Dr. Antione D. Tomlin and Dr. Danny M. Hoey, Jr.

As Black men, we come to Academia with a very different lens and perspective on what it means to excel in higher education. As a Dean (Danny) and a Department Chair (Antione), we provide some tips on gaining and progressing in academic administrative positions. While it can seem impossible at times to obtain administrative positions, we offer four essential tips when thinking about your academic career trajectory.

1. Be Able to Articulate Your Leadership Philosophy

As you move towards academic administrative roles that are more complex and nuanced, it is imperative that you have a leadership style that you can clearly articulate and provide concrete examples of–in writing, in an interview, and with those that you hope to lead. Ask yourself these questions: what is my mission, what do I value most, and what is it that I am the most passionate about–and be deeply reflective.

Once you are able to answer those questions, examine the ways in which you lead and see if your answers and your actions match. If your actions in your current leadership role are not consistent with what you discovered about yourself, ask yourself why? Be critical in your reflection—it will help you redefine your leadership style so that it is consistent with who you want to be as an administrator. Also, this exercise will allow you to confidently explain who you are as a leader, how your leadership philosophy inspires, and how it gives those that you lead the confidence to be innovative as they work to achieve desired outcomes.

2. Build Relationships

Learning how to build relationships is pivotal to any administrative role. If the folks that you lead believe you to be untrustworthy, it is less likely that they will follow you and it will be even harder to achieve the goals that you have set.

When you are new to an administrative role, you are the outsider—even if you have come from among the ranks of faculty. It is startling at first; however, do not let that deter you. Roll up your sleeves, develop a thick skin, and proceed as if you are the new kid on the block and work to engender trust from the folks that you lead. This means that you have to be clear and transparent in your communication, be fair, actively listen, advocate for those that you lead while still holding them accountable. And, most importantly, be consistent while doing all of the above.

Once your team sees that you are serious about building with them and not without them, they will trust you, and even if they do not agree with a decision that you make, they will follow you because you all have a relationship that is built on trust and mutual understanding.

3. Find a Mentor  

In order to progress within academia, a mentor is essential. Finding someone who is in the field, who is well connected, and who is blunt and honest with you will only help you. We encourage you to find a mentor with whom you can build rapport and trust. This person will be able to share with you what they see as strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, they will be able to help you align yourself with opportunities that help shape and prepare you for administrative appointments. Furthermore, a major reason for identifying a mentor is to learn from their mistakes.

Administrative appointments are highly competitive, which means there is no time for mistakes that could have been avoided. Talk with your mentor early and often, to ensure that you are on a trajectory that makes sense for what you want to accomplish. So, find a mentor, listen to your mentor, and soak up all the knowledge and wisdom they may have to offer about how to gain that appointment.

4. Develop/Grow Your Transferable Skills  

Often, faculty may not apply for administrative appointments out of fear of not meeting minimum qualifications. When thinking about administrative appointments, it’s crucial to position yourself for the appointment you want early on. That is, finding ways to continue to learn, grow, and take on other duties and responsibilities that would closely align with the position you hope to obtain. Actively seeking opportunities for continuous improvement enhances your chances of being selected as a finalist for an administrative position. Additionally, looking at job postings similar to ones you want can prove to be helpful. Reviewing similar postings allows you to take a temperature of the field. You may also gain tips on how to word and reword your Cover Letter and Curricula Vitae with key phrases and qualifications that make you stand out.

Do you have additional tips to add to the list? Or have specific strategies to help academics gaining or progressing in an administrative position? Please share. Feel free to send your responses via Twitter @TomlinAntione so that we can continue this conversation!

Authors’ Bio:

Dr. Antione D. Tomlin earned his PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and is an assistant professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College.

Dr. Danny M. Hoey, Jr., is the Dean of Student Learning, Equity, and Success for the Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences at Gavilan College. He has served in various academic administrative roles and believes that it is his responsibility to give back by mentoring those who aspire to be academic administrators.

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.

It is no secret that traditional adjunct or part-time faculty usually work at multiple institutions to support themselves and their families. For this article, I refer to traditional adjunct faculty as persons who rely solely on part-time teaching opportunities for financial support. Without the assigned courses, part-time faculty do not have other means of income to provide and pay their bills. Being an adjunct can be stressful because of fear of classes being canceled due to low enrollment or being bumped from a class because a full-time faculty member needed to take the course to make their load. On top of the stress of potentially losing a course, being an adjunct can be highly confusing as the jobs, responsibilities, expectations, and tasks can vary from institution to institution. However, there are a few things that all adjuncts should be aware of when thinking about maintaining a flow and being successful in their roles across institutions.

