Promotion to Full Q&A

To successfully be promoted to full professor, candidates must  have a record of achievement sufficient to have gained substantial recognition on and off campus from scholars or professionals in field and show significant potential for continuing professional achievement. 

Let it be clear: There is field-specific variation and thus there is no single cookie-cutter approach to evaluation. These answers are intended as a general guide to commonly asked questions. 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. 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Who is my audience?

Not your UMass colleagues, although local impression management helps. External letter writers are your main constituency. Therefore, cultivate your external reputation and network with potential external letter writer

I have heard that research is the primary pathway to full. What about teaching, service or public engagement as primary pathways?

 

Clearly, all of these areas are important for promotion, but having an excellent research record is the norm for promotion cases.  It is difficult to achieve external recognition from letter writers on the basis of local teaching, engagement and service unless you can translate those activities into scholarship that builds a national or international reputation. However, an example of external recognition through teaching is the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), a legitimate scholarly area.

How do I build my external reputation?

Your published scholarship is the most important way to build your reputation, but you should also expose your scholarship to potential letter writers early and often. Share your work via conferences and accept invited talks, which demonstrate that others in your field recognize your research and want to hear about it. Leadership roles at national and international societies/associations help signal that professional colleagues recognize you as a leader in your field. Develop a web presence so that people can access your research easily via Scholarworks, Researchgate, etc.

What type of scholarship “counts” more?

Peer-reviewed research is typically considered more important than non-peer reviewed book chapters, edited volumes, textbooks, etc. Quality and impact of journals/book press matters. In some fields, a book or second book is the norm; in other fields, a major grant is the norm; and in others the emphasis is on peer-reviewed articles/performances

When should I go up for full?

On average, SBS faculty go up for promotion between their 6th and 10th years as Associates. However, many successfully go up later in their career, and some go up early.  There is no penalty for going up earlier or later in your career. And there is no impediment to going up again if the first time was not successful.

You will be ready to go up for full when you have made an influential impact on your field with (mostly) post-tenure work. National and/or international experts in your field should be able to attest to this and your potential for continued impact.

Starting early in your associate career, have regular conversations with your chair and mentors about how to get to this place, ideally during the annual AFR process. Develop a “big picture” trajectory for what you want to get accomplished before you come up for full. Then break it down backwards into semesters and summers to make it more manageable.

SBS policy states that the Departmental Personnel Committee (DPC) will review the records of faculty who have been associate professors for 6+ years at regular intervals to assess their promotion prospects.  The DPC is encouraged to provide annual feedback through the AFR process to Associate Professors on their prospects for future promotions.

How is interdisciplinary research to be treated in the promotion review process?

Frame your research statement to emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of your work, the collaborative nature of this type of work and its newness in your field if applicable. Discuss with your chair how to contextualize the interdisciplinarity of your work for external letter writers who will be reviewing your case. Talk through appropriate external letter-writers whose expertise spans the breadth of your work. 

I have had periods in my career where I was not as productive as at other times. Will this be a problem for promotion?

It is normal for careers to ebb and flow. The good thing about being an Associate is that you are no longer subject to the narrowly-defined timeline of tenure track. In most cases there is no need to draw attention to a slower period in your career if your pace has resumed. In many instances, such as book publishing, it is normal to have longer gap periods between publications. However, if you have had a significant gap, you might strategize a longer runway of achievement. Talk to your colleagues about whether to plan a longer runway and how to frame significant pauses in your career, whether it was time spent in the field collecting data, reorienting your research agenda, grant timing, building a family, dealing with illness, etc. The DPC can play an important role in interpreting periods like this if you choose not to do so in your statement, so be sure to have a conversation with the DPC or your chair about strategy

How is pre-tenure productivity balanced with post-tenure productivity in the review process?

There is more focus, though not exclusively, on work done post-­‐tenure. For example the Provost’s suggested template for chairs to send to external letter writers says: “While we recognize that scholarly work builds over the life of a career, we are particularly interested in your assessment of the candidate's contributions since promotion to the rank of associate professor with tenure.”  That said, the primary criterion is the entire body of work at the time of evaluation; we don’t want assistant professors to slow their research productivity pre-tenure for fear that it won’t count towards promotion to full Professor

How do I navigate increased service leadership requests?

Talk with your chair and mentors about strategic service and strategic teaching assignments. If you accept a service role that requires intensive amounts of time, consider these questions:  Does it come with any other accommodation? Can you make it compatible with your research in some way? Can it help to connect you with other scholars in your field (e.g. chairing your colloquia speaker series committee)?

Some national service is particularly good to have on your record, such as serving on grant review panels, award committees, and accepting leadership roles in your discipline’s association.

Turn frequent, low-level service into CV-recognized service. For example, if you are being asked to review a large number of articles for a journal, ask whether there might be a place on their editorial board for your expertise.

Apply for a fellowship research leave or use a sabbatical to give you time to focus exclusively on your research.

Consider teaching a course that enhances your research. This may be a research-based graduate class that produces original data or simply a substantive class that helps you become more familiar with a new field of literature you plan to pursue.

How do I indicate “continuing achievement”?

This can be indicated by demonstrating the work you have in the pipeline, such as papers under revision, grants submitted or received, working papers, books prospectuses and new research projects under way

What are the main differences between tenure and promotion?

Promotion does not require a separate vote for the three areas of research, teaching and service and should not use the ratings of excellent, strength or not strength.  The highest level of review for promotion cases is at the Provost and Chancellor level, whereas tenure cases are reviewed by the Board of Trustees.  Also, research is the primary criterion for promotion to full Professor

How are external letter writers selected?

You suggest 5-6 names and your chair and DPC come up with a final list of 10-12 names. In most cases, these are the experts in your field who you probably cite in your own research. Preferably, letter writers are well-known full professors who work at comparable or aspirant institutions. Sometimes there are exceptions, for example, when the research is in a new or cross-disciplinary field, and this can be addressed in the statement and departmental memos.

Ideally, most letter writers will not be close to you. Close is defined as a mentor, advisor, coauthor, or a former or current colleague. 

How editable is the Provost’s letter template for chairs to send to external letter writers?

The letter is a guide only; it is customizable as long as it covers the main points. The template attempts to clarify the meaning of the terms and to provide variation in types of evidence that are possible across fields.  It covers a broad array of evaluation areas and can be edited for best fit to your own discipline.