Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

Lavon Davis, MA, MEd

PhD Student

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Attending graduate school can be fun, exciting, and nerve-racking all at the same time for students. This is especially true for students during their first semester in a graduate program. This piece explores four tips, two for students and two for faculty, on how students can be successful and how faculty can support their students during the crucial transitions that graduate school requires.  

Student Tip #1: Know and Be Known

Graduate school is a meaningful experience that has the potential to shape one’s journey in a variety of ways.  It’s not always about the physical work but also about the self-work needed to progress through. With that, making meaningful connections with constituents within and outside of the institutions you are committed to becomes valuable. Ensure that you are making a conscious effort to get to know others in the research arena and beyond. This can serve as a gateway to make your name known in circles that could help expand your research and help you traverse through critical moments within your study. Getting to know others and allowing others the opportunity to know you opens up a realm of vulnerability that could be beneficial for you now and in the future.

Student Tip #2: Encourage Yourself

Many may have moments and feelings of inadequacy. Maybe you didn’t write as much as you had wanted. Maybe the quality of your work didn’t meet your own expectations. Or maybe you didn’t get the grade you were hoping for. All of these are real experiences one could undergo, but it’s essential to realize that these moments do not determine the totality of who we are. Find ways to encourage yourself throughout the week. Make encouraging notes.  Speak good things about yourself, even when you may feel like a failure—which you are not! Get the proper help and support to ensure your well-being is on track to sustain the rigors that may come with a grad program.

Faculty Tip #1: Get and Stay Curious 

While getting to know your students professionally and personally is essential, this is sometimes a small, overlooked necessity. Take the time to learn what you can about your students, where they see this degree taking them, what research interest they hold, and what excitement, nerve, and fear they bring to the journey. Taking the time to ask curious questions will help to remove any assumptions we may have as faculty, as curiosity will aid in the removal of barriers. 

Faculty Tip #2: Let Go! 

This tip is easier said than done. When we say let go, we mean it. Let go of the ancient ways of instructing, grading, approaching supportive techniques, and mentorship. Lean into innovative trends, strategies, and practices. We are not suggesting that you change everything immediately; however, as educators, we must change our approaches to meet the needs of our students. So, we encourage you to examine your practices and see if they truly align with the mission and goal of aiding student success. Then, we encourage you to seek and implement one new practice that will continue to support student success. 

Feel free to join us in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione and @LvnDvs

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Lavon Davis, MA, MEd, is a current PhD student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program, focusing on sociolinguistics and how language grants or denies access. He has been working in higher education for nearly 10 years and serves as an Assistant Director for Communication and Learning at Georgetown University. In addition, he also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Anne Arundel Community College in the Academic Literacies Department.

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

Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

Hiawatha D. Smith, PhD

Assistant Professor, Literacy Education

University of Wisconsin River Falls

Graduate school is an investment in your future. More specifically, it has the potential to positively impact your salary, career opportunities, and knowledge within your field of study. Applying to graduate school can be fun, exciting, frustrating, and anxiety-provoking all at the same time. As faculty who have experienced the infinite emotions that potentially arise when applying to graduate school, we pull from our personal experience to offer four tips to consider when completing the process. During this process, you will want to think about the financial aspects, the admissions requirements, and the benefits of graduate school, but this post moves beyond this to highlight tips that we feel are underlying keys to success. While applying for graduate school can bring some stress, we also encourage you to think deeply about how you may be able to bring joy to this essential decision-making and doing process.  Moreover, whether you are applying to a master’s or doctoral program, we are sure that these tips will aid in supporting both processes.   

Tip #1: Investigate the Program. Is it a Mutually Good Fit?

This tip might seem like common sense, but it is often overlooked. Therefore, we urge you to complete a thorough investigation of the program you are contemplating before completing an application. It is important to understand the program’s requirements, features, and outcomes, as well as your goals/needs from your graduate experience. These program components are inconsistent across universities and therefore merit a solid exploration. Here are some ideas to consider when exploring and applying to a program. What is the format of the program? Is it face-to-face, hybrid (regular or intermittent meeting schedule), or fully online? What are the requirements for completion? Is there a thesis, research project, practicum, or external assessment required to complete the degree requirements? Last, what are your goals for the program? Are you interested in a new career, career advancement, or advanced certification? After investigating these, ask yourself if this is a mutually good fit.  