It is common to find that most higher education institutions have multiple ranks, even for adjunct faculty. I have seen institutions range from 2-3 levels of rank for adjunct faculty. Education level, work experience, and teaching experience are factors that determine which level you may start. From there, the institution’s adjunct faculty handbook should outline criteria on which you may be evaluated to be promoted to the next rank. While title and rank are important for some, promotion to a higher rank also comes with a monetary increase, which for adjuncts is always appreciated. As an adjunct, you should look for your adjunct faculty handbook and become familiar with the requirements of eligibility for promotion. Additionally, here are some things to be thinking about as soon as you start your adjunct position at a new institution:

1. Evaluations

It is standard for all faculty to be evaluated on their performance as an instructor. Evaluation periods may differ per institution. However, as an adjunct, you should anticipate being evaluated once a semester, even if that is not the case. It is better to stay prepared than to be caught off guard. Evaluations are meant to help you continue growing as an adjunct. So, you should view this opportunity as a continuous improvement experience, not as a process meant to discourage you from teaching. Keep an open mind, review the observer rubric before being evaluated, prepare, and have fun. When the evaluation period has ended, be sure to request a meeting with your observer if they do not request one with you. This meeting should be to review in detail your performance and what was observed. Your observer will usually be your department chair or a full-time faculty member in the department. Moreover, an evaluation should always start and end with a conversation. That is, rapport should be built and each person in the process should feel comfortable asking questions. Time should be built in to not only cover the review, but also for colleagues to get to know each other.  

Before the evaluation period, you want to get clear on what is expected of you. You should be asking questions to become familiar with expectations on your first day. Do not wait until an evaluation period to ask about what you should be doing in your role. While it seems fundamental, it is always important to ask, as different institutions have varying responsibilities and expectations for adjuncts.  

2. Teaching Effectiveness

While being an effective instructor is expected of adjuncts and directly connected to evaluations, we must define what it means to produce effective teaching. Your institution should determine and communicate what it means and looks like to demonstrate effective teaching. At a previous institution where I taught, effective teaching was defined as being flexible, meeting students where they are, providing clear guidelines and expectations for students, and encouraging students to utilize all resources available to them, to name a few. As an instructor, you should also be identifying ways to measure your teaching and its effectiveness while also documenting these efforts. Remember, documentation of teaching effectiveness is critical, no matter how big or small the endeavor. An example would be an adjustment you made based on student feedback.  

3. Student Opinion Forms  

Lastly, student opinion forms matter. While this may seem like extra work, it is vital to review your student opinion forms and make necessary adjustments when appropriate. As a full-time faculty member and department chair, I know that many students go the extra mile to complete an opinion form only when they have had a really great experience or a not-so-great experience. So, while this data can be on opposite extremes in some cases, we mustn’t ignore it. As adjuncts, reviewing the data, considering the comments, and making even minor adjustments can go a long way. Additionally, you should keep track of the reviews in the student opinion forms and what you plan to do differently in future semesters or what you did differently. This documentation shows commitment to continuous improvement and professional development and a sense of care for the profession. This will help show your institution that you are invested in your role, department, and students. 

Once you can become clear on what is expected of you in your adjunct role, you can learn the flow and create a routine to help support your success. Once you have a routine that works for you, mastering the adjunct flow at multiple institutions becomes more natural. So, I encourage all adjuncts to locate their adjunct faculty handbooks, review requirements for promotion, check in with your department chair to review expectations for your role, and enjoy the experience.

Do you have additional tips to add to the list? Or have specific strategies to help adjuncts master the flow of teaching at multiple institutions? Please share. Feel free to send your responses via Twitter @TomlinAntione so that we can continue this conversation!

Author’s Bio:

Dr. Antione D. Tomlin earned his PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is an assistant professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College.

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.

Finding and obtaining professorship and post-doc opportunities can be a challenge for even the most engaged doctoral students. As doctoral students, you may have heard at some point, get your dissertation done, become a Teaching Assistant (TA) or Graduate Assistant (GA), publish before you graduate, and work closely with faculty. All these things are great; however, they still may not guarantee you a faculty position after graduation. This article will explore some different approaches to consider when breaking into academia.

When trying to land a faculty position or post-doc, some of these tips may be helpful to consider before graduating. 

1. Talk to Faculty in Your Field of Study

Talking to faculty in the field you wish to enter at your institution and others can be very helpful. Faculty may have connections that will prove beneficial to you. They may also be more aware of the job market and opportunities not advertised but available. When preparing to talk with faculty, have a plan. You should prepare questions you hope to gain answers to, ask for advice, and ask if it is okay to stay in touch. These are all things that will help keep you on track. Some faculty are very busy, so you want to optimize and maximize your time with them. In addition, remember that networking will take you a long way. I found this to be true in adjunct/part-time and full-time faculty opportunities. In addition to your degree, you have a better chance of landing a job if you network and get to know others in the field. Although there are many higher education institutions, the field is still relatively small for colleagues and connections. So, make the connections, build the relationships, and use the links!

