Myth of "Stalled" Associate Professor: 10 Steps to Redefining Success in Academia


In the world of academia, the path to full professorship is often viewed as a linear progression from assistant to associate to full professor.

However, for many associate professors, especially women, this journey can feel more like a treadmill than a path. The pressure to publish a second book, among other responsibilities, can create a sense of failure despite being deeply engaged in academic work. It's time to reconsider what constitutes success in academia and acknowledge the valuable contributions of "engaged" associate professors. Here are ten ways to achieve this:

Myth of the

(Photo : PEXELS / Andrea Piacquadio)

1. Ground-breaking Research

Associate professors are often engaged in research that pushes the boundaries of their field. This research requires sustained periods of time to evolve into publishable work. Recognizing and supporting this process is crucial for academic success.

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2. International Engagement

Many associate professors participate in international conferences and workshops. These engagements not only advance knowledge but also support the success of junior scholars. By actively participating in these events, associate professors play a crucial role in shaping the future of their fields.

3. Mentorship

Associate professors are not only responsible for their own research but also for mentoring junior faculty and graduate students. This mentorship is vital for the development of future scholars and should be recognized as part of their academic contributions.

4. Community Building

In the classroom, associate professors foster a community of care where diversity deepens and complicates students' understanding of the subject matter. Creating a safe and respectful environment where all students feel heard and respected is a hallmark of an engaged associate professor.

5. Innovation in Teaching

The role of the associate professor also includes adapting to new teaching methods and curricula. By exploring and experimenting with new ways to meet student interests, associate professors ensure that their teaching remains relevant in a rapidly changing world.

6. Public Engagement

Associate professors frequently communicate their research to the public using non-academic writing and various forms of media. This engagement helps bridge the gap between academia and the wider community, making their work accessible and impactful.

7. Service to the Institution

Associate professors play an active role in university, college, and department service. This service is not just a duty but an opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the health and vibrancy of their institution.

8. Engagement with the World

Beyond their research and teaching, associate professors are often involved in issues that affect the world at large. Whether it's responding to global crises or participating in community initiatives, this engagement enriches their academic experience and makes them better scholars and teachers.

9. Balancing Family Life

Many associate professors juggle their academic responsibilities with family life, including caring for children, partners, and often parents. This balancing act should be recognized and supported by their institutions.

10. Recognition beyond Publications

While publishing a second book is often seen as the pinnacle of success for associate professors, colleges and universities should find ways to recognize excellence that goes beyond traditional publication metrics. This could include salary reviews based on the extent and impact of a faculty member's contribution or additional paid leave to support the completion of a scholarly monograph.

The narrative of the "stalled" associate professor needs to be challenged. Success in academia should be measured by a variety of factors that reflect the diverse and impactful work of associate professors. By recognizing and supporting the contributions of engaged associate professors, universities can create a more inclusive and fulfilling academic environment for all.

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