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The American University
Department of History

Departmental Criteria to be Applied in Personnel Actions Involving Term Faculty Reappointment and Promotion

Adopted by Council, September 5, 2018
Revised and adopted by Council, October 10, 2018
Revised adopted by Council, November 14, 2018
(Approved by Provost July 2019)

General Guidelines

American University and the Department of History seek to retain excellent and committed teachers who maintain currency in the field and are valued members of the Department. The Department follows the general standards, timetable, and procedures for appointments, reappointments, and promotion laid down in the Faculty Manual and supplemented by instructions from the Dean of the College, the Dean of Faculty and/or the Committee on Faculty Actions. This document offers more specific guidance for term faculty members in History applying for reappointment and promotion as well as for the Department's Rank & Tenure Committee (Perscom) and Chair.

The Faculty Manual requires that most term faculty members (with the exception of research professors and some postdocs) have a workload that consists primarily of teaching or primary responsibilities developed at the teaching or academic unit level and recommended to the dean for approval. The term faculty member’s workload will also include an appropriate level of service and in some cases scholarship or professional contributions if applicable to the position. Appointment and reappointment of all term faculty are contingent on the relevant qualifications and performance of the faculty member, the enrollments and other needs of the teaching or academic unit, and the instructional resources of the university.

Term faculty in the Professorial Lecturer promotion sequence are evaluated on the basis of their record of teaching and service. The Professorial Lecturer ranks are Instructor (typically without terminal degree); Professorial Lecturer (customary initial rank for those holding a PhD in History); Senior Professorial Lecturer; and Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer.

Term faculty in the Professor promotion sequence are evaluated for reappointment on the basis of their teaching and service, and for promotion on the basis of their record of teaching, research, and service. The ranks in this promotion sequence are: Assistant Professor (faculty members hired before 2010 only); Associate Professor; Professor.

Term faculty may request to move from one promotion sequence to the other if they meet the requirements of the new rank. Term faculty customarily may apply for promotion from Instructor to Professorial Lecturer beginning after three years in rank, and other promotions beginning after five years in rank. However, promotions are based on accomplishments, not time in rank.

In-residence categories such as Scholar-in-Residence or Historian-in-Residence are titles, not ranks, and are not subject to review for promotion. However, in-Residence faculty hold formal ranks within the professorial lecturer or term professor promotion sequences. As such, they are eligible to apply for promotions and are eligible for the standard salary increases associated with promotions within those sequences. Postdoctoral Fellowships are terminal appointments of one, two, or three years, with a teaching load typically lower than that of tenure-line Assistant Professors. Postdoctoral Fellows are not required to attend faculty meetings or other committee meetings but are encouraged to participate in departmental events. They are not eligible for promotion.

As a general rule, the Department considers term faculty for a multi-year appointment when the faculty member will have taught at AU on a full-time basis for at least three years at the time of formal reappointment, achieving a record of effective teaching, and when the dean’s and provost’s offices deem long-term funding of the position to be secure. The duration of a faculty member’s first multiyear contract is typically two years, followed by a three-year contract, then a five-year contract (renewable). Term faculty with major service responsibilities—such as program director, or director of undergraduate studies—may receive special consideration in the evaluation for a multi-year contract. Promotion and appointment to a multi-year contract are separate actions. 

Perscom and the Chair recognize that newly‑hired or recently‑hired term faculty may build toward a record of excellence. Teaching a new course for the first time often requires revision and adjustments to the course before achieving an outcome at the desired level of success. Although there is no guaranteed path to promotion and term faculty enjoy no right to reappointment, the Department encourages term faculty members to consult members of Perscom and the Chair for advice on how to achieve a record of excellence that could lead to promotion.

The standards for promotion to the ranks of term associate professor and term professor in the area of scholarship are functionally similar to those for their tenure-line equivalents, as outlined in the History Department’s tenure and promotion guidelines. There are, however, several notable differences. Term assistant professors are not required to apply for promotion to term associate at the end of six years of service and, unlike their tenure-line peers, may be reappointed in the absence of such a promotion. For more on the university’s expectations of term associate and full professors, see the Faculty Manual, sections 13.b.ii and 13.b.iii.

