I hope that you all had a wonderful summer and are sufficiently charged for the fall semester. As I ended my last blog, my plan was to have a relaxing summer after the busy spring semester. It turned out that the summer became much busier than I anticipated (ya, I really need to calibrate my ability to anticipate). Three major reasons were 1) the first time summer research experienced more challenges than expected, 2) I had to take an unplanned trip back to Japan to see a family member who was in a critical condition, and 3) I had to work on 2nd year review self-statement. Among these three, I suspect that the third point is most appropriate, important, and interesting for this blog.
Honestly I do not know the norm of the review process among Liberal Arts colleges, but Bucknell sets three steps for tenure, 2nd year, 4th year, and 6th year tenure review. Review criteria for each step are established both by your department (Department Review Committee or DRC) and the university (University Review Committee or URC) on three standard components of teaching, scholarship, and service. Those criteria largely overlap between the two, of course. But the DRC interprets URC criteria and narrow, expand, or specify each expectation. For example, the URC scholarship criteria for tenure promotion is written as “The candidate’s scholarly or artistic work has matured, earning the esteem of department/school/program colleagues and experts outside the University.” The DRC scholarship criteria, on the other hand, are much more in depth and even state that the department expects generally three publications by the 6-year review, although they also emphasize the balance between quality and quantity.
Because we have only one academic year before the 2nd year review, the review criteria for the 2nd year review are pretty simple and less demanding. While I was very serious about the review, all the signals that I received from the colleagues told me “Take is easy. You should be fine”, which is probably the reality for the 2nd year review. In fact, I have never heard about anyone rejected by the 2nd year review. But I still think that we should take it seriously. By the time you finish your self-statement, you know the review procedure and expectations well and be already pretty well prepared for the 4th year review. I attended Retention, Tenure, and Promotion Meeting run by DRC in the spring and started working on my self-statement on August 2nd toward August 26th deadline (yes, tomorrow!).
My strategy is not unique at all and I am sure that everyone who is up for review does what I will explain below. But if you haven’t gone through the process yet, it is worth keeping reading.
Among a number of documents that you have to submit, a self-statement of your achievements, areas for improvements, and future directions is the most important and time-consuming one.
To begin with the preparation, I acquire an example of the 2nd year review self-statement from my good friend. One departmental colleague advised me to get an example from one of the departmental colleagues who have been through the 2nd year review recently, which I think is a great idea. But I got an example from my friend in a different department simply because we are close friends who can talk about anything. My friend also gave me an example of the 4th year self-statement that he just finished a year ago. I examined both to create my own structure of the self-statement. Mine ended up with having more tables, indents, and paragraph structures than his probably because of the difference in our training between science and humanity. It was also interesting and valuable to learn some of the expressions and terminologies that my friend used in his self-statement. So, I think getting familiar with an example from a different department has its own benefits.
I can imagine that some can finish writing a self-statement within a few days. But my way was to take it slow and proceed step by step. This is because of my personality and the fact that English is my second language, but also because it is a challenging process to face and respond to all the student’s comments. I am sure that many of you feel the same, but I am sensitive about student’s comments! Some of them are painful to face. Some of them are, at least to us, somewhat unfair. And Bucknell students, based on my own assessment and others, tend to be demanding. So what I did was to self-evaluate the most successful course first to build the momentum and then tackled the more challenging courses. I definitely spent more time, space, and effort developing a teaching component of my self-statement, which is most challenging and critical for Liberal Arts professors.
In addition to student evaluations, our department sends a request to students for an individual evaluation letter about a professor. In the spring, I received a list of all students who took my courses and the department asked me if there are any students who may provide a biased view on me to remove potential outliers. I had one student who I had an issue with. So I marked this student off. It was interesting to find out that other departments even on the same campus do this process slightly differently. For example, my friend in a different department was asked to put a list of students together from whom he wanted evaluations …..clearly goes against random sampling but good for them! Anyway, I received 11 reducted individual letters without student identifies. Fortunately, all of the letters were positive. So I did not have to respond to particular criticisms. Students seem to understand the importance of these letters and write a letter in a more dispassionate, neutral, and formal manner. Also their feelings about us professors and our courses probably change since the ends of the semesters when students are busy and stressed out and some of them are not happy with their performance in our class.
To finish up the self-statement, I asked a specialist at Writing Center to go over it sentence by sentence to make sure that my English was written in an appropriate manner (sorry for any errors in this blog!). I recommend this to anyone who has English as a second language. I also asked one of the tenured members in our department to review it. She should get back to me shortly.
Getting a job is one thing. Getting retained and tenured is another. Fortunately, the latter process is not as laborious as the former at most colleges. But if you don’t do the latter right, you will have to repeat the former again, which is the last thing we would want to happen. Finally, the more important thing than self-statements is obviously to do your work between the review steps. I hope that the fall semester goes well for all of us.