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Increased Responsibilities After Tenure

Posted on July 29, 2009

Opportunities and expectations grow with professional advancement, warns Ruth M. O'Hara (bio), so think carefully about what you should do and can't do.


What has been very helpful for me as a participant in the Career Development Institute is, even though I'm not a fellow, I still have the opportunity to gain and ask questions and to actually ask for feedback I think on what's the norm and what's not the norm.

So what should I be expecting in terms of the institutional commitment as an associate professor?

One of the things that actually becomes very clear is that as you become successful, you are asked to do more and more. And I think there is sort of naive expectation in the beginning stages of the career, you're more spread thin, and actually you're asked to be able to hone a little bit as you become an associate professor.

And actually it's exactly the opposite. You'll be asked to serve on more committees. You'll be asked to chair search committees. You'll be asked to help out with the IRB committee at your local academic institution. You'll be asked to do things internationally and nationally. A lot of those are requirements for not only being a good citizen, but also for probably subsequent academic promotion.

So how do you know what to say "no" to? And you know you can get carried away I think a little bit with some success in terms of being so excited that everybody's asking you to participate or collaborate. But one of the things I've had to learn, and it's probably my own limitation, is that you have to focus, you have to hone, you cannot get too diffuse. And in this era of interdisciplinary research, it's very easy to do that.

But when you marry those demands of the intellectual excitement and opportunities with the demands then academically of promotion committees, search committees, interviewing medical students, there's a large number of particular tasks you'll be asked to do. What are the ones you should be doing? What are the ones you can't do?

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Excerpted from interview with researcher at the 2009 Career Development Institute for Psychiatry in Palo Alto, CA.


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