2. Where Do You Want to Be?

It is also essential to think about the type of institution you want to work for. Some factors to consider include::

  • Private vs. Public institution
  • 4-year vs. 2-year or community college
  • Predominantly white vs. Historically Black College or University
  • Residential vs. Commuter Institutions
  • Rural vs. City Location
  • Size of Institution
  • Teaching Oriented vs. Teaching Institutions

All these things matter when looking for faculty positions because the idea and expectation are that you will be there for at least a few years. You do not want to take a job at an institution that is not satisfying and not helping you meet your career goals. One of the crucial steps early in the job search is to do your research to know what kinds of institutions would best fit you. Remember, yes, you want a job; however, the institution must be a good fit for you too. Seeking out the types of institutions that you would like to work in will help with job stratification and longevity within the profession. It is never too early to start thinking about which institutions will be a good fit for you to start building your career after completing your terminal degree.

3. What Are The Expectations

Knowing the expectations and requirements for landing a job is just as important as knowing what type of institution you want to work in. You will want to consider the minimum level of education (degree and certifications and licensure) required for the position. Some positions may require more than a terminal degree to be considered, so it is essential to read the job advertisement closely. Additionally, some institutions will hire doctoral candidates as long as their degree is conferred by a specific date. Be sure you are aware of this because if offered a position and your degree is not conferred by the agreed-upon date, your offer may very well be rescinded.

On the contrary, some institutions post job advertisements that say you must have a degree “in hand” this is important to note as well. It is important to pay close attention to detail, as this is the institutions’ and hiring committees’ first opportunity to evaluate you. That is, you are being observed and assessed in everything you do, from filling out the application to the job interview. You will also need to pay close attention to the kinds and years of experience the position asks you to have. There may be ways to substitute specific credentials or educational experiences for work experience, so keep this in mind. Lastly, you will want to be clear about the faculty role you want and what the institution can offer. Some faculty positions may start at the rank of instructor. Some may start at the rank of assistant professor, and some may start at associate professor, depending on your education, credentials, and experiences. In academia rank and salary matter for where to start. Suppose you plan to stay in academia and climb the ranks you want to start as high as you can. I say this because traditionally, each rank has a certain amount of time associated with how long you need to serve before you can be promoted. Lastly, you will want to know if you want to be tenured or not. Some institutions do not offer tenure. Other institutions may advertise the position as a tenure-track position, and others may require you to compete for a tenure-track position once hired and one becomes available. I say this to reiterate that you must do your research and know what options you have available.

4. Adjunct If Possible

While this may be time-consuming when trying to finish a degree, is this one of the best ways to get teaching experience. Even if you do not teach a class every semester, see if you can obtain an adjunct position, even if it is at your local community college. Teaching experience is precious when applying for full-time teaching positions. If you can show that you have even a small amount of teaching experience, it can go a long way in searching for full-time employment. Additionally, in my experiences, institutions who are hiring for full-time faculty positions often start with their adjuncts. If you are qualified and already an employee, you are more likely to have a shot at the full-time job that opens. Remember, adjunct teaching is not only a resume builder but a gem to have in terms of experience when applying for full-time teaching positions.

Obtaining a faculty position after completing the terminal degree is not always as easy as many may think. The terminal degree does not guarantee a faculty position, as many full-time faculty positions do not require a terminal degree. Therefore, doctoral students and postdocs who wish to gain a full-time faculty position must be thinking beyond just having the degree. It is necessary to be networking, researching, evaluating institutions and colleagues for best fit, and possibly doing some adjunct work to add a little more experience to the resume.

Do you have additional tips to add to the list? Or have specific examples of preparation techniques for doctoral students and postdocs? I would also like to hear what your experience of job hunting has been. Feel free to send your responses via Twitter @TomlinAntione so that we can continue this conversation!

Author’s Bio:

Dr. Antione D. Tomlin earned his PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is an assistant professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College.

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.

There may be a point in your career when you are asked to write a letter of recommendation as an academic. As a full-time faculty member, I have had students, colleagues, and mentees request letters of recommendation from me. While this post will lean more toward helping faculty manage expectations and navigate the process of writing a letter of recommendation for students, this information can also be applied to writing recommendations for colleagues and mentees as well. While writing a recommendation may seem simple, it can be easier said than done. Therefore, this article will provide some strategies for faculty when electing to write a letter of recommendation.

1. Establish Expectations for How/When Students Should Request

This is one of the most critical steps in the recommendation process. I set expectations with my students from the very beginning. As stated in another post, Tomlin, Colbert, and Spivey speak of encouraging students to make themselves known. So, as I encourage my students to do this, I let them know that you must request it at least three weeks in advance if you ever need a recommendation from me. I do not consider requests if there is less than three weeks’ advance notice. For me, this is because it takes me roughly that much time to manage my schedule and other obligations in order to write a strong, solid, and personable, and individualized recommendation. Therefore, unless it is an actual last-minute emergency which I determine on a case-by-case basis, all late requests will be declined. Additionally, three weeks gives me enough time to review the request and decide if I am the best faculty member for the task.

So, faculty, my tip for you is to be very clear and intentional with your students about how and when they should submit a request to you for a letter of recommendation. Remember, you get to set the time span; just be sure you can manage and keep this time span consistent for your students.

