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Unit 2: Creating a Strong Portfolio

Section 2.4: Letters From External Reviewers

Introduction
Tips & Strategies for Creating a List of External Reviewers
Promotion & Tenure Review Letter Request: An Example
Set of Questions to Guide External Reviewers
Portfolio Examples

Introduction

"I chose a mix of academics and leaders in practice-oriented institutions with whom I had served on panels, co-served as consultant on someone else's projects, invited to speak at one of my own events, was member of same task force, or had cited my work in their publications."

In developing your portfolio for promotion & tenure, many of you will be asked by your department chair or others to submit a list of individuals who could serve as external reviewers. These individuals will provide external peer review of your scholarly activity and will provide your chair with letters of recommendation for your promotion and/or tenure. As with all promotion and tenure processes, there is a great level of variability in how much involvement you can have in creating this list. Some institutions do not even require external peer review letters of your portfolio for promotion and/or tenure.

In this section, we have provided tools, tips & strategies for you to use to better understand this part of the P&T process and to create a list of potential peer reviewers who are prepared to write you strong letters of support.

Tips & Strategies for Creating a List of External Reviewers

In developing your portfolio for promotion & tenure, many of you will be asked by your department chair or others to submit a list of individuals who could serve as external reviewers. It is important to be strategic in developing a list of peers to review your portfolio. Here are some suggested tips and strategies. Select peers who…

  • Are from academic and practice organizations and are familiar with your field(s) of scholarship.
    • Work with your subcommittee chair and/or other appropriate individuals at your institution to determine the best and appropriate mix of academic peers and those from outside of the academy.
    • If you are able to select local community partners as part of this list, we suggest that you review the toolkit section on Letters from Community Partners
  • You have met, and established some relationship with, and they are familiar with your area of scholarship
  • Understand the definition and value of community-engaged scholarship
  • Will write about your national excellence in your field(s) of community scholarship
  • Will write about the impact your work has had on the academic and practice communities, with specific examples
  • Will write about your integrity, commitment and passion for working with communities in long-term relationships with specific examples

Faculty in the Scholarship Project reiterate many of the above points with examples from their experiences:

"[I sought] people that I believed would say unequivocally that I am Nationally recognized- have achieved excellence in my field- who will go over and beyond a "good" letter- to make it an excellent letter. I want the letters to speak to different aspects of my skills-and I would say such to those that I ask for a letter- help them "frame" what I expect them to write if they feel they can...I want them to include specific examples."

Associate Professor

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"They have to be individuals more senior than you, i.e., full professors, chairs, deans, heads of units at Washington, DC, World Health Organization, Health Resources and Services Administration and the Agency for Health Care Quality etc. and cannot be co-authors or co-investigators on any of your work.

I chose a mix of academics and leaders in practice-oriented institutions with whom I