Building up to Tenure

The Basics

  1. On track to meet the basic standards for tenure enumerated in the Redbook and Provost’s Memo
  2. Gaining external recognition for research
  3. Demonstrates a future research trajectory of independence from dissertation or significant extension of dissertation scholarship
  4. High teaching quality and efforts to improve where weak
  5. Service focused on developing external professional and disciplinary connections and recognition; minimal 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. (NOTE: This 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.) 

Of all of the reviews we do at the college level, mini tenure (the 4.2) is arguably the most important. This is an opportunity for junior faculty to get early guidance to ensure the strongest possible case for promotion to Associate Professor with tenure. 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 page, here is some advice:

Pre-tenure candidates should be doing minimal 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. 

Teaching evaluations should be above average or show improvement over time. TEFD is an excellent resource for pedagogical advice and resources.

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, a methods-based, lab-based, writing-based or theory-based course that students tend to find difficult or unappealing.

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.

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 their 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 of primary-authored articles over time?