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tenure-track: 1st year advice

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Joined: 12 Nov 2008
Location: Seoul

PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2018 9:44 pm    Post subject: tenure-track: 1st year advice Reply with quote


I've finally gotten back onto the tenure-track (after a small mishap at my last work opportunity). Anyway...

It's a tenure-track at a National University. I just finished my hobong evaluation and am officially hired as of April 1st... I'm eligible already for associate professor within 1 year of my starting date. It's a lot of work, but my goal is to get that promotion as well as tenure (it's possible at associate level).

I'm wondering if anyone else who has gotten tenure or on the tenure track has any advice. I'm in the business/economics department and not teaching ESL.

I have my PhD and an array of publications (journals, textbooks).

I'm just wondering how you managed to teach, research, and develop your community service. Any things you wish you knew going into it? I'd like to open a discussion on this topic.
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Joined: 24 Feb 2006

PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi, and a huge congrats on the new position.

I was in a similar situation back in the mid 2000s. PM me if you need to know my dicipline. Since being hired as a first year Assistant Professor, I've made the promotion to Associate Professor and the final promotion to Full Professor at which time I also successfully underwent the tenure review process.

All of these promotions and the tenure review were done at the earliest possible time; no extentions, though that is increasingly common as the pass rates now hover around 50% depending on your institution. This isn't a horn toot, it's just to let you know that making it though the ranks is doable.

So here are some notes, and, boy, did I wish I had this when I first started out lol. Back then, there were only a small handful of TT international faculty, even at the larger national universities, so many were flying blind. Some of the following apply no matter where you work, but some are Korea specific. It'll be up to you to figure out which apply to your current situation.

1. You got the job based on your current publications, so now you've reset your 'publication clock'. For you next promotion, ONLY those publications since your hire will be counted. When you go for promotion to FULL professor and for TENURE review, while they'll look at your entire body of work, ONLY THE MOST RECENT with the highest impact factors should be sent out to referees. More later.

For this reason, though its a huge feather in the cap to even get a TT position, this isn't a particularly easy spot to find oneself in; you need to develop a new grad AND under grad class every semester for the first couple of years, which eats up a lot of time, learn the insitutional ins and outs of your particular department and college, and, as you remarked, start thinking about your service points.

2. So guard your time a bit. Seriously! Schedule course development, writing, and service activities or you may find yourself overwhelmed. I've seen a fair share of burn out over the past 12 years or so. On the one hand, there's a bit of burn out from just having completed the Doctorate; on the other, researching and writing a dissertation while perhaps teaching a course or two is completely different from juggling the duties of the actual professorial vocation.

3. The first promotion to Associate, more so in Korea than in N. America, isn't so tumultuous. The publication points are set fairly low, and at many national universities, you only need one or two of your pubs to be SSCI/SCI. HOWEVER, you will in some respects be held to a bit of a different standard in that they'll more than likely (quietly) expect you to ONLY publish in SSCI/SCI journals. So, sure, you CAN publish in non SSCI journals just to get your points, but down the road that may come back to bite you. This is especially the case when you go for the Full Professor promotion and for tenure.

4. While you CAN go for tenure at the Associate Prof level, there's really no need and little financial incentive to do so in the Korean system. You can verify this at your university. This is why most, if not all, of my colleagues simply do it the 'Korean way' and apply for tenure when they go up for promotion to Full Professor. First of all, the tenure process is even MORE stringent if you're going up at the Associate level. Second, most have burned the midnight oil and gone uber prolific running up to their Full Prof promotion, so you're already more prepared to go for tenure. More on that later.

5. Your personal and professional relationships matter. It may seem cliche, but being liked and viewd as an asset go hand in hand here quite often. More to the point, nobody will throw you a life line if you're NOT liked. Not saying that you have to go around kissing arse, just that you shouldn't go out of your way trying to prove that they way they do things is 'wrong' or 'backward', or to disrespect your colleagues. Play nice.

6. As state above, most Koreans go for tenure at the Full Professor level promotion. As such, 1) you may be percieved as trying to get ahead too quickly compared to your Korean counterparts, especially as 2) you're able to do this because you aren't loaded down with a lot of the admin b.s. they really do heep on junior Korean faculty. Yes, you can do it, but don't expect floral wreaths and accolades.

7. Another key point is that when you go for tenure, you're up against EVERY other faculty member going for tenure university wide. Most, as mentioned above, will have been uber productive prior to filing, so you might not make it even if you have met the criteria to apply. Remember that for TENURE, it's not just publications, it's service to department, college, university, and dicipline that come into play here. Heck you may not have even handled enough grad students in terms of guidance to stack up. Impossible to know, so think about it before you roll the dice. Go for the PROMOTION to Associate as soon as you can if you have the point and meet the criteria (again, not as stringent), but look at the tenure review differently.

8. If you haven't already, start cultivating relationships with Korean scholars in your field, particularly at your professional association. If possible, serve the association in some capacity (I did a stint as an assistant to the international relations board member to start with and am now actually on the board). Also, get on the editorial boards of local journals in your dicipline. All of these count toward your service points even if you don't necessarly get swamped (not that many pubs done in English most of the time). Take part at least once or twice on conference planning committees.

All of these relationships and these things will make your first promotion to Associate, particularly if you have your pub point in SSCI journals, smooth and uneventful. More importantly, when you go up for Full Professor, you'll need to furnish a TON of potential referees for your publications, and they prefer a number of them to be in Korea and 'heavy hitters' (e.g. association board members or ex board members, or well known scholars).