Tip #2: Chat with Students & Faculty in Your Desired Program

A tip that could be reasonably simple—yet take you a long way—is to make an effort to connect with students and faculty affiliated with the graduate program under consideration. Connecting in this way could not only put your face with your name for faculty when making decisions about acceptance, but it could also give you some inside perspective on if this is indeed the right program for you and your life. Remember, just as much as your desired program is taking a chance on you, you also need to be sure the program feels like a good home and fit for you. Lastly, folks closely aligned and affiliated with your program are uniquely positioned to help you understand the journey to and completion through the graduate program. So, we say, use your resources, and work smart, not hard.   

Tip #3: Ask an Alum to Write A Letter of Recommendation 

We admit this tip is more strategic than a traditional must-do for your application. Securing a letter of recommendation from a graduate of your desired program shows your potential institution and program your passion and connection to the content area.. Having a letter from someone who has completed the program you are applying to serves as a gesture of goodwill and ability. You are signaling to the program that not only do you believe you can, but others who have successfully done it believe you can as well. Lastly, asking an alum to write you a strong letter of recommendation also puts the program in a position to justify why they went against the better judgment of someone they trained themselves, should they decide to deny your application. If “real recognize real,” then having an alum to highly recommend you in a letter should make your application for admission even stronger.   

Tip #4: Plan your Personal Statement

This statement has many names, but it has a single goal, to showcase you for the reviewers. This essential component of the application process is a snapshot of who you are beyond the other application materials. It highlights your intentions and goals, how you fit within the program, and why you should be admitted to the program. With the importance of this document, you should carefully plan this statement. Read then reread the prompt(s) for the statement. Be sure you understand exactly what it is asking you to do. Next, jot down notes to be sure you answer all components. Then, think about what makes you unique, what makes you stand out? Integrate this within your written narrative, highlighting the unique qualities that make you a good candidate for the program. Last, are there faculty you wish to work with during your program? Identify them for the reviewers. 

Feel free to join us in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Hiawatha D. Smith, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy education at the University of Wisconsin River Falls. In addition to his teaching responsibilities within the teacher education department, he is the director of the graduate elementary education program.  Dr. Smith is a member of the Diversity Scholars Network at the University of Michigan and a 2022 NCTE Early Career Educator of Color award recipient.

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

Applying for faculty positions can be a great deal of work, and preparing materials for submission takes time and skill. So, it is essential to consider what should be included in your application to score high during the committee selection process. As a potential full-time faculty member, your application will be scored and reviewed based on many criteria. This post will share tips to package a well-rounded application for full-time faculty positions.

Talk to Faculty in the Department

When seeking and applying for a faculty position, knowing the institution you are applying for and the faculty already working there is vital. So, it is necessary and can only help you talk with some of the faculty in the department. Therefore, research the potential school and department you are applying for and look at the faculty they have. Reach out to the faculty to get a feel of the environment and energy you may be working in, and, if possible, find the newer faculty and get their insight too. This is beneficial as they would be the faculty who have the most insight into what it was like as a candidate, someone who was in your shoes more recently than other members in the department.

Preparing Your Materials

After talking to faculty in the department to which you are applying, use any tips and strategies to align your materials with their expectations. In addition to those tips, I will provide additional things to consider when organizing your application. Below, you will find different categories and criteria used to score initial applications.

Teaching Effectiveness & Student Engagement

One category to be sure to speak to when putting your application packet together is teaching effectiveness and student engagement. Departments want to see that you have a proven record of teaching effectiveness. Some of the criteria that may be used to score your application include:

  • Knowledge and use of innovative teaching strategies to promote student success
  • Knowledge and experience with engaging teaching strategies
  • Knowledge and/or experience engaging students beyond the classroom (advising, student activities, internships, research, etc.)
  • Strong content knowledge closely aligned with the needs of the department/school
  • Strong pedagogical knowledge
  • Strong knowledge of instructional technology and/or distance learning aligned with the needs of the department/school
  • Experience with learning outcomes assessment

