It’s “busy season” for those on the academic job market—a stressful time that lives up to its name—so we have launched live chat within the Dossier application. 

We know that many of you only have a minute or two during your jam-packed Dossier user session to ask and get a question answered. You may not have the time to call in, or need a more immediate response than an email reply can offer. We heard this loud and clear! Providing support across multiple channels enables you to focus on the work you’re doing, and allows us to serve you more quickly. 

Here’s how to get in touch with us over live chat. 

  1. Once you’re logged into your account, look for the green “Chat with us” button in the bottom-right of your screen to start speaking with a live agent in real time.
  2. You’ll be prompted to provide your name, email address, and a description of your question or issue. To note: It’s helpful to make sure the email address you provide is the one associated with your Interfolio account. This helps us pull up your information quickly.
  3. Share with us as much detail and specifics as possible to help us expedite the conversation.

If you click the chat button and get a message that no one is available, know that we aren’t ignoring you! It means that all of our agents are currently speaking with other users and we should be available soon. You can refresh the page to see if an agent has come available at any time. If you can’t catch us on chat, you can always give us a call at 877-997-8807 to speak with someone on our team.

We’ve already had over 7,000 chats with our users and we look forward to supporting you over chat soon! And remember, Scholar Services is now available on phone and live chat from 9:00am – 6:00pm and email from 5:00am-10:00pm U.S. Eastern Time for Dossier users.  


Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish, and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

This blog post continues our series, Scholar at Large, written by an academic who is now on the tenure track at Nevada State College.

Graduate programs are increasingly modernizing their professionalization toward a more inclusive humanities job market. This is definitely promising for upcoming and recent PhDs, even while many of these programs are still being taught by faculty who have little to no experience beyond their academic silos. At the same time, is this shift exacerbating a gap between generations of academics? What can current faculty do to incorporate more inclusive humanities work into their own practices, and enhance their abilities to speak to humanities work more broadly?

Recently, I was reminded of how conferences can provide scholars at any level, and with any title, the opportunity to “learn new tricks.” I presented at both the American Studies Association and the National Humanities Conference (a collaboration between the National Humanities Alliance and the Federation of State Humanities Councils), occurring concurrently in Honolulu.  Both spaces were largely composed of professionals with the same credentials—scholars, academics, educators with advanced degrees. Yet I was struck by how distinct the conversations felt between these two communities. 

This difference was very generative for me and reminded me of the work I did while exploring non-traditional academic careers: 

  • I was able to make the way I relay my research more inclusive (and thus generate better ideas from the conversations)
  • I was forced to push the agility of my thinking and communication
  • I broadened the way I approached building my networks in my field  

I walked away from that week wanting to encourage current faculty and graduate students to approach conferencing more creatively than we tend to be trained to do. Creative conferencing is a great way to boost your knowledge of broader humanities work—and in turn to connect with humanities practitioners that will make your scholarship more robust (and have more sustaining impact). At the same time, you’ll be actively practicing the same skills that you want to instill in your students.

Creative conferencing helps us understand what being an “agile thinker” means in practice

At traditional academic conferences, there is often an assumed “starting position” of knowledge, of politics, of priorities. While that shared starting position is an important part of how knowledge is developed in a field, it can also perpetuate a field’s insularity. Bringing my work to two different kinds of conferences gave me access to more inclusive and challenging conversations, which in turn sharpened my ideas and the contributions I make to my field.  

Though I presented the same core material at each conference, I had to think differently about how I framed my work. I was placing my work in conversation with different kinds of humanities practitioners (not just professors, but folks who work with communities and K-12 teachers, folks supporting initiatives like The Lemon Project), which encouraged me to draw new connections between others’ work and my own. I had to practice recognizing and making my work relevant for the different starting points, pressures, and stakes related to doing humanities work for each audience.

Creative conferencing helps us identify new modes of academic collaboration

Despite the fundamental overlap in the commitments and the backgrounds of the attendees of each conference, the conversations at each conference tended to remain siloed in either the theoretical or the pragmatic. I found this gap astounding; it seems that there should be no reason for it other than the ways that professors determine “academic work” to look and sound like something very particular. Purposefully going to conferences that enable us to meet with and collaborative with other humanities practitioners is a great way to close that gap. My own work will only improve the more I am able to think of its theoretical components and pragmatic applications as inextricably co-formative (as praxis).

