Important processes

2.3 Care of and Attention to Tenure-track Faculty

Many tenure-track faculty members are newly-minted PhD recipients starting their first jobs within the decade of pursuing their degrees, so the first five years at uOttawa are arguably the most crucial in their careers as academics. New professors may be experiencing teaching courses for the first time – an added workload that catches many by surprise – in addition to having to push out as much quality research as possible to earn themselves a tenured position. The one thing that junior professors always agree on: while on the tenure-track, there is no such thing as work-life balance.

“I’m not going to say it’s not stressful being on a contract of fixed length knowing you have to produce a body of work ... that will have you standing against the most excellent person in your field within this very short timeline. That’s stressful. It’s not as if you can just do a good job and continue. You have to do an outstanding job.” – Judith D. Singer, Graduate School of Education professor, Harvard University

The nature of the tenure-track system produces stress and uncertainty for many professors. As Chair, you can help to alleviate these added stresses by clarifying the expectations and the procedures of the tenure application process – ultimately helping professors to better focus their energy for their application to be successful.

Providing mentoring opportunities will help to make professors feel welcome and encourage them to remain at the University of Ottawa. Constructive mentoring and reviewing of tenure-track faculty works to help them meet high standards of rigour, depth and innovation in scholarship, and to realize their full potential as scholars, teachers, and members of the academic community.

Bernhard (2015) advises that the decision to grant a professor tenure is an acknowledgement of the contributions she has made/is making to the academic community. Given all that is at stake, both personally for the professor and institutionally, in hiring and tenure - mentoring tenure-track faculty is some of the most important work a chair can do.

Mentoring can be both a formal and informal activity, and is important for professors at all stages of their careers, both pre- and post-tenure, as it can help professors in ways that will help them to reach their full potential in teaching, research and service.  When thinking about mentoring, it is about to think about internal expectations for teaching, research and service, as well as about external measures of success such as publications and awards.

As a best practice, Neuman (2001) advises that as soon as a candidate accepts a position within your department, you should begin working to develop a mentoring plan for the new professor. The new professor should be consulted in developing this plan, with attention being given to teaching, graduate supervision, research and service obligations, and be predicated on being helpful rather than authoritarian. Support should be given for collaborative teaching and research, team teaching, and interdisciplinary teaching efforts on the part of junior faculty, both for the intrinsic value of such work and because collaborative work is itself a form of mentoring. This work should be fully recognised.

As Chair, tenure-track faculty will look to you for guidance. Therefore it is recommended you meet with them annually to discuss and review their teaching, research and service in relation to their progress toward tenure. These discussions should be constructive and diagnostic; they should highlight areas of strength and address areas for improvement, while offering suggestions and potential strategies for improvement and to reach the desired goals.

 

REFERENCES

Bernhard, M. (2015). Not a 9-to-5 Job. The Crimson. Retrieved from https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2015/3/12/work-life-balance-scrutiny/

Neuman, S. (2001). Junior Faculty Mentoring and Third-Year Reviews: Principles and Best Practices: A report to chairs, directors, and faculty. University of Michigan College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LS&A). Retrieved from https://www.provost.umich.edu/programs/mentoring/school_programs.html#lsa

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