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 the future of student evaluations.

Previously on this blog, we talked about ways that you can make the most of the common practice of using student evaluations to assess instructors’ job performance in higher ed. Since then, the recognition that student evaluations are inherently flawed—data show that they don’t reflect what’s truly being learned in a class, may have contributed to widespread grade inflation, and often result in lower scores for women and minority professors—has become ever more widespread. Last summer, an arbitrator in Ontario, looking at this evidence, ruled that Toronto’s Ryerson University must stop using student evaluations in measuring teaching effectiveness in cases of promotion and tenure.

The recommendations we made in the earlier blog post about making the most of a bad system, and procuring solid student evals that can help you along, still stand:

  • Give students plenty of time to fill out the forms
  • Talk to them about the forms’ purpose
  • Try, if you can, to give them specific questions that reflect the course materials

But if the evidence that student evals are counterproductive and unfair has you sufficiently convinced that the whole practice needs an overhaul, perhaps it’s time to push for your institution to change its policies.

In a comprehensive review, published earlier this year, of the way that some universities are already altering their relationships to evaluations, Kristin Doerr of the Chronicle of Higher Education offers some models for reform:

  • The University of Southern California has largely moved to a peer-review process, whereby teaching evaluations from other professors take primacy over student assessments in the course of promotion-and-tenure decision making. Peer reviewers must take anti-bias training to reduce the subjectivity of their judgments. The University of Oregon is following suit in implementing a more comprehensive and standardized peer-review program.
  • At Berkeley, in the division of mathematical and physical sciences, instructors under review write reflections that are considered alongside evaluations, to give context to their students’ input. (This is similar to a practice earlier described by David Perlmutter, a dean at Texas Tech, who reports that his institution allows professors to give students supplemental evaluations that add more information to the picture that standard evaluations paint.)
  • Also at USC, the school has made revisions to the types of questions asked in student evaluations, making questions more specific in a bid to minimize bias.
  • At Oregon, the university is moving away from numerical “circle the 5”-type evaluations, and toward questions that ask about specific elements of an instructor’s teaching, and then ask students to provide written comment.
  • Oregon also offers a midterm student experience survey that only the professor can access, offering the opportunity for professors to learn about things that aren’t working in that semester’s classes before it’s too late to change them.

Maybe your university is among those rethinking student evaluations right now. If not, maybe 2019 is the year to suggest some change.

Tweet us your thoughts on ways you can harness your institution’s current policies on student evals, and/or ways you would reform them and include #Interfolio.

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.

One of the hallmarks of being a higher education professional is leading and serving on hiring committees. While this work is important to university life, how do you decide if you should serve on a hiring committee? What should your strategy be on selecting members to serve on a hiring committee when you are leading a search? These questions can be difficult to answer as they are nuances based on the position. However, I believe there are some things you should consider when leading and being asked to serve on a hiring committee. While this post does not capture the depth and nuance of hiring committees, below are my more topical tips and suggestions.

Be prepared for a significant time commitment

After serving on several hiring committees and having conversations with colleagues in the field, I have come to the conclusion that serving as the chair of a search committee is a significant time commitment. Not only are you responsible for selecting search committee members, you are also responsible for:

  • Serving as main contact for potential candidates with questions
  • Coordinating phone/Skype interview times for candidates and committee members
  • Coordinating travel for finalist interviews
  • Managing personalities of the search committee during candidate deliberations

With the above responsibilities in mind, it is critical to understand and embrace the significant time commitment before agreeing to serve as the leader of a search committee.

I have often been approached to lead and serve on committees unexpectedly. At the beginning of my career, I would often say yes on the spot. However, I was provided sage advice from mentors who explained the benefit of not saying yes right away. The advice given to me (which I pass along to you) is that when offered the opportunity to serve on a hiring committee, communicate to the requestor that you need time to review your schedule to ensure you will have ample time to commit to the search. Taking this approach will buy you a little time to evaluate the time commitment and value-add of serving on a hiring committee.

Establish a diverse hiring committee

Many higher education scholars have pointed out that who serves on search committees determines who is ultimately hired. In many examples, scholars point to the fact that higher education hires do not often reflect the diversity of the country—and this is due to search committees lacking diversity, specifically racial diversity. Thus, when thinking about establishing a search committee, it is important to ensure committee members come from various backgrounds, so your search develops a heterogeneous pool of candidates. Moreover, candidates from different backgrounds can use their networks to get the word out about the search.

