Some Reflections on Earning Tenure

Antonios C. Augoustakis (Baylor University)

This paper addresses some of the conflicting aspects of the tenure-track process and offers some thoughts on what to do or avoid doing during the six years of the pre-tenure probationary period, speaking from my perspective as a newly tenured professor. My story is one of success and relatively little stress. There is little doubt, however, that the tenure process can take a heavy toll on the assistant professor’s personal and professional life. Ultimately, is a balance possible between someone’s life at the office and at home? If so, can it be maintained? I shall discuss the following areas conducive to success in tenure: 1) strategy for publications and 2) management of a heavy teaching load.

Publishing has increasingly become the sole factor in determining a tenure case. A good strategy in planning out one’s publications is thus the key to success. From my experience, I believe that one has to have at least two articles under review while working on a third, provided that one also finds time to complete the necessary changes that would turn the dissertation into a book. Therefore, a good dissertation is the prerequisite for survival. I was working on book revisions during the first two years of my tenure-track job, while I was also revising several articles. It is also ideal if your peers help you by proofreading your articles and work as mentors during the process.

Managing a heavy teaching load (for the first three years 3/3) was a daunting task. I believe, however, that teaching and research are closely related and that one can easily use Greek and Latin classes, for instance, as an opportunity for writing abstracts, papers, and eventually articles. I have always found my Latin seminars a very stimulating source for new ideas that eventually became articles. As much as Classicists enjoy teaching, however, a sabbatical leave during these years should be pursued by all means.

Above all, however, the key to success is a good attitude: the tenure candidate should never lose the positive outlook on life but should rather try to socialize within the academic community and outside the department. Friends and family are crucial to maintaining a support network and positive attitude; otherwise it is easy to sequester and isolate oneself in the mistaken belief that interpersonal relations constitute a distraction from the necessary focus and time for research. The difficult moments in our personal or professional lives notwithstanding, one should keep in mind that tenure is not the end of one’s academic life but just the beginning. We should never lose from sight the reason why we do what we do as Classicists.

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