Collaborative Experience Within Your Department, College/School, and Community

A second category to be sure to demonstrate your experience is collaboration. Departments want to know they are hiring a faculty member who is a team player and works well with others. If you do not have these professional experiences from other institutions or jobs, call upon your community and/or graduate experiences as they relate to successful collaboration. Some criteria that may be used to evaluate collaboration include:

  • Experience developing and managing partnerships (K-12, business and industry, community organizations, other colleges, e.g., 2+2, etc.)
  • Evidence of successful teamwork and collaboration with colleagues or demonstrated evidence of college/department service
  • Experience mentoring colleagues and/or students
  • Evidence of successful student outreach and/or recruitment activities
  • Experience designing and developing curriculum within multiple modalities
  • Experience developing and/or implementing programming in response to needs within the community (e.g., continuing education, extended learning, and/or workforce education)

Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

This category is one that more and more institutions are expecting to be at the core of your teaching philosophy and approach to supporting students broadly. Some criteria to speak to in your application include:

  • Knowledge and experience working with diverse populations (e.g., minority, low income, special needs, veterans, first-generation, varying ages, etc.)
  • Demonstrated knowledge of integrating equity in the discipline’s courses, programs, and college curriculum and eradicating equity gaps
  • Cultural competence and an ability to respect differences and alternative perspectives
  • Demonstrated commitment to institution’s values

Professional Development/Continuous Improvement

The last category shared will be professional development. Institutions like to see that you stay current in your field and continue learning, growing, and expanding your knowledge base. Some things to consider highlighting in your application are:

  • Demonstrated commitment to continuous improvement and understanding of the need for professional growth and development
  • Evidence that candidate aligns career goals with the needs of the institution

Feel free to join us in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione.

Authors Bio:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

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

Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

Dr. Darian Senn-Carter

Professor + Interim Director of the Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Institute

Anne Arundel Community College

Gaining a full-time faculty position can be very competitive. One way to set yourself apart from the tons of other qualified candidates would be to have outstanding letters of recommendation. Just as we encourage students to seek recommenders who will write glowing letters, the same is true for individuals seeking faculty appointments. Excellent letters of recommendation can be the only part of an application packet that sets you apart from the rest of the pool, especially if you have similar qualifications and credentials. This post will share four items to include in a letter of recommendation for faculty candidates to stand out.

Introduction (of self and explanation of relationship with applicant)

It is vital first to understand the audience for your letter and to tailor the letter to each specific application. Recommendation letters should include an introduction of the recommender and an introduction of the applicant. The applicant’s introduction is essential to establish who the applicant is and what they are applying for. In the introduction of the recommender, emphasize what uniquely qualifies you to endorse the applicant. Detail your profession, credentials, and relationship to the applicant, including the length of time you have known the applicant. The introduction should concisely establish your intent to provide a strong endorsement of the applicant.   


A large portion of the recommendation letter should speak to the applicant’s qualifications. We encourage recommenders to closely match the job posting details with the applicant’s strengths and capabilities. Here, you will want to clarify how the applicant’s qualifications align and overlap with the employer’s needs. Here is where the recommender will need to connect the dots, not assuming that the employer will make connections on their own. When drafting the letter’s qualifications section, consider the applicant’s teaching effectiveness, service, awards and recognitions, and other related work experience.  

Academic excellence with examples

When sharing examples of the applicant’s record of academic excellence, you should include their teaching effectiveness, commitment to student success, and impact on students. Having an outstanding record of academic excellence is essential, as higher education provides teaching and learning processes to advance students’ knowledge and skill development. Consequently, academic excellence is the paramount focus of faculty. As faculty, content knowledge is demonstrated through mastery and currency of knowledge. Recommendation letters should prominently feature the applicant’s academic excellence with specific examples. Areas that might speak to an applicant’s academic excellence include course and curriculum design, innovative teaching and/or research practices, practical advising/mentoring approaches, and fostering collegial collaboration and relationships.    

Department, college, school, community service

Higher education relies upon faculty members’ time, energy, and resources to accomplish its institutional mission to support students. If academic excellence is the primary focus for faculty, service is the second focus. Through departmental, college, and school service, faculty can contribute and participate in institutional shared governance. In addition to institutional service (department, college, and school), faculty also provide service to the community through scholarship and sharing of expertise. Therefore, recommenders should include the applicant’s service experience specific to the position with examples highlighting success and effectiveness.