Creative conferencing reveals networks we didn’t know we had (or even needed)

Conferencing across these venues also helped me think differently about how and who I was networking, and toward what ends. In one conference I’m connecting with folks who may expand my knowledge of my scholarly fields or pedagogical praxis, or who might potentially publish my book. In another I’m meeting and connecting with folks who, for instance, have expertise in public engagement work, who are starting institutes at their universities, or who are running initiatives related to equity in search committees. Working and dialoguing across these networks made me consider how I think about the different sectors of my own work—how they overlap and how I may be more creative in integrating them. 

Now that I’ve started my job as a professor, I find that my academic and intellectual investments are shaped by pragmatic and institutional issues in a way that I simply was not cognizant of while attending a well-endowed and large university for graduate school. The more that I am able to understand my academic work in these terms, the more potential I have to both be good at my job and enrich the work of the humanities as a whole. The “alt ac” moves folks are talking about right now are not just for those coming up in the academy; they’re for all of us already in the tower, too. 

Author bio: Dr. Molly Appel is an Assistant Professor of English at Nevada State College, where she teaches courses on composition and literature. Her work focuses largely on how literature works as a space of teaching and learning for human rights and social justice in the Americas. You find her on Twitter @mollyappel.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large, on how to keep your career materials current.

You don’t want to find yourself in the position of needing to rustle up syllabi, statements, CVs, teaching evaluations, and reference letters when you’re in the throes of applying to a job. Do your future self a solid and try to keep an updated archive of those materials in between searches. Here are some ways to do that.

Keep it all together.

In 2019, it probably makes the most sense to maintain your career materials in digital form—with ample backup on hard drive and in the cloud, of course. (Using a third-party system like Interfolio’s Dossier service makes this easier.)  If you have some items in paper form, scan them. A bit of annoyance now can save you from a lot of confusion later—not to mention a strained back from carrying those files up and down stairs.

Consider using tags or folder structures to categorize materials.

Depending on where you’re keeping your documents, you might want to enlist metadata to help you remember which documents would serve for which purposes. The most basic way to do this is to create a folder structure that stores documents by type, by subject matter, etc. If you use a system that offers tagging, take advantage.

Start a habit of scheduled maintenance.

Pick a few times when you’re under a little less pressure at your job—possibly the end of the semester, between grading and travel?—to survey your career documents folder and make sure everything is up to date.

Keep a checklist:

  • Have I published any new articles?
  • Have I taught any classes with student evals, and do I have the results here?
  • Did I change my syllabus, and if so, do I have a copy of the new one here?

Take a moment to update your CV, too, even if you’re not using it to apply to anything at the moment.

Note contacts you might want to ask for a reference later.

Maintain a little list of people you meet along the way who might be good candidates for letter-writing in the future. Set a goal to develop those relationships; make notes in this list to indicate your progress (“November 2019: Read her chapter and offered feedback”). That way, if and when you do ask a contact to write a letter for you, you can consult your notes before you write that email asking for the favor. An email that says exactly why you think your colleague would be the best person to write the letter, and suggests which areas of your relationship you think the letter-writer could address, is far preferable to a generic ask.

Take notes for your future self.

If you don’t feel like writing a new teaching philosophy statement (for example) while you’re happy at your current job and not planning to move, try to leave yourself a little help. Jot a few things down at the end of each semester, during your scheduled maintenance times, that you think might make good additions to your next version: stories about student responses to projects; observations about discussions that were particularly successful. Human beings are forgetful; your notes will make it a lot easier to add color and depth when you do end up updating that document.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar.

Congratulations! You have made it through a grueling application and interview process and beaten out dozens (if not hundreds) of applicants for your new teaching position. However, now that you are in charge of your own classes, how do you prepare?

As graduate students, we are often taught the intricacies of how to conduct and publish research. However, for many who have not had the experience to serve as a teaching assistant—or had any prior teaching experience at all—we often lack the preparation to serve as the main instructor for our own courses.

