The purpose of this information resource is to provide guidance to those involved with Promotion and Tenure (P&T) processes of Graphic Design and Visual Communication Design Educators at US institutions of higher learning.
This resource is not meant to address all possible topics and issues related to the P&T process. The provided information should assist in dealing with issues commonly involved in the P&T process, and will provide suggestions on which policies and procedures may be based, at the discretion of the institution.
AIGA DEC can in no way be held responsible for the use of this information within any P&T processes conducted by institutions of higher learning, or in the outcomes of any such processes. The information provided is for advisement only, and must be interpreted by those responsible for P&T processes at individual institutions.
Various Models of Promotion and Tenure
AIGA DEC recognizes that a variety of models for P&T of Design Educators exist in different types of US institutions of higher learning. For example, some private art and design schools do not follow formal P&T processes, but do use a form of annual review and assessment related to continued appointment of Design faculty.
State-supported universities, on the other hand, tend to follow similar P&T processes, but may vary in how much importance they place on the different criteria for evaluation. Likewise, private universities may also follow similar P&T processes, but at times vary widely on how they implement certain aspects of the process.
While there are benefits to the variety of P&T processes conducted, AIGA DEC urges institutions of higher learning to consider the specific needs of Design Educators, and to craft processes that provide objective, fair and balanced evaluations of their contributions to the design disciplines.
General Evaluation Criteria for Design Faculty
AIGA DEC urges institutions to construct appropriate means for Educators to document results of their Teaching, Creative Work/Research/Scholarship, Service, and Strategic Initiatives efforts, and for peers to review that evidence in P&T processes. Below are commonly-held standards for each evaluation category.
a. Teaching: Evidence of excellence in teaching should be demonstrated by Design Educators in P&T processes. Course syllabi, hand-outs, presentation materials, results of student work, student evaluations of courses, etc. are often presented in this area.
b. Creative Work/Research/Scholarship: Evidence of excellence in creative work (including most professional practice activities), research and/or scholarship should be demonstrated by Design Educators in P&T processes. Project work, creative work for exhibition and/or competitions, written papers or articles for publication, conference presentation materials, books, awards, etc. are often presented in this area.
c. Service: Evidence of excellence in service to the community, institution and the profession should be demonstrated by Design Educators in P&T processes. Activities associated with community outreach efforts, institutional committee work, service to student groups, service to professional societies, etc. are often presented in this area.
d. Strategic Initiatives: Evidence of substantial involvement in initiatives determined to be of strategic value to institutions, such as Collaborative Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies, Sustainability Studies, etc., may be demonstrated by Design Educators in P&T processes. Activities associated with such initiatives are often presented in this area.
Relative importance of the above criteria: AIGA DEC recognizes that institutions may weigh the relative importance of Teaching, Creative Work/Research/Scholarship, Service, and Strategic Initiatives in different manners as appropriate to their various missions. AIGA DEC urges institutions to make such expectations clear to Design Educators at the time of their appointments to academic positions.
A special note on publication venues: AIGA DEC urges institutions to recognize non-traditional means of dissemination of Creative Work/Research/Scholarship activities by Design Educators. Venues typical to other academic fields, such as print-based, peer-reviewed journals, have traditionally held limited opportunities for Design Educators. Emerging means of publication via electronic media should also be recognized as valid outlets for Creative Work/Research/Scholarship activities. Peer-reviewed acceptance procedures are preferred, but recognition of the publication venue and it’s reach to the field should also be considered.
Specific Evaluation Criteria for Design Faculty Compared to Fine Art Faculty and Communications Faculty
AIGA DEC recognizes that many Graphic Design and Visual Communication Design programs are often paired with the Fine Arts or Communications in administrative structures, such as Departments or Schools of Art, or Departments or Schools of Communications or Journalism. However, AIGA DEC recommends that specific P&T criteria for Design Educators be, whenever possible, considered along with general criteria used for evaluation of these other types of educators.
The goals and outcomes of the typical Design Educator’s teaching and research efforts are often quite different from those of other educators, and must be considered in that context. Results of Design teaching are often specifically practice-based, and must prepare students for future roles in the profession. Issues relating to developing student work appropriate for the use of intended audiences often outweigh traditional artistic concerns. Similarly, results of Design Educators’ research efforts should not be bound solely to traditional models of exhibition or publication typical to those employed by Fine Arts or Communications Educators.
Appropriate Roles and Uses of External Evaluations
AIGA DEC recognizes that evaluators from outside of an institution provide an important role in the P&T process, but suggests that their roles be limited to assessment of Creative Work, Research and Scholarship activities only. As external evaluators are not exposed to the day-to-day teaching and service roles of an assessed Design Educator, it is not appropriate for institutions to expect evaluation of the quality of such activities.
