Mujeres Talk: DICHOS: Tips for MALCSistas Seeking Tenure (Part One)

Step Junction by Prof Shorthair. Flickr/Creative Commons License

Recently, the Mujeres Talk Collective asked successful women to share tips and advice on the tenure process. Below are two insightful contributions from Dras. Catherine Ramírez and Karen Mary Davalos:

Catherine S. Ramírez

Know your institution. Familiarize yourself with its policies, procedures, and expectations.  Ask colleagues who’ve recently been promoted to tenure for their CVs. (Increasingly, CVs are available online.) If you have the opportunity to write a statement for your file, quote your institution’s policy manual directly. For example, if the manual states that candidates must demonstrate “scholarly progress and productivity,” write, “I’ve demonstrated scholarly progress and productivity by…” In other words, show your colleagues that you’ve played by the rules of the game.

Build bridges. While it’s essential to have allies within your own department, it’s equally important and often more illuminating to forge ties with colleagues beyond it. Senior colleagues at other institutions will serve as your external reviewers when you’re up for tenure. Get to know them and make sure they know you (e.g., by attending conferences and serving on professional organization committees). Meanwhile, reach out to colleagues in other departments at your university. Find a mentor outside of your department. Forging ties with colleagues across campus can prevent you from becoming isolated. And if any irregularities arise in your tenure review, you’re more likely to be made aware of them if you have friends elsewhere.

Stay focused. If your institution requires a book for tenure, then write a book. Scholarly projects can be a bit like lovers: it’s easy to get bored with an old one and be tempted by a newer, less familiar one. As tempting as it is to drop the older project for the newer one, finish the former (or the bulk of it, at least) before moving on to the latter. Avoid over-conferencing. Attending conferences can be rewarding, but it can also be distracting, exhausting, and expensive.

Publish strategically. A publication in a refereed journal generally carries more weight than the very same publication in a special issue or anthology. Academic presses are almost always deemed more legitimate than others.

Hustle. While requirements and expectations vary, it’s safe to say that those of us at research institutions should publish and present our work publicly on a regular basis.

Karen Mary Davalos

Email is not your friend. Learn this lesson early in your academic career and you will avoid many of the common structural challenges of higher education. One minute you are checking email, and the next minute three hours slipped past. Email can alter the time-space continuum and take up precious time for scholarship.

More importantly, email does not help you create relationships, and as our society adds texting to its mode of communication, we come to assume that less is more. As a chair, email used to give me a sense that I am connected to my faculty, accessible and available. At one point on my campus, the model faculty member was imagined as the one who immediately answered email—and at all hours of the day. What about those poor fools who were routed through the slower servers and their email arrived or was sent hours later? Well, they just could not be trusted with departmental governance!  But don’t be fooled! Email is not anyone’s best tool to achieve leadership, communication, or relationships.

Try these ten simple tips to protect yourself from the vortex of email and from conflict and miscommunication in your department. The tips are not listed in any particular order, but if the institution’s legal counsel has been after you, then number three is at the top of your list. Email is a paper trail, even if it exists in virtual space. It is not private and nor does it belong to you if you are using the institution’s email address. If you find that you have been devoting several hours each day to email, then numbers 1 and 2 top your list. But stick to the plan, and don’t let one hour become three.

Finally, email is not your scapegoat. Don’t allow it to control how you use your day. You would not plan a meeting without an agenda, and you certainly would not meet with a faculty member “just to kill time.” If you need a break, take a walk. The effects will get so much more mileage than a hastily written email.

1) Turn off automatic email delivery.

2) Schedule time specifically for email retrieval and reply. Try one hour in the morning and one hour at the end of the day.

3) Never use email to discuss a personnel issue.

4) Proofread your email before you send. Email is letter writing. It counts.

5) Do not forward to another party without sender’s consent.

6) If you’re writing more than five sentences in reply, then walk over to the sender’s office and talk face-to-face.

7) If it’s a complicated reply, then call the sender for an appointment.

8) Use Reply-All with caution. Some communications should be shared with all department members, but if it really is something for everyone to know or discuss, then add it to the monthly agenda. Better yet: create an email culture in your department: Does everyone receive everything? Does every email require a confirmation of receipt? What is a reasonable time frame for reply? Talk about email communication expectations, since it’s still a relatively new genre and our cultural codes are being renegotiated.

9) Model professional communication. Don’t curse or gossip.

10) If email threads are the norm in your department, then use another application to manage electronic communication.

Catherine Ramírez is an Associate Professor in Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  She’s the author of The Woman in the Zoot Suit:  Gender, Nationalism, and the Cultural Politics of Memory (Duke University Press, 2009) and is currently writing a history of assimilation in the United States.

Karen Mary Davalos is Chair and Professor of Chicana/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Her book, Yolanda M. López, (UCLA CSRC Press with distribution by University of Minnesota Press, 2008), brings together her research and teaching interests in Chicana feminist scholarship, spirituality, art, exhibition practices, and oral history.

We will be posting more tenure tips in the future. If you have any tips to share, please send to seline@malcs.org with DICHOS in the subject line.

1 thought on “Mujeres Talk: DICHOS: Tips for MALCSistas Seeking Tenure (Part One)”

  1. Thank you Catherine and Karen Mary for these sharp and distilled pieces of advice. Being on a tenure track and a new institution can be overwhelming and not easy to maneuver. Your direct suggestions cut through the fog. Much appreciated!
    Ella Diaz

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