Cherry Blossoms

Promotion to full Professor guidelines

Arts & Sciences, Spring 2018, approved by College Council

The University of Washington Faculty Code specifies that promotion to the rank of Professor requires outstanding, mature scholarship as evidenced by accomplishments in teaching and in research as evaluated in terms of national or international recognition.  This document elaborates on this section of the Code from the perspective of the College of Arts & Sciences.

Expectations for promotion to Professor.  The decision about promotion to the rank of Professor is based on the same three fundamental criteria that guide evaluations for promotion to the rank of Associate Professor, namely scholarship, teaching, and service.  For promotion to Professor, the expectations of attainment in these three areas are higher than for promotion to Associate Professor.  The precise expectations vary widely over the units within the College and across the University, but the common denominator is documented evidence of outstanding quality, productivity, and scholarly impact.  As is the case with promotion to the rank of Associate Professor, there is no single scale that can be used even within a single academic unit, as there are many compelling combinations of quantity, quality, and pace of scholarly activity.  However, there are general principles that are applied as uniformly as possible across all cases by the College Council and the Dean.

Timing.  Unlike promotion to Associate Professor with its six-year tenure clock, promotion to Professor has no mandated time period.  Statistically, within the College of Arts & Sciences, time in rank at the Associate Professor level varies by division, but there is also a significant range of time in rank within the divisions.  By Faculty Code, every faculty member below the rank of Professor should be considered annually for possible promotion and has the right to request a promotion review.  Also, by Code, Associate Professors meet at least biannually with their chair to discuss progress toward promotion.  It is important that the faculty member and chair candidly discuss progress toward promotion and the department's and College's expectations for promotion.

Scholarship.  As a premier research university, our expectations regarding the independent scholarly record of our faculty are high.  In general, quality is more important than quantity, although there must be sufficient quantity to provide evidence of a significant level of scholarly productivity and impact.  For promotion to Professor, the faculty member should have established him/herself as a major researcher, scholar, or creative artist at the national and often international level.  At this stage of career, the scholarly record will normally be larger and also reflect a more mature formulation of questions and a richer exploration of them.  A faculty member's entire scholarly career is evaluated, with emphasis placed on work developed since the time of promotion to Associate Professor.  Several factors influence the assessment of the quality of a scholarly record.

  • Quality can be demonstrated by indicators of the impact of scholarship such as citations and prestige of the journals or presses in which the individual publishes or of the exhibit or performance venue.
  • Outside funding of research from prestigious foundations and institutes (in those disciplines in which it is available) can be viewed as a significant part of the scholarly record, depending on the relative size of the grant and the significance of the questions posed.
  • The impact/significance of the scholarship can be assessed in part through the evaluations from outside reviewers.
  • The personal statement provided by the candidate is an important guide to the significance of each scholarly piece and their connections to each other.  The statement should articulate the intellectual agenda(s) that motivates the individual’s work.
  • In the creative and performing arts, promotion portfolios will reflect the faculty member's creative work, including works of art, exhibitions, performances, and reviews thereof.  As with all faculty members, the significance of the work and career trajectory are paramount.
  • Invited presentations to talk at other universities and prestigious events add to the scholarly record but generally play a relatively minor role independent of other measures of the scholarly record.
  • We do encourage collaborative work; thus coauthored books, articles, and creative works are given important weight by the Council.  In general, largely technical achievements do not count as much as contributions of a more fundamental and substantial nature.  A significant portion of the overall scholarly record should include works to which the candidate (and as appropriate, his/her students) has made the primary contributions.
  • Sustained scholarly activity as seen in conference participation, publications, grants, or performances and exhibitions demonstrates scholarly engagement and attainment.

Teaching.  (The following section is not applicable for research appointments.)  A good teaching record is a necessary part of a successful promotion case.  Promotion will not be granted in the College of Arts and Sciences without evidence of good teaching.  An exceptional teaching record can compensate for a more limited scholarly record, but it cannot substitute for an unacceptable scholarly record.  Teaching is viewed broadly, including curriculum planning, course design, student reactions and success, and mentoring.  Evidence of success in these areas will be judged using the following materials.

  • Student evaluations.  Candidates are expected to have course evaluations for a substantial percentage of the courses taught at the UW.  At a minimum, candidates are expected to have numeric scores above 3.0 on the typical 5-point scale.  Special interest is placed on evaluations of the instructor's contribution to the class, the overall quality of the class, and, especially, the amount students learned.
  • Peer reviews.  The Faculty Code calls for peer review at least triennially for Associate Professors, and these are an important part of the candidate's record.  Ideally the reviewer will be provided with a full portfolio of the course being reviewed, including a statement of course objectives and philosophy, before visiting a class—though classroom visitation is not formally required in the peer evaluation process.  It is best if the file includes peer reviews from several different faculty colleagues.  Especially in cases of interdisciplinary courses, it may be useful to have peer reviews by faculty in different disciplines. Constructive criticism is expected in most peer reviews.  Academic HR recently instituted a requirement that a peer evaluation be conducted in the year of promotion regardless of the triennial schedule of evaluations.  This requirement should be adhered to even though it is not stated in the Faculty Code.
  • Mentoring record.  A very important part of our teaching responsibilities takes place outside of any specific course.  The advising of students, both undergraduate and graduate, is a significant contribution to the teaching mission of the University.  At the time of promotion to Professor, a faculty member will have a significant record of working with and mentoring students, including, where appropriate, chairing graduate student committees.  The demonstrated success of one's students (both undergraduate and graduate) can be valuable testimony of a faculty member's contributions.
  • Personal statement.  The personal statement is expected to describe and reflect on the overall teaching record, including any steps taken to improve the quality of teaching in response to feedback.

Service.  Communities thrive when all members contribute to the common good.  Thus we expect that candidates for promotion will have been involved in the life of their department, in the life of the University, and in their national associations.  The University and the College have also made engagement with the broader public one of our institutional goals, and encourage public scholarship.  It is desirable to show evidence of contributions to or engagement with the broader community and in some cases may be part of the job expectations.  Whereas junior faculty commit less of their time to service, tenured faculty members are expected to play a greater role in this area.

Conclusion.  Faculty members, especially post-tenure, can take various approaches to scholarship, teaching, and service, emphasizing one or another at different times in a career.  The College of Arts and Sciences values the many and varied contributions made by faculty.  Promotion to the highest academic rank will be consistent with the expectations of a research university.  Each promotion case is evaluated on its own merits, taking into account the specific expectations of each department and the general expectations of the College and the University.  The College is eager to work with faculty toward promotion to this rank.  It is important to stress, however, that ultimately individuals are responsible for their own professional success.