Academic and professional experience

Recommendation letters for faculty positions should emphasize the applicant’s knowledge, skills, and abilities as an academician and areas of expertise that the applicant is passionate about. This emphasis should include descriptions with examples. Faculty are subject matter experts in their respective fields and must actively explore, expand, and deepen their knowledge as subject matter experts. Typically, faculty have developed their expertise in their particular discipline overtime via educational and professional experiences. Moreover, experts maintain a rigorous program of ongoing study in their field. Faculty are responsible for advancing their professions and enhancing the quality of scholarly and professional organizations. Therefore, recommendation letters should speak to the strides applicants are making in this area. 

Awards and recognition

While the applicant will likely include awards and recognition in their application materials, including awards and recognition in recommendation letters will highlight specific accolades for the search committee. Awards recognizing the applicant’s contributions in teaching, profession, the community, and students are all noteworthy. Here you can also speak to the qualities, characteristics, and transferable skills the applicant demonstrated to earn the award and recognition.  


Recommenders should conclude the letter with a strong endorsement. It would be best to be specific and explicit with exemplary qualities (positive traits, skills) that resonate with you about the applicant. Again, recommendation letters should start with a strong applicant endorsement that is then supported with specific experiences and examples. To conclude, recommendation letters directly relate the applicant’s qualifications with the position they are applying for (it is best to include some specific information about the position, department, school, or college). Be sure to explicitly state your endorsement of the applicant, emphasizing their potential contributions. Lastly, include your contact information and offer to be of assistance should the search committee require any additional information.  

Recommendation letters should be personalized

Recommendation letters should be personalized, demonstrating a genuine connection between the applicant and recommender. Search committees are tasked with reviewing many application packets, and generic recommendation letters can adversely impact the review of an applicant when the recommendation letter does not indeed strengthen the application. Recommendation letters should be written by those who know the applicant and can speak to their knowledge, skills, and abilities without reservation. Recommendation letters should only come from those who feel comfortable supporting the applicant and can provide a positive, enthusiastic, genuine, and personalized letter.

Feel free to join us in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione or LinkedIn:

Authors Bios:

Darian Senn-Carter, EdD, is a tenure-track Full Professor + Interim Director of the Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Institute at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Senn-Carter is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.  

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

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

Anne H. Charity Hudley, PhD

Professor of Education and African-American Studies and Linguistics

Stanford University

Christine Mallinson, PhD

Professor of Language, Literacy, and Culture Program and Director of the Center for Social Science Scholarship

University of Maryland Baltimore County

Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

“I’m Black; my language is Black, my being is Black,” said one college graduate we interviewed. “You don’t need permission to be Black or to use your Black language. Demand the respect be put on your language because your Black language matters, and so do you!”

In 2018, our team began the Talking College Project, a four-year study, where we worked with over 100 Black and African American undergraduate and graduate students across the U.S. Students shared about their linguistic experiences in college and why recognition and respect for Black language and culture is something that all Black college students and the faculty who work with them need to know. 

Black college students deserve to reap the benefits of decades of linguistic research into Black language practices, including the specific variety often referred to as African American English. Linguists know that all languages and varieties have inherent value. From a Black-centered perspective, the cultural value of Black language practices is even more important. Through language and communication, social relationships and community belonging are forged. 

The need for this information to reach Black students and faculty is a critical equity issue in education, as we support all students to claim and create their own linguistic and cultural destinies. Black language matters because Black lives matter.

Your Language Is Your Black Is Your Beautiful

In the words of our student researchers, your language is your Black is your beautiful. What Black people say is a key pathway through which Blackness is transmitted culturally, and how Black people talk is also a cultural enactment of Blackness. When we talk about Blackness, we’re referring to a broad set of experiences of history, culture, identity, and community. Language is central to Blackness in all its variability.

Across the Black Diaspora, the cultural value of Black language practices is seen in homes and with friends, in speeches and sermons and songs, in person and online. In college, Black students use African American English and Black language practices as a means of preserving meaning and of establishing points of cultural connection with one another. 

Given the principle that language is culture, we challenge the damaging belief that Black language is deficient. Too often, Black students receive this false message. Such claims are not true: Your language is not broken, nor are you. Language variation does not diminish in any way a person’s intellect or aptitude.  Black is beautiful, and Black language is, too.

