When a Bid for Tenure Fails, This Is What Bouncing Back Looks Like

Historians in the News
tags: history crisis, Katharine Bullard



When Katharine S. Bullard was denied tenure, in 2013, she decided that life as an academic was over for her.

"I knew I didn’t want to go on the tenure track again," said Ms. Bullard, a historian who had taught at Fairleigh Dickinson University, in New Jersey.

But what her next move would be didn’t begin to take shape until her "terminal year," the academic year that generally follows a tenure denial. Rather than using that time to get back on the academic job market, Ms. Bullard cast a wide net and reached out to people about job prospects.

"I worked all of my contacts, even from high school," Ms. Bullard said. "I was just calling people up, reaching out to everyone I could. That’s what you have to do."

Ms. Bullard had worked as an activist for the teaching-assistant union while in graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the contacts she’d made there proved fruitful.

Before her terminal year was even up, Ms. Bullard was working part time for the Service Employees International Union, a position that became her first full-time job after the denial.

"My terminal year was a hard year, but I would advise taking it," said Ms. Bullard, who also appealed her case during that time. "It gives you the space to decide what to do next."

For Ms. Bullard, strategizing her next moves — at one point, with the help of a career coach — ultimately resulted in her working at a university again. A friend of hers, who works at Lehigh University, passed along an advertisement the Pennsylvania institution had posted for a research program-development officer.

Ms. Bullard applied, got the job, and started work in January 2016. ...





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