Dr. Yonette F. Thomas

The Tenure Trap



Welcome to Cultivate and Thrive. A podcast dedicated to issues that may impact your growth, development, and productivity along the professional pathway.

This podcast, “The Tenure Trap”, touches on a recurring issue unearthed during my conversations over the years with early and mid-career individuals in academia.

You are on a tenure-track faculty position at Institution X. You represent a key member of the diversity grid. You have great ideas on how to increase interest in the program and ideas about how to attract more students to fill the diversity grid. Your colleagues, including your chair and dean are excited and you get appointed to be the director on the program. Students love you! You bring interesting speakers in to address and identify opportunities for internships for the students. You get appointed to one committee and another and another. You feel engaged and appreciated! You have less and less time to write, but you have a plan and your department chair is supportive. Before you know it, you have been in the department for 3 years already and it’s time for pre-tenure review.

You have a few first and second authored pubs and some book chapters. You have above average teacher ratings. A colleague shares her tenure package with you and tells you that you just need to cut and paste; so you do. Your committee is impressed with the great work you have been doing for the program and congratulate you. However, they express serious concerns about your publication record. First sign of trouble.

Where did you go wrong?

My advice to anyone starting in a tenure-track or any other position is to be strategically selfish.

Have a clear understanding of the promotion and tenure requirements and guidelines. Be strategic about which and how many committees you participate in. If you are a member of the diversity grid, the likelihood of being asked to sit on multiple committees is high. Reason? The institution gets to check a box.


Be unafraid to articulate that you need time to be productive with your teaching and publications. Be clear about your professional ecosystem versus your individual ecosystem and the balance that you need. Your individual ecosystem includes your family and the commitments you need to balance, allowing time for social and happy time.

Your professional ecosystem includes what you the professional is expected to achieve in the context of your job, what you the professional want to achieve, and the networks that you need to maintain.

Let us know if this podcast resonates with you. If it does, what was your specific experience and how you fixed the problem. Contact us at www.strat-transitions.com/#contact.

It’s been a pleasure!

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