Eleven newly tenured faculty and six faculty members promoted to full professor were honored at the Fall Faculty Convocation in Gaston Hall Tuesday.
For some newly tenured faculty, reaching this threshold has been a long-standing goal.
“I’ve been seeking tenure since I was 20, in the sense that I’ve known that I’ve wanted to be an academic since I was 20,” psychology professor Abigail Marsh said.
For others, getting tenured was just an eventual part of the teaching process.
“There are people who see the end goal of getting tenure, but if you’re really committed to the job and really enjoy what you’re doing, it’s something that happens along the way,” professor Bryce Huebner, who received tenure in the philosophy department, said.
The long process of receiving tenure starts with getting put on the tenure track, compiling a portfolio of publications, teaching evaluations and service done to the university, presenting letters of support from prominent scholars in the same field and receiving department approval. Then, a candidate’s portfolio reaches the Rank and Tenure Committee, which chooses candidates to present to University President John J. DeGioia, who grants final approval.
Executive Vice President and Dean of the Georgetown University Law Center William Treanor presented the newly tenured faculty who completed this process, and DeGioia bestowed the President’s Award for Distinguished Scholar-Teachers to Der-Chen Chang, professor of mathematics and statistics, and pathology professor Richard Schlegel on Tuesday.
Along with job security, tenure provides other benefits for faculty.
“By having job security, you’re allowed to pursue lines of inquiry that you think are important and interesting without fear that you’ll be penalized if your research is politically unpopular,” said Marsh, who conducts behavioral research and neuroimaging using fMRIs that looks at different kinds of emotional processes in an attempt to understand the origins of aggression and altruism in humans. Huebner agrees with the importance of academic freedom and how it allows tenured faculty to question existing dogmas.
“I think that’s really important in academia, especially because the university should be designed to help people learn how to question things and call authority into question,” he said.
Full professors are given greater responsibilities within the department than tenured associate professors, like deciding the promotion of their colleagues, and in general, are awarded more acknowledgements.
Anna De Fina of the Italian department, a new full professor, anticipates the greater amount of freedom that comes along with the promotion.
“I’m looking forward to a level of freedom because I don’t have to demonstrate that I am able to do this or that. I have greater choice; I can do things slowly. If I write a book, I don’t have that deadline, like if it doesn’t come out by such and such date, I won’t get tenure or I won’t get a promotion,” De Fina said.
Yulia Chentsova-Dutton, a psychology professor, has noticed that her teaching has seen the indirect impact of her receiving tenure.
“With teaching, pre-tenure, there are so many things competing for your attention; in particular, you’re worried, you’re stressed about the big step and so I think with that off my plate, I have much more resources to dedicate to students, even though I’m objectively busier, but I’m less stressed by having to take that major step,” Chentsova-Dutton said.
Government professor Hans Noel, newly tenured, said that receiving tenure allows for more time to focus on creativity in the classroom.
“I can say, alright, this semester, I’m not worried about publishing anything, I’ll just get creative with this class and see what happens, so it’s liberating in that sense,” Noel said.
For both Marsh and history professor Michael David-Fox, the news of their promotions brings a feeling of relief.
“To be frank, I’m looking forward to not ever having to be promoted again. That’s the last time you have to go through these kinds of hurdles,” David-Fox said. “It’s kind of a nice feeling; you’ve gotten to the highest rank you can get and you can continue to do your work and do what you love doing.”
De Fina hopes that there will be better communication between the university and potential full professors on the processes that need to be taken for promotion.
“I wonder whether there will be a better description for people at Georgetown as to what they’re expected to do.” she said. “I understand that you can’t really put numbers or very specific details, but maybe the university could think of a forum or a website or something that collects the information and directs people towards what they need to do to become full professors.”
Chentsova-Dutton, who came to the United States as a high school exchange student during the collapse of the Soviet Union and did not know if she could attend college, keeps her tenure letter above her desk as a reminder of how far she has come.
“Having gone from not knowing and scrambling money by babysitting to go to community college to being given this position this position at Georgetown University, these kinds of moment make you realize the distances you’ve traveled,” Chentsova-Dutton said.