Elmer G. Homrighausen Professor
Princeton Theological Seminary
after receiving tenure you will soon realize that you are no longer viewed as a
young emerging scholar, but as one who is approaching mid-career. By granting
you tenure your school declared, on the basis of your demonstrated work to
date, that it is willing to give you a life-time contract on the promise that
your work will continue to bring distinction to the school. Thus, your arrival
at this mid-career milestone implies the need to plan for the next phase of
your academic development. If you fail to design a plan, it is unlikely that
there will be further developments in your professional career and you will be
grounded in mid-stream.
academic productivity will be evaluated as you seek promotion to full-professor
in your school, or if you apply for a position at another school. A certain
kind of blues begins to develop in relation to each prospect. First, if you do
not know what your next research project is to be, then you might feel the
blues until you decide. Or second, after gaining tenure the number of schools
that might be interested in offering you a position will decrease simply
because you are now tenured. In other words, from now onwards others will know
that you will only consider offers of tenured appointments in the future. To do
otherwise would be viewed by all concerned as a backward move. Few tenured
scholars will ever be willing to give up their tenure for another position. In
brief, in order for another school to offer you a tenured position it will need
to be assured that the academic promise discerned at the time you were tenured
is being realized. This means you will need to provide evidence of your
on-going scholarly productivity, such as research, publications, lectures, and
various other avenues of academic leadership, as well as the wider reputation
you develop as a result of it
Challenges and Stresses
Your Power Responsibly
members are always being evaluated by everyone they encounter. Your reputation
will be developed as students, staff, teaching colleagues, visiting lecturers,
and professional associates everywhere share their impressions of you with
others whom they meet. Being respectful of each and every person one encounters
is a virtue one would do well to cultivate. The cultivation is done through
habitual practice of treating everyone with respect at all times and
everywhere. Admittedly, the most difficult situation in which to exercise this
virtue is when a person is being obnoxious or disrespectful toward you. Under
such circumstances it will be a challenge for you to remain calm, respectful,
and non-defensive especially when your inner self prompts you to do otherwise.
In brief, you would do well not to allow the other to bring you down to his/her
level of inappropriate behavior because your reputation is at stake. Thus, I
propose the following guideposts:
for students means that a faculty person should never be abusive by
diminishing the student’s sense of self-worth but rather find ways to
empower the student in helping him/her realize his/her potentiality.
for colleagues at home and elsewhere means always finding something in
their work to respect by prefacing any disagreements with words of praise
for staff means that one should never treat them as inferiors or in a
toward Academic Governance
members should pursue their interests. Some have aspirations toward academic
administration. If so, those hopes should be pursued in a reasonable way,
knowing that those who wish to proceed to the top of the ladder of academic
administration should acquire the basic skills and discipline of scholarship as
the first step. That is to say, they should be deliberate in gaining a measure
of excellence in their academic disciplines. Under normal circumstances this
means having been granted tenure. Only then will one be able to assume a
position in academic administration with tenure in one’s discipline which
offers additional value to one’s job security.
person can proceed prematurely into academic administration, those interested
in this venue should cultivate relationships with existing administrators and
encourage them to tell you their stories concerning their career trajectory.
There can be no better advice than that provided by experienced persons.
to Over-all Profession
memberships. Membership in one’s primary academic association is so
important that most schools will pay the membership fee as part of the
expenses for its faculty to attend annual meetings. One should inquire
about this benefit when negotiating a possible academic appointment. Some
schools pay expenses for those who are on the association’s program as an
incentive for its faculty to present papers, chair meetings, and sit on
program planning committees. The AAR is the largest academic association
in religion and, hence, an appropriate choice for most religion scholars.
For the past four decades it has met annually in association with the Society for Biblical Literature. Beginning in 2008, however, those associations will hold
separate meetings. The AAR holds its annual meetings throughout the United
States and also hosts regional conferences where younger scholars often
stand a better chance of presenting papers and receiving constructive
also be noted that there are many other academic societies in religion that
hold annual meetings (see chapter 2 for a list). If at all possible, one should
become an active participant in at least one such additional association.
book proposals and essays. When invited to review works for either a
publisher or for a tenure and/or promotion committee, one should exercise
the greatest possible care for no other reason than that the person’s
professional career is at stake. Your job will be an easy and delighteful
one when the work is great. But, if the work has serious problems, your
job is a difficult one. In the case of reviewing for a publisher, it is
good both for the writer and your own reputation to suggest all the ways
the work needs revision, whether they be minor or major changes. In the
case of reviewing for tenure and promotion, you will be asked to evaluate
the person’s work by discussing its contribution to the field of
scholarship. Again, you must render your honest evaluation in the most prudent
way possible. If you have not been told in advance, you should inquire as
to whether or not the candidate will know the identities of the external
reviewers or see their evaluations. Rarely will your name be revealed to
the candidate but it is always good to be sure of this in advance.
junior scholars who know you well and respect you highly will ask for your
assistance in critiquing their work. I always treasure these requests and, as
with graduate students, do everything I possibly can to help them do their
best. Thus, honest, candid, helpful advice is the best you can offer. You can
be certain that they will take your advice very seriously and appreciate the
time and energy you give in assessing their work.
new projects. Most academic societies are open to new initiatives by its
members, for it is how creativity enters the profession. Prompted by your
interests and ideas, you should not shy away from seeking venues where you
can take the initiative of launching new projects. The AAR has set forth
certain procedures for advancing such initiatives. You should learn about
those procedures through its web page and/or discussing the matter with
other colleagues or the appropriate staff member at the headquarters.
Similarly, if you wish to seek funding for a new project, you should
discuss the matter with a possible funding source in order to discern
their possible interest. Do not proceed too far in that direction,
however, without discussing it with your academic dean since the
institution will likely be an important partner in any outside funding.
There is no end to the amount of networking one can do regionally,
nationally, and internationally. The internet provides an excellent means
for such activity. Every scholar should have a relatively small network of
conversational partners with whom s/he can share ideas, read drafts of
papers, etc. for critical reviews. Remember that in one way or another,
scholarship is a relational activity. It is written for an audience.
Having the support of a small group of conversation partners can be
enormously helpful. For many, these relationships begin in graduate school
and continue throughout one’s professional career.
letters of recommendation. Along with so many things we do as faculty
members, letters of recommendation should be undertaken with the greatest
of care because lives and careers are at stake. Remember that you are
being asked to use your best judgment in recommending the person for the
particular position or promotion. Keep in mind that your own reputation is
also at stake, since what you say is likely to influence the final
There is a
difference between a strong recommendation and one that is offered with reservations.
I find that the latter might take the form of emphasizing the candidate’s
strengths and saying nothing about his/her possible weaknesses for the
position. Often the committee will notice what is not said as well as what is
said. Thus, I often write the recommendation in such a way as to ask myself how
the candidate would feel about this recommendation if he or she were to read
it. This exercise helps the writer to be truthful, charitable, and fair. None
will blame you if your recommendation exhibits these virtues.
been a few times when I have been asked to review a person’s work for tenure
when either the quality or quantity of the work was such that I had to decline
the invitation usually on the grounds of being inundated with other duties.
Even so, always express gratitude for the invitation.
wrongly, I have sometimes sent a blind copy to the candidate of a superb
recommendation I have written in order for that person to be empowered by my
evaluation of their work. In all such cases, I felt confident that other
reviewers would think similarly and that there was not likely to be any problem
with the review process.
important to remember that sabbaticals are not times of rest and relaxation.
Nor are they times to teach elsewhere unless that teaching is part of your
research. For example, sometimes a person will go abroad to do research and in
return for lodging, etc., might teach a course in that context. Clearly, that
particular school should know that your primary purpose for being there is to
do research, which should not be seriously hindered by other responsibilities.
Especially in certain so-called "third world" contexts, such
reciprocal arrangements can be helpful both to you and the institution.
academic world is one of the few environments where sabbaticals are given on a
regular basis. But since that regularity varies from school to school, you
should inquire about the school’s sabbatical leave policy at the time you are considering
joining its faculty. At any rate, you should feel privileged to be a part of an
institution that is willing to pay you a salary to spend several months
periodically thinking and writing.
make careful plans concerning the goals you wish to accomplish during your
sabbatical. Keep in mind that this is the only time for sustained research and
writing. Very little research can be accomplished during the academic year.
Some can be done during summer breaks but the time is too short for sustained
work coupled with vacation and family responsibilities. If planned well,
sabbaticals can be refreshing, stimulating, and productive not only for
yourself and your work but for your family. If you can receive outside funding,
your school may agree to allow you to extend your sabbatical but all of that
will need to be carefully negotiated. Few things are more gratifying in academe
than accomplishing the goals you set for your sabbatical.
process of mentoring takes place whenever you are engaged with students whether
formally or informally. You are always their mentor and they will never cease
evaluating you in that role. Thus, you should always conduct yourself with this
awareness and never try to step out of the role because you will do so at your
peril. You should never violate the code of professional ethics which you
should know and appreciate. Most academic societies and schools will have
policies governing professional conduct. It is part of your professional responsibility
to know those codes and faithfully adhere to them at all times.
different understandings of mentoring. The one I disagree with is the model
where the teacher strives to mold the student in his/her own image. That model
invariably allows the student very little freedom. It is not only controlling
but it stultifies the student’s creativity. I prefer to help the student
identify his/her academic interest at every point in the process of learning,
and help them understand what is required academically to realize their
interests. Part of that advising process, however, is to inform the student if
he or she does not have the capacity to pursue a particular type of inquiry
successfully and what is needed to acquire that capacity. This method of mentoring
maximizes the student’s freedom and the teacher become a coach in the process.
The responsibility is placed on the student to manage his/her program of
studies with as much consultation as needed. Respecting the student and his/her
interests is one of the highest values in this model. By doing so, the student
will respect the teacher’s work and be influenced but not unduly controlled by
deal with a troublesome situation in the classroom may become one of the
primary mentoring moments. Never be defensive or abusive to the student who is
causing the problem. Rather, deal with the situation in a positive and
constructive way. Whenever I have had a student who persists in challenging
some aspect of the course with his/her opposing position, I have suggested that
that student prepare his case for a ten or fifteen minute presentation to the
class. That usually has a calming effect on the student and puts him or her in
position to be heard and to defend his position before his/her peers. In my experience,
this method always succeeds.
have both beginnings and endings. When exactly, the ending occurs could be
questionable, but one phase of it certainly ends at the time of retirement from
a particular institution. Depending on one’s health and other factors, the
academic enterprise can endure well beyond formal retirements. Happily,
mandatory retirement at a certain age is no longer the rule in the United
States and each person is left to make that decision in a responsible way.
Certainly, by the time you reach the mid-career point, you should gain clarity
about the adequacy of your prospective retirement income and whether or not it
will need to be augmented in some way. Also, you should begin at that point
making at least some tentative plans about your post-retirement life. As with
your career, setting goals is equally important for your retirement.
judgment, the more plans you have for your retirement the better. In that way,
your retirement can have considerable continuity with the pre-retirement life,
although it is good that it not be the same in all respects. It is liberating
to be free from the constraints of academic calendars and their demands.
Further, the more creative you can be in planning your retirement years, the
taking yourself too seriously. The institution has survived before you
came and it will survive after you leave. You are not indispensable.
missing appointments, deadlines, and being late.
being anti-social with your colleagues and always respond gracefully to
their invitations for social activities with them.
saying disrespectful things to students about your colleagues.
passivity in the face of injustice since advocacy for justice reveals your
own moral integrity and enhances the quality of the institution.
all unprofessional behavior.