For this post I provide a few suggestions based on my first time teaching a course. Additionally, I highlight the perspectives of a few colleagues in the field who provided advice they would give to someone teaching their first class.

Preparing for the minutia of teaching

During my first time teaching, I found that managing minutia was challenging, such as:

  • Ensuring you have your university email established
  • Having login credentials for the learning platform (e.g., Blackboard, Moodle, etc.)
  • Knowing who to contact when the projector bulb blows out in your room on your first day

After experiencing difficulties such as those previously mentioned, I developed a cheat sheet with contact information (emails and telephone numbers) of the various university personnel who could help solve these types of issues. More importantly, I made sure I developed relationships with folks from the IT and facilities department to ensure that I had friends who could help when needed.

Navigating classroom interactions as faculty of color

As a Black male I experienced some instances when teaching my first classes where students:

  • Felt comfortable with calling me by my first name (even when witnessing them call White professors by their proper titles)
  • Outwardly expressing their shock to me of having someone who looks “young” teaching the course
  • Challenged me by assuming they had more knowledge of the material than myself as their professor.
  • While some may assume my experience is unique, there is a litany of research that explains the prevalence of these negative encounters for faculty of color. To navigate these experiences, I found it critical to develop a group of trusted colleagues that I could discuss these encounters with and develop strategic responses.
Never start developing a course from scratch (if possible)

Part of the challenge of teaching a course for the first time for me was feeling that I had to develop my class from scratch. However, for accreditation purposes departments should have copies of previous syllabi for all courses taught in your program. Thus, once you find out you are slated to teach a course I would suggest you get a previous syllabus for your course. While perfection may be a concern of yours, when teaching a class for the first time, be ok with mistakes. As the instructor you can learn from those mistakes and make changes for the next time you teach the course.

Talk to your fellow teachers

Along with my insights, some of my colleagues had the following suggestions on preparing for your first class:

  • Send students an email before the semester begins sharing a brief introduction about yourself and ask students to share their professional goals, along with why they are taking the course.
  • Always come to class early to set up lecture visuals such as PowerPoint, Keynote, videos, etc. I try to arrive about 15 minutes before class begins to work out any snafus with technology.
  • Make sure that your syllabus contains office hours and location and policies about special needs, sexual harassment, academic misconduct, and respecting differences.

– Dr. Donna Y. Ford, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor, Vanderbilt University

  • Something that helped me was making sure my syllabus was as detailed as possible (especially in areas of turning in work, late work, makeup work, etc.) and having policies about absences and tardiness if that’s important to you (it was for me).

– Ms. Robin Brandehoff, Doctoral Candidate, University of Colorado Denver

  • On the first day of class, be sure to own your space and declare a) who you are; and b) how you expect to be addressed, i.e. Professor Charfauros (include phonetic spelling as appropriate).

– Professor Antoinette Charfauros McDaniel, Independent Scholar/Founding Faculty Member of the Comparative American Studies Program (now Department) of Oberlin College

For the readers who have experience teaching, what advice would you give someone who is preparing to teach a course for the first time? Feel free to tweet me (@ramongoings) with your tips and suggestions using the #InterfolioTeachingTips to continue the conversation.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. As a writing coach and editor, Dr. Goings enjoys supporting the scholarly development of doctoral students and professors in higher education. For more information about Dr. Goings, please visit his website www.ramongoings.com and follow him on Twitter (@ramongoings).

This post continues our new series, The Smart Scholar, which explores the attributes and qualities that make a successful academic applicant.

In my two previous posts, I discussed the under-appreciated skills for scholars on the job market and two practices that are useful for underrepresented scholars in the academy. While these approaches will certainly support your ability to be an ideal candidate, it is equally important to explore how you manage multiple applications. Thus, for this post I would like to focus on the actual job search.

Below are three tips on how you can enhance your organizational and logistical approach to your search for your next academic position.

Keeping up with where jobs are posted and shared

Do you know where to find jobs for your discipline? If not, start by reaching out to your scholarly village and learn where you can find opportunities. Generally, academic positions are listed on university websites. However, because of the amount of work it takes to look at individual university websites, there are many job forums that cover jobs across disciplines:

  • Higher Ed Jobs
  • Chronicle Vitae
  • Inside Higher Ed

In addition to general job boards, there are discipline-specific venues to find jobs.  For instance, in my field of education, job seekers can find positions on:

As an applicant you must allocate time to learn where jobs in your discipline are located and keep them bookmarked on your web browser.

