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Time for Twenty-Four Terrific Tenure Tips for New Faculty Members: Ideas For Fostering Freedom
Thursday, July 31, 2008
My department hired two new faculty members who have now both arrived on campus. Both are great! They sat down with me on Monday and asked my advice on getting tenure here. Since we did not finish the conversation, I created a list of ideas. It is below. Perhaps it will help you as well. Not all of it will apply.

You might skip them all since I was originally denied tenure and had to fight for it. I may not be the best role model. Once tenured, however, my productivity took off. This happened, in part, since I no longer had to sit through the endless and quite boring teacher education reform committees which never interested me (I was an corporate controller and CPA--interested in nontraditional learning, open, and flexible learning; anything but traditional learning and traditional schools and traditional teacher education). I found myself in distance education.

Give me anything that is not eyeball to eyeball or ear-pan to ear-pan and I am happy as a clam. With my research on distance learning taking off since tenure back in 1997, I now have 210 publications and have give over 850 talks. I think I had maybe 20 publications and 100 talks prior to 1997--you do the math since then. Same person I was when I was denied tenure. Same skin. Same smile. Same concern for students and heavy involvement in student mentoring.

The difference has been freedom. Freedom to explore. Freedom to say no to ideas and people that do not fit mine. Freedom to help people who need it. Freedom to suggest things to others to help they succeed when they do not see something that I think is quite obvious. Freedom to create unique partnerships and collaborations. Freedom to send to a journal you are not sure about. Freedom to write a book or an e-book. Etc. But why do we contort our bodies for a decade to get through graduate school and then get tenure for such freedom? If personal freedom to learn, live, and grow is that goal, do not delay! Go for it right now!

Anyway, once tenured, you reassume control over your life which perhaps you did not have for 4 years in graduate school and the six years of the tenure process. Do people realize how much of their lives they are giving up? That is a bloody decade and for many people it is two decades. How can one get out of this cycle of paying homage to everyone else? If you use some of the ideas below, I think you will be assuming more control and personal self-directedness over your life.

Many of these points below relate to time. Life is time. Time is life. Why do we go through routines that the media, our colleagues, our students, our family, and our friends expect of us? We should try to take control over our time. It is our own personal time. Once you do that, you enter a state of flow and your productivity will skyrocket. There is a ton of time for you to do whatever you want. Trust me.

Two dozen things to do on path to tenure and give you more control over your time amd personal freedom:
1. Teach in Bulk: I mean, if you can, teach back-to-back courses or one day a week courses. Free up days to write, rewrite, and reflect. Or perhaps teach some courses online and some face-to-face. I once taught 2 sections of undergrad educational psychology courses on Tuesdays and Thursdays back-to-back. I also once taught a graduate course at 4-6:45 pm on Wednesdays and another from 7-10 pm that same day. My two course load was all completed on Wednesdays, thereby giving me 5 days per week to write (1 day was spent prepping my 2 courses). I work every day if you cannot tell.

2. Avoid Summer Teaching or Teach Summer Intensive Courses: Do not teach all summer and avoid any summer teaching if you can. Save summer for writing and some vacationing. Three week summer classes are the best. Or even 1 week or no weeks. If you teach all summer your first six years as a new professor, your odds for getting tenure are significantly reduced. Simply put, look around you; chances are that your competition is not.

3. Get Vita Line Items: Say yes to many things that are low time that add to vita. Short time, high payoff items are best, especially those involving fun.

4. Avoid Big Things: Say no to most things that are long in nature and only add 1-2 lines to your vita. Unless you are principle investigator or it is your main interest area. If you are in charge, then sure.

5. Service Protection: Get protection from chair from too many service committees. Find out what are the norms and expectations and ask your chair if how many you need to be on. If you are on 2 or 3 service committees and that is the expectation, you can say that your chair told you to say no to anymore. This limits feelings of guilt.

6. Doctoral Committee Commitments: Once you are on the average number of dissertations, post a note on your door number of doctoral committees you are on and that you are not taking anymore. That way, if a student sends you an email to request you to be on a doctoral committee, you can say, well, if you read my door, you can see that I an not taking anymore. It is not you saying no, but the note on your door. This also limits guilt and you are telling the truth--you are not taking anymore (or at least not this day).