In fulfillment of their duties, all term faculty in the professorial lecturer sequence are expected to demonstrate “a meaningful level of teaching unit, academic unit, or university service,” typically entailing, as a minimum, a significant commitment to student advising and mentorship (in the classroom, in office hours, and online) and participation in events and functions at the department, college, or university levels (Faculty Manual, section 10.a.iv). Candidates for senior professorial lecturer and Hurst senior professorial lecturer are subject to additional service expectations, as detailed below.

Teaching Effectiveness: All Term Faculty

Evidence of good teaching and currency in the field will be sought in a variety of ways. Standardized student evaluations of teaching are important, if imperfect, indicators. If evaluations indicate widespread dissatisfaction with a course and with the instructor, there is likely to be a serious teaching problem that must be addressed. On the other hand, no instructor is likely to be able to satisfy all students, and the instructor with the highest teaching evaluations may not be the best teacher. The department values intellectually rigorous courses even if they do not achieve popularity as measured by student evaluations of teaching effectiveness.

Narrative comments by students on teaching evaluations from a course may be submitted as evidence of a term faculty member’s teaching effectiveness provided that all the narratives from that course are provided. Course syllabi, assignments, and examinations can serve as evidence of a well‑organized, rigorous, and professional approach to teaching. They shall be reviewed for evidence of currency in the field by the Personnel Committee as part of the faculty member’s file for action. “Currency” in the History discipline does not mean eliminating publications from earlier decades. It implies knowledge and application or transmission of current findings and approaches in the field of History. Special lectures given to broad audiences of faculty, students, and others might provide evidence of skills inherent in good teaching. Peer classroom observations are encouraged; they may be requested by the term faculty member or recommended by the department chair. In the latter case, the department should choose an observer acceptable to the term faculty member. Such a visit should generate a written evaluation for the faculty member’s file, and the faculty member should have the opportunity to respond to it.

With the above standards of quality and evidence in mind, the faculty member seeking promotion to Senior Professorial Lecturer or Associate Professor shall exhibit a continued commitment to excellent teaching in a variety of courses in the faculty member’s area of expertise that also meet departmental needs.

The faculty member seeking promotion to Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer or Professor will have demonstrated sustained excellence in teaching and in service internally to the university and/or externally in their profession. This rank reflects significant achievement and expectations of leadership.

Scholarship: (required for consideration for promotion to Associate Professor and Professor ranks, but not for the Professorial Lecturer ranks)

Term faculty in either promotion sequence may apply for promotion to the ranks of Associate Professor and Professor. Promotion within the Professorial Lecturer ranks does not require assessment of scholarship, but promotion to Associate Professor or Professor does. For teaching and service, the requirements are equivalent to those for Senior Professorial Lecturer and Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer, respectively. The scholarship requirements for promotion are identical to those for tenure-line faculty, but without the tenure timetable. The process is the same, including the development of a File for Action and obtaining letters from external reviewers.  

The Department embraces the definition of scholarship included in the American Historical Association’s Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct, which endorses the “dissemination of historical knowledge via many different channels of communication: books, articles, classrooms, exhibits, films, historic sites, museums, legal memoranda, testimony, and many other ways.”[i]

The Department recognizes that quantitative measures of scholarship and hierarchies of formats for publication are imperfect and that the historical profession values quality over sheer volume. Perscom and the Chair must therefore do a qualitative evaluation of a candidate's work based on direct study. The measurement of the impact of the faculty member’s scholarship must come in part from outside the University. Automated citation indexes are not customarily used as indicators for the reception of historical scholarship. Instead, impact is indicated by qualitative measures of the work’s significance and influence such as publication in selective journals, peer review reports, published reviews, invitations to present work at conferences and academic institutions, and the assessments of academic historians, both those in the department and those from whom outside letters are solicited during the review process. 

