Tenure track: a new perspective

Bobby Shipman

Assistant Professors Aimee Adam, Sakina Hughes and Lorinda Coan brought diverse backgrounds when they joined USI’s faculty as tenure track employees August 2013.

Tenure means an employee cannot undergo termination without just cause or subjection to periodic contract renewals.

Faculty members on tenure track have about six years to complete research in their field, prove their effectiveness as a teacher and provide services to the community, said Aimee Adam, assistant professor of psychology.

“When you are in a tenure track position you have this limited time frame…to make your move and document all of your (achievements),” she said.  “If you don’t then you’re out of luck.”

Adam attended the University of Alabama for experimental social psychology and, prior to working for USI, she acted as a visiting professor at Indiana University Southeast.

Adam wants to work with charitable organizations by gathering and analyzing data for them, she said.

“There are more opportunities for me to do different types of research projects, to get funding for different research projects and work with different people,” she said. “I think there are also more opportunities to do service, like helping out the university in some respect.”

Adam said tenure track provides more opportunities for her to do research than having tenure.

“There are a lot of fun things I have never done before that I am looking to get involved in,” she said.

Assistant Professor of History Sakina Hughes also looks to get involved via tenure track.

“I am really looking forward to building up a rapport with students,” Hughes said.  “(And) developing classes in black history and black women’s history.”

Hughes finished her doctorate in 2012 and spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan.

USI wanted a U.S. historian that also specialized in African-American history, and Evansville seemed a nice place to settle down with her daughter, so it was luck landing  tenure track, she said.

Hughes wants to make history fun and relevant for students who do not major in history through the introduction of new teaching techniques like Reacting to the Past (RTTP), she said.

RTTP consists of elaborate games, set in the past, in which students adopt the persona of a historical figure.

The student-run sessions seek to draw students into the past, promote classroom engagement and improve academic skills.

“As far as I see it, USI is really a school that’s focused on strong teaching. One of the reasons I got my Ph.D. is to be a good professor,” she said.  “I am very passionate about the stuff that I write about, I am really excited about growing and expanding African-American history and any kind of U.S. history, those are my goals.”

The soon-to-be-published “Beyond Two Worlds” is an edited volume about Native-Americans living in the Americas, containing a chapter by Hughes, which discusses Native-American and African-American relationships.

Hughes studies cultural relationships by looking at performance communities, such as blacks and Indians, that are in wild-west shows or circuses, and looks to publish more works in her field, she said.

Off-campus projects also fill Hughes’ to-do list.

She plans to develop classes that focus on current day slavery such as sex-slaves and human trafficking, which incorporate a service component, she said.

Lorinda Coan, assistant professor of dental hygiene, started teaching dental hygiene at Indiana University School of Dentistry (IUSD) in 1993.

“The last semester that I was at IUSD, I was also the acting interim director of the dental hygiene program,” Coan said.  “That happened because the former director decided to take a sabbatical.”

Coan wants to achieve  tenure to meet personal goals, she said.

Her tenure track experience proves quite different, in that she already has 20 years of faculty experience.

“It is a level of personal satisfaction,” she said. “I mean, it’s not going to go on my gravestone ‘she has tenure.’”

She said seasoned exposure helps her to better understand the language and promotion process, but preparing lectures on new content proves challenging.

USI allowed the use of content from Coan’s 2012-2013 year at IUSD.

“Usually once you leave one institution to another institution you have to start over at zero and build up your credentials at that place,” she said of her unique circumstance.

Coan speaks to Indiana healthcare providers about improving tobacco cessation attempts.

“We are working towards helping the healthcare providers more routinely, more consistently, in ways that can be measured, get that cessation message out to their patients and then hooking them up with resources that help their quit attempts be more successful,” she said.  “My colleagues and I have talked with over 1000 healthcare providers in Indiana.”

The professors all said they look forward to research opportunities, providing services to the community and enhancing the classroom while on tenure track.

“What the students don’t understand is only one-third of my job is actually what they see me do in the classroom,” Coan said.  “Their perception is ‘well you’re only here for me,’ and I truly am devoted to them 100 percent, except for this other 200 percent that I also have to do.”