When contemplating a Primarily Undergraduate Institution (PUI) career, take note that the nature of your job can vary considerably depending on the institution. This is part of a series of blogs that list some salient features of an institution that can affect your work.
Today’s focus – Requirements for tenure
If you land a PUI position, what will you need to do to keep it? This is a critical piece of information that you’ll want to get an answer for. To find out, ask faculty that you meet with during your job interviews, and especially ask the Provost. What does the college want to see in terms of teaching, service, and especially, professional work? How many publications of what kind are expected for tenure? What sorts of grants do others in the department have? What kind of student involvement in your research is expected? The answer to this last question may affect the sort of research program you will generate, which may affect your productivity and grant needs. As for teaching, I think that most PUIs would want you to be an excellent teacher…eventually. Hopefully, you would be given some time to prove yourself. It would be good to find out if this is the attitude of the college, and if so, how long you will have to learn the ropes and get your classes on solid ground before you are expected to deliver outstanding courses.
Ask what the expectations currently are for tenure. A good way to gauge this is to find out the fates of faculty in your field who have recently come up for tenure. Also ask whether expectations are likely to change over the course of the next 5 ½ years (the time frame during which most new faculty become eligible for tenure).
Note that it is often impractical, and not in the best interests of faculty, for strict requirements for tenure to be set in stone. This means the answers you receive to your questions will probably be somewhat vague. Nevertheless you can expect to get a good amount of useful information from these queries. This will help you gauge the degree to which the expectations at a given institution match your vision of your ideal job.
One of the reasons I was attracted to a PUI position is because it seemed to be less stressful, and require fewer hours of work, than the faculty positions at research universities (like those of the PIs I saw around me in grad school). I wanted to have space for other elements of life, like a family. Oh, that reminds me, if you are also considering having children (or more children), find out what accommodations are made for parental leave and for stoppage of the tenure clock for children. Anyway, if you have a similar motivation for considering a PUI, note that your level of stress and the number of hours you need to work will depend largely on these tenure expectations.