Angela Jenks, Anita Casavantes Bradford, Cailin O'Connor, Bill Maurer, Rocio Rosales and David John Frank

In fall 2020, the UCI School of Social Sciences Office of Faculty Development and Diversity (OFDD) launched the Pathways Project to engage school and department leaders as well as faculty at all ranks in generating ideas, developing resources, and refining existing policies and practices to provide the school’s diverse faculty with the support they need to succeed.

“The three-year Pathways cycle is designed to promote collaborative discussion, goal setting, and action around a selected faculty development related theme,” says Anita Casavantes Bradford, UCI social sciences associate dean of OFDD and professor of Chicano/Latino studies and history. “For our inaugural cycle, we selected ‘improving Pathways to Tenure and Promotion.’ Even though most of our social sciences faculty are ultimately successful in achieving tenure, it’s also true that the journey can be confusing and anxiety provoking, and that not all faculty preparing for tenure or promotion to Full enjoy the same access to the guidance they need, when they most need it. We wanted to work together as a school to bring greater transparency, equity and humanity to the review process.”

“When we recruit a faculty member, we want that person to thrive,” adds Bill Maurer, UCI social sciences dean and professor of anthropology and law. “Whether they arrive as a beginning assistant professor or a seasoned distinguished scholar, they all deserve help along the way. There’s a lot of tacit knowledge and institutional acumen faculty need to master, and access to sound mentoring and accurate information is unfortunately unevenly distributed. The Pathways Project is intended to help level the playing field.”

In the first year of the program, leaders from Casavantes Bradford’s office visited each department in the School of Social Sciences to share a research-based presentation on how early career faculty experience the tenure/promotion process, and to solicit chair and faculty perspectives on what could be done to improve pathways to tenure and promotion. Responding to this schoolwide needs assessment, at the end of year one, OFDD created an online Pathways to Tenure and Promotion (PTP) Guide.

“The guide aims to remedy faculty of color’s unequal access to mentorship and departmental networks and to provide all school faculty with equal and early access to reliable, encouraging, and intelligible guidance on UCI’s merit, tenure, and promotion criteria and processes,” she says. 

The next year, her office oversaw a structured department-level discussion process, modeled on the Appreciative Inquiry approach to organizational change, aimed at identifying small but high impact actions individual departments could take at the local level to improve pathways to tenure and promotion for their faculty. 

Angela Jenks, associate professor of teaching in anthropology and vice associate dean of faculty development and diversity during the first two years of the project, explains: “Using this approach, we asked the departments to begin by reflecting on what already works. What has each department already been doing to effectively support faculty on the path to tenure or promotion? Next, we asked them to envision an ideal world—what could the journey to tenure/promotion look like in each department? Finally, we asked the departments to design small but high-impact actions they might take to improve pathways to tenure and promotion for their faculty.” 

This past year – year three – OFDD oversaw the implementation of department level actions, and the school’s Committee on Faculty Development Inclusion and Diversity assessed the project’s outcomes. Out of the many efforts implemented, two departments stood out for their engagement and were named inaugural Pathways Prize winners.

“Both the Department of Logic & Philosophy of Science and Department of Sociology showed outstanding work in their collaborative and thoughtfully selected small, but high impact actions that served their faculty's unique needs,” Casavantes Bradford says. “Both of these departments took meaningful steps to institutionalize their actions via new department processes and bylaws, and their actions will continue to have a positive impact on faculty tenure and promotion pathways for years to come.”

Within LPS, professor and chair Jim Weatherall engaged his department in a year of discussions that led to creation of a faculty mentorship lunch program. The program allows new faculty the opportunity to meet one-on-one in the year after their hire with each department member while also providing funds for associate professors to invite senior department colleagues of their choice for lunches focused on targeted discussions about the journey from midcareer to full professorships.

“This action promises to improve pathways to promotion for mid-career faculty, who often receive less mentorship than pre-tenure faculty, as they undertake the equally challenging journey to full professor,” the award committee noted. 

Weatherall agrees: “The Pathways Program gave us a great opportunity to reflect on what we were doing well and what we could do better to support our incoming and mid-career faculty. We appreciated the opportunity to focus on what our department needs were as we had more associate rank faculty than assistant professors, so our program was designed in a way that provided mentorship opportunities across ranks.”

He notes that while junior faculty need special support on the tenure track, more advanced faculty also can benefit from on-going mentorship and guidance on how to advance their careers. And with his department’s two associate professors going up for full professorships this next year, he’s counting the department’s mentorship lunch program among the factors contributing to their success.

Within sociology, chair and professor David John Frank led a series of wide ranging and critically reflective discussions resulting in changes to their department practices to distribute the labor of graduate student mentorship more equitably among faculty at all ranks. As part of this, they voted to amend department bylaws to stipulate that pre-tenure faculty will not be expected to mentor more than two students at a time.

“This action promises to improve pathways to tenure for early career, URM and women faculty, who often carry a disproportionate advising and student mentorship load,” noted the award committee.  

“The Pathways Project opened up a series of discussions on the distribution of teaching and service workloads among the faculty, which led us to clarify and cap expectations on mentoring for assistant professors,” Frank says. “The direct impact of the policy change is helpful to our pre-tenure faculty. But the bigger impact is an enduring cultural shift – an elevated awareness of the mutual obligations we have to support the other members of our community.”

For their efforts, both departments are receiving $2,000 in discretionary funds in addition to hosted coffee, tea and pastry services at departmental meetings throughout the 2024-25 academic year.

A report detailing the actions undertaken by all the school’s departments has also been prepared and shared with department chairs. It will also be posted on OFDD's website, Casavantes Bradford says, “to inspire chairs and department faculty with additional small but high impact actions they can take to ensure that all school faculty have the tools and support necessary to successfully navigate the tenure and promotion journey, while mitigating anxiety and other negative emotions associated with the academic review process.”

“During the past three years, the Pathways Project has drawn upon multiple forms of expertise within our school to build resources and make changes at the school and department level,” she says. “It’s brought us together as a community to turn our shared belief in equity and inclusion into tangible actions. I can’t wait to see what will be accomplished in future cycles of the project.”

-pictured: Angela Jenks, Anita Casavantes Bradford, Cailin O'Connor, Bill Maurer, Rocio Rosales and David John Frank.

connect with us


© UC Irvine School of Social Sciences - 3151 Social Sciences Plaza, Irvine, CA 92697-5100 - 949.824.2766