Your Black Don’t Have to Look or Sound Like Someone Else’s

There isn’t just one way to communicate. Some Black people use African American English, some use it situationally, some don’t use it at all, and many Black people use other languages and language varieties. Language is a product and a repository of Black culture, but it is not what makes a person Black.

As our student researchers put it, your Black don’t have to look like or sound like someone else’s. How a person uses language is shaped by their communities and their individual experiences. A person’s entire linguistic knowledge—the languages, varieties, and styles that they use or know to any degree—makes up their personal linguistic repertoire.

Black students deserve to name, understand, and own the linguistic variation that they may have intuited throughout their lives. The National Council of Teachers of English and the Conference on College Composition and Communication stated this point in 1974 and have reaffirmed it ever since: Students have the right to their own language—including all the spoken, signed, written, and gestural characteristics that give Black languages and language varieties their richness and cultural resonance.

Black Language Is Activism, and It Is Powerful beyond Measure 

Language has always been a primary site of unification and resistance for Black people—from the antebellum period, when enslaved Africans sang songs to guide freedom seekers, to the contemporary era, when social justice leaders organized a global movement around the phrase #BlackLivesMatter.

Black college students led the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Today, Black college students are still rising up and taking a stand for racial justice and systemic social change. You know your language and what it can do, especially when it joins with other voices. Language is a tool of the Black freedom struggle and liberation.

Black college students are key to a new tradition of liberatory linguistics that can bring about change in higher education. Based on our research, we created strategies, modeled after the Speak Up! Campaign of the Southern Poverty Law Center, to support Black students in claiming their linguistic agency and creating linguistic inclusion on college campuses. 

  • Be Prepared.Claim your language and challenge anti-Blackness. Where you can, speak out if someone devalues your (or someone else’s) language—such as, “My language is my culture” and “We preserve our language to preserve our meaning, value, and worth.”
  • Be Encouraging. Help others stand up for linguistic justice and speak out against linguistic racism. Express your support for brave peers who insist on their right to their linguistic identity and heritage.
  • Be Confident. Advocate for linguistic rights whenever you can. Where can students hear, see, and use Black language, language varieties, and culture on campus? Where can greater linguistic inclusion be achieved in classes and on campus?
  • Be Proactive. Create the linguistic climate that you seek. Join with faculty and staff mentors who can help advocate on students’ behalf. Through linguistic activism, you can create a more welcoming place for Black languages, varieties, and those who use them.

You Know Your Language

There is so much left to learn about Black and African American college students’ linguistic experiences. To do so requires gathering more knowledge from students themselves—including those who speak African American English, those who don’t, those who flip the switch, and those who mix it up.

We hope to motivate Black and African American college students to do their own research into Black language practices, through community-centered models of doing linguistics. Be bold and share your experiences to converse and learn together, and consider how your research can advance linguistic justice. After all, you know your language better than anyone else. 

Feel free to join us in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione, @clmallinson, and @Acharityhudley

Authors Bios:

Anne H. Charity Hudley, PhD, is Professor of Education and African-American Studies and Linguistics, by courtesy at Stanford University. Her research and publications address the relationship between language variation and educational practices and policies across the educational lifespan from preschool through graduate school, particularly for Black students. She has a special dedication to creating high-impact practices for underrepresented students in higher education. Charity Hudley is the co-author of numerous publications and four books: The Indispensable Guide to Undergraduate Research, We Do Language: English Language Variation in the Secondary English Classroom, Understanding English Language Variation in U.S. Schools, and Talking College Making Space for Black Language Practices in Higher Education. Charity Hudley is a fellow of the Linguistic Society of America and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Christine Mallinson, PhD, is professor in the Language, Literacy, and Culture Program and affiliate professor in the Department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), where she also is the founding director of the Center for Social Science Scholarship. The author and editor of numerous books and articles, Mallinson draws upon interdisciplinary frameworks from linguistics, education, and sociology to examine language as a socially and culturally contextualized practice in ways that are community-centered while also informing educational policy and practice. She is the past chair and a current member of the LSA Ethics Committee, as well as a member of the LSA Committee on Ethnic Diversity in Linguistics. She is past associate editor of the journal American Speech, and she has served on the editorial boards of the journals American Speech, Language and Linguistics Compass, and Voice & Speech Review.

