The "Collective Wisdom" website was developed as an accessible, internal resource to provide practical, informal guidance and answers to frequently asked questions for college faculty navigating the process to promotion and/or the award of tenure or continuing status. Candidates, mentors, and unit heads should refer to the most recent provost's Guide to the Promotion Process and CALS Guidelines and Criteria for specific requirements and recent changes.

"Collective Wisdom"

Part I: A Common Sense Guide for New Faculty and Administrators

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) invests significant amounts of time and money in its new faculty. Candidates are carefully evaluated before hiring and appropriate resources are provided to help each person get started. Promoting career development is in the best interests of both our new faculty and the college. Successful faculty guarantee successful departments, colleges, and universities.

Communication and common sense about the evaluation process for promotion and tenure or promotion and continuing status are important keys to helping our faculty succeed at The University of Arizona. Four primary factors stand out as essential to navigating this process successfully: 1) agreement on the task; 2) knowledge of policy and procedures; 3) appropriate mentoring and feedback; and 4) owning a share in your own success.

Agreement on the Task

CALS is a large, diverse organization with faculty appointments that include varying combinations of teaching, research, and extension activities. The position description is an important element in annual evaluations and is incorporated in the summary of candidate's workload assignment included in the promotion and tenure/continuing status dossier. Each faculty position description reflects the relative responsibilities assigned to teaching, research, extension, and service.

When new faculty are hired, there should be written documentation of expectations. A clear understanding of the task allows all parties to make sure sufficient resources or conditions are available to meet those expectations. How achievement will be defined varies among units and this information should be clearly explained as well.

Occasionally, the direction of the unit or the discipline may change or a person may choose to redirect efforts. If individual faculty responsibilities change, the written position description needs to be revised. Whenever the position description appears at odds with what a faculty member is actually being asked to do, early consultation with all necessary parties is important.

Knowledge of Policy and Procedures

CALS uses university, college, and unit-specific criteria to guide promotion and tenure/continuing status decisions. Criteria and procedural guidelines should be made known right from the start and changes should be communicated on a timely basis. Both unit heads and individual faculty bear a responsibility to know the existing procedures and criteria.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Guidelines and Criteria for Promotion and Tenure/Continuing Status were revised in June 1999 (with a minor modification in February 2001) to highlight the importance of evaluating faculty in the context of their specific position descriptions. The CALS Guidelines and Criteria for Promotion and Continuing Status were further revised in March 2014 to include separate guidelines/criteria for specialists and for agents. The appendices to these guidelines provide examples of the broad range of activities that may be appropriate to various types of faculty appointments in the college. All individual departments/schools and Arizona Cooperative Extension have written criteria as well.

"Collective Wisdom" was developed as an additional internal resource to provide CALS faculty with practical, informal guidance and answers to frequently asked questions about the evaluation process and preparation of the dossier. Information on current university guidelines and online forms can be found on the website for the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs.

Appropriate Mentoring and Feedback

Mentors can be assigned or self-selected. Department heads, school directors, and county extension directors play a major role in mentoring new faculty. The unit head provides direction for an individual faculty member's major commitments and plan of work. Senior members of the department or administrative unit are also a good source of advice about how University of Arizona processes work and can warn junior faculty about potential pitfalls.

Annual performance evaluations are required of all faculty but the evaluations required for tenure- or continuing-eligible faculty were specifically intended to provide an in-depth review and detailed feedback on progress toward tenure or continuing status. Receiving early feedback on potential problems allows faculty time to redirect their efforts prior to the mandatory 6-year review.

Owning a Share in Your Own Success

Beginning with their initial employment in CALS, new faculty should assume a share of the responsibility for their own success in the process. New faculty themselves need to know enough about the process to determine whether they are getting appropriate guidance and assessment. Attending the annual workshops sponsored by the Office of the Provost and utilizing web resources are both excellent ways to become better informed.

While those who have been through the process can provide helpful advice, the "rumor mill" is not always 100 percent accurate. Conditions change and statements may be taken out of context. If at any time new faculty feel concerned that proper actions are not being taken, they should meet with their unit head or the dean to clarify issues so problems can be addressed while they are still manageable.


The future of this college and its individual units will depend upon the success of its faculty. Faculty were selected for their positions because they each were considered the very best candidate for that position. They are well supported in their work. Providing guidance in the promotion and tenure/continuing status process is part of our commitment to ensuring that all our new faculty have an opportunity to succeed.