Develop a tracking system to keep up with due dates

If you are open to a variety of opportunities, you may be applying to 10 or more positions during the job season. Given the quantity, it is vital that you have a tracking system to keep up with the various due dates. When I work with my dissertation clients who are on the job market I have them keep an Excel spreadsheet with headers (like the example below) in order to keep up with all of the requirements. Additionally, in order to ensure I did not miss a due date I would review the document every day.


Apply for jobs where you are a fit

When searching for jobs, conventional advice may be to apply for as many openings as possible so you have the greatest chance to secure a job. I would caution against this mantra when searching for academic positions. As a faculty member, I can observe that being on a search committee takes a lot of work. Search committees are responsible for:

  • Screening applications
  • Conducting phone and in-person interviews
  • Taking candidates on tours of the university and city
  • Deliberating to make a hiring recommendation

Given the amount of time involved in the search process, it is in your best interest as an applicant to apply to jobs that are a fit for your skillset as well as your career aspirations. I suggest taking this approach because if you are not a good fit for a position, the odds are your application will not proceed past application review. Due to the competitiveness of the job academic market, there are many applicants who are a direct fit for the position and meet all the criteria. This competitive market ultimately leads to search committees weeding out applications early in the process. My suggestion? As the applicant, your first job is to do your homework on a role and confidently apply only if you are an ideal candidate for a job.

Do you have a system you use to stay on top of your job search? If so, feel free to share it with me on Twitter (@ramongoings) as the academic community would love to hear about innovative ways to stay organized on your job hunt.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. As a writing coach and editor, Dr. Goings enjoys supporting the scholarly development of doctoral students and professors in higher education. For more information about Dr. Goings, please visit his website www.ramongoings.com and follow him on Twitter (@ramongoings).

Earlier this week, we hosted a free webinar and Q&A providing a glimpse into a Dossier Deliver user’s account —focusing on letters of recommendation—for scholars to get the most out of Interfolio’s free Dossier and Dossier Deliver.

We decided to include a demo-heavy portion in the webinar to address some common questions we were getting from users, and to share some of what we’ve learned about the folks using our products. We also touched on the newest features available, specifically how to utilize our quality check process. The webinar also features an exclusive Q&A session, leveraging our attendee’s questions as they participated in the webinar. 

Opening with some of the background and research underlying Dossier, the webinar covers several of the product’s common real-life applications and the best subscription for each of these lifecycle stages. It sheds light on best practices surrounding the three core areas of the Dossier account:

  • Materials
  • Letters
  • Deliveries

Alex Aponte of Interfolio’s Scholar Services team leads the audience through each of these account areas in a product demo of a Dossier Deliver account, diving deeply into many specific questions about confidential letters of recommendation. We know that requesting a letter of recommendation, or providing one, can be a delicate and sometimes stressful process when deadlines are involved, so we offer features and a support team to make those logistics simple.

Check out the full recording here, or read on below for the Q&A portion:

Here are a few of the most common questions we got during the webinar, and a quick recap of what our audience learned:

Q: Is there a way to store a confidential “generic” letter without sending it right away? I plan to apply for many positions, and I don’t want to make my letter writers send all the different letters one by one.

A: Yes! That is a very common use for Dossier, and you can do it for free. You can either request a general letter, or specify which opportunity the letter is for. Just use Dossier’s “General Request Recommendation” feature—look for the “Recommendation Type” section in the request form.

Q: When requesting a letter of recommendation through Interfolio, how should I use the due date feature? Can a letter writer still upload a recommendation letter after the due date has passed?

A: In Dossier, the due date feature is not technically binding—it is just a tool (attached to the request itself) for you to communicate to your letter writer the date by which they should submit their letter. If you set a due date, it will not prevent them from uploading their letter afterward. Also, if you set a due date, we will send your letter writer reminders 7 days and 1 day before the letter is due via email.

Q: What is the quality check feature and how is it helpful?

