On Feb. 23, the Wheaton Board of Trustees unanimously voted to grant tenure to eight faculty members, the largest number to be approved in recent years.
The newly tenured professors were Thandi Buthelezi (Chemistry), Dolita Cathcart (History), Teresa Celada (Philosophy), Phoebe Chan (Economics), Matthew Evans (Chemistry), Touba Ghadessi (Art History), Alireza Shomali (Political Science) and Gabriela Torres (Anthropology). Joining the ranks of 93 tenured Wheaton faculty, these professors are also the newest associate professors in their respective departments.
Professors are eligible for tenure during their sixth year of teaching at Wheaton College. However, faculty members can be considered earlier in special instances. Applying for tenure involves compiling a dossier, or a “tenure packet.” The dossier includes a professor’s teaching evaluations from the previous years, their scholarly work and publications and evaluations from colleagues within their department, as well as from current and past students.
The department helps professors accumulate this dossier. “Wheaton is incredibly supportive of the tenure process,” Professor Ghadessi said. Professor Cathcart added that she worked with members on campus to found the Untenured Faculty Organization (UFO) to “help junior faculty understand the tenure process and make it a bit less stressful.”
The dossier is then given to the Tenure Committee to review, and, if approved, the committee submits its recommendation to the Board of Trustees. The Board then votes on whether or not to grant tenure.
According to Boroviak, Wheaton’s structure is different than a hierarchical model used at other colleges, where the dossier would be reviewed in steps, rather than by the entire committee all at one time.
When considering the applicants, the Tenure Committee looks for excellence in teaching, promise for future performance through scholarly research and a strong commitment to community. Balancing these three criterion can be challenging since the professors are not only committed to students in the classroom but also their own research interests and they are members of other committees at Wheaton as well as national organizations.
Excellence in teaching is the most important criteria to the committee; as Professor Celada remembered, the Philosophy Department stressed that “no number of publications would help if your teaching was bad.”
Gaining tenure provides job security, but more importantly reflects a sense of being welcomed at Wheaton, not only by fellow colleagues but by students as well. Many professors described it as “gratifying” and a “validation” of their accomplishments as an educator, scholar and member of the community. For some, the process was also an opportunity to reflect on the past and gain perspective, as well as look forward and the future.
The road does not end here, however. Tenure is “a step along the way” and a “milestone,” said Professor Evans, “but not the end game.” Gabriela Torres concurs. The rigorous requirements and expectations of the process establish a practice that “won’t stop now that you’re tenured,” said Torres.
Like Torres, all the professors expressed their commitment to continue what they have been doing; providing students with skill sets to prepare them for their future, pursuing intellectual curiosities and research, while actively participating in the Wheaton community.