From Associate to Full ProfessorRoundup
tags: academia, diversity, professional culture
Keisha N. Blain is an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh and current president of the African American Intellectual History Society. She is the author of the multi-prize-winning book Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom. Follow her on Twitter @KeishaBlain.
In the academy, the path to tenure is a very difficult one. Yet many resources are available for anyone who has questions and needs advice along the way. With a myriad of books and articles on how to earn tenure to workshops and mentoring programs, there is no dearth of material on how to secure tenure.
By contrast, many fewer resources are available that offer clarity on the path toward becoming a full professor. In fact, recent responses to one of my tweets on this issue suggest that public resources on how to become a full professor are hard to come by. That poses a distinct challenge for all midcareer scholars, but especially for black and Latinx scholars, who currently make up an estimated 7 percent of full professors on college campuses.
As Manya Whitaker argued in a recent article, “It is essential that the professional train not stop at ‘associate’ for Ph.D.s who are women and/or members of marginalized groups.” Becoming a full professor opens up a wealth of leadership opportunities on a campus. In some departments, for example, professors cannot be considered for the position of chair or director of graduate studies until they are full professors. Holding those kinds of leadership positions allows scholars to maintain some institutional power, which makes it possible to advocate for other people and push for meaningful change.
In this way, promotion to full professor is not simply about individual success. It is about the ability to harness institutional power and influence to help open doors and create opportunities for people who might otherwise be shut out. For those of us who are deeply committed to transforming the academy -- even as we recognize its many limitations and challenges -- becoming a full professor is an important step. How do we get there?