A: If you have a Dossier Deliver account, you will receive a guaranteed quality check on your letters of recommendation as they enter your account. There are a variety of things we look for and flag as inconsistent with what a user expects within their letter, such as:

  • We check for a signature.
  • We make sure there’s an official letterhead.
  • We ensure the file uploaded is in fact a letter.
  • We verify the letter bears both your name and the letter writer’s name.
  • We establish the letter is legible.

You can choose to send your letter even if it has errors–like a missing signature–so you retain control of your materials and deliveries.

Q: What type of deliveries are available through Dossier Deliver?

A: If you have a Dossier Deliver subscription, you can have your application materials (including letters, CVs, publications, images, and more) delivered to almost any destination via one of three methods:

  • You can provide us with an email address, and we’ll send your materials there, arranged in the order you specified.
  • You can provide us with a mailing address, and we’ll print out your materials and mail them, arranged in the order you specified, either First Class Mail or at an expedited service level.
  • If you’re applying somewhere that requires a confidential letter upload into their own online application system, we can substitute for your letter writers, and directly upload the letters stored in your Dossier. We only do this for letters, not other materials.

Finally, please note that anyone can use the free version of Dossier to apply to positions hosted entirely through Interfolio.

So, what can you do if you have questions about your Dossier account or creating one?

  • Watch the webinar. It’s about an hour long and includes a pretty comprehensive product demo.
  • Check out the FAQ section of our site for quick tips and tricks on how to navigate Dossier and Dossier Deliver.
  • Reach out to us. We’re people that thrive on serving our customers.

Today we launched several new Dossier product features in our ongoing quest to ensure our user’s time is spent on activities they choose, and so that we maintain our exclusive offering as a full-service Dossier (almost 20-years strong!).

In March, we introduced a valuable new feature to help prevent document quality issues from holding back your applications—for users with active Dossier Deliver subscriptions, we now perform a quality check on all confidential letters of recommendation.

And as of today, we have added several more features related to (1) how a Dossier user requests letters of recommendation and (2) how a letter writer receives such a request, further personalizing and streamlining the process.

As a Dossier user requesting a letter of recommendation I can:

  • Save my letter writers’ contact information
  • Attach multiple support files to my letter request via my Dossier account
  • Share my multimedia materials like video links and URLs within my request
  • Request multiple letters of recommendation at once
  • Auto-populate each letter writer’s name in bulk requests for professional appearance

To add a new contact while requesting a letter, click “Letters” in the left sidebar:

Click “Request a Letter”:

Start typing in “Recommender” box:

Click “Add New”:

And as a letter writer, when accessing supporting materials attached to a request for a letter of recommendation, now I can simply view them online within a convenient document viewer—or I can download them as always.

Click “View Documents” vs. “Download”:

Why do these changes matter to you?

First and foremost, it saves you time. It is far more convenient to simply select saved information than to type it in from scratch for every request. In addition, it helps to avoid errors in email addresses and names. We understand that receiving a stellar letter for a job application is the end goal, not requesting it.

Requesting and sending letters of recommendation is a stressful but necessary part of applying to many scholarly positions and other opportunities. Let Team Interfolio help you manage this portion of your to-do list, confidently.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish, and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

This post continues our new series, The Smart Scholar, which explores the attributes and qualities that make a successful academic applicant.

As the academic year is coming to a close, the summer is an excellent time to reflect and evaluate where you are on your journey to seeking your next academic position. For some this means engaging in the beginning development of  your dissertation proposal, data collection, or editing of your dissertation/thesis. For others, this time is valuable for putting together your job materials (such as your CV, cover letter, teaching philosophy, etc.) for the upcoming job season. Regardless of the everyday tasks at hand, now is an excellent opportunity to put a plan in action so that the job of your dreams can become your reality.

Given this context, below are two practices, especially relevant to those that are underrepresented in higher education, that can be developed during the summer as you prepare to land your dream job.

Cultivate your village of mentors

There is the African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I would argue that to land a position in higher education it takes at least a village. So how do you develop relationships that will help you be successful?

