Professors of Practice Guidelines

Professors of Practice Guidelines

Professors of Practice contribute a vital function to the mission and goals of the College of Arts and Sciences. Professors of Practice are non-tenure-track faculty positions that are dedicated to support the instructional mission of the assigned units.  The University requirement is that a Professor of Practice appointment comes with instructional apportionment of at least 80 percent. The specific set of responsibilities will vary by department and will be clearly specified in the appointment contract.  Non-instructional apportionment would usually include service, and in some instances research, administration and/or outreach.

In the University of Nebraska system, Professors of Practice can have multi-year appointments.  At the Assistant Professor of Practice level, the appointment can be for one to three years; at the Associate Professor of Practice level, the appointment can be for one to four years; at the Full Professor of Practice level, the appointment can be for one to five years.  

Rights and Responsibilities

The specific mix of responsibilities may vary across Professor of Practice faculty, and may shift over time, as long as the duties remain primarily directed (80% or more) to the instructional mission (click here for the activities considered part of the instructional appointment).  The instructional apportionment will typically include some mix of teaching, advising, and/or curriculum support and development.  Other areas of potential responsibility could include oversight of service learning instruction, online instruction, and department lab instruction.  In departments with graduate programs, these duties might encompass aspects of graduate teaching assistantship training and oversight.  There is likely to be significant variation across departments in the mix of instructional duties and responsibilities associated with Professor of Practice appointments.  In this context, it is essential that Departments have clearly delineated expectations, rubrics or equivalent standards for assessing performance, and formal mentoring support for Professors of Practice.  The College of Arts and Sciences encourages Departments to provide documentation of the responsibilities associated with Professor of Practice appointments, the apportionment for the various instructional components, and the standards guiding evaluations of Superior or better in these roles.  Departments are encouraged to delineate these standards in formal department documents (e.g., bylaws) and submit them as part of any hiring, reappointment, or promotion request.

Professors of Practice can have part of their apportionment (up to 20%) outside of teaching, most often in the areas of research and service. Those with a research apportionment can do research on teaching and learning or in their disciplinary area. Departments must take into account the smaller amount of FTE Professors of Practice have in research when evaluating their research productivity. Service responsibilities of Professors of Practice will be determined using normal department procedures.

The College of Arts and Sciences recognizes that Departments vary in how they handle faculty governance but maintains broad guidelines for the faculty governance role of all faculty, including Professors of Practice. Department and College guidelines on faculty governance, however, must fit within University guidelines for promotion and tenure, which are spelled out in UNL’s Guidelines for the Evaluation of Faculty: Annual Evaluations, Promotion, and Tenure. According to the UNL Guidelines, only tenured faculty can vote on the tenure of probationary faculty. This means that Professors of Practice do not have a vote in tenure decisions for tenure line faculty. Professors of Practice who hold advanced rank are included in the reappointment and promotion of lower rank Professors of Practice.

Departments with Professors of Practice faculty are expected to provide clear documentation on the rights regarding participation in department committees and other department processes.  Given their key role in the department instructional mission, it is likely that Professors of Practice will have broad involvement in department committees and governance processes.  

Hiring Professors of Practice

Because these are important faculty positions within the College of Arts and Sciences, it is essential that we hire the best instructional faculty into the Professor of Practice ranks.  Just as with tenure-track faculty positions, the standard hiring path for Professors of Practice will be through open national searches. The College expects Departments and Programs to focus these searches on excellence in instructional activity.  

Reappointment Process

Contract lengths for Professors of Practice vary by rank: up to 3 years for Assistant Professors of Practice; up to 4 years for Associate Professors of Practice; and up to 5 years for Professors of Practice. Reappointment reviews of Professors of Practice are typically done in the final year of the current contract. These reappointment reviews are similar to the 4th year reviews of tenure-track faculty and follow the same processes and requirements. Candidates must put together a file that follows these documentation guidelines. Please note that reappointment files for Professors of Practice do not include external review letters. Department processes for reappointment should be followed. The College requires a letter from the Chair detailing the department’s vote on reappointment, the department’s rating of the candidate as outstanding, superior, good, adequate or inadequate in each area of his or her apportionment, and the chair’s independent vote and ratings. This letter must be included in the candidate’s file that is submitted to the Dean’s Office.

Because faculty with at least two years of service must be given 12-months advance notice for not continuing their contract, Professors of Practice who are not reappointed in the final year of their contract will be given appropriate notice that they have one additional year of service available,  after which their position will be terminated.

Departments must decide in the year prior to the end of a contract whether the Professor of Practice will be put up for reappointment. This continuation review involves the Department Chair providing a recommendation concerning whether the department will consider the candidate for reappointment in the following year. If the faculty member will not be put up for reappointment, appropriate notice will be given that he or she has one additional year on the faculty, after which the position will be terminated. It is the College’s expectation that a negative outcome of a continuation review will be rare and used only if a faculty member’s performance is inadequate or if the University is no longer able to fund the position. The College anticipates that most continuation reviews will support going through the normal reappointment process. A positive continuation review recommendation does not mean the department must vote in favor of reappointment in the following year. It simply lets the candidate know that the department will go through the reappointment process in the following year, at which point the department must vote to reappoint or not reappoint.

