The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Building up to Tenure

The Basics

  • On track to meet the basic standards for tenure enumerated in the Redbook and Provost’s Memo.
  • Gaining external recognition for research.
  • Demonstrates a future research trajectory of independence from dissertation or significant extension of dissertation scholarship.
  • High teaching quality and efforts to improve where weak.
  • Service focused on developing external professional and disciplinary connections and recognition; modest but high quality departmental service.

Let it be clear: There is field-specific variation and thus there is no single cookie-cutter approach to evaluation. The below is intended as a general guide to commonly asked questions. We welcome faculty with questions about your specific case to contact Jennifer Lundquist and/or Dean R. Karl Rethemeyer1

Of all of the reviews we do at the college level, mini tenure (the 4.2) is arguably the most important in signaling one’s progress towards tenure. This is an opportunity for junior faculty to get early guidance to ensure the strongest possible case for promotion to Associate Professor with tenure. For more on how the mini tenure process works, please see the Union's documentation (p. 2-4). 

In addition to tenure criteria and review process information contained in the Redbook and in the Annual Provost’s memo located on the Provost’s Personnel webpage, here is some advice:

  • Pre-tenure candidates should be doing modest departmental level service; for example, it is generally not a good idea for junior faculty to chair major departmental committees. Junior faculty are best served to concentrate on external service roles for their field, such as in professional associations.
  • Jointly appointed candidates should work with chairs of both departments or centers to ensure that their committee service, departmental meeting loads and teaching assignments are reasonable. We also urge the relevant department chairs to recognize the additional service inherent in joint positions.
  • Teaching evaluations are ideally above average or show improvement over time. The Center for Teaching and Learning is an excellent resource for pedagogical advice and resources. Because SRTIs offer only a partial view of teaching, we encourage the development of a robust teaching portfolio to provide a full picture of the candidate’s teaching and mentoring accomplishments inside and outside the classroom. Qualitative comments from the SRTIs should also be included.
  • Junior faculty with appointments in graduate programs should begin to be involved in mentoring graduate students if possible. Service on comprehensive examination committees, membership on a dissertation committee, and other forms of mentoring are important teaching contributions.
  • Junior candidates should work with their chair to plan their number of new class preparations given the classes they entered UMass teaching, with generally no more than an additional 2 to 4 new preps over four years. It is often ideal for junior faculty to teach at least one service class but not a disproportionate number of these sorts of classes (e.g., a large class, Gen Ed, required course for the major). Sometimes these required courses, such as methods-based, lab-based, writing-based or theory-based courses, are those that students tend to find difficult or unappealing. The department should place such courses in context in their reviews. 
  • Junior faculty should take on a lower advising and mentoring load than more senior faculty. If the candidate is handling a larger than normal number of students and committees, they might reconsider taking on more students until after tenure.
  • Junior faculty are encouraged to seek funding sources, but they should concentrate first and foremost on publishing. ISSR or CRF grant writing fellowships come with a course release, and are recommended for junior faculty who wish to apply for funding. Grant proposals that can serve as foundations for peer-reviewed publications are recommended, so that proposals and publications are emanating from the same source.
  • The majority of publications should tilt toward peer-reviewed articles and/or books. Edited book chapters, law review articles, book reviews, encyclopedia entries, etc. are generally not peer-reviewed and receive less weight in tenure consideration.
  • Research productivity and especially high quality of research are important criteria and the range of what these measures should look like specifically are best answered by colleagues in your field. Important questions to consider are: 
    • What does my publication pipeline look like? 
    • Do I also have papers in various stages of production, such as under review or revision? Is my book going to be published in hard copy before my tenure case goes out to external letter writers for review?
    • Am I showing increasing independence from previous co-author seniors, as evidenced by more sole or primary-authored articles over time?
  • If an Assistant Professor was hired with previous years that have elapsed since PhD as a post-doc, lecturer, assistant professor, etc., those publications are normally given just as much weight in the tenure case as those published while at UMass (a possible exception may be if the Assistant Professor is given the full tenure clock at UMass and those prior publications were produced many years earlier and thus given lesser weight). Publications prior to becoming an independent scholar (e.g., pre-Ph.D. completion) are sometimes not given as much weight as those published while an independent scholar, particularly if they were coauthored with one’s dissertation advisor, for example.
  • Faculty are encouraged to establish both a Google Scholar profile and an ORCID ID. We also strongly encourage faculty members to curate their Google Scholar and ORCID profiles by, for instance, consolidating multiple references to the same publication and weeding out publications erroneously attributed to them. We do not expect assistant professors to have high citation rates at this early stage in their career. Other markers of field impact aside from citations are prominent coverage of an exhibition, installation, etc.; inclusion of published work on syllabi at other institutions; use of published work in government documents and/or testimony; etc.
  • The University provides delays to the tenure decision year (TDY) for approved medical, pandemic-related, and family leaves. Time on leave is not to count toward determining productivity in research or semester of teaching. Because delays in TDY are not always obvious to internal and external reviewers, when we solicit letters we explain that TDYs are not to be held against the candidate. Candidates may also note in their narrative that they took a leave with language like, “The University of Massachusetts offers automatic or optional tenure delays associated with certain types of leaves (such as parental leave, sick leave, leave without pay). The university provides those tenure delays because no research, teaching or service is expected during such leave periods. My time at this university has entailed such delays.” Candidates are encouraged to include COVID Impact Statements. ADVANCE provides templates for these statements.
    • Candidate personal tenure statements should be 10 or fewer pages with at least 1-inch margins in 11 point or greater font. 

1This is not a policy statement, and the suggestions above should not be seen as definitive interpretations of the Red Book or the UMass-MSP Collective Bargaining Agreement. When in doubt about binding policies, contact your department chair/head or your MSP representative.