A three-day summer workshop for junior faculty of color provides tips on achieving tenure

Young Scholars discuss academic pathways at SITPA conference
Young scholars discuss academic pathways at SITPA conference

Earlier this week, more than a dozen junior faculty of color from around the country attended the second annual Duke Summer Institute for Tenure and Professional Advancement (SITPA), a three-day workshop for junior minority faculty on earning tenure.

The objective of SITPA is to provide scholars with some of the information, strategies, and skills needed to facilitate the transition from junior faculty status to tenured associate professor. SITPA is funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“Progress in faculty diversity has not kept pace with student diversity,” said Kerry Haynie, a political science professor at Duke and director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences which organizes the workshop. “Unlike the tenure information sessions offered by most colleges and universities, SITPA addresses the distinctive circumstances and needs that research has found to be prevalent among underrepresented minority faculty.”

For example, women and minority junior faculty may be less likely to ask questions or proactively seek information about the tenure process out of fear of being perceived as unqualified for their position.

“SITPA provides a neutral and less intimidating environment that allows for open and frank exchanges between the junior scholars and senior faculty mentors not from their college or university,” Haynie said.

Participants represented disciplines such as history, African American Studies, Chicano Studies, English and sociology and institutions including the University of Arizona, the University of Massachusetts, Spelman College, Howard University, Michigan State University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Duke.

The 2016 program featured a series of panel discussions, directed research assignments and individual sessions with a senior faculty mentor.

The discussions covered developing a research agenda, building a teaching portfolio and the challenges and opportunities of interdisciplinary departments and interdisciplinary research. “What They Forgot to Tell Me” laid bare the often unspoken or unwritten rules of the tenure process. 

In addition to hearing mentors discuss various approaches to public intellectualism, social media, self-promotion, publishing and assessing the often unreported “invisible labor” faculty of color are subject to, participants reviewed the guidelines for tenure at their respective institutions, parsing out the vague language.

Haynie said enhancing tenure rates is “the next frontier” in efforts to remedy the shortage of faculty of color in higher education.

“Tenure is the linchpin for addressing the serious underrepresentation of minority faculty in U.S. universities, as well as for addressing the consequences of these racial disparities for our educational system for the larger society it serves,” he said. “This is what makes SITPA a valuable and much needed undertaking.”