Nonetheless, there are certain guidelines for achievement within the discipline that deserve mention. The premier format of creative scholarship in history is the book. Historians tend to work toward the completion of one large project at a time. It is expected that candidates for promotion will bring their ideas to the scholarly community en route in the form of conference papers and shorter publications, such as articles in refereed scholarly journals, as a way of obtaining feedback and establishing a presence in the field. The Department seeks to promote individuals committed to ongoing scholarship. Term faculty should consider the completion of a well-researched, book-length historical study to be their principal scholarly aim before seeking promotion to Associate Professor. The norm in the Department, before promotion is recommended, is publication of one book (a monograph or a synthetic work) with a well‑respected publisher or, in rare cases, publication of a large number of articles in important, refereed, scholarly journals. The Department recognizes that changes in the academic publishing industry have made it increasingly difficult to publish a traditional bound monograph in some fields. As long as standards of quality, academic rigor, respected venue, and peer review are met, electronic publication of the monograph, or publication of its equivalent in scholarly journals, may serve in lieu of a printed book. A book or article will be considered to have been published if the final manuscript, including all revisions, has been accepted by the publisher, with an editor’s letter confirming acceptance, before the Department’s Rank and Tenure Committee makes its recommendation on promotion. The candidate should bear in mind, however, that external reviewers will read the manuscript at an earlier stage, usually the previous May.

An original editing and publication of a primary source (e.g., The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted) may also weigh heavily; an edited book that is a collection of scholarly articles is less original. Book chapters, articles in non‑refereed journals, invited articles, review essays, other types of publication, smaller public history projects, papers and invited lectures, and outside fellowships or grants are important, but it would be hard to build a case for promotion on them alone.

The Faculty Manual requires evidence of “the likelihood of continued successful achievements.”[ii] Evidence of an ongoing research agenda beyond the first monograph might include, but is not limited to, conference papers presented, invited lectures delivered, article manuscripts drafted, grant applications written, or a well-thought through abstract of the next major research project.

The publication record to be evaluated is not limited to work produced after joining the AU faculty. As the Faculty Manual notes, “The university shall base its assessment of a faculty member’s achievements on the aggregate productivity and impact of the work since degree completion, including evidence that the faculty member is productive at AU.”[iii]

Outside scholarly evaluations of the candidate's work will take place during review for promotion as determined by the Faculty Manual, the Dean of Faculty and the Committee on Faculty Actions, these authorities also specifying the numbers of outside letters needed at each stage. After consultation with the candidate, the Chair of the Personnel Committee will solicit outside written scholarly evaluation of the candidate's scholarly work. The candidate will normally suggest the names of potential reviewers, as well as the names of individuals who should not be solicited as reviewers; however, the majority of external reviewers must be those selected by the Department. The candidate will have access to their letters once they are received (redacted to preserve confidentiality), and will be able to comment and respond to them in the file prepared for personnel action.

To be promoted to Professor, faculty members must demonstrate a continuing record of outstanding scholarship. For historians, this typically includes publication with a respected publisher of a second deeply-researched, scholarly book that goes beyond the subject of the dissertation; demonstrates increasing intellectual maturity; and makes a substantial contribution to the field. Alternatively, a candidate may have produced work that represents, in scope, significance, and scholarly rigor, an achievement comparable to a second monograph, such as several high-quality articles in refereed, scholarly journals important to the candidate’s field; a major exhibit, film script, or other work of public history; or another set of publications, such as multiple edited works or other productions that involve substantial contributions by the faculty member. The faculty member should also present evidence of other activity appropriate to a senior scholar. This may include but is not limited to refereed articles, chapters, translations, papers presented, grants, contracts, consulting experience, or the like, or equivalents in the field of public history.