2. Be Clear on Your Role as Recommender

In the past, students have asked me for letters of recommendation, and because of my willingness and eagerness to help, I jumped at the opportunity without hesitation and automatically said yes without knowing what the student is actually requesting. Currently, in my approach, it is not that I am hesitant; however, I get more curious about what the student needs from me. There are many reasons a student may request a recommendation. A request could be for a new employment opportunity, college admission, society or professional organization, etc. Therefore, it is important to ask some questions to learn more about what the student is applying for and/or trying to achieve. I also want to know what the student’s interests are in the potential opportunity and their motivation for pursuing this opportunity. These small but intimate details provide me with more information to decide if I am the best candidate to write the letter of recommendation. 

With this, strategy #2 for faculty is to be clear on what the student is asking of you. Additionally, it is essential to know if the student would like a drafted letter of recommendation or ask you to complete a check the box form that will serve as the official recommendation. In my experiences, it is usually both that will need to be completed.

3. Be Mindful of The Timeline

Outside of setting the expectation of how far in advance you would like for students to request the letter of recommendation, you should also be mindful of the due date for the letter of recommendation. Be sure to ask the student when all documents or materials must be submitted for the letter of recommendation. If I agree to write the letter, I aim to have all materials submitted at least a week and a half before the actual due date. This will provide me with some buffer room and ensure that I am not working until the last minute. As a recommender, you should also inform the student when you intend to submit the recommendation to keep them in the loop.

4. Provide an Official Answer to The Request

While this may seem obvious, it is also essential to this process. After reviewing the request to make an informed decision about completing the request, you should formally respond to the student. You should also be sure to respond to the student quickly as to if you can or cannot provide a recommendation. I aim to provide my students with a response to their request within 48 hours. This will ensure transparency and allow students to look for other recommenders if I decide that I am not the best person to write the letter. So, faculty, be sure you have a reasonable response time to communicate an official acceptance or rejection of the request. As faculty, we must be aware of all of our obligations, and there should be no shame in not being able to say yes to every recommendation request. As stated in another post, Tomlin and Brad encourage faculty to know their limits. So, I encourage you to know what you can and cannot take on and if you decline the opportunity, consider providing the student with an explanation.

5. What You Should Include in Your Recommendation

When writing the recommendation, you want to highlight the student’s talents and accomplishments to what they are applying for. If you cannot do this, you may not be the best person to recommend and encourage the student to seek another recommender. Some standard questions/prompts to consider when drafting your letter of recommendation include:

  • Your relationship to the student and in what capacity you know their work ethic and potential on an intimate level.
  • The reasons you recommend the student for this opportunity. 
  • A “WOW” factor. Something that sets this student apart from others.
  • How this opportunity will continue to help the student reach their goals.
  • Evaluation of the students “fit” for this opportunity.
  • Your credentials and factors that make you reputable.

Do you have additional tips to add to the list? Or have specific examples of letters of recommendations? I would also like to hear what your experience and process of writing letters of recommendation have been. Feel free to send your responses via Twitter @TomlinAntione so that we can continue this conversation!

Author’s Bio:

Dr. Antione D. Tomlin earned his PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is an assistant professor & Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College.

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.

Frequently mentoring students is linked to students’ academic success. While grades are significant, we suggest that mentoring students is so much more than providing a focus on academics. In fact, we argue that supporting students holistically will foster relationships and environments for success in and out of the classroom. In this article, we provide tips, strategies, and practices we have found beneficial to faculty in aiding mentoring and supporting students. Additionally, if you are a student seeking a mentor, these best practices will be helpful to you as well.

Tips, Strategies, and Practices for Mentoring Students

Practice 1: Establishing The Relationship

Establishing a relationship is essential to creating a solid foundation for mentorships to grow and flourish. When you design the relationship with your mentee or student, you both should set expectations and goals for the mentorship. The first step to a successful mentorship is designing your relationship. This will ensure that both mentor and mentee or student know the rules of engagement and what to expect from the commitment.. Below, we provide examples of the different types of potential mentorships.

The Structured Relationship
We define this relationship as a pairing of two individuals based on a shared and mutually beneficial goal. An example of this is when an adjunct is paired with a tenured faculty member in the workplace. This provides a space for training and an opportunity for the adjunct to get acclimated to the institution. The tenured faculty member is developing their training , developing skills, and showing their competency in their role. This type of relationship creates a continuum of learning and development. With students, we sometimes see upper-level students establish similar relationships with first-year students, and the premise remains the same even though the setting has changed.

The Requested Relationship
This relationship occurs when receiving a direct request from someone asking for help. In this instance, people may look at how you complete a specific task, a skill you have, your overall energy, or various other factors. This scenario is a bit more relaxed because you do not have anything prepared in advance, and you plan as you go. In the structured mentoring relationship, someone else usually lays out learning outcomes and other assessment measures to monitor the success of the mentoring relationship, but in this situation, this structure is not always present unless you intentionally create it.

