So You Have Tenure: What Comes Next?
Allison S. Gabriel, University of Arizona; Chu-Hsiang (Daisy) Chang, Michigan State University; Russell E. Johnson, Michigan State University; and Christopher C. Rosen, University of Arkansas
After focusing on nothing but researching and teaching since entering the tenure track, one of the fun pieces—I hope—posttenure will be figuring out how to shift my time around. Part of this shift will ideally be to regain a bit of work-life balance that has vanished since I started my PhD program 10 (!) years ago. I admit that this vanishing act was intentional, and I created it because I love my job, and that means work doesn’t always feel like “work.” However, I recently read this article by Katerina Bodovski on The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Why I Collapsed on the Job,” and many of the points hit home and fit with my own struggles that I have detailed here. So, goal #1 posttenure is going to be making small changes that add up in a big way: trying to minimize the amount of e-mailing/working I do on the weekends, leaving work at work as much as possible during the week, and maybe (just maybe) leaving my work computer at home whenever we leave Tucson for more than a day. Of course, as Mike and I have talked about these shifts we both want to make (he’s an academic, too, teaching math at UA), we know that there will be exceptions when deadlines and exams come up. But, we both have agreed that the “life” part of work–life balance needs to roll more to the forefront.
Besides rebalancing things, the other conversation that is dominating our household these days is: What comes next? Although we’ve talked a lot about new classes I might like to teach or how I want to change my approach to PhD advising, the one piece that is entirely new compared to discussions pretenure is what types of service outside of UA I see myself getting involved in. I’ve been fortunate to have some really positive service-related experiences as a junior faculty member, from co-coordinating the PhD program at UA with Nathan Podsakoff, to being on a few journal editorial boards, and, more recently, to becoming increasingly involved at AOM and SIOP. But, despite these experiences, there is a lot of uncharted territory out there. Rather than guess about what it might be like to try different service roles, I reached out to three friends and fellow Akron alumni—Daisy Chang, Russ Johnson, and Chris Rosen—to talk about working for NSF, editing at top journals, and entering leadership tracks in our professional organizations.
Daisy Chang: On Becoming a Program Director at NSF
One of the major benefits of being posttenure is that it gives you more autonomy to pursue projects and engage in roles that you are interested in. In my case, I was looking to do something new and challenging. I have been researching and teaching since I started graduate school in 2000, and I felt like I was in a cycle dictated by academic calendars, conference dates, and other deadlines for submissions and revisions. Don’t get me wrong, I still very much enjoy interacting with my students, battling the reviewers, and having the summers off. But I was looking to expand my horizon a little bit. This is when the opportunity to take on the program director role at the National Science Foundation (NSF) presented itself. I have been a reviewer for various funding agencies before this, and it always intrigued me as to how funding decisions were made beyond the reviewers’ scores. This was a great chance for me to learn something new in a university-like environment, with the added benefits of living in the Washington DC area.
Having been serving as a program director for a year and half now, I can say that this job is really everything that I thought it would be, plus a little more. I would say that there are three main things that I learned or was reminded of as a result of being a program director. First and foremost, there are so many cool topics to study within the realm of organizational science, and there are so many different ways to study these topics too. When I-O psychologists think about organizational science, we think about issues related to the “I” and the “O” side, and we are armed with our typical research methodologies of surveys, experiments, and observations. But there are many other topics that can be studied, and with the technological advancement, many different ways to gather and analyze data. The best part about my job is to read through proposals submitted by investigators from different fields and to learn about how they approach the diverse research problems related to organizational science. A second thing that I have been reminded of is the importance of knowing your audience. Different funding agencies have different interests and priorities. A successful proposal needs to not only be grounded on solid science but also be written in a way that addresses the funding agency’s needs. Finally, I appreciate my colleagues and fellow program directors at the NSF very much. I am surrounded by scholars from different disciplines and have different perspectives on the same issue. It’s fun to have conversations and debates and learn about how economists or political scientists or sociologists approach the same problem. As I wrap up my rotation at NSF, I am excited to take these new insights back to my home department to share with my colleagues and students. I am also excited to start new research projects that apply some of the new skills that I learned.
Russ Johnson: On Becoming an Associate Editor at AMR and JBP
With tenure comes the possibility of many new adventures, one of which is serving as an associate editor. Unlike pretenure, when all of your time and effort really ought to be devoted to pushing your own research out, expectations for service and “giving back” to the academic community take on a bigger role for tenured faculty. Initially, the way I gave back was mostly by reviewing for journals, first as an ad hoc reviewer and then as a board member. However, after consistently reviewing for a journal (and providing timely and constructive reviews!), you may be invited to join the associate editor team at that journal, which I was fortunate to experience at Journal of Business and Psychology and Academy of Management Review. Although receiving that invitation is an honor, it can also precipitate thoughts of “What the heck am I getting myself into if I say ‘yes’ to this?” I thought I’d share what I see as some of the key challenges and benefits of being an associate editor (I’ll start with the challenges to end on a positive note!).