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

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

In the United States, we live in a climate where higher education institutions and organizations have diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism at the forefront of their missions, visions, and strategic plans. However, as a Black academic or Blackademic, educator and DEIA champion, I am not sure I always see institutions and organizations walking the walk and doing the work it takes to live up to those missions, visions, and strategic plans. This piece will offer insight to educators on small steps they can take at the individual level to foster inclusion and equity in their classrooms. 

As a scholar who studies many areas within language, literacy, and culture, I acknowledge the importance of my identities and intersections as a Black, gay male. I also am mindful of the many intersections my students bring to the classroom.

From day one, I tell my students that I can only be myself and encourage them to figure out what they want to bring to our space. Additionally, I share that if I am not having fun, they probably aren’t either. With that being said, here are some tips to creating an inclusive environment in the classroom:

1. Be Yourself (A Human)

While this may seem basic, many faculty and educators forget that it is okay to show all sides of their personalities. As humans, we are whole creative beings, so we should actively resist the pressure to only “act” or “be” a certain way in front of the class. We should let it be known if we are having an awesome day.

We should also let it be known if we are having a tough day. The more our students see us as humans and not authority figures, the more they open up and share about themselves. To clarify, if you are having a rough day, I am not saying to go in with an attitude. However, I am saying to acknowledge that your day isn’t going well, and that you will try your best to leave it at the door and support the course as best as possible.

This practical modeling lets students know it’s okay to have an off day and still press on. Creating this type of space allows for the creation of permission and autonomy that students may use to stay engaged, focused, and retained, not just in your course but also at the institution.

2. Learn Every Student’s Name

No matter how big or small the course is, faculty should go out of their way to identify each student by name. This approach lets students know that we see them and care enough to learn their names. To take it further, I always encourage my students to share their preferred pronouns and/or nickname with me. I also model an introduction so students can use the skills necessary to inform others of what they like to be called.

At the beginning of each semester, I say, “Hello. My name is Dr. Antione Tomlin. You MAY call me Dr. Tomlin.” Then I encourage them to use my same template to introduce themselves and tell us what we MAY call them. This level of awareness creates a space for all to take control and have confidence over their name, identity, and whole being.

3. Ask and Use Preferred Pronouns 

Using preferred pronouns is of the utmost importance, especially within the classroom. An easy way to honor names and pronouns is to ask students how they prefer to be addressed at the start of the semester. Just as you would ask a student their preferred name, you can request their preferred pronouns as well. I do this by asking students to create name tents at the start of the semester.

I encourage them to write their preferred name and pronouns, along with a picture that tells us something about them that they would like us to know. I collect the name tents at the end of each class and redistribute each class after. This helps me remember each student’s name and helps them learn each other’s names too.

I have received such great feedback from students about how this small thing makes a big difference in their comfortability and a sense of purpose and belongingness in the course.

4. Ask “What” not “Why” Questions  

I have made it a point center questions around  “what” instead of “why”. “What” questions create open-ended dialogue and space for conversations to evolve. “Why” questions could create a space of judgment and defensiveness. For example, instead of asking a student, “Why did you do it that way?” I will say, “What is important about doing it that way?” This allows the student to dig deep, think, and respond more insightfully than defensively.

As educators, we should not be interrogating or intimidating our students; we should encourage curiosity and dialogue, and “what” questions do just that. Additionally, as educators, we should be open to responses that are not traditionally aligned with what we expect an answer to be. For example, when I ask a question to my class, sure I have a general idea of what I am hoping for an answer; however, I do not dismiss answers that fall outside of that personal/internal expectation. I often respond to those answers and say, “Oh, that’s interesting, tell me more about that perspective.”

This way encourages dialogue and allows me to see the student’s perspective and how they arrived at the answer they did. This approach reinforces my stance on encouraging students to participate and share and allows for personal and lived experiences to be inserted into the learning space, creating additional opportunities for all perspectives to be heard and honored.

