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Unit 1: Planning for Promotion and Tenure

Section 1.1: Developing Your Vision For Community-Engaged Scholarship

What is Vision?
Vision and Goals
Personal Vision and Institutional Mission
Vision and Balance
Faculty Examples
References & Resources


"Find something you are passionate about and make it your avocation.
Be focused early and go with your passion."

Associate Professor, Scholarship Project Faculty

"One has to be fairly stubborn and persistent to do this work."
Associate Professor, Scholarship Project Faculty

Almost any book you pick up on leadership or personal and professional development devotes some attention to the importance of vision to ground and to guide your actions (Senge, 1990; Heifetz, 1994). Exactly what that entails, however, can be difficult to pin down and can be highly individual. Scholarship project faculty spoke of their vision for community engagement that went well beyond their concern for institutional recognition through standard requirements for promotion and tenure. These faculty took professional risks to engage with communities to create innovative, funded programs that worked. Faculty weighed the costs for their work, some fairly strategically. For example, one faculty member purposefully came off the tenure track at a research one institution so that it would give her more time to generate academic products without having to leave the communities with whom she worked. This work is their passion and because of this, they have found creative ways to navigate the academic system and be effective agents for improving the health of communities.

We have included this section to encourage you to reflect on how your vision intersects with the work you do as a faculty member. We have also included this section to encourage you to consider how your vision can be integrated into your career statement when you create your promotion and tenure portfolio.

What is Vision?

"If your goal is to get promoted, you should do not do this type of work. You should select a small content area and focus on that. Like become an expert in depression and primary care and that is all you do. That is if you want to be a standard academician.

If your passion lies elsewhere, then you have to be directed by your passion. If your passion lies in access to health care and working with certain community groups, and that is where you gain your energy, then you have to adapt the way you present your professional activities, so that standard committees on advancement will view you kindly."

"I don't know why I have this passion. People get their passions from other things. Why me? Why not others? I can't answer that question. It is just inherited in your being."

Professors, Scholarship Project Faculty

In a nutshell, having a vision is knowing who you are and what you want. It is an overarching framework of values and principles that guide you in navigating a path of personal and professional development as a faculty member. A clear understanding of your personal values, priorities, and goals for your work provides a foundation for staying the course in the face of inevitable obstacles or setbacks, as well as for assessing and deciding upon new opportunities.

To be effective, a guiding vision needs to be grounded in serious reflection about what motivates your work and what taps your personal energies. At the same time, your vision needs to be flexible enough to take into account the real opportunities available to pursue your work.

Your vision thus provides a center from which you can act in a multitude of circumstances. A vision connects and integrates the different parts of your life, the different roles you play and responsibilities you undertake. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes of developing a "personal mission statement" or "constitution" that gives "expression to what we want to be and to do in our lives." (Covey, p. 129) This statement of vision seeks to identify the guiding principles we wish to guide our lives, to identify the various roles in which we need to apply those principles, and to prioritize those roles as well. Vision serves as an internal compass for navigating the competing demands of a variety of external forces and expectations.

Parker Palmer, in Let Your Life Speak, emphasizes that vision based on what we think we want is bound to change as we gain knowledge of ourselves. It requires a deep self-examination to finally arrive at an honest understanding of calling. (Palmer).

Vision and Goals

"Make sure you have a plan. Set priorities and give yourself a reality check."

"It's a game of survival; figure out what works, evaluate where you are going and think through how to get there."

(Associate Professor, Scholarship Project Faculty)

Vision is more than a set of aspirations and goals. Goals are the concrete steps that you set and pursue in trying to give expression to vision. Goals may be completed, but vision is rarely fully expressed. Your vision may remain intact even as goals need to be rethought and or abandoned as the circumstances or context in which you are pursuing them changes.

Not all faculty in the Scholarship Project came to their respective institutions with a specific focus for the exact program or project they were going to develop. Rather, they came with skills, training and a goal (i.e. health care access, HIV prevention, increasing community capacity) and allowed their vision to crystallize as their relationship with community partners developed, and then quickly took advantage of funding opportunities to create innovative and sustainable programs.

Personal Vision and Institutional Mission

"Don't try to do projects or initiatives if it becomes impossible."
Associate Professor

As a faculty member, it is critical that you pay attention to how your personal vision fits with the mission of the institution and department where you work. If the match is not close enough, you may face burnout trying to meet demands for advancement that do not fit with your own needs for meaningful work, or else devoting too much energy to trying to reshape the institution to allow greater expression of your own vision. Some compromise is always necessary, but you need to be aware of the demands at the outset if you are going to be able to maintain your vision and pursue meaningful goals.

At any place and time, particular aspects of your vision may be less practical than others. Stephen Covey suggests identifying those elements that lie within your current "circle of influence"-those things which you have the power to change-rather than wasting time fretting over the things in your "circle of concern", which are beyond your control. With patience and perseverance you can work to gradually expand your circle of influence and create ways to more fully realize your vision.

Vision and Balance

"I began to have a vision for how one could wrap it together in a way that would feel more coherent to myself, and I could start to communicate that externally and then to make some things happen. It is very valuable to wrap it in the cloak of the discipline because then it is not separate. What I needed to do was to inculcate my outside activities, my research and my clinic responsibilities, into a coherent focus of who I am.

Many times it is incredibly schizophrenic to do 15 things on eight projects. If I can not see that it is all connected then it feels really bad. The real challenge is the balance and needing to say no more. I can say no when it is not core to my mission. If I'm not whistling and smiling, then I'm not a happy person."

Associate Professor, Scholarship Project Faculty

Faculty in the Scholarship Project spoke of the critical need to foster the "integration of research, teaching and service in community-based efforts. If it becomes integrated, one faculty emphasized "that it is a better utilization of time and effort" and creates a coherent focus to one's work. Sometimes it requires saying 'no' to requests for involvement, and to doing less activities in order to focus your efforts in a few areas where you can best use your strengths and take the time to develop relationships with community partners.

Developing a Personal Vision

One's vision can be much broader and reflective than one's career statement (link to career statement section) since it tends to incorporate both one's personal and professional values and goals. Yet, for the sake of efficiency, it can be useful to be thinking how to craft your vision and eventually incorporate parts of it into your career statement in your portfolio. It harkens back to the need for integration and coherent focus that faculty spoke consistently about. Below are some questions to reflect upon that have been adapted from Covey's visions exercise-"begin with the end in mind." (Covey p. 96)


Instructions: We recommend that you take time to write down your answers to these questions annually and consider how they might be changing. You might also want to discuss your responses to these questions with a mentor.

1. What are your values and what is their source?
2. What are you passionate about as it relates to your work with communities?
3. How do these values and your passions shape your priorities and the potential ways you may become involved in communities as a faculty member?
4. How do you respond to new environments, challenges, risks, failure? How might your answer to these questions affect how you will work within an academic environment?
5. What are your goals for your community-based work as an academic?
6. How can this work be crafted into scholarship and documented in your portfolio?

Faculty Examples

Please click here for examples of faculty members' statements which contain discussion of their own vision and goals.

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