You’re Finally a Faculty Member! Now What?
“You made it!” Applause spread across the room to congratulate the people who had recently accepted their first faculty position at a university. To shed some light on what comes next for these soon-to-be junior faculty members, a diverse panel of early career professors spoke about their pre-tenure experiences. Drs. Shantal Marshall, Lindsey Rodriguez, Justin Troisi, and Jackie Chen represented schools that vary in size, demographics, location, and expectations. They shared how teaching, service, and research each have played a role in their progress toward tenure. While expectations for each of these three components clearly varied across universities, the panel offered several pieces of advice that would benefit any junior faculty member.
Teaching takes time. Time is needed to design and prepare courses. Time is needed to become familiar with a new student population. Time is needed to respond to student emails. For these reasons, members of the panel suggested negotiating for course reductions or waivers as a first-year faculty member—a standard practice at many schools. To assist in this teaching transition, future professors were also advised to integrate their research into their teaching. Doing so can make instructors feel more confident and competent, which can result in more positive student and peer teaching evaluations.
Services takes time. The panel insisted that there will be far more opportunities to participate in service than there will be time to do it all. Therefore, they overwhelmingly encouraged the audience to learn to say “no” when it comes to service as a new faculty member. For people who may find refusing to be difficult, panel members shared that deferring or delaying responses to requests can be another effective strategy. In addition, faculty mentors can help junior faculty determine which opportunities should be pursued.
Research takes time. Setting up a lab and managing a new set of research assistants are a couple of activities that junior faculty must do that may hinder the progress of research. Panel members recommended selecting graduate or undergraduate students thoughtfully to be able to delegate. Being able to demonstrate a vision for your research program is important for tenure at schools that emphasize research, so pre-tenure professors were encouraged to guide students’ research in a direction that aligned with that vision.
“You can always find something to do.” These words were echoed by members of the panel. In sum, new faculty members must adjust to the seemingly endless time commitments expected of them. Acknowledging how rough the first years of being a professor can be, the panel closed by highlighting the importance of self-care. Get sleep. Take a hobby. Eat well. Doing these things can help you have the energy to survive and thrive as a junior faculty member seeking tenure.
Written by: Malachi Willis, M.A.
Presentation: Thriving and Surviving those First Years Post-PhD and Pre-Tenure held March 3, 2018