The primary stages of a tenure track career are predictable, marked by a small number of highly significant transitions: the degree, an academic position, tenure, promotion, and retirement. Other momentous faculty transitions include changing institutions, shifting research directions, and stepping into a major administrative role.
The academic life is also comprised of many smaller transitions that typically go unmarked in the life of the institution. Transitions in and out of leadership, graduating one’s first or last student, scholarly transitions into new questions, shifts in service loads, defining changes in relationships with colleagues, and maturational changes may shift one’s focus or investment in any aspect of one’s career. Personal transitions relating to relationships, children, family, health, and other arenas have a significant impact on faculty careers as well.
Many of these transitions are years in the making and involve a tremendous degree of personal and institutional resources. Far less attention is given to understanding or, even rarer, enjoying these transitions. Few institutions offer resources to integrate such transitions into a career, the life of the institution, or one’s personal goals and satisfaction.
Faculty are less likely to benefit from their gain when transitions are not understood or integrated. They are also less likely to make needed changes, and are often unprepared for new expectations. This loss accumulates over time, truncating the experience of individual faculty, the capacities of departments and other scholarly communities, and the functionality of colleges and universities.