Mentoring of faculty, whether tenure-track or non-tenure-track, is highly valued by the College. Professors of Practice should have the opportunity to be well mentored, as should tenure-track faculty. If problems arise, departments should take the initiative to help faculty achieve success. The College strongly encourages departments to consider carefully the annual evaluations of Professors of Practice and, if there are any deficiencies in the record, to help the faculty members figure out how to improve their performance. Mentoring can play a vital role in this process.  

Promotion

If Professors of Practice decide to go up for promotion in the final year of their contract, they will go through the promotion process instead of the standard reappointment process.

The College expects that Assistant Professors of Practice will meet the standards of promotion in six years and therefore strongly encourages these faculty to go up for promotion at that time. Assistant Professors of Practice who have established a history of instructional excellence that exceeds the expectations for someone who has been in rank for six years can go up for promotion earlier if they choose. As with all early promotions, a successful case would require evidence that the candidate has achieved in a shorter period of time the high level of performance expected over the six year period.  Prior years of employment as an Instructor or Lecturer at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln or at another university can be considered as time toward promotion if the person had comparable responsibilities in the previous position. If the early promotion attempt is successful, the candidate will be appointed at the higher rank and issued a new contract.

Promotion to Associate or Full Professor of Practice requires demonstrated excellence in instruction and pedagogy.  For promotion to Associate Professor of Practice there should be evidence of instructional accomplishments beyond the department, including university and disciplinary engagement.  For promotion to Full Professor of Practice, the instructional work should include evidence of national or international visibility, leadership and impact. The College of Arts and Sciences supports hiring the best candidates and then encouraging them to use the resources available to build a local, regional, national, and, if relevant, international record for instructional excellence.

The College of Arts and Sciences requires letters from external reviewers as part of the file submitted for all Professors of Practice going up for promotion.  The College requires at least three letters from external reviewers who are Full Professors, or their equivalent rank for instructional faculty, in institutions that fit the Carnegie classification of Doctoral Universities: Highest Research Activity (DU: HRA).  The College of Arts and Sciences will maintain a list of equivalent faculty ranks for typical peer institutions.  For example, in some Big Ten Academic Alliance peer institutions, the title of Distinguished Lecturer is equivalent to UNL’s Full Professor of Practice.  On the other hand, a “Professor of the Practice” in some Big Ten Academic Alliance institutions is reserved for professionals performing instructional roles in medical schools or law colleges that may not be appropriate for inclusion as external reviewers. Additional letters from external reviewers who are renowned teaching faculty at non-DU: HRA institutions (such as at a liberal arts college) or who are Associate Professors at DU: HRA institutions (for promotion to Associate Professor of Practice) will be acceptable. Exceptions to these guidelines can be recommended by the Chair but must be include a reasonable and strong justification.

Prior approval of all external reviewers must be obtained from the Associate Dean for Faculty.  This request should include information on the external reviewer, including rank, institution, and (if not DU: HRA) supporting documentation on the unique qualifications of the suggested reviewer.

External reviewers will be asked to evaluate the candidate’s instructional and pedagogical contributions.  The reviewers will be provided an instructional portfolio for their review.  This portfolio should highlight the candidate’s instructional contributions to the department, college and university as well as (for promotion to full) evidence of leadership and impact in the discipline on matters of instruction and pedagogy.  The reviewers will be provided with an overview of the Professor of Practice faculty evaluation criteria.  For promotion to Associate Professor of Practice, there should be evidence of excellence in instructional activity and impact beyond the department.  For promotion to Professor of Practice, there should be evidence of national or international visibility, leadership and impact in instruction and pedagogy in the discipline.

Candidates for promotion to Associate or Full Professor of Practice may choose to obtain letters from people internal to UNL who can speak to the qualities of the candidate’s instructional activity. These letters are comparable to peer-review documentation and can be included in the file as evidence of excellence. They do not count, however, as external review letters.

Candidates will be appointed with a new contract at the higher rank if they are promoted. If Departments vote not to promote the candidate, a vote on the candidate’s reappointment must occur if it is the final year of the contract. This reappointment vote can occur at the same meeting as the promotion vote or can be handled in a separate meeting.  

Professional Development

The College is committed to providing opportunities to Professors of Practice to promote their professional development and growth.  This is a very important commitment on behalf of the College as we expect these faculty to become instructional leaders in their disciplines.

Professors of Practice may apply for a Faculty Development Leave after serving six years of full-time service, with full pay for a one-semester leave and half pay for an academic year leave.  This is the same leave program, with the same service time requirements, that is provided for tenure-line faculty.  Given the unique instructional roles that Professors of Practice hold in their departments, it may be more difficult for departments to cover the Professor of Practice duties during the leave semester.  Accordingly, to not disadvantage Professors of Practice for leave consideration from their departments, the College will fund replacement costs for one-semester leaves conditional upon adequate documentation of need from the Department Chair. 

Professors of Practice are eligible for the Faculty Travel funds from the College ($600 per year). To receive travel funds, faculty must be reporting the results of their creative activity by presenting a paper or poster or they must be on the conference or meeting program as a panel chair, discussant, or organizer of the conference. Professors of Practice are also eligible for other College awards as well (see http://cas.unl.edu/awards).