Ensure positions are advertised widely

Part of the work of the search committee should be to advertise the position in a way that  creates a diverse hiring pool. Search committees do not often get diverse candidates because they do not advertise positions in places where those candidates fellowship. For instance, does your human resource office use the university’s Instagram and Facebook pages to target their hiring advertisements to spaces where diverse candidates spend their time online? Is your search committee reaching out directly to scholars of color to apply for positions? I would argue that institutions search far and wide for athletes, and I believe the same approach should be taken when recruiting higher education professionals. While there are several places to find higher education jobs (which I’ve discussed in a previous Smart Scholar series post), it is critical to find candidates in the spaces they frequent most.

Ensure the search process is ethical

It is important to ensure that the search process is approached ethically, for example adhering to a search process committee where members maintain confidentiality throughout. This prevents candidates who have personal or professional relationships with the search committee members from gaining an advantage in the job search. Moreover, in situations where there are internal candidates applying for a position, this is even more important, as having an ethical process will prevent external candidates from seeking legal action against the institution for a discriminatory hiring process. In response to instances of discrimination and racism on campus, institutions have developed equity and inclusion offices. I would suggest if your institution has such an office, have them talk to the search committee about ensuring an equitable hiring process. If your institution does not have an equity and inclusion office, there are some best practices in the text Diversifying the Faculty: A Guidebook for Search Committees by Dr. Caroline Sotello Viernes Turner.

What have your experiences been on leading and serving on search committees? Feel free to tweet me @ramongoings with your suggestions!

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 by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large, on how to constructively define a faculty mentorship.

Philosophy professor Kevin Richardson’s recent Twitter thread on the lack of clarity around faculty mentors had many academics nodding along. There’s huge asymmetry between the support given to mentors in the academy (and the accountability demanded from them), and the importance of mentors to graduate students and new tenure-track faculty. Sometimes, these relationships work out; sometimes, they become toxic; sometimes, they start with a well-intentioned coffee and peter out into nothingness.

So, how can conscientious faculty members who find themselves in the position of becoming mentors to graduate students or younger colleagues change this dynamic? There are a few ways.

Make your plans for mentorship clear to your mentee

The mentor-mentee relationship is often extremely unstructured, and that puts some mentees at a disadvantage. “Many minority and first-gen folks find it especially difficult to navigate these informal mentor-mentee relationships,” Richardson points out. It helps to be very specific about what you can do to help the new student or faculty member succeed. Strive for an ethos of transparency, rather than untouchability.

Act like a coach, not a guru

In an Inside Higher Ed series on mentoring new faculty, Kerry Ann Rockquemore, a specialist in faculty development, argues for for more coaches and fewer gurus. The “coach” mentor performs the functions of a good teacher, who tries to help students figure out how to direct their own learning and progress.

  • A “coach” can break down tasks with his or her mentee, keep them accountable for finishing those tasks, and ask provocative questions to help them reframe problems.
  • A mentor for a new faculty member, for example, could help that faculty member strategize ways to continue to research and write during the semester, and then check in (in person, or over email) to make sure the mentee is on track.
Think about where you’re both coming from

How does your prospective mentee’s background compare to yours? Are there things about their biography and history that you think may affect the course of their integration into your program or institution? Do you feel equipped, for example, to advise a new tenure-track hire from an underrepresented group when they’re trying to determine how much diversity- and inclusion-related service they should do? Do you feel equipped to advise a young parent on the department’s policies around sickness and school snow days? You might not be! But they still need that help.

Figure out how to get them connected

Rockquemore argues that mentors should be helping mentees build a network, rather than simply answering their questions when they arise. Part of the mentor’s job should be to identify what help the mentee might need, and to strategize ways to connect her with it. Consider the examples above. If you’re not from an underrepresented group, you may want to suggest that another faculty member who is could be a good person to ask about this particular issue. Provide contact information, and suggest angles of approach. The goal is to provide your mentee with a distributed base of support in your institution, rather than trying (and, usually, failing) to give them all of that support yourself.

Resist the urge to wax anecdotal, or pontificate

This temptation can be strong, especially when somebody younger is looking to you for wisdom! But your own experience, or the experience of your advisor, or the experience of your graduate cohort, may or may not apply in this different time and place; your opinions on departmental and university politics may or may not be relevant. Try to stay humble, and helpful, when you can.

