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Regional HBCU to Flagship R1

Started by billtsherman, April 18, 2023, 08:12:12 PM

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Long time lurker here - even back to the CHE days.

Long story short, I'm the trailing end of a spousal hire situation.  I've been at a mid-sized regional, state-located HBCU for my whole career (about 15 years).  I'm in the humanities, and I've published a few articles, an edited collection, and partnered with a few others on some DH grants.

In August I start anew at a flagship R1.  I don't have a monograph, so they can't give me tenure until I do.

I'm confident I can do it, but I'd be lying if I said I don't feel a little intimidated.

Has anyone here moved from a teaching school to a research school?  If so, what should I look out for?  Any good ideas on how to retrain myself to focus far more on writing?


I don't have anything like your experience, and I've not moved from a teaching to a research school (though I'd like to!). But I am pretty productive in the research department. Two things have made an enormous difference to my research productivity:

(1) Writing regularly. For me, that's every day during my toddler's nap (he naps on me, so I'm trapped anyway). I don't think it has to be every day. But I think it does need to be frequent, and regular. It doesn't have to be a long stretch, but I'd say at least an hour, preferably early in the day, that way it's out of the way. You can always return to it and do more later, time and energy permitting. Set yourself a small but manageable goal for the day's writing period (e.g. write 400 words, fix all the typos, etc.). We have a series of monthly research threads in this section of the forum so that we can set ourselves monthly goals, and then check back in regularly (I set a goal every day and report on it, others operate at different speeds). Regular work, even if it's in individually short bursts, really adds up over time.

(2) Having a community to write for. I love my professional association to death, and I write for them, because I want to be in (professional) conversation with them and their ideas. I don't know how many of them ever read my work--at least a few do!--but just the fact of citing them, discussing their work, etc. feels really comforting to me.

If you're stuck for article ideas, keep an eye out for conference and special issue CFPs. I like to write towards submission in a special issue because it gives me a deadline, but the main reason to keep an eye on these is because they're a great source of ideas for papers. And, of course, keep track of all your paper ideas as they come!

As for books, I dunno. I just published my first, but it's more of a textbook/companion than anything. I tackled it as a series of short articles, which I later glued together. That worked okay. I'm working on a new book, a proper monograph this time, and I'm using more or less the same technique. It's working well enough so far. You don't want the staples to show, of course, but you should be able to sand them out in the editing.
I know it's a genus.


Thanks for the reply.

Having a community to write for seems like it might be a solid motivator for me.

I have a friend who is on the board of a writers retreat center, so I'm going to try that out as well.

My natural inclination is toward laziness, so I have to be proactive is finding ways of forcing myself to work.

Thank you for your suggestions.


A while back I asked for advice on writing a dissertation while teaching a 4/4 load as a new faculty member. Thanks in large part to that thread, I've made consistent progress and should be finishing the complete draft within a month or two. Even though your situation is different, of course, you might find it worth reading.


Research is important, but not urgent, so it falls into the part of the Eisenhower matrix where you need to schedule it into your life. Not going to lie, 15 years away from intensive research and having to publish a monograph is an extremely heavy lift, and simply dusting off your 15 year old dissertation is probably not going to cut it. I think the first order of business is to figure out what book-length project is worth doing, and you'll have to quickly get back up to speed on what the current state of your field is.

The department head at my tenure-track position had this to say to me, your one job as a tenure-track assistant professor is to earn tenure, nothing else matters. Do the bare minimum necessary for your teaching, and reuse as much of your materials as possible. Remember that teaching gives you instant gratification, as opposed to the often frustrating work of research, so it's easy to let teaching consume too much of your time.

Deciding what to write a book on, writing the book, getting a contract, and getting it published is going to be an extremely tight schedule on a standard tenure clock, and you'll need to hit the ground running, and you will need to brutally manage how much time you spend on things that do not advance your research efforts.


Mleok well describes the abrupt shift in your priorities. You will be known in the institution by your scholarship more than your teaching. Figuring out what that will be from a relatively blank slate will be a challenge, but I hope it is wide open opportunity.

Parasauropholus makes a good point about writing for a community. That community could well be your new university or city. Real people whom you see in person on a regular basis. Many R1s have a mission to engage with society, and humanists can do that (even if some seem to look down their nose at that). Your experience at an HBCU gives you insight in how the world works that will be uncommon and valuable at the R1. Let that insight inform your scholarship, and you will benefit the institution in many ways.


I've been out of town for a bit, but thought I would just drop by to thank all of those who've chimed in.

The good news is that I have the research enough done that I'm going to start writing in early July.  There will be some supplemental research that will happen as I go along, but the heavy lifting is done.  The relevant archives are also sufficiently close that it won't be a problem to get there should I need to go back for a day or two, here and there.

Additionally, I've published two articles on the topic of the monograph in the past year.  I'm definitely not at a standing start here.  That would be even harder.

Thank you all for your suggestions and ideas.  I appreciate them all.  Among other things, I'll give posting in the monthly research threads a shot.