our faculty members.



One thought on “Supporting New Faculty on the Road to Success

  1. Good job. Important to actively engage the junior faculty in finding the resources, and to communicate that we want people to succeed. And important for senior faculty to see you model mentoring.


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