The Suggested Relationship
In this type of relationship, the mentor sees an individual with a lot of potential that may be struggling in a particular area or might need a little extra support. In this instance, you have to tread very lightly to ensure that you are not making any assumptions or exposing any implicit biases based on what you see and not based on what you know to be factual. So in these instances, it would be imperative to build a rapport and establish trust before formally introducing the idea of mentoring to the person because they may not be interested or may not know what it entails. Hearing it from someone they are not too familiar with might cause them to shy away from the thought, but if there is a relationship in the making, there is a chance they will be more invested.

Practice 2: Create Boundaries

As with any relationship, this is important because you need to make sure that you are comfortable and feel respected within the mentorship. Often people think that there is common courtesy and sense that everyone should be aware of, but from personal experience, we have determined that to be a rare commodity. So to avoid all of the unnecessary confusion, be clear and direct from the beginning. Ask those direct questions about communication and preferences and share yours as well so that you and your mentee or student are on the same page. This will also help to hold one another accountable. This practice not only creates a collective and agreeable space for you and your mentee or student, but it enables you both to model the behaviors in other aspects of your lives. It is important to model it in all aspects of your life because it brings you peace and helps to keep you whole.

Practice 3: Set Expectations

Setting expectations is something that is overlooked, as people tend to only talk about issues after a problem arises. However, things can be very chaotic if expectations are not set from the very beginning. Setting expectations helps eliminate issues as it gives a point of reference of where the violations occur and how to rectify them. This tip goes hand in hand with those boundaries because you want the mentorship to work, but it must have a solid foundation. The foundation of mentorship must be collectively built, and this is where the blueprint lies. A good way to think about setting expectations is to think about what you need in a relationship and to write those things down to include in your designed relationship. This does not have to be formal, rather a way to be sure that each person in the relationship has their needs met.

Practice 4: Challenge and Support

When in a mentorship, it is essential to continue nourishing and growing the relationship. One of the ways to do this is to make sure that accountability structures are in place. As faculty, you always want to be thinking of ways to grow your mentees or students both personally and professionally. The idea of challenge and support is that you push your student to engage in activities that will help them grow, and while it may be difficult, you support them through the learning experience. This requires us as mentors to know the growth areas for our mentees or students and intentionally provide opportunities for those areas to be further developed. Within the following sections, we will provide strategies for mentors to strengthen their mentoring muscle of challenging and supporting.

Check In
This tip sounds so simple, and it is one of the most important. As a mentor, we encourage you to schedule and set times to check-in with your mentees or students. These check-ins could be formal or informal. Once you get an idea of the best modes and communication methods with your student or mentee, you both can decide if formal or informal check-ins will benefit the relationship. You might even decide that a mix of formal and informal will serve you both well. These check-ins are an opportunity to learn more about your mentee, get to know their goals and get to know what they hope to learn from you. Checking in is the first step to helping your mentee achieve their goals. So, set regular times to meet and be the additional support your mentee or student needs.

Track/Monitor Progress
Accountability is vital when it comes to tracking and monitoring your mentee or student’s progress toward their goals. You and your mentee or student should come up with a plan for how progress should be monitored. Additionally, you both should have conversations around what should be implemented or discussed when goals feel like they are not met, or someone in the mentorship is not contributing 100% effort. Having a detailed plan and understanding of how to track and monitor progress toward goals will aid with providing additional advice and support when needed. Having a plan also creates more structure and support for the mentorship. Setting goals, assessing goals, and making changes based on what is learned will help the mentorship thrive. Remember, if you do not evaluate progress, you do not know what is working and what is not.   

Encourage Self-Advocacy
This tip is essential as it begins to shift your mentee or student’s mindset. As a mentor, teaching a mentee or student how to advocate for themselves and then encouraging them to do so starts to move them from being dependent to independent. As a mentor, one of your long-term goals within the mentorship should help the mentee or student become more independent. The mentee or student should learn that they have their best interest at heart, and who better to speak on their behalf than themselves? So, provide opportunities, learning moments and identify opportunities for students to practice speaking up and voicing their needs and concerns. This will help mentees or students become independent and gain transferable skills that will serve them greatly after your mentorship with them has concluded. 

Practice 5: Know Your Limits

As a mentor, you must know what you can and cannot commit yourself to. Self-care is essential, and if you over-commit or extend yourself, you will not be as effective for your mentees or students. So, we strongly encourage you as a mentor to know what your limits are so that you do not become burnt out. Being able to communicate what is and is not possible in your mentorship will preserve you and teach your mentees or students the same. They learned that they, too, get some control and autonomy over what they can commit and dedicate time, energy, and effort. As humans, we are naturally wired to want to help and accomplish many things. However, we must fight the urge to want to do everything. Checkin-in with yourself and identify limits will support not just your mentorships but other relationships you have too. 

Do you have additional practices to add to the list? Or have specific examples of what these practices look like in action? We would also like to hear what you have found helpful when mentoring students. Feel free to send your responses via Twitter (@TomlinAntione and @jennuwin_jay) so that we can continue this conversation!

Authors’ Bios:

Dr. Antione D. Tomlin earned his PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is an assistant professor of Academic Literacies and English at Anne Arundel Community College.

