Going Beyond Review, Promotion, or Tenure: Innovative Uses of Academic Workflow Technology

Tulane University

Tulane University recognized a need for a system to consolidate many faculty-related processes, including decision workflows like hiring, tenure, promotion, and annual review in 2014. The institution initially adopted not only the Interfolio Faculty Search (FS) module for hiring but also the Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure (RPT) module for faculty promotion and tenure reviews. In 2018, they replaced their incumbent activity data system with the Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting (FAR) module for data management. 

As use and adoption of Interfolio grew over the years, Alysia Loshbaugh, AVP for Business Relationship Management, found that “anything decided by committee” could be made more convenient and consistent by leveraging the Review, Promotion, and Tenure product. With this insight, Tulane began to pioneer three sets of innovative use cases for Interfolio RPT, in addition to the more conventional RPT functions on campus:

  1. Adapting Interfolio Use for Diverse Faculty Tracks
  2. Extending Interfolio Use into Sabbatical Assignment, Teaching Award Review, and Emeritus Appointments
  3. Redesigning the University’s Faculty Hiring and Onboarding System

These innovations did not take place overnight, but with a progressive mindset and deep partnership with Interfolio’s Professional Services team, Tulane was able to design a more trusted and streamlined faculty experience with hiring, review, promotion, tenure, sabbatical, and accolade assignment.  

Adapting Interfolio Use for Diverse Faculty Tracks

Tulane limited their initial rollout of the Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure module to three actions:  third year review, tenure review and promotion to Associate Professor, and promotion to full professor.  After the majority of the university had become accustomed to shifting away from paper and using Interfolio for these purposes, it became easier to expand use of the platform to different groups on campus who were still using paper-based practices to evaluate performance and promotions. This next tranche of beneficiaries and use cases were reappointment and promotions of Professors of Practice and promotions within the research track. 

Tulane, like many other Interfolio partners, deployed Interfolio in a measured fashion across campus. Because the School of Medicine had unique practices that didn’t conform with other schools at Tulane (fairly common of medical schools), the Tulane team waited until the rest of campus had been using the Interfolio Faculty Search and Review, Promotion & Tenure modules for about a year before rolling out use to the medical school. One particular challenge that the team worked on for the School of Medicine was the ability to record track changes as faculty switched between tenure, clinical, and research career paths.

Once it was apparent that reviews and promotions were functioning well with the faculty population, Tulane also rolled out Interfolio Review, Promotion & Tenure to the librarians (tenure not applicable).

Extending Interfolio Use into Sabbatical Assignment, Teaching Award Review, and Emeritus Appointments

After expanding the populations of faculty and staff whose careers could be managed in Interfolio, it became clear that any routine faculty-related process where paper had to be tracked across campus could be an additional use case for the RPT module. Tulane began to leverage the platform in many other faculty-related areas outside of review, promotion, and tenure activities: 

  • When Tulane evaluates faculty for teaching awards, they work in committees to review teaching portfolios, and “didn’t want to use binders anymore,” so adopting Interfolio to evaluate candidates for university teaching awards was a natural step.
  • The majority of schools now submit their sabbatical and academic leave requests through the Interfolio RPT module.
  • Tulane now also uses Interfolio to assign endowed chairs and emeritus professorships. With this expansion, RPT is being used by entities outside the Provost’s purview—the board for the university and advancement offices for endowed chairs—showing its ease of use and flexibility for many constituents.  
  • Finally, Tulane is also piloting an Associate Dean review as another potential use for the Interfolio platform.

Redesigning the University’s Faculty Hiring and Onboarding System

The first two sets of innovative uses of Interfolio RPT outlined above were relatively quick to implement.  The project that has taken Tulane the longest to realize is a re-imagining of their hiring and onboarding system. Prior to adopting Interfolio RPT and FS, Tulane’s hiring and onboarding process was a complicated knot of systems where losing packets was more common than anyone would like. Tulane had a process map for hiring that involved their HR system, Adobe Sign, many manual procedures, and Interfolio.  

Upon recognizing that Interfolio could help make the hiring decision easier by porting committee candidate reviews into a digital environment, Tulane worked to streamline their hiring and onboarding process. A key change was to front-load all feedback on a candidate (faculty interviews or faculty review of a candidate’s academic qualifications) into Interfolio. With this new order of operations, Tulane made it possible for a new hire’s first interaction with the HR system to be during their onboarding experience—instead of multiple touchpoints with multiple systems during hiring. The result was a system for hiring and onboarding that was both more efficient and more robust with no packets lost.

Tulane’s Alysia Loshbaugh found that “at the end of the day, Interfolio RPT is a workflow system with committees.” Interfolio encourages partners to reach out with ideas like Tulane’s and work with our client success team to make possible better faculty experiences.

If you want to explore how to creatively deploy Interfolio services on your campus, we would love to hear from you! 

About Interfolio

Conceived by academics for academics, Interfolio is an education technology company headquartered in Washington, DC, USA and in Cambridge, England, UK. Founded in 1999, Interfolio operates the acclaimed Faculty Information System, the Researchfish impact assessment platform, and the widely used Dossier service. Over 400 clients based in 15 countries choose Interfolio’s technology for hiring and recruitment, academic appointments and timelines, activity data reporting, faculty reviews and promotions, and research impact analysis. For more information about Interfolio, please contact us below.

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