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Webinar highlights: Florida A&M University – Lessons on Digitizing Faculty Promotion & Tenure

Webinars | Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure

In a recent webinar and Q&A, we spoke with Dr. Genyne Boston, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU), about their use of Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure to manage promotion and tenure processes at the University. 

We wanted to share some of the great insights and practices Dr. Boston provided during the webinar—we are sure they will benefit all colleges and universities who may wish to improve the efficiency and quality of their academic career advancement processes. 

Shuffling papers and driving across the state

Dr. Boston gave us an idea of the challenges FAMU had faced while using paper-based, manual review processes for the institution’s 680 faculty members working in a collective-bargaining environment (and located on five campuses across Florida). We heard about the significant, and familiar, logistical headaches besetting FAMU in their attempts to managing the submission packets of 35 to 40 candidates—each typically consisting of two or three 4-inch binders.

Most notably, their challenges related to housing and maintaining these documents submitted by P&T candidates. In addition, travel posed an issue. Shared governance called for 20 to 25 departments to be represented on review committees, which required significant amounts of travel by committee members, some up to four hours away.

Arriving at Interfolio

Given this environment, FAMU’s selection of Interfolio was a “solution-driven” choice, where faculty and administrators sought to streamline P&T workflows with a digital solution to make the processes more efficient and less time-consuming for all participants.  

Dr. Boston shared that faculty members’ use of Interfolio’s Dossier to collect and curate materials—a necessity for telling their respective stories of accomplishments and evolution as scholars and educators—was foundational to success of the promotion and tenure review process at FAMU. As a result, the University’s faculty onboarding process now includes a training module for Dossier use. This, Dr. Boston noted, provides an example of how Interfolio’s platform augments a nurturing culture for faculty members at FAMU.

Some advice on training and configuration

In a key portion of the webinar, Dr. Boston discussed FAMU’s experiences and some lessons they’d learned while transitioning to Interfolio. She gave the following tips about their implementation and rollout experiences:

  1. Configuring the system—The platform is flexible, so take time to build and configure the system so it reflects the institutionally-specific processes and timetables.
  2. Managing multiple campuses—Make sure all stakeholders understand and support the new project by providing training for internal support teams and those participating in cross-campus integrations.
  3. Launching the system—Consider a gradual, phased rollout rather than moving too quickly.
  4. Creating ambassadors—Recruit internal champions and use a “train-the-trainer” approach to create a knowledgeable point person in every academic unit to support questions, especially those from new and tenure-track faculty.
  5. Training and support—Provide regular workshops and training sessions that are a part of the culture of the institution.

Outcomes for Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University

Dr. Boston also discussed the impact of the platform after being launched. Here are some of the results she shared: 

  1. Reduced average time for P&T review processes from four to three months.
  2. Eliminated direct costs for printing and shipping (hundreds of dollars per candidate; she gives some cost estimates in the webinar)
  3. Enhanced the ease of securing and housing candidates’ confidential materials—eliminating the need for locked storage rooms.
  4. Increased openness on campus to support electronic platforms to achieve efficiency, easier usage, more transparency. In sum, FAMU’s experience of digitizing its P&T created a gateway to further digitization in other areas.
  5. Increased practical support for shared governance. The new system gave the administration a mechanism to facilitate more consistent involvement in decisions by geographically separated campuses.

Future directions

Finally, we asked Dr. Boston a bit about any planned expansions of Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure at the University. A few possibilities she mentioned:

  1. Providing interim formative appraisals and mentoring for tenure-track faculty members.
  2. Evaluating faculty leave requests (sabbatical, travel grants, etc.).
  3. Providing a faculty credentialing process required by a regional accrediting agency and the University.

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Interested in this webinar or in Interfolio’s work? Watch it here, take a look at our free promotion and tenure best practices checklist, or contact us with a question.