Inclusion and Diversity with Feedback  

Moreover, I will share some of the thoughts from my students in a winter course I am currently teaching. Anonymously, I asked my students to document what I have done to make them feel included and valued in the class. Some of the things my students shared included the following statements:

  • “Very welcoming”
  • “Interacting with students with funny and joyful comments”
  • “Very observant and included students in conversation”
  • “Kind and inviting”
  • “Open conversations and knew everyone by name”
  • “Prompt responses to emails and patience and knowledgeable”

While I enjoyed reading my students’ feedback and appreciate their experience, as an educator, I always continue to look for opportunities to learn and grow. I encourage my fellow educators to do the same. Enhance what is working in your classrooms, and scrap what is not. Continuous improvement is vital, and creating assessment and evaluation opportunities helps us see what needs to be tweaked. So, please, use the tips that work for you, scrap those that do not, and create new ones.

Last, but certainly not least, I want to give a personal shoutout to my students for providing their feedback and experiences as I gathered information to write this post. Thank you, Erin Archer, Corey Ford, Ean McChesney, Jade Nadal, Kaden Noble, and Deasia Warren. I am forever grateful.

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!

Author’s Bio:

Antione D. Tomlin

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

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:

Antione D. Tomlin

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

Working as an adjunct faculty member can be rewarding and exhausting work. This is especially true if the bulk of your income comes from working multiple adjunct positions at numerous institutions. While I am a full-time faculty member now, I simultaneously served in an adjunct faculty role for five years at various institutions before landing a full-time position. So, I know firsthand, all too well, how difficult it can be to obtain and maintain a consistent or at least somewhat reliable adjunct faculty position.

Although adjuncts are teaching more significant percentages of courses than full-time faculty, it can still be challenging to get your foot in the door. This post will delve into strategies for obtaining adjunct faculty roles in these very competitive times.

1. Do Your Research

As a potential or current adjunct, it is crucial always to see what is available. Most departments need adjuncts last minute, so opportunities may come and go very quickly. Therefore, it is essential to look for potential opportunities constantly, so you are at the top of mind when departments are looking to hire someone quickly to fill last-minute scheduling/staffing needs.

A few approaches to help with this may be to check in with and regularly. Additionally, you can anticipate an increase in postings as each semester is ending (April-May and November-December), as departments will be hiring adjuncts for the following term then. This will allow you to see what has been posted and is available.

In addition, it is a good idea to check each institution’s employment page as well, as some institutions do not post externally, or . there may be a lag between when the institution sends the posts to the external advertising site and when those sites post. So, the job may be up for viewing on the institution’s webpage a day or two earlier.

2. Turn your Resume into a Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Turning your resume into a CV could mean a world of difference in landing more adjunct positions. There are some key components that you should include when marketing and advertising yourself for adjunct positions. Some potential headers you might consider when transitioning your resume to a CV include but are not limited to:

  • Education
  • Teaching Experience
  • Other Related Experience
  • Publications, Presentations, and Creative Achievements 
  • Conference Posters, Presentations, and Talks
  • Service to College (if you have it), Community, and Profession 
  • Trainings/Professional Development

3. Send Emails to Department Chairs

It is important to note that after you have done all you can with watching the job posting sites, checking the institution’s career  pages, and transitioning your resume to a CV, that still may not be enough. You may have to take it a step further and reach out to individuals directly. While this may be considered a more aggressive approach, there is no harm in expressing your interests and advocating for yourself.

I always encourage adjuncts to look up the department chair’s contact info for the department they wish to work. Sending a quick introduction and interest in teaching email could go a long way. Additionally, you can always inform them that you can provide your CV if need be. Since scheduling and finding adjuncts are usually fast-paced, I always say send the email. You could send an email at the right time and land yourself the adjunct position you want based on your qualifications, proactiveness, and ease with which your potential employer has found you.

Additionally, even if the department chair you contact is not hiring, they may have colleagues who are. Connections are critical in the adjunct faculty world!

4. Start with the Orientation Course  

Many potential adjuncts have a specific discipline they want to teach, be it English, Psychology, Education, Engineering, etc. However, at most institutions, those departments require at least a master’s degree and require related work experience. Therefore, the standards are slightly higher, with less wiggle room for exceptions, flexibility, and substitutions for hiring requirements. However, most institutions offer an orientation course. You may know this course as first-year experience, freshmen seminar, academic development/transitioning to college, preparation for academic achievement, etc.