As well, it is generally not appropriate for institutions to ask external evaluators to render opinions concerning the viability of a Design Educator for P&T, as such opinions are, by their nature, formed via partial information. External evaluators should be provided with any applicable P&T documentation that sets the context of how Creative Work, Research and Scholarship activities efforts are defined and valued by the institution.
AIGA DEC suggests that external evaluators for P&T processes should be chosen from peer Design Educators of higher rank at comparable institutions. Therefore, Design Educators currently at the Assistant Professor level should be evaluated externally by Associate or Full Professors. Likewise, Associate Professors should be evaluated externally by Full Professors only. In some cases evaluators from professional practice may participate in P&T processes, but only if their academic credentials are equivalent to those of external Design Educators of the appropriate rank.
The number of external evaluators solicited will vary in different institutions, but AIGA DEC suggests that the range be from six to eight. Any less can be seen as not comprehensive, and any more may become a burden to other educators and institutions.
Mid-term P+T Reviews
Many institutions conduct a formal review around the mid-point of a P+T process, typically in year three or four of a six-year, probationary period for non-tenured faculty members. In many institutions such reviews are often considered to be a “rehearsal” for the eventual P+T review, and can result in the dismissal of faculty who receive significantly negative reviews. As mentioned above, AIGA DEC urges institutions to make the process of any mid-term P+T reviews clear, including how Teaching, Creative Work/Research/Scholarship, Service, and Strategic Initiatives will be evaluated.
Promotion from Associate Professor to Full Professor
After promotion to the position of Associate Professor with tenure, faculty members will typically go through another evaluation process for promotion to Full Professor. As the number of years occurring between these two P&T processes can vary widely within institutions, AIGA DEC suggests that a clear policy pertaining to the expected time period between reviews be communicated. It is also critical that any expected criteria for promotion to Full Professor be made clear, such as a significant national and/or international reputation in the discipline.
MFA (or Equivalent) as the Terminal Degree; Other Degrees
AIGA DEC urges institutions to recognize the MFA (Master of Fine Arts) and/or equivalent degrees as the terminal degree qualification for US Design Educators, especially in the case of current, full-time appointments. However, some Design Educators may possess graduate-level degrees that were conferred prior to the wider adoption of the MFA as the terminal degree, such as the MA (Master of Arts), or the MS (Master of Science).
In addition, some Design Educators may not hold graduate-level degrees at all, but have many years of full-time teaching experience and peer-recognized professional practice. AIGA DEC urges institutions to recognize the contributions of current Design Educators regardless of degree held, and to provide flexibility on this matter in P&T processes, as appropriate.
Finally, while a small number of Ph.D programs in specialized areas of Design (History, Theory, Criticism, Research, etc.) do currently exist, it would be unreasonable for US institutions to require any degree higher than the MFA or equivalent as a condition of appointment, or as a condition of P&T.
Special Considerations for Community College Educators
AIGA DEC recognizes that Community College or other two-year institutions may not follow formal P&T processes, but may conduct annual performance reviews of Design Educators related to continued appointment. AIGA DEC urges such institutions to interpret the statements included here as appropriate, and to craft processes that provides fair and balanced evaluations of Community College Design Educators and their contributions.
Special Considerations for Part-Time Faculty
AIGA DEC recognizes that institutions may not follow formal P&T processes with Part-Time Faculty, but may conduct annual performance reviews related to continued appointment. AIGA DEC urges all institutions to interpret the statements included here as appropriate, and to craft processes that provides fair and balanced evaluations of Part-Time Design Educators and their contributions. Recognition of long-time service by Part-Time Design Educators should occur by conferring an appropriate title (Senior Lecturer, Adjunct Associate Professor, etc.), and by providing a higher rate of pay in comparison to Part-Time Design Educators with lesser years of service.
Special Considerations for International Faculty in the US
AIGA DEC recognizes that International Design Educators working in the US may have responsibilities beyond the P&T processes typically found in most institutions. As one example, Work Visa restrictions may make paid consulting impossible for International Design Educators, and any P&T requirements for such activities would therefore be unreasonable. AIGA DEC urges all institutions to provide appropriate support to International Design Educators related to Work Visas, Immigration Status, Citizenship, etc., and to appropriately assist with continuation of their employment in the US.
Responses to these Statements
The above statements are subject to change by AIGA DEC as conditions in higher education evolve in the coming years. AIGA DEC invites Design Educators, Administrators and other interested parties to propose appropriate changes and/or additions to these statements.