Professor Jenn C. Brad is currently working on her PhD in Higher Education Administration with a concentration in Student Affairs from Morgan State University. She also currently works as an Assistant Director at one of the residential facilities at the University of Maryland College Park and as an adjunct in the Human Services field at several community colleges in the DMV area. 

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.

Full-time faculty members could have multiple reasons for wanting to become tenure. Many of these reasons may include job security and stability, increase in pay, ability to lean into academic freedom, and in some cases, more autonomy. Regardless of the reasons for wanting tenure, it is a pretty lovely accomplishment to achieve if you desire it. While not all faculty will aspire for a tenure position, those who do may find that the process feels secretive or exclusive. This article will explore some of the things faculty should know about applying for a tenure-track position. This article will specifically provide advice for faculty in full-time positions that seek to convert to tenure-track positions. While each institution’s tenure-track process is different, I will give a few basics that all faculty applying should know. As a professor who recently went through this process, here is what I wished I knew in advance. 

Key stages of preparation include:

  1. Sending your intent to apply
  2. Preparing your portfolio for review
  3. Preparing for your interview
  4. Preparing for your classroom teaching observations 

It is essential to successfully complete all four steps to have a fair shot at obtaining a tenure-track position. I will provide an overview of each step and provide you with information on how to plan for each stage in the tenure-track appointment process.

Step 1: Provide Your Intent to Apply

Your institution should notify you when you are eligible to apply for a tenure-track position. However, it would be best if you also review your institution’s faculty manual to be sure you know when you will be eligible as well. If you aspire to obtain a tenure position, you should create a list of requirements and keep track of when you meet or achieve each eligibility condition. This will help you to be sure and feel confident when it is time for you to apply for a tenure position. Additionally, the letter of intent to apply will vary based on institutions. Institutions may ask for a formal letter, simple email, or an application to satisfy your intention to apply requirements. Whatever the format, you will want to complete and submit your intent to apply, as this is the document that will set your application in motion. Your intent to apply shows that you are serious about the position. It notifies all individuals (Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dean, Assistant Dean, Department Chair, Coordinator, etc.) who may be able to support, mentor, coach, and guide you through the process. Your letter of intent should include your name, current position, position you are applying for, and academic year. You should also check to see if you will need to have any additional documents from your institution that demonstrate your eligibility to apply. Below you will find a brief example of what your letter of intent could include.

Dear, (Insert name of person you are submitting your letter to).

With great pleasure, I, Dr. Antione D. Tomlin, Assistant Professor of Academic Literacies and English, submit my intent to apply for the Tenure-Track position for the 2020-2021 academic year. I am excited about the next steps and look forward to confirmation of my intent to apply. Thank you.


Antione D. Tomlin, PhD

Step 2: Preparing Your Portfolio

Now that you have sent your intent to apply for the tenure-track position, you will need to gather your teaching materials. Your tenure-track committee will want to see a portfolio you created to demonstrate your teaching effectiveness, scholarship, professional growth and development, and dedication to your field and institution. Keep in mind, even though you may know your committee, they will also evaluate you based on what you have submitted, not what they know about you. So, include everything you think will make a reasonable justification as to why you deserve a tenure position. Leave nothing to chance; you may only get one shot to apply for tenure. As you create your tenure portfolio, below are a few things to consider including. Some institutions may use a faculty information system to aid in the data collection and submission of evaluation materials; check with your institution’s tenure-track committee to determine how you submit materials.

1. Samples of Course Materials 

Your course materials could include syllabi, tests, handouts, lab assignments, discussion posts, etc. These materials will give the committee an idea of the level of rigor, organization, innovation, and detail you use to facilitate your course. Additionally, these materials will provide the committee a glance at your expectations of students as faculty. Therefore, it is vital to review your materials for structure, accuracy, and clarity. Rule of thumb, if your tenure-track committee cannot understand your materials, your students probably cannot either, and that’s not a discovery that would work in your favor when applying for tenure.

2. Summary of Faculty Records

At many institutions, faculty have some record or report they need to complete that demonstrates their work through the academic year. This record or report encapsulates significant faculty responsibilities, professional activities, accomplishments, and contributions throughout the academic year. Some of the areas highlighted include a. Professional Responsibilities, b. Teaching Effectiveness, c. Professional Growth, d. Department Services, and e. College/Community Service. For your tenure application, you will want to combine all of your faculty records from each year at your institution and create a summary. This will provide the tenure-track committee with a snapshot of your major responsibilities, accomplishments, and contributions during your time at your institution. This is where you really get to sell yourself, so do not sell yourself short!

3. Summary of Student Evaluation Forms

Including Student Evaluation or Opinion Forms may be optional depending on your institution. If they are to be included, you will want to include a mixture of good and constructive feedback. You will want to provide narrative summaries of your feedback, possibly making the feedback more digestible for your committee when they review. Include good feedback that showcases your rapport with students and effectiveness as a faculty member. You will also want to have feedback that provides constructive suggestions. This will let the committee know that you are serious about continuous improvement. Be sure to mention how you addressed and made changes to develop as a faculty member based on the feedback received.