The goal of these courses is to help students get acclimated to the institution and teach them how to do college. Many institutions require adjunct faculty to hold a bachelor’s degree instead of a master’s degree, which could be a great way to get your foot in the door at a particular school. Once you are hired as an adjunct for a specific institution, it is easier to seek out additional opportunities and move around to teach in other departments.

5. Highlight Your Teaching and other Work Experiences

Lastly, it is vital that you highlight both your teaching and other work-related experiences. Departments want to know that they are hiring the best they can, so it is your job to show them that you are the best. Be explicit in letting potential employers know how your experiences align to fit the needs of their department. Additionally, it is always great to pull from your unrelated teaching experiences to show how you can bring practical knowledge into the classroom. Demonstrating that you can merge practice and theory in your teaching philosophy and pedagogy is another excellent way to set yourself apart from your competition.

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!

Author’s Bio:

Antione D. Tomlin

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

There is no doubt that being on the tenure track in academia can be stressful. While the process can be daunting with the pressure to “get it right” and be perfect, faculty have many different reasons why they may want to achieve tenure status. As a tenure-track professor, I will share some strategies here that will encourage faculty to work and navigate the process in a way that creates more flexibility, autonomy, and sanity. The piece will share some “to-dos” and “must-knows” for living life on the tenure track.

1. Know the requirements and expectations

It is essential to know what you are signing up for. While some institutions hire faculty on the tenure track, some, like my institution, do not. In my case, you must apply and be granted a tenure-track position. In any case, you must know the requirements and expectations that the institution and promotion and tenure committee impose. Two significant things to be mindful of are timelines and materials/application.

  1. It is important to know the timeline of when you will need to apply for a tenure-track or tenure position. The faculty handbook or your department chair are the best sources of information here. Many institutions have a certain amount of time in which you will need to wait, but not to exceed, to apply for tenure.

    This is extremely important because unless granted permission, you shall not apply. Additionally, in most cases, your application will not be considered if you miss the window in which you are to apply. Missing your given window to apply for tenure could result in your termination and dismissal from the position.

    Moreover, it is essential to know what happens if you are not granted tenure. At some institutions, a rejection or decline of a tenure application is also cause for termination and dismissal from the faculty position. In other cases, if tenure is not granted, you can apply again when your faculty handbook says it is permissible to do so.
  2. The other part of the process to be mindful of is the materials needing to be submitted with your application. Tenure is often a review of your most recent academic work and teaching. This could span from 2 to 6 years, depending on your institution’s timeline for your tenure track.

    Therefore, it is essential to know what materials to include and how to present them to ensure the committee reviews them. Additionally, you will want to ensure your materials are thoroughly detailed and organized. Missing parts of a tenure application may result in rejection or refusal of tenure. Some institutions use an online system for these reviews.

2. Talk to folks who have tenure

This is such a simple and forgotten step in the process. Hopefully, you have colleagues who want to help you succeed. I encourage you to find at least one or two colleagues who have navigated the tenure processes successfully and can share valuable insights Gather your questions about the process, about life after tenure-track, about expectations, and whatever else you may want to know.

Have a chat with your tenure colleagues and get the answers you feel you may need to fill gaps in what otherwise could feel like a mysterious, lonely, and isolating process.

3. Protect your time

This piece of advice may seem complicated or go against the nature of wanting to say yes to everything to show you are a valuable candidate for tenure. However, saying yes to everything leads straight to burnout. Therefore, you must protect your time, especially when on the tenure track. I advise all tenure candidates to get used to saying no to things that will not support their tenure applications.

Furthermore, find out what weights the heaviest points and accomplishments to the promotion and tenure committee and focus on those things. For example, my institution highly values teaching excellence. So, while I enjoy research and college and community service, I know that I need to keep those to a minimum to give a majority of my focus to honing my craft and expertise of teaching in the classroom.

4. You got you!

Do not forget that you are your most prominent advocate. In the end, you have to apply and be granted tenure based on your actions, merits, and expertise. Therefore, you will always have your best interest in mind. If tenure is what you desire, stay the course, put in the work, and accomplish the goal. Only you can do the work it requires to support your mental and physical health while living life on the tenure track.

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!

Author’s Bio:

Antione D. Tomlin

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