7. Schedule Student Meetings Back-to-Back: Have student meetings back to back. If you have 1 meeting, make others wrapped around it. Sometimes I double book appointments so as to speed everything up (not that often--perhaps 1-2 times a year when things get crazy). When another student is waiting, the one in my office gets to the point faster. (Actually, as bad as this sounds, I am the one who likes to dilly dally and socialize, so this keeps me on task too.)

8. Teach at Off Peak Times: I like to teach late at night at 4 or 7 pm or on early mornings or weekends. I love teaching Saturday mornings. You get access to all equipment and resources in the building and it is quiet and informal. It is also a chance to do whatever you want to do. The building is yours! It is like that built the place just for you and your class. It is quite uplifting. Makes your soul come alive! You also avoid disruptions and meetings that were not previously planned for.

9. Publication Goal Chart: Have a goal chart and reflect on progress. Have specific things to do on that chart and mark them off as you accomplish them. This is the most important point of my list of 24 items. Have goals and project into the future. And revise and monitor them as needed! You should have at a minimum the kernel of 4 or 5 articles on this goal chart. It should like at least a 2 year plan or looking out 24 months. I would actually recommend thinking 3-5 years into the future.

10. Goal Chart Mentoring: Discuss physical goal chart with a mentor. This will help keep you on task. It will also give you someone to share your successes and rejections with. Mentors are very important in getting to tenure and in life.

11. Clear Schedule in Bulk: Clear days or weeks from schedule to write and only write. And then write and write and write. Smile.

12. Writing Tips: Read the writing tips in my blog. I have 4 such blog posts.

a. Ten Quick Writing Tips: http://travelinedman.blogspot.com/2008/01/10-quick-writing-tips-in-academic-world.html
b. 20-30 Writing Tips: http://travelinedman.blogspot.com/2007/01/quick-20-academic-writing-tips.html
c. 3 P's of Professorship: http://travelinedman.blogspot.com/2007/08/3-ps-of-publishing-professorship-keep.html
d. 3 P's of Professional Writing: http://travelinedman.blogspot.com/2007/08/3-ps-of-professional-writers-purpose.html

13. Avoid Raising Hand or Volunteering to Chair a Committee: Do not volunteer to be a chair on a committee ever. When asked, just say when you signed up for this committee, it was with the agreement that you would not chair it. Do not go looking for more work that is not recognized prior to tenure.

14. Department Service: At the department level, work on service committees that matter—search committees, new student entrance committees, etc. These types of committees provide the people who you will work with in the future. Hence, they are extremely important ones to your own success. Travel or awards committees can also be fun and worthwhile without killing you.

15. School/College Level Service: At the college or school level, sign up for committees that usually have modest time requirements like student appeals or ethics committee, invited speaker or lectures and seminars committee (limited meetings and you meet cool and important people), and outstanding dissertation or awards committee. Committee on teaching are also worth the time investments. Avoid faculty council committees (political and a sure waste of time and effort--keep in mind that this is my opinion; many faculty love this one)> Also avoid promotion and tenure committees (political) and budget committees (boring! I know, I am an accountant. Higher education accountants, however, take boring to the extreme).

16. University Service: One word--avoid. Unless you like the topic a lot and it is great exposure for you, just say no. Of course, you might sign up for one to get to meet faculty from other departments and units or to work with your favorite friends. Just do not go overboard. If a form comes and you can sign not to be included in the annual voting for a particular faculty committee, then sign away. Why have your enemies vote you on silly committees that waste your time?

17. Grants of Other People: Do not get on another person’s grant (unless small role with high payoff; need to get your role specified in writing—-never just an oral agreement, though I an a hypocrite here…smile). This is one area that I have always seen problems. Weigh summer money and release time from grants of other people against commitments and time away from personal publishing.

18. Writing Environment or Setting: Find a place to write that you like. This is a no brainer and everyone will tell you this.

19. Signage for Visitors: If bothered too much, place a sign on your door about your availability. I have an open door policy at my office so I work for home a lot where I can get much done. Other people prefer their work offices. If you do, try to close the door at times. At home, I have a wondrous view of the woods and a creek at the bottom. Deer walking behind when I work on my deck. I can write a ton. Find your setting (see pt #19 above).

