Dr. Joseph McRae Mellichamp is Emeritus Professor of Management Science in the Manderson Graduate School of Business at the University of Alabama and National Faculty Representative for Christian Leadership Ministries. For 25 years, Dr. Mellichamp combined successful academic pursuits with effective Christian ministry activities.
One of the principles I have learned in reaching out to colleagues in the university is to minister to them in ways that meet real needs. One of the reasons that "How to Make Better Grades and Have More Fun" talks are such an effective means of reaching students is that nearly all students want to make good grades -- they have a real need. When you think about needs that professors have, two areas immediately come to mind: time management and tenure. Most professors are stressed in the area of time management; this is why outreach strategies using The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First (Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994) are so effective. For most professors in tenure track positions, the tenure process is a formidable prospect. They have a real need for information on how to successfully negotiate the tenure process. And this need represents an opportunity for those who wish to reach their colleagues in the university. Here is how to capitalize on this opportunity.
Every Christian Faculty/Staff Fellowship should be offering a "How to Make Tenure" workshop to all untenured professors on campus on an annual basis. It is usually a simple matter to obtain a list of all new tenure track faculty from the administration. A personal letter of invitation should be sent to each new professor well in advance of the actual seminar. Of course, if each new professor could be personally invited by a Christian professor in his or her department or college, this would be even better. The seminar is usually done on a weekday afternoon and requires about two hours. The format for the seminar is flexible but should include a generic presentation on how to make tenure covering such issues as what counts; how to find out what counts; how to allocate time between teaching, research, and service; how to prepare for the reviews; how to develop a good strategy, etc. In my talk, I present a strategy for making tenure that I think is appropriate for any university or college: in the area of service, cheerfully do your share -- and no more; in teaching, try to be an excellent teacher; spend all of your remaining time doing research that will lead to refereed publications in the best journals in your field. The seminar could be given by someone with outstanding academic credentials who is brought in from at least 50 miles away (with a briefcase) or by one of the members of the fellowship who has a solid reputation for excellence within the university. My talk is available through the Christian Leadership Ministries Worldwide Web site and may be used as is or modified to suit a particular presenter or campus situation. I would also be happy to assist individuals who wish to develop their own talks.
The seminar can and probably should include comments by senior faculty representing the various colleges on campus to give information that might be specific to individual colleges; e.g., how a concert performance or juried art work might compare with a refereed journal article. It is also quite effective to have younger professors who have recently negotiated the tenure hurdle to share their perspectives: what problems they encountered, what strategies helped them, what they would do differently. If mentoring relationships between established Christian professors and the participants are a possibility, during the seminar is an appropriate time to establish such relationships. Finally, plenty of time should be allowed for Q&A, because there will be many questions. Refreshments might also be served and an informal time for discussion planned. Be sure to have participants provide names and campus addresses for subsequent follow-up.
Follow-up is important and might be accomplished in a variety of ways. At one seminar, the organizer invited interested participants to join a Seven Habits discussion group he was starting. All but one of the participants joined the group, and all of them ultimately became involved in the Christian Faculty/Staff Fellowship on that campus. Participants could be followed-up through mentoring relationships that are established as a natural part of the mentoring process. Alternatively, participants might be followed-up by the Christian professor who invited them or by a member of the fellowship who volunteers to do follow-up. And it is, of course, appropriate at the seminar to invite participants to become involved in regular meetings of the fellowship.
I have done several of these workshops in the past several years with uniformly positive results. At the University of Minnesota recently, the organizers were reluctant to try the seminar as a campus outreach strategy, so they decided to have it just for untenured professors involved in the Christian Faculty/Staff Fellowship. The seminar was outstanding in every respect, and the clincher came when a young man who had been denied tenure in an engineering department a year earlier shared why he didn’t make tenure. Powerful! One of the senior professors told me after the seminar, "We will be doing this every year at Minnesota, but from now on, we will be inviting all untenured professors. At another recent presentation, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences attended the seminar and remarked to me before the presentation, "You can’t do this. The tenure process is too political, too subjective, too emotional. I just came to see you fall on your face." At the conclusion of the talk, the dean sheepishly commented to me, "I agreed with everything you said! Your recommendations are right on target. Every one of my faculty needs to hear this material!"
The "How to Make Tenure" seminar is one of the most natural and effective ways I know of for reaching out to new professors. Even if someone you invite doesn’t come to the seminar for whatever reason, you have created good will because the invitation was extended on behalf of the Christian Faculty/Staff Fellowship. One of the participants at a recent seminar I did wrote on his comment card, "I have been struggling with an out-of-control, unbalanced life for many years and have been thinking about all of this a lot lately. I want to follow most of your suggestions." Meeting real needs. That is what we as Christian professors need to be doing for our colleagues. The tenure seminar does exactly that.
© Copyright 1997, Joseph McRae Mellichamp
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