Does anything change at the promotion from Associate Professor to Full Professor? When asked, the first response of most faculty is “it’s just like any other day.” Some even feel that’s just the way it should be. For many faculty, promotion to full is just what happens as they pursue the career they love, doing the work that has meaning for them. As one faculty member put it, “There’s a momentum that gets you here, and you just keep going; we’re driven by the students and our own professional pride and that doesn’t change.”
Upon further reflection, faculty identify a whole host of changes at promotion. These gradually, yet decisively, define the role of full professors. We compiled the following from interviews with over 100 newly promoted full professors at a major doctoral-granting university.
- People look to me for advice more frequently.
- I need to watch what I say, how I say it. Now I can’t avoid people hearing me as a full professor. I have to learn more diplomacy so it doesn’t seem like I’m pulling rank.
- There’s a need to lead with diplomacy and tact in a crisis when we have no training for this.
- I have much more responsibility for the things that are not high value, but which must get done.
- I know how to choose my battles more effectively.
- You start to feel the generational differences and tensions with your junior colleagues. And it’s hard to know when you’re just being resistant to change. Not enough senior faculty are adventurous.
- I can adopt a longer, broader view.
- I can speak up more.
- In my department, there are too few full professors. So, becoming a full professor is all about filling this unmet need.
- I have increased flexibility in my research options (including being able to pursue research interests I’ve just had as a hobby until now). It’s a chance to study new areas, learn more, become an expert in areas I haven’t been able to pursue before.
- I have increased flexibility in how I supervise graduate students. Now I feel like I’m free to do my job. I get students out the door on their timing, for their own good, rather than as a reflection of my career track.
- I’m expected to do bigger jobs, with greater responsibility and more complexity.
- For me it’s not about revving up. I’ve been taking on leadership and responsibility for years. The main difference now is that I’m older and so, if anything, I need to rev down a little.
- I need to be more focused in where I invest my energy. For a long time I’ve said yes to most things that came my way, and I just can’t sustain that anymore.
- Like many of my colleagues, I waited until after tenure to have a family life – so now being a full professor is a balancing act with raising children.
- The only change is now I’m eligible to be chair. Other than that, all the responsibilities started kicking in at tenure. And in my department, that means that no one goes from associate to full on schedule.
- More interruptions (especially e-mail!), less concentrated focus on my intellectual work.
- I’ve become more dependent on the intangible reward system – the tangible rewards are not as obvious anymore.
- I feel an increased responsibility with respect to the chair of the department – an ally, colleague, collaborator, participant, willing to bring out complexities and multiple perspectives to support the role of the chair.
Specific Changes at Promotion to Full
Specific changes at promotion to full professor vary by discipline, department, institution. Do changes from this list resonate for you? What other changes have you experienced – or, do you anticipate?
What changes in other promotions? Read more about changes with tenure here.