Tech Celebrates Newly Tenured

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One of the most significant events in the life of a faculty member is earning tenure. That’s why Georgia Tech has opted to take a unique approach to commemorating this milestone.

Every fall, Tech invites newly tenured faculty to an offsite three-day retreat, started in 2011 and facilitated and funded by the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship (ILE), the Office of the Executive Vice President for Research, and the Office of the Provost.

According to Terry Blum, director of ILE, the retreat is the only event of its kind in academic circles. At most universities, once faculty earn tenure (a permanent status conferred to promote and protect academic freedom), there’s a letter of congratulations and maybe a reception, she said.

“It’s usually more eventful if you don’t get tenure!” she added. “So we’re pretty unique at putting resources into celebrating and developing people at this part of their career. My friends at other universities are absolutely amazed that we do it.”

Blum and Ravi Bellamkonda, Walter H. Coulter Professor and Chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering, oversee the event, and participation is optional. In spring 2013, there were 49 newly tenured faculty, and about two-thirds attended the retreat, which was held Oct. 11-13.

Aaron Levine, a newly tenured associate professor in the School of Public Policy, was among those who attended this year. He noted that tenure announcements come out in spring, but the retreat takes place in fall.

“It makes sense to give you a little bit of time to adjust to post-tenure life at Tech before you step into the discussion,” he said.

For Levine, the most valuable aspects of the retreat were the chance to meet and interact with other newly tenured faculty outside of his college, the facilitated exercises to get participants thinking about goals and priorities, and the “exemplar” speakers.

“These [speakers] tended to be senior academic leaders at Tech,” Levine said. “But they didn’t talk about their research, which is what you usually hear, but more about their journey. That was actually a surprising part of the retreat, but it was probably the most interesting.”

Another element of the retreat is mentorship, where several faculty with varying years of tenure are on hand to answer questions and offer advice.

Benjamin Flowers, an associate professor in the School of Architecture, attended the first retreat three years ago and came back this year as a mentor. He said this time he got a greater sense that attendees were clear about the purpose of the retreat.

“Now it’s more of a tradition,” he said. “The people who are there understand the value of being there. They are interested in having really serious discussions about how to actively leverage the value of tenure, not only in their own research agendas, but around the scholarly community within Georgia Tech and the larger global academic world.”

Next for retreat attendees, will be an invitation to join Tech’s Leadership Roundtable, as well as a gathering sometime in the spring semester to “reinforce the sense of community,” Blum said. Also, every five years, tenured faculty go through post-tenure review.

“They’re going to try to come up for full professor, get chairs, things like that,” Blum said. “People think of tenure as job security, but it’s not job security without performance."




  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Amelia Pavlik
  • Created: 11/11/2013
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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