Sisyphus Leans Into the Professoriate: Faculty Discuss Careers and the Academic Landscape

Sisyphus Leans Into the Professoriate: Faculty Discuss Careers and the Academic Landscape

Sharon Andrews (University of Houston-Clear Lake, USA), Janice Moore Newsum (University of Houston-Clear Lake, USA), Caroline M. Crawford (University of Houston-Clear Lake, USA), and Noran L. Moffett (Fayetteville State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5065-6.ch009
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Four faculty at different points in their professorial careers come together to share their own experiences, from doctoral studies through the current point in their professional career path within higher education. The faculty include a tenure-track Assistant Professor, a tenured Associate Professor submitting her initial bid for promotion to Professor, a tenured Associate Professor completing a successful bid for promotion to Professor, and a tenured Professor. These four faculty come together to share their diverse experiences, although patterns and themes are highlighted. The questions and prompts to which the authors responded fell into the specified topics of doctoral study reflections, tenure track faculty reflections, promotion and tenure reflections, professional landscape reflections, and looking back, looking forward.
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The dream that all doctoral candidates dream, is of the day that the dissertation committee completes their discussion, allows you back into the room, your chairperson shakes your hand and congratulates you, while using the title of “Dr.” with your name for the very first time. This is the day of success, the day upon which years upon years of effort are built. One’s academic success is fleetingly brief, as the reality of questions around “now what?” clearly arise. This question is an internal question and concern, but also a question burgeoning forth from the depth and bounds of the supportive community in which the newly minted graduate has lived for years. Now what? What am I supposed to do with this new degree? What options are available to me? Should I begin a new career path, or continue with my previous career path? Professional aspirations may change throughout the doctoral program of study, as new opportunities, new ideas, and new people introduce opportunities to broaden one’s understanding of the professional landscape available upon completion of the degree.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Service: This may be the paid or pro bono offering of one’s time, effort and expertise within the program of study, the college, the university, the local or regional area, national and international levels of service effort and responsibility.

Teaching: This pertains to not only classroom instructional expectations, but also includes advising efforts, mentorship of not only students but also faculty colleagues, curriculum planning and development at the program level as well as course-by-course efforts, with course design and development including face to face, hybrid and online learning environments.

Assistant Professor: This is the lowest level of full-time tenure line professorship in a university. The normal faculty member remains at the assistant professor level for approximately five years, at which time the tenure-track faculty member must submit their promotion packet of information, in the hopes of attaining tenure and promotion to associate professor.

Research: This includes scholarly activity that mandates not only quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods approaches to research efforts, but also theoretical and modeling engagement that results in published works in national and international double-blind peer-reviewed publications. In many institutions, this also includes artistic endeavors. Further grant funding may be included in this realm of expectation.

Professor: This is the highest rank for a university faculty member. Once the associate professor achieves promotion and tenure, reflecting their worthiness to maintain their job within the university, the next step is for the associate professor to submit their promotion bid to obtain professor status.

Tenured: This designates a faculty member who has formally earned tenure within the university in which that faculty member works. Tenure may be separate from the promotion process, or tenure may occur at the same time as promotion from assistant to associate professor level.

Associate Professor: This is the title normally attained by faculty members who have achieved promotion and tenure within the institution. However, there is a shift in hiring practices within the university, wherein a new faculty member may be hired and maintain their prior title, such as associate professor, but must go up for tenure consideration within a specified number of years.

Faculty Contractual Triad: University faculty are contracted to fulfill three distinct areas of the job, which are: teaching, research and scholarship, and service. Each university, and each college or school within a university, have different expectations associated with teaching, research and service responsibilities and associated expectations. These expectations should be clearly articulated in the university’s faculty handbook and the college’s or school’s policies and procedures.

Promotion: This is a formal process that a faculty member must progress through, at the end of their tenure-track years in the hopes to attain associate professor level with the addition of tenure status. After several years of additional roles and responsibilities, an associate professor may submit their bid for promotion to full professor.

Tenure-Track: This reflects a person who is in a trial faculty position. At the end of a designated tenure-track period, the faculty member must choose to submit their promotion portfolio for formal review or inform the designated supervisor of the faculty member’s intent to leave the position at the university. Tenure-track may also include persons who have achieved tenure at another university, but who must earn tenure again at the new institution in which they are now housed.

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