4. Other Relevant Information

Lastly, you will want to include any other documentation that you feel will help your portfolio shine. Additional relevant information or materials could consist of personal statements, letters documenting service, research, presentations, publications, etc. This is the section in your portfolio where you get to toot your own horn a bit. Only you know everything you have done and accomplished, so  do not hold back; include as much as you can.

The last tip for preparing your portfolio: treat it as an application. Remember, you will not be able to explain any of the materials in your portfolio, so it needs to be very detailed, organized, and well-written. Your portfolio should tell the committee all the things you would if you were face-to-face while they reviewed. 

Step 3: Preparing for the Teaching Observation

Most likely, your tenure-track committee will need to visit your courses to perform an observation. Your committee will be coming to your classes to observe a few things. Two critical criteria might include content and facilitation. Below I will share some checklists that the committee may use during their evaluations. 

  • Demonstrated knowledge of subject matter
  • Presented materials in an organized manner and made productive use of class time
  • Presented materials at a level appropriate to its importance and difficulty
  • Explanations were clear and sufficient
  • Method of presentation seemed effective for course materials
  • Effectively encouraged and maintained student interests and involvement 
  • Effectively addressed student responses
  • Relationship with students seemed conducive to learning 
  • Greatest strengths

These are some of the criteria that observers may use when visiting your course. Additionally, observers may use the above criteria as a tool to assist with the observation, and they will most likely create narratives about their experience in class. That is to say, they will be drafting more open-ended responses to the above criteria. Lastly, remember to breathe and have fun! Engagement and mastery of the art of teaching are what your committee will be looking to observe.

Step 4: Preparing for the Interview with the Committee

For some, this step in the process can be the most daunting or terrifying, and it does not have to be. With preparation and support, you can approach your interview from a more fun and confident perspective. The question of “Why do you want tenure?” may come up, so yes, practice your response to this question. However, that is not the only question that would help the committee gain more insight into if you would be a great candidate to recommend tenure. Other questions you should be prepared to answer include:

  1. What have you done to support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and the institution’s commitment to DEI?
  2. What leadership roles have you taken on and how have they shaped your leadership philosophy? 
  3. What is your understanding and idea of student success and assessment?
  4. What have you done to improve your teaching?
  5. What is your idea of what it means to be tenure-faculty here?
  6. If granted tenure, what are you looking forward to doing within your first year? 
  7. Why have you decided to apply for tenure here?
  8. What is one thing that you learned here that will help you to be an effective tenured faculty member?
  9. How does tenure here fit into your long-term goals?

During the interview, remember to focus on you, your accomplishments, and your hopes for the future if awarded tenure. This is not the time or space to express all the negative things you have noticed at your institution or even with your tenure-track application process. 

Lastly, note that your tenure-track committee has just one recommendation in the process. While they have a significant role to play, they do not have the only say in if a candidate is awarded a tenure position or not.  The committee will send their recommendations to the Dean. In some cases, the Department Chair or Assistant Dean will also review portfolios and send their recommendations to the Dean. The Dean will consider all recommendations before sending their final recommendations to the Vice President of Academic Affairs. While this process can feel isolated and not transparent  at some institutions, I hope that this provides a little more guidance for individuals preparing to apply for tenure-track positions.

Are you preparing to apply for a tenure-track position? Need help? Have additional advice to provide? Feel free to send your responses via Twitter (@TomlinAntione) so that we can continue this conversation! 

Author’s Bio:

Dr. Antione D. Tomlin earned his PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is an assistant professor of Academic Literacies and English at Anne Arundel Community College.

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.

Dr. Antione D. Tomlin, Mr. Geoffrey L. Colbert, and Mr. Joshua Spivey

Often, we hear that attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) can be frustrating for students, for many different reasons. Some of these reasons could include, but are certainly not limited to difficulty forging relationships with faculty and staff, difficulty managing interactions with departments on campus, and feeling a lack of support to aid in student success. This piece explores some of the challenges that two current HBCU doctoral students, Geoffrey and Josh, have encountered and how they navigated those experiences. They will also provide tips for students who may face similar challenges. Additionally, as an HBCU graduate and faculty member, I will share recommendations for how faculty can support students when experiencing challenges. We also want to note that while we are all connected to Morgan State University, the lessons learned and shared are a combination of many experiences across many institutions.

Geoffrey’s Story

As an enthusiastic champion of educational equity and inclusivity, I work hard to make sure our Black and brown students are not only heard but valued within higher education. At Howard Community College, I serve as the Senior Director of Athletics, Student Conduct, and the Executive Associate to the Vice President of Student Services. In my role, I am responsible for the direction, management, and planning of athletics, student conduct, and compliance. 