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).

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 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.

This post continues our series—begun last fall during faculty hiring “high season”—by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large, on good practices for academic career success.

When you’re on the academic job market, looking ahead to a professional review or applying for grants, it’s a great time to break your lingering undergrad habit of sweatily completing applications 15 minutes before midnight on deadline day. The reason? You should get feedback—from your dissertation advisor, the jobs coordinator in your department, a professor you’re friendly with, even a slightly-farther-along peer who’s been there and knows what it’s about. Your letters of recommendation, teaching statements, and project statements will improve accordingly. 

Here’s how to get the most out of getting feedback.

1. Pick the right person to comment.

The “right person” is going to vary depending on the job, placement, or funding opportunity that you’re shooting for, and your particular concerns about your application. 

  • If you’re fretting about your grasp of the subject matter at hand, ask someone who’s got it down—and let them know that’s why you’re asking.
  • If you’re most worried about your writing, ask somebody with good prose style—or, even better, a person with good prose style who you already know is great at commenting on other people’s writing.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have a connection with someone who has experience with the department or program you’re aiming for, ask them to use their institutional knowledge to assess whether your materials strike the right tone.

2. Leave plenty of time.

The person who’s willing to comment on your materials is doing you a solid. Reciprocate by making the experience as seamless as possible for them. That means finishing drafts of your documents with time to spare, and sending them along so that the commentator can fit reading them into his or her own schedule. Ask your commentator how much time they need, and set yourself a new deadline accordingly. And be sure to budget on the other end for your own turnaround time. You don’t want to give your commentator three weeks with a document, only to have them send it back on the eve of the deadline with revision suggestions that will require heavy lifting.

3. Provide context.

Your commentator needs to know what kind of promotion or funding opportunity you’re applying for, at the bare minimum. After she has agreed to read your materials and comment, and you’re ready to share your documents, include an email in which you send along the link to the desired role or opportunity. In brief (don’t rattle on), provide a bit of framing and summary to help them understand your approach. 

Include answers to questions like:

  • What do you think your chances of getting this job or grant might be, and why do you think you might be a good fit?
  • What are your concerns about the draft materials you have produced?
  • Are there any problem areas you want the person to address?

The more explicit you can be about the kind of feedback you’re seeking, the better. You don’t want a person you’ve asked for subject matter expertise to get hung up on comma placement. (They may not be able to help themselves! But by making it clear, in a gentle way, that you’re asking for a particular kind of feedback, you may make the experience easier on everyone.)

4. Be cool about the feedback when it comes.

It is only human to bristle when criticized. But try to remember, again: they are doing you a solid. In this context, there’s very little to be gained from defending yourself. Send an extremely polite reply email (or even a handwritten note!) thanking them effusively; if there are things you need clarified, ask, but make sure you truly don’t understand, and you’re not just being reactive. If you know it will take you a while to get over hurt feelings and get on with revisions, build that recovery space into your timeline.


With some preparation and the right mindset, getting feedback on the materials you’re using to present yourself when applying for jobs, fellowships, grants, future study (such as medical or graduate school) can help you sharpen your portfolio—while strengthening your relationships along the way.

One final rule: When somebody asks you for feedback in a couple years, say yes! Keep that karma flowing.

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.

Looking for technical instructions on how to use your Dossier? See these help articles.

Among vendors of higher education technology that address faculty data challenges—like faculty activity reporting, academic workflow, and academic portfolios—the Dossier is perhaps Interfolio’s most distinctive asset. It’s a private, lifelong online space for career development that belongs to each individual scholar.

Throughout 2017, having done much research across higher education to understand how individual faculty interact with their schools’ faculty personnel processes, we steadily added a series of special features to connect Dossier with our enterprise faculty technology suite for institutions of higher education.

Today, we call that bundle of special features Dossier Institution—the faculty member’s dedicated space to organize their materials and faculty data, with useful integrations into Interfolio at their school.

Here, we’ll:

  1. Summarize the origins and growth of Dossier Institution to date.
  2. Look at today’s feature release, the first of 2018: the ability for a scholar to share their materials and get line-by-line comments for feedback and mentoring purposes.
  3. Muse about the Dossier’s increasingly central role in faculty information management.

If you are seeking technical instructions for using your Dossier, you might want to take a look at these articles.

