My Tenure Dossier

I recently received tenure and promotion from the University of Colorado Denver. Tenure is perhaps the most important moment in an academic’s career – it is the culmination of years of hard work and a giant exhale of the anxieties and stresses that define your experience as a junior faculty member. Tenure is also an enormous investment by the university in you as a professional. In this era of disinvestment from public education and the exploitation of contingent faculty and graduate students, it is also a form of job security that fewer and fewer worthy colleagues will enjoy. I am enormously privileged.

In the years leading-up to my tenure review, I searched for example dossiers (the combination of documents you submit as part of your tenure application or “package”). I was surprised to find very few examples online from the social sciences, and could not find any from urban and regional planning.

I am a firm believer that accessible examples of professional documents like grant budgets can help to demystify academia, making it more accessible and (eventually, hopefully) more diverse. For junior faculty, it is helpful to see examples of how dossiers might be strategized and constructed. For PhD students, understanding the field through the lens of tenure can be a very useful professional development goal. Having sat on several hiring committees, a key question about candidates is always “can this person earn tenure at our institution?” Knowing what you aiming at is the sign of a competitive application, in my experience.

Therefore, I am sharing all of my dossier materials below. I am also sharing copies of the decision letters from my primary unit, college and university review committees, so you can see a) how the decision-making process flows from department to college to campus and b) how external letter writers and reviewers described my work and assessed the strengths and weaknesses of my case.

I have been debating whether or not to publish this post for several months. My hesitation comes from a few places. First, and most important, I don’t want to give the impression that mine is a “typical” dossier package. There is no typical case. Like any academic, my record (and the dossier that describes it) has its strengths and weaknesses. Your own experience – the institutional resources you receive, the expectations you are subject to, and the barriers you face – will vary. I hope that you will see these materials in the spirit I provide them, to help you understand the tenure review process through one unique case and one particular university. Second, the review letters say some really nice things about me, and I don’t want to give the impression that I am bragging. Tenure documents are effusive by nature; read between the lines and you will see the critiques. That brings up my third concern, that I am exposing my work to the type of critical examination usually reserved for letter writers and review committees. This doesn’t worry me much as I already have tenure :) but there is definitely a feeling of vulnerability sharing these professional (yet oddly personal) documents. Planning is a small field.

I think the benefits of sharing outweigh my concerns, however. So, without further ado, here are my tenure materials:

I will write a post later with general advice on strategies for tenure and promotion and on writing tenure statements. In the meantime, a few explanatory notes or bits of context:

  • At CU Denver you are evaluated based on your research, teaching and service. You must receive an evaluation of “excellent” in two out of three categories. I have attached our department’s RTP criteria above that describe some of the standards by which excellence is judged.

  • I submitted my full dossier in August 2018 and received a final decision in June 2019.

  • I was on the tenure track for 7 years, having received my PhD in 2011. I taught at a different institution from 2011-2013 and so technically went up “early” at CU Denver, although probably a year “late” in terms of time from PhD.

Please be in touch if you have any questions. If you have tenure, please consider sharing your own documents! More examples in the public-eye will mean better prepared junior faculty.