I attended Radford University for my undergraduate degree, where I pursued Marketing and Management. After I graduated from Radford, I attended Walden University for my master’s degree in higher education administration. After my two experiences at Predominately White Institutions (PWIs), I realized I wanted to attend a Historically Black College and University (HBCU). Presently, I am a doctoral student in the Community College Leadership Program at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Though my journey at Morgan State University has been a rewarding one, I have also experienced quite a bit of difficulty navigating the landscape. From getting my financial aid processed to working with the records and registration department to have my grades changed, every step has presented a complication. Although I was forewarned about challenges that could exist, the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated my setbacks as my financial aid was impacted by these challenges. Furthermore, because of the delay in my financial aid being processed, I was not permitted to register for courses, putting me behind by weeks.

Joshua’s Story

The great Langston Hughes once quoted, “life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” This quote is best apt to describe my experience before attending a Historically Black College and University. By the time I enrolled at Bowie State University, I had lived a very interesting life. I believe that experiences such as barely graduating High School, serving in the United States Air Force, my time of incarceration, and my mother’s passing, all by the time of starting any college course, prepared me for life at an HBCU. 

Once I arrived at Bowie State University, I was determined to succeed, regardless of what hardship arose. After I graduated from Bowie State, I enrolled in the Media Management Master’s Program at The New School. After I graduated from The New School, I worked in Maryland, Philadelphia, PA, and Washington, DC, primarily in education. Currently, I am a Professor at Frederick Community College and a Doctoral Student in the Urban Educational Leadership program at Morgan State University. My dissertation interest is toward traumatized black high school students and how they navigate those challenges to apply and be accepted into higher education institutions.

Some of the challenges that I faced as a student who currently attends and attended an HBCU include being a non-traditional student and financial issues. Being a non-traditional student at an HBCU was a challenge because I made it one. As I reflect on my time at Bowie State, I knew I was older than some students and would try to beat people to the punchline about my age. It was a conversation that I created that did not need to be a focus. The financial issues came from realizing that I could not afford higher education without taking out loans and working two jobs while being a full-time student. I did not have a parental figure nor any other family member that could assist me with educational funding.

Tips for Students:

1. Make Yourself Known

Considering some of the challenges listed above, creating connections helped resolve some of the issues. You must make yourself known! While you may feel like a number, the only way to change that is to control the narrative. Strive to develop healthy relationships with your faculty members. Those relationships can prove to be useful when you need support from folks who may feel inaccessible. We say, call, email, send a pigeon with a letter attached if you have to! Also, remember to use your resources, build those faculty relationships, and solicit them to help.

How Faculty Can Help:

As a faculty member, I take the time to get to know my students and let them know what resources are available to them. As noted in another post, Goings and Tomlin speak of supporting doctoral students during the pandemic and how important faculty are to increasing student success. While this is not a contractual obligation, I want to be sure that my students know that every connection I have, they also have. I am very open and transparent with my students. As faculty, we must share our resources and guide our undergraduate and graduate students through difficult situations, even outside of the classroom, to see them be successful.

2. Understand Your Journey is Only Yours

You cannot compare your situation or circumstances to others. You must understand that your journey and experience at your HBCU is yours, and you should not be afraid to ask for help when needed. Theodore Roosevelt once quoted, “comparison is the thief of joy,” and we want you to look to these words of wisdom when it feels that your journey is isolating and/or frustrating.

How Faculty Can Help:

Just as students have their journey, faculty do too. As faculty, we must not forget what our journey was like when pursuing education. We must be more available and open to encouraging our students to ask for help. We must continue to normalize the idea that students asking for help is a positive thing. As faculty, we should be calling students IN instead of calling them OUT when it may seem that they could use some help. Let’s start with asking students “What questions do you have? What support might you need?”

3. Play Nice

Even when it feels like administrators, faculty, or staff could be doing something differently (usually we think about a process being completed faster), you still play nice. Being rude, overly frustrated, or angry is not going to make the process or person move more quickly; it may actually get in the way or slow something down. So, play nice! Smile, voice your concerns, and figure out what needs to be done to move forward. Then, learn from your past experiences. Evaluate what works to get you what you need, and keep doing that!

How Faculty Can Help:

As faculty, we may be a little more aware of what is happening behind the scenes within specific departments or processes. We know that in some cases, things could be done differently. This is where we can use our voice to create change. If we see or notice something, there is nothing wrong with inquiring or offering suggestions for how things could be otherwise. Stepping up when needed creates allies for students, and in this way, decreases frustration and anger on the students’ end.

How are you navigating the HBCU experience as a student and/or faculty member? Feel free to send your responses via Twitter (@Tomlinantione) so that we can continue this conversation!

Author’s Bios:

Dr. Antione D. Tomlin earned his PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is an assistant professor of Academic Literacies and English at Anne Arundel Community College.

Mr. Geoffrey Colbert is a doctoral student in the Community College Leadership program at Morgan State University and is the Senior Director of Athletics and Student Conduct, and the Executive Associate to the Vice President of Student Services. 

Mr. Joshua Spivey is a doctoral student in Urban Educational Leadership at Morgan State University and is a Professor in the Department of Communications, Humanities and the Arts at Frederick Community College.

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.