Scholarship: Public History

The Department recognizes that public history work often blurs the traditional boundaries between research, teaching, and service. Such work is often collaborative, involving the efforts of multiple professionals. Moreover, the work of public historians engages members of the public itself—sometimes as audience, but often as active collaborators in the creation of history.

While the Department recognizes the publication of a peer-reviewed book as an important criterion for promotion, it equally values other forms of creative scholarship that make significant contributions to what the AHA describes as “the discovery, exchange, interpretation, and presentation of information about the past.”[iv] Such work might include the editing of documentary collections, the production of work on film and video, curating museum exhibitions, the preparation of major reports to government or historical agencies, extensive expert testimony, the creation of major websites, and other similar historical work.

Faculty wishing to have such public history work recognized for promotion should carefully document (through the submission of a portfolio) the scholarly process involved, taking care to demonstrate the nature and scope of the project, its historical significance, its impact on its audiences, and, importantly, the research and specific contributions made by the individual faculty member. As with traditional scholarship, the work’s value is indicated by the degree to which professional peers value it. Faculty are encouraged to submit evidence of review and assessment from a variety of external sources. The Department should arrange for an external review of the faculty member’s portfolio by a prominent public historian. Faculty seeking promotion should discuss in their file for action their future trajectory in public history.

For a fuller discussion of these issues, please see “Tenure, Promotion, and the Publicly Engaged Academic Historian,” a report adopted by the Organization of American Historians (OAH) Executive Board on April 8, the National Council on Public History (NCPH) Board of Directors on June 3, and the American Historical Association (AHA) Council on June 5, 2010.

The Research Professor Sequence

Faculty in the research professor promotion sequence are appointed and reappointed principally on the strength of their research, scholarship or creative activity. Typically fully funded by external grants to AU PIs or by grants that they themselves bring to AU, research faculty hold renewable time-limited appointments, which may be full- or part-time. All recommendations for appointments and reappointments in the research professor sequence must be reviewed by the sponsoring department’s Rank and Tenure Committee, its chair, the College dean, and the provost. 

Service: All Term Faculty

Any academic institution flourishes by blending a variety of abilities, interests, and commitments. The Faculty Manual states, “Engagement at American University is an essential component of faculty responsibility. Term faculty members must demonstrate engagement in the university community, including a meaningful level of teaching unit, academic unit, or university service, as well as participation in major campus-wide events, such as commencement.”[v] The department welcomes the participation of term faculty in other academic and professional events and functions, such as Council meetings, History Day, Phi Alpha Theta, and the Robyn Mathias Research Conference of the College of Arts and Sciences. Perscom and the department’s Chair will give some weight to faculty service in reappointment and promotion decisions.

The Department also recognizes the importance of administrative duties involved in directing specialized academic programs and will credit such service in considering promotion.

Term faculty seeking promotion to Professor or Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer are expected to have demonstrated a willingness to participate in service activities at the College or University level or to have carried a substantial load of service within the department. Mentoring of students is considered an important service contribution. Service to the profession may include activities such as refereeing article or book manuscripts, organizing panels, serving as officers or committee members in professional organizations, or serving as a reviewer for grants.

AU is “deeply committed to service to a wider community,” as the Faculty Manual states, although it notes that “service beyond the university cannot substitute for a service contribution to the university but may count toward faculty members’ fulfilling their workload obligation.”[vi] The Department does not require, but highly values, voluntary service and engagement with the community outside the University, including historical work that engages with the public.


[i] Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct (Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 2011), 7.
[ii] “The university shall base its assessment of a faculty member’s achievements on the aggregate productivity and impact of the work since degree completion, including evidence that the faculty member is productive at AU. The work should relate directly to the criteria established by the teaching unit or academic unit. An additional required assessment addresses the likelihood of continued successful achievements.” (Faculty Manual 2018, pg. 37)
[iii] Faculty Manual 2018, pg. 37.
[iv] Statement on Standards of Professional Conduct (Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 2011), 7.
[v] Faculty Manual 2018, pg. 51.
[vi] Faculty Manual 2018, pg. 38.