As you think about this, consider the following questions: who are the people that affirm me as a scholar and/or can help me navigate the job market to land my position? I propose these questions as I believe it is critical that you develop a deep bench of mentors—one person will never be able to meet all of your needs or criteria for success. Thus, you should take the time to search for people who:

  • Can support your job application materials
  • Can speak in rooms on your behalf
  • Push you to submit the application
  • Will be in and stay in your corner during the best of times and the worst of times

Moreover, success in the job market, for better or worse, often comes down to who you know and who knows you. So taking the time to cultivate your village could make the difference in landing your next position.

One such venue to develop this scholarly village is a group called R. A. C. E. (Research, Advocacy, Collaboration, Empowerment) Mentoring, which was co-founded by Drs. Donna Y. Ford, Michelle Trotman Scott, and Malik S. Henfield. R.A.C.E. Mentoring (also referred to by group members as RM) is a virtual Facebook group of over 700 members that provides support, mentoring, and professional development to faculty and graduate students of color to increase their representation in higher education.

In addition to the virtual networking, a summer conference will be held at Vanderbilt University July 13-15, 2018 which would be an excellent opportunity to connect with scholars across the country who can become part of your village.

Assess the needs of the job market against your current skill-set and fill in the gaps

As graduate students, we engage in training that prepares us to be researchers. However, depending on your particular institution you may have had (or not had) certain experiences to develop skill-sets needed to land your next academic position.

  • To account for this possible gap, you should take time to assess, “What are the requirements for someone to land the job I’m looking to go after?”
  • Once you do this assessment, the next step is for you to reflect and determine if you met all of the necessary skill-sets to make yourself a viable candidate. To make this determination, work with  your scholarly village as they will have an understanding about the skills you may need to secure your next position.
  • Lastly, if for some reason you need a certain expertise that you do not currently have, develop a plan to get that experience. For instance, if positions in your field require experience securing grants and you did not have the opportunity to work on a grant during your scholarly training, it would be beneficial to engage in grant writing training and collaborate with others who have been successful grant writers so that you can learn the craft. While gaining a new skill set like this won’t happen overnight, taking the time to develop it will pay dividends when you seek your ideal academic position.  

With the increasing use of online learning platforms, gaining some of these experiences and skill-sets can occur from the comfort of your home. Moreover, this would be an excellent time to work with your village of mentors to help solidify your plan.

As you develop your summer plans, I look forward to hearing about how you have landed your dream position this upcoming year. And if you need a member in your village for support, count me in! I’d love to hear your progress via Twitter (@ramongoings).

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. As a writing coach and editor, Dr. Goings enjoys supporting the scholarly development of doctoral students and professors in higher education. For more information about Dr. Goings, please visit his website www.ramongoings.com and follow him on twitter (@ramongoings).

This post continues our series—begun last fall during faculty hiring “high season”—by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large, on how to make the most out of student evaluations.

Student evaluations of teaching can be terrible.

  • So say a growing number of professors who are tired of feeling like their careers hang on the whim of students who have taken a dislike to them.
  • So say researchers who have found that students evaluate women and people who aren’t “hot” as worse teachers than men and the attractive.

But, as Kevin Gannon recently wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education, despite every flaw of this system, “students are experts on what they experienced and learned in a course, and they ought to have a voice.” Most institutions continue to agree.

So it is with some ambivalence that we recommend some things you can do to make this process as painless—and maybe even helpful?—as possible.

Leave plenty of time for students to complete evaluations.

A cynic might point out that there are a number of things you can do to manipulate the situation so that your students perceive you kindly at evaluation time. We’ve heard everything from “Don’t hand back an essay or a test right before giving the evaluation” to “Bring in brownies or cookies on evaluation day.” We have no comment on these tactics, but one thing you should definitely do is make sure students aren’t filling out forms in the last five minutes of the class, with backpacks half-zipped and one foot out the door.

Make clear the stakes of the process.

Don’t be desperate or get weird about it (it’s never great to beg), but do let students know how their evaluations will be used, on the job market or in seeking promotions. Also let them know that their feedback will be used to improve the class in following years. If possible, you could give an example of something you’ve changed after reading feedback from their predecessors, to show you’re serious.   

If you can, elect the option to give your students evaluation questions that are specific to your class.