9. For committee work/service, don't be afraid to take some initiative, especially if it's something that Koreans might find difficult or a pain to do. If your university doesn't already have one, start an 'interntational faculty committee' and/or an 'international student orientation and support group'. You should find that your university and/or college will even provide funding for these types of committees.

10. Why, because, again, for the big promotion to Full Professor and for the tenure review, you're up against any and all applicants university wide and there are only so many slots to fill. You'll want to have all of your areas of importance covered in spades. Publications? Try to publish ONLY in SSCI journals, though at times it'll be tempting to just want to push something through a lower tiered journal. Student guidance? Even if you don't get a lot of your own students, get on committees. The more the better. Service? See above. But, again, remember that, 'But nobody asked me to do anything,' isn't an excuse when you're up against everyone else at the university, and you CAN AND PROBABLY WILL BE DENIED if you don't have a solid service record. They may not tell you this, but it's the deal and you should know it.

11. As a new member of the department, resist the urge to try and put your stamp on everything. These departments have long histories and set ways of doing things. Work into it, defer at first, don't take sides (you may find factions within the department, and you definitely will at the college level), make some good professional relationships (dinners, etc...), and as long as you're doing good work, you should be fine.

About it off the top of my head. Good idea to start the discussion. Ask away! Helps me to keep things straight in my head, too.

And, again, serious congratulations.
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Joined: 24 Feb 2006

PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some quick additions:

Keep exacting records! If you're on a committee, get the official documentation for it, the dates, and the name/contact info for the person in charge.

For journals, they'll want the DATE published. More often than not this is available via the on-line portal for the journal or publisher, but it's best to keep a running record rather than having to look up everything at the last minute.

If possible, try to publish a bit with Korean colleagues. It's not 10000% necessary, but it is welcomed, especially if you're targeting SSCI journals, and it 'looks good'.
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Joined: 12 Nov 2008
Location: Seoul

PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 9:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Thank you for your contributions and insights on this thread. Today I did my '선서 with the President. I'm official!

I'm especially concerned about publications as it has always been a challenging facet of academia that I struggled with. As you mentioned, I was tasked with creating 3 new topics for courses, all within 2 weeks notice. This is taking up the majority of my time and mental real-estate. I can't even think about research at this moment. I'm hoping to get it started during the summer 'break'.

I'm having some trouble assimilating into the work culture and social structure within my school. I'm the sole foreign hire and am basically running a newly created department with the help of only one other professor (who is retiring next year). One challenge is that we must create new classes as students progress (we only have 1st and 2nd year students now). So, I'm tasked with hiring, teaching, and recruiting new students. I'm a little worried that these administrative functions along with teaching are going to take the majority of my time. It is basically up to me to ensure the survival and 'proof of concept' of my department starting next year.

Actually, i was hoping you'd reply. You've always posted more relevant information regarding my career path as well as supported your perspectives clearly.

I'm starting to navigate the politics of my department and school now and I'm already finding certain people who are perhaps not so interested in my department's survival as well as my appointment into their faculty. It is a truly challenging aspect to deal with. Before working in EFL, it was an easy 'clock in and clock out' kind of job. Here, i'm working towards building a department up from the groundfloor. Its frightening, but extremely exciting to be part of. I just hope I don't commit any faux pas!
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very challenging position. There are upsides to this. First, you definitely won't have to worry about your service component! Second, you'll be getting ground floor admin experience, and this can be valuable to your career down the line. Most wouldn't be doing those things until, say, they were a senior Associate Professor.

The 'breaks', and I thoroughly agree with the use of quotes, are really when you'll need to knock out a lot of writing, especially in the beginning of your career. I've seen people get positions, but then, for whatever reason, just vacation over the 'breaks'. In the end, they didn't get their contracts renewed. Or some barely eeked a contract extension out. Sure, you can play it that way, but I never liked gambling with my career. Ironically enough, many KNEW they hadn't published enough. Different strokes for different folks.

Another upside is that nobody ever said you have to stay there until you retire. The majority of junior faculty make at least one move before they settle into a slot where they'll conduct the remainder of their careers. Having said this, BE CAREFUL! IF you are going to look for a position elsewhere after you've built up your publication, teaching and service records, be VERY discreet. Seems you've been in Korea long enough to know that if your current employer found out, they'd hold it against you; loyalty here is different than loyalty in western academe.

So, IF you do apply elsewhere, you should NOT ask anyone at your current university for letters of recommendation. Ever. This IS Korea, though, so if you apply to another university here, and even if you ask them not to, they WILL contact your current employer. Fact of life. IF you apply to universities outside of Korea, simply let them know the cross-cultural difference and why that means you haven't included your present colleagues as references. Let them know you're in good standing, and that if it comes down to an offer they are more than welcome to contact your present employer, but ask them for understanding and to play politics the local way.

Getting way ahead of ourselves here, but it's something to keep in mind, particularly if your new department/program goes south. If it does, and does so quickly, you may not have the relationships in place there that would help you make an internal move. Cross that bridge when you get there.

And as for the 'breaks', don't necessarily kill yourself over research. Don't want to burn out straight away. They know how busy you are, so for the first year or two, just one SSCI paper a year should keep the lions at bay. Once you've developed your courses and gotten the lay of the land there, then you can up the ante and shoot for 2, 3, or 4 a year.

Speaking from experience, it's good to have been quite active prior to putting in for tenure (and/or the Full Prof promotion). If you don't want to take any chances that you'll be in the running, shoot for 3 SSCI pubs a year running up to applicatoin, more if possible. Chuck in some book chapters if you can, too. They don't 'count' for as much points-wise, but they prove that your input has been solicited in your dicipline.
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