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Unit 2: Creating a Strong Portfolio

Section 2.5: Letters From Community Partners

Introduction
Tips & Strategies for Selecting Community Partners
Tips & Strategies for Preparing Your Community Partners to Write Letters of Support
Portfolio Examples
References & Resources

Introduction

"Work with community partners to help make your case. Gives specifics to community partners and educate them about the review process."

Leaders of community-based organizations and other agencies with whom you have collaborated can play an important role in conveying the substance and impact of your work to promotion & tenure committees. Most institutions, however, do not require letters from community partners as they do from external academic peer reviewers. We recommend that you work with your department chair or promotion and tenure committee to determine whether the inclusion of community letters will strengthen your portfolio and be seriously considered.

If you are able to solicit these letters, you will want to ask your community partners to emphasize your ability to sustain the collaboration and your ability to make a significant impact in the community. These letters can speak to your personal integrity, ethical behaviors and ability to sustain relationships outside of the university walls, in a way that no other aspect of your portfolio can do! You may also find it important and necessary to educate your community partners about the promotion and tenure process so that they understand the context and importance of this letter.

Many faculty place these letters in the teaching and service sections of their portfolios, but this doesn't have to be the case. If your work in communities is integrated across research, teaching and service, place these letters in the portfolio section that will work best for you and best reflect the nature of the scholarship you are seeking to highlight. One point to consider, as noted in the faculty response below: be thoughtful about the number of community letters you include. You know the norms of your institution better than anyone. Including too many letters could detract from your portfolio.

Tips & Strategies for Selecting Community Partners to Write Your Letters

In most cases, selecting community partners to write letters of support for you will be straightforward. We recommend selecting partners:

  • With whom you have the strongest relationship
  • With whom your work has had the greatest impact
  • Who are familiar with the requirements of promotion and tenure at your institution


Tips & Strategies for Preparing Your Community Partners to Write Letters of Support

If you are able to involve a community partner in your review process, here is a template of questions that can serve as a guide for the letter they write. You might want to provide your partner with the documents you are putting together for your portfolio and give them time to review them and ask questions about the process. For example, you may want to share with them a draft of your career statement and give them a copy of the promotion and tenure guidelines and highlight certain relevant sections for them to review.

1) Briefly describe the projects I have been involved with in your organization and how long we have worked together and if it would be beneficial to your organization to continue working with me.

2) What contributions have I brought to the community? My contributions could include but are not limited to:

  • Securing grant funding to the organization
  • Developing training manuals, brochures, other educational materials
  • Leading educational seminars related to my area of expertise
  • Developing and implementing an innovative intervention
  • Involving students who addressed unmet needs in the organization
  • Improving the quality and management of the organization
  • Providing direct services to clients
  • Publishing journal articles or newspaper articles about the project, etc.

3) Briefly describe my ability to identify assets and meet needs that were relevant for your community or organization's mission and goals. Please describe how I collaborated throughout the process of developing and implementing the project or activity.

4) What impact has our work has had on your community or agency? In other words, how would you describe the tangible benefits of our work together?

  • Please note whether this project included an evaluation where impact was measured and if documentation is available and mention specific reports or other documents produced in the letter.

5) If applicable, please note whether our work together has been replicated in other communities. Have other communities requested information about how to replicate this project?

Faculty in the Scholarship Project offer these additional comments:

"[It is] even more important to be specific and demonstrate how this relationship/contribution has provided value since it is not intuitively obvious to those reviewing the contributions."

"Letters of support are different from external reviewer letters. I always let my community partners and former advisees know that I am coming up for promotion review. I have had to explain the process to them as well. If they want to send an unsolicited letter of support to the chair, then great. I do know that chairs don't want to include too many unsolicited letters because it could look like overcompensating for some weakness."

"For the community partner, I might format topic areas for them to address in the letter. These topic areas/questions should model the language that the review committee is looking for. Usually people will use the language of the request information in their answer."

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