This may or may not be possible at your institution, but if you are able to select particular questions, or to make up questions of your own, do this. This goes a long way to mitigate the institutional feeling of the Scantron sheet. Your students will get more of a sense that the evaluations are connected to the class they took; you will get better feedback for improving the class next time; and the evaluations will be more meaningful for assessors reading results.

Know how student evaluations are used at your institution.

The research on student evaluations shows that there are better and worse ways to use them in assessing a faculty member’s effectiveness.

  • Will your tenure committee know to consider patterns of response, instead of individual negative comments from bitter students?
  • Will they take the difficulty of your class into account?
  • Does your school know about the research into student bias, and will assessors integrate it into their process?
  • Will the student evals be combined with other ways of assessing your teaching effectiveness?

The more you know about the process, the better—and if the process is antiquated and unfair, investigate ways to change it. (We know, we know—in your free time, right?)

When you are presenting evaluations for promotion or to get a job, try to put them in context.

If you’re given space to do so, embed your evaluation data and students’ written comments into a narrative. You can let your reader know what kind of class you were teaching, what kinds of assignments you gave, and any other information that would help them understand why you got the scores and comments that you got.

And, last but not at all least: Try not to take any individual bad evaluation too personally—summer is just around the bend.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

This post continues our series—begun last fall during faculty hiring “high season”—by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large, on where to search for and find grants.

Applying for grants and fellowships to cover the costs of your education and research can be an exhausting prospect. (Can you say “neverending deadlines”?) But if you land one funding opportunity (or more), the benefits are huge.

  • You can include the honor on your CV
  • You may get to meet and hobnob with new people outside of your institution who administer the award
  • You get money!

And once you’ve landed one grant, other grants tend to follow. So you should start building a record of success sooner, rather than later.

But how do you know which grants to apply for? Here are some ideas to get you started.

Tap the resources of your institution.

Find out if your home university has an existing system to help grad students apply for grants. Offices of Grants and Fellowships are an obvious place to look; if you’re unsure about this, ask faculty or staff in your program to direct you. The staff in an Office of Grants and Fellowships will help you figure out which institutional opportunities might fall in your wheelhouse.

A few opportunities may be available such as:

  • Small pots of money for professional development such as conference attendance
  • Short-term research fellowships to fund trips to archives or field sites
  • Year-long dissertation fellowships

See if your institution can help you think outside of the box.

Some scholars pursuing certain projects may be able to find money from granting agencies that aren’t giving their funds solely to academics. The organization, The non-profit, nationwide Foundation Center maintains several databases, some of which are targeted to non-profits and other agencies who want to apply for grants to support their institutions. For example, their Foundation Grants to Individuals database collects listings relevant to students, artists, and researchers. Access is paid, but your institution may have a subscription. Check with the people in the Office of Grants and Fellowships—they will be able to help you figure out how to target your search.

Read the acknowledgements.

When you’re reading a book, or looking at an article or paper, especially when it’s by an author whose work is similar to yours, check the acknowledgements section. The author will thank the funding agencies whose largesse made their research possible. Google the fellowship, and put it on your list if it feels like a good fit for you.

Don’t forget the bigwigs.

There are some organizations that will be top-of-mind for everyone in your field.

These may seem like long shots to you, but applying for big, prestigious grants is very good practice. If you score one, it’ll add luster to your CV and help you get more money in the future.  

Hit up databases online.

A definitive universal database of fellowship and grant opportunities for grad students doesn’t exist. Here are a few good links to favorite and follow.

  • The NIH has a page listing non-NIH funding opportunities for researchers.
  • The website ProFellow, run independently by consultants, maintains a database aimed at a mix of undergrads, graduates, and professionals. You have to create a profile to browse.
  • PIVOT offers listings for a range of types of academic funding (not just for grad students).
  • Search the listings of H-Announce for notices of fellowships, grants, and prizes for humanities scholars.
  • The McNair Scholars page, run by the Department of Education, offers a list of opportunities, segmented by subject matter and specialization.

At the core, finding grants and other funding opportunities is a chore. But if you know where to start your search, it can make navigating the process a little easier.

Share with us on Facebook and Twitter where you look for and find grants.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.