Without a doubt, the biggest challenge is the time commitment. Serving as an associate editor at a major journal means you could be handling anywhere from 30 to 60 (or more!) new submissions per year, plus whatever revise-and-resubmit papers are in your pipeline. Factoring in the time it takes to process submissions (e.g., reading manuscripts, assigning reviewers, integrating reviewer comments, writing decision letters, etc.), I would spend about one day per week on my associate editor duties. That’s a lot of time, especially considering you still have to teach, mentor students, and make progress on your own research! Another challenge is making the switch from a reviewer mindset to an editor mindset. As a reviewer, the mindset tends to be negative and prevention oriented (e.g., identifying a study’s problems and reasons for rejecting it), whereas an associate editor’s mindset must be more constructive and promotion oriented (e.g., identifying a study’s strengths and feasible ways to redress problems). After years of judiciously searching for a study’s problems and limitations as a graduate student in seminars and then as an ad hoc reviewer and board member, it required no small effort to overcome this prevention-oriented inclination and make the needed switch to a developmental mindset.
So why succumb yourself to the time and effort demands of being an associate editor? Well, doing so provides plenty of benefits. For one, it gives you the opportunity to have a direct and meaningful impact during the review process by deciding whether and how a submission should be revised. As a reviewer, there were several instances where I thought rejected submissions had high potential, but I lacked the decision-making authority to give the authors a second chance. As an associate editor, you get to make that call! Another benefit is, after dealing with numerous submissions, you develop a much better sense of effective (and ineffective) strategies for problematizing research questions, articulating contributions, and conducting comprehensive analyses. As a result, my own writing and responses to reviewer comments have improved tremendously. Other benefits include broadening your knowledge when you handle manuscripts outside your primary areas of expertise and gaining further insight into the publication process and what goes on “behind the scenes.” In short, serving as an associate editor was a rewarding (albeit challenging) endeavor that involved new responsibilities and different skill sets, which provided a nice change of pace from my earlier pretenure experiences.
Chris Rosen: On Becoming an Elected Officer at AOM
I was asked to discuss what motivated me to take on leadership positions in professional organizations outside of my university. I have been asking myself this question quite a bit lately, as I am currently having a very busy week as the program chair for the HR Division of AOM (a big shout out to everyone who submitted their assigned reviews on time!). As anyone who has held office in SIOP will tell you, there are challenges associated with leadership roles in our professional organizations. These include balancing ongoing research projects, teaching obligations, and departmental and university service with the demands associated with external leadership roles. In my case, these demands have ranged from overseeing the development of a new website (I am a self-proclaimed luddite) to tracking down emergency reviewers and developing cogent paper sessions for the conference program (that's what I worked on this past weekend). You read that correctly—as a tenured professor, I voluntarily spent this past weekend working on something that is appreciated, but not required, by my university.
So, why have I taken on leadership roles in our professional organizations? Unlike Indiana Jones, I do not do this for fame and glory. Rather, I do it so that I can count myself among the numerous volunteers who are necessary for our professional organizations to thrive. Without members volunteering to serve on committees or take leadership roles, organizations such as SIOP and AOM would not be able to provide high quality resources and content (e.g., workshops, paper sessions, symposia). I have benefited greatly from having access to these resources and the volunteers that make them possible. As such, when my name was called, I felt that it was important for me to do my part by taking on a leadership role. In so doing, I would be able to give back to an organization that has benefitted me greatly over the years. At the same time, I would have the opportunity to work with others to shape the organization going forward and to ensure that it continues to provide excellent resources and opportunities to members.
In addition to viewing this as a way of giving back to an organization that has contributed to my professional success, I have also taken on leadership positions for less altruistic reasons. In particular, volunteering for professional organizations has provided a terrific opportunity for broadening my social network. I have been fortunate to work with a number of fantastic people while serving on the leadership track of the HR Division, including David Allen, Ingrid Fulmer, Maria Kraimer, Dave Lepak, Anthony Nyberg, and Deidra Schleicher. Working with these folks to address the myriad challenges that we have encountered as a professional organization has been among the most rewarding things that I have done in my career. I will conclude by saying that working through issues with leadership teams in our professional organizations is much more fun than attending a faculty meeting—trust me!