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ISSUE 121 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/14/2008

Faculty tenured

By Peter Meng
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Board of Regents recently promoted 10 faculty members and granted tenure to another five at their February meeting.

Faculty who were promoted to full professor include: Mary Carlsen, Julie Legler, James McKeel, Meg Ojala, Steve Reece and Janice Roberts. Faculty Jason Engbrecht, Rika Ito, Karil Kucera and Jeff Schwinefus were promoted to associate professor and tenured. Additionally, Ariel Strichartz received tenure.

"We're very proud of our tenured faculty this year," College dean James May said. "They are the greatest insurance to providing a good education at St. Olaf."

An intense six-year process brought faculty to their tenured positions. Chemistry professor Schwinefus admitted, "It was a great journey to get here." Schwinefus attributed his promotion to his love of teaching, students, research and access to fancy toys. Besides teaching, Schwinefus serves on the Health Professions Committee. He is also actively involved with summer research programs at St. Olaf.

For many professors, being awarded tenure did not come as a surprise. "It took a while to sink in," Physics professor Engbrecht said.

After reaching this milestone in their careers, professors can finally take a breath.

"It's been nice," Engbrecht said.

Outside the classroom, Engbrecht has been actively involved with students in positron research. In addition, he organizes the Honors Day Science Symposium and is leading a group of students who will eventually construct a Rube Goldberg machine.

Although students frequently hear about faculty receiving promotions and tenure, many admit they know little about the process.

Candidates are initially hired for six years on a tenure track position. During this probation period, comprehensive reviews are conducted during the second and fourth years of employment. The first two reviews are designed to help the candidates improve and prepare for their final and most important review, the sixth year tenure review.

Each comprehensive review takes data from three main sources, involving nearly everyone on campus.

Many students have been asked to respond to a class evaluation. These evaluations are carefully analyzed by a committee to develop a sense of the candidate's teaching.

Professors within the candidate's department are also called upon to conduct evaluations. These professors often sit in on classes, watching their peers teach.

The professional activities of the candidate outside of the classroom are also analyzed. Such activities can include research and published papers.

In addition to these three sources, other criteria are used such as classroom teaching, significant professional activities and service to the community and college.

After the final tenure review, documents amassed from the previous six years are sent to the tenure promotion committee. This committee consists of five elected members from various disciplines who have already received tenure. Together, the committee meticulously reads and examines every paper in the candidate's dossier which includes letters from colleagues, outside experts, alumni and a personal statement from the candidate.

Interviews are then conducted with the college dean, department chair and the candidate.

If the committee is satisfied with the candidate's teaching, professional activities and service to the college community, a recommendation will be made to the college dean. If merited, the dean will then make a recommendation to the president. Based on this recommendation, the president will then decide if a recommendation is to be made to the Regents. Finally, with the Regents approval, tenure can be awarded to the candidate in question.

Often at the time of tenure, candidates are promoted from assistant professor to associate professor. However, the candidate's journey is not yet over. After another six to 12 years, the candidate can be promoted to full professor. Since most tenured faculty choose to spend the rest of their careers at St. Olaf, a rigorous tenure and promotion process is necessary for this multimillion dollar, decades-long investment.

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