Origins: the value of academic portfolio software at the enterprise level

First introduced in 1999, the consumer version of Dossier is Interfolio’s widely adopted academic portfolio product for scholars on the job market, most commonly used to manage confidential letters.

When we launched Interfolio Faculty Search in 2012, Dossier served as the point of entry for job applicants, and in 2014, it was an obvious companion for those going up for faculty reviews through Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure. And (sneak peek!) Dossier Institution may just be the natural solution to a fundamental obstacle in faculty activity reporting: giving professors a compelling reason to maintain current faculty data.

To begin with, Interfolio focused primarily on the problem of faculty candidate preparation for academic reviews—such as tenure, promotion, annual review, or reappointment. As many in higher education had already mused, how could smart technology simplify and shorten the process of compiling your accomplishments?

Introducing institutional guidelines

Our first major product development in this direction (about a year ago) was the institutional guidelines feature. With institutional guidelines via Dossier Institution:

  • Institutions using Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure gained a way to more clearly communicate to their faculty the official requirements for what candidates must submit for certain kinds of reviews (an important consideration).
  • Faculty members anticipating future reviews gained a new sign of transparency and consistency from their employer about expectations for success.

Reuse past packet materials

Continuing to think about the experience of faculty candidates going up for review, our next development choice was to eliminate redundant work for faculty around repeated, routine reviews from year to year. We added the ability for faculty to freely import materials from any of their past Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure packets when assembling a new packet for a current or upcoming review.

Whether you think of this as an addition to the enterprise module or an investment in the capacity of the Dossier, the ability to reuse past packets served two known goals that institutions had clearly, repeatedly voiced to Interfolio:

  • It’s an efficiency and preparation tool for the faculty candidate, helping them put their best foot forward by eliminating hours of redundant re-assembly work from year to year.
  • It’s a transparency mechanism for the institution, facilitating a fair consideration of the candidate’s progress because they can attach the exact correspondence they received in past academic reviews.

Linking institutional guidelines with collections

Some time after we’d rolled out the institutional guidelines feature, we took advantage of the existing collections feature to provide another boon to faculty candidates: the ability to directly create a collection in their Dossier based on a particular set of institutional guidelines (for example, based on the tenure guidelines for the College of Arts & Sciences). It helps faculty make effective use of their Dossier as a staging ground to assemble or curate their materials in advance of known future reviews.

For example, if I’ve just started in a tenure-track history position, I can pull up the history department’s tenure guidelines in my online Dossier and, with a click, create a new collection in my Dossier that maps directly onto the stated requirements for my tenure packet—several years from now. And then, when the time comes to initiate my official case through Interfolio, I can import that collection straight over to my Interfolio tenure packet.

Sharing for feedback and mentoring (NEW)

And just today, we expanded Dossier Institution in another major way: by introducing sharing of materials and collections in Dossier.

Starting today, any faculty member with Dossier Institution can share individual files and collections of materials stored in their Dossier with other individuals at their school, and can enable those individuals to make line-by-line comments on documents. (We have also included a version of this feature in Dossier Deliver, the premium consumer package for scholars on the job market.)

The new Dossier sharing feature gives faculty a way to collect feedback on academic materials from others at their institution—including documentation of research, creative production, teaching, or service—without leaving the Interfolio environment where their work is stored. And it accommodates ongoing input on academic case materials, whether outside of an formal institutional workflow or as part of one, such as in the case of a mentoring letter.

The sharing feature is a significant step forward for Dossier, and we are interested to learn about its use among our client institutions. As usual, our product team has already conducted extensive research to understand a variety of real-world scenarios where scholars seek feedback on their work. The result is a flexible feature that accommodates a variety of collaborative needs.

Do you have Dossier Institution, and want to see what sharing looks like? Go ahead: sign into your Dossier, open up any document, and select “Share.”

Further developments for Dossier Institution in 2018

As mentioned earlier, we foresee Dossier Institution playing an increasingly central role in the long-term success of the Interfolio faculty information system at colleges and universities. When faculty benefit from new technologies and services, their institution benefits as well.

One major avenue of exploration is how the Dossier could serve, in a responsible way, as the avenue for ordinary faculty data collection at client institutions. This is a major hurdle in faculty activity reporting—so finding smooth ways to build routine data management into moments when faculty access their academic portfolio should be a win-win. 

Dossier Institution User Help Articles: