One big step closer to tenure

Guess what?  My department unanimously voted in favor of my tenure case today.  Hooray!!!

To back up a bit, there are four steps to tenure at my university: the department recommendation, an “advisory” committee of faculty from across the university, the university president, and the board of trustees.  In practice, the department and the university committee are the two major hurdles: if you have positive recommendations at both of those levels, it is extremely unlikely (though not impossible) that you’d be denied at the president/board level.  It makes sense — after all, your department presumably contains the people on campus who know the most about your research and how to evaluate it, while the other faculty are the ones who can look at the big picture of your research, teaching, and service within the broader context of how the university functions, and keep an eye on any shenanigans that your department might be undergoing.

I knew that my department had to make its decision and give its recommendation to the university-level committee by February 15, but I didn’t know when they were going to make the actual vote until this morning.  Since I’m still on parental leave, I haven’t been around the department much (I’m currently making trips to campus about twice a week for a couple hours at a time to meet with my thesis students, and that’s about it).  This morning I drove to campus to walk our dog while pushing baby L in the stroller (campus is only 3 mi from our house, and it’s a nice place to walk with actual sidewalks, unlike the area around our house which is on a busy road).  As I was loading baby, dog, and stroller back into the car at the end of our walk, my department chair walked out to the parking lot, offered to hold the dog’s leash while I juggled baby and stroller, and nonchalantly told me, “Oh, by the way, the department will be meeting to discuss and vote on your tenure case this afternoon.  Is it OK if I send you an email about it afterwards?”  I was like, “Um, yes, please don’t keep me in suspense!”  Then he cooed at the baby and the baby gave him a chubby-cheeked grin that was totally adorable (good job buttering up the chair, baby!).

I mostly managed to keep my mind off of it for the rest of the day — childcare is a great distraction.  I picked up S from daycare at 4, and took both kids to our local children’s museum, which was lovely (L fell asleep in the baby carrier on my chest, leaving me free to engage with S).  But as soon as my husband finished working and my kid-juggling responsibilities eased up, I was glued to my phone waiting for the email, which came in around 6:30pm.  It was short, just informing me that the department had voted 3-0-0 in favor of my case, saying congratulations, and reminding me that the university committee was the next step.  Phew!!!  I immediately decided to take the big kid out for ice cream to celebrate while my husband put the baby down for his last nap of the day (and yes, we brought ice cream home for my husband).  I texted my mom and three friends to let them know the news, and enjoyed the congratulations rolling in.  It sounds like the celebration will drag out a bit, since one friend offered to bring dessert by this weekend to help celebrate, and another wants to celebrate next weekend — since my birthday falls in the middle of the two weekends, I find this a most desirable state of affairs!

So, that’s the news!  As I’ve mentioned before, tenure has been this big heavy weight hanging over my head, and it’s such a relief to have successfully cleared the first hurdle.  Please send good vibes to the university tenure committee, which will meet to evaluate my case sometime in the next couple of months!

13 thoughts on “One big step closer to tenure

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Thanks, MPB! It’s exciting, for sure! Such a waiting game, kind of like pregnancy and parenting — good thing I’ve been honing my patience skills these last five years! 🙂

  1. Family Values Lesbian

    This is great news!

    My wife dropped out of grad school before getting her doctorate. I have both academic and practical doctorates. We both knew that we weren’t temperamentally suited to academics. My wife would have enjoyed teaching, and she’d have been good at it. Not me. I’d rather dig pit latrines than teach undergraduates again! And I know my wife would rather dig pit latrines than fill out another grant application!

    But almost all of her grad school friends and quite a few of mine are academics. We’re old enough that they’ve all attained tenure – or not. So we know just how important it is, particularly to someone who genuinely likes to teach and would like to make a life of it.

    We are just tickled for you! We’re particularly delighted that you’ve gotten what we would consider the most important thing in your career: The most tangible expression of the respect from the people most qualified to judge. They have declared their willingness to be your closest colleagues for the rest of their and your careers. That truly is the highest and most honest badge of respect.

    Best of luck with the remaining steps. Tenure is great. But this is worth even more.


    1. lyra211 Post author

      Thanks so much for this thoughtful comment, FVL. It’s clear that you get it, and you’ve reminded me of some of the lovely reasons why this outcome is so validating. Indeed, it’s good to know that my departmental colleagues, who know better than anyone the work that I do and see me every day, respect me and want me to stick around as a colleague for life. That is kind of a big deal, especially when you think of it that way.

      And ha, you’d really rather dig pit latrines than teach undergrads again?! I mean, teaching undergrads is definitely not for everyone, but pit latrines are just such a vivid alternative. 🙂

      I hope that you and yours are doing well — it’s been a long time since you’ve updated your blog, but I’m very glad that you’re still here keeping an eye on things!

  2. RJ

    Wow that’s amazing! I’m so happy for you. Tenure is a huge deal and you’ve put in a ton of work to get this far. I hope the next steps happen quickly and you are successful (which it sounds like you will be)!

    1. lyra211 Post author

      Thanks so much! I wish they happened quickly, but I know the next step won’t take place until March, then the next step April 25, and then final word sometime around Memorial Day weekend. It’s such a long process, and so hard to wait, but as long as I get through the next (March) step unscathed, I might be able to start to relax a little!

    1. lyra211 Post author

      I sure hope so! All signs are good, but when it’s your case you can’t help but worry. Looking forward to being out of limbo — should get the final word sometime around Memorial Day!


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