20. Get Help and Thank Help: You cannot do everything by yourself. Get people to give feedback on papers and thank them in acknowledgements. Have a couple of friends who are good editors will go a long way in your success. I just found 2 people here in Bloomington who are currently helping me with a book. Find those people, but be sure to pay them and thank them as well as help them out when they need it.

21. Journal Selection Process: Look for journals to publish in. Target your papers. Think or plan ahead. If you are in educational technology, see my technology journal list at: http://www.trainingshare.com/resources/distance_ed_journals_and_online_learning_books.htm

22. Conference Jumping: Do not go from conference to conference. Try to publish your papers prior to going (after accepted) or right after the conference. If you go from conference to conference, you will never get many things published. I am speaking from experience. Friends need you at conferences, but each conference equates to 2-3 weeks—one week to get ready, one week to be there, and a week to recover. Keep this 3 week rule in mind every time you consider a conference. It is more like 3 weeks of time for an assistant professor. For tenured professors like me, it is more like 1 week since I no longer have to write papers for each conference and can come and go as needed. That being said, I still do conference papers. I do not want to sound like a slug.

23. Annual Publishing Goals or Quotas: Publish on average 3 good articles per year. That is the goal. If you get 2 much of the time and 3 the rest, be happy. My personal quotas are much higher but you need to set yours somewhere and simply get started.

24. Research Strands: Create 2-4 strands of your research. Do not just have 1 strand to your research as some might advise you to do. One strand may never be accepted for publication and so then what do you do? Diversify somewhat.

These are just 24 of my ideas. I could give you 24 more if needed. Get ideas for 4-5 people and synthesize across them. Ok, remember this is about YOUR time. Below is a joke about the time commitments prior to tenure.

Ten Simple Steps to Tenure (this is meant as a joke--smile):
Step #1: Avoid department meetings;
Step #2: Avoid school or college meetings;
Step #3: Avoid university functions and meetings;
Step #4: Avoid mandated meetings;
Step #5: Avoid book publishers, book buyers (though sometimes getting cash for books is nice), and avoid anyone stopping by just to chat.
Step #6: Avoid retreats and other such silliness;
Step #7: Avoid committee meetings;
Step #8: Avoid students;
Step #9: Avoid life;
Step #10: Review other 9 steps each week.

Much of this I say in jest. Still, it is just a way to remind yourself that your time matters and is costly.

What about friends and family? Never forget them. They are the most important. Meet them during conferences or take with you. My kids have been with me to conferences and presentations in Finland, Australia, and Hawaii. That was fun! In addition, my friends meet me at almost all of my conferences. That is also great!

So now you have two dozen ideas to help you get tenure (should you want it). If all else fails, here is a job posting list I recently created (smile this is meant as a joke):
http://www.trainingshare.com/resources/Job-search-Educational-Technology-and-Instructional-Technology.htm

Good luck.
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 3:58 PM  
11 Comments:
  • At 9:39 PM, Blogger Kevin Makice said…

    Some great advice. For Ph.D. students like myself, it makes for a nice future to-do (or to-don't) list to secure an academic career.

     
  • At 6:05 AM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Glad you like them Kevin. Be sure to read the 4 blog posts with writing advice that this post links to. Good luck.

     
  • At 3:50 AM, Blogger MW (My Wish) said…

    Curt you are a good mentor. People are lucky to work with you.

    We don't have such thing as tenure here..full professorship means tenure here.

     
  • At 7:07 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Sure thing Lori!!! I realize each system is mightily different. I am just trying to give advice to my new people/colleagues as well as those departing recently for new lands in academia. So many are going away. Tears are shed. The last one shoved off for LA yesterday with her family. They have a long drive ahead of them.

     
  • At 10:48 PM, Blogger sexy said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

     
  • At 1:38 AM, Blogger  said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

     
  • At 7:38 PM, Blogger 元美女 said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

     
  • At 9:38 AM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Glad this is useful.

     
  • At 11:50 AM, Blogger admin said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

     
  • At 11:45 PM, Blogger marry said…

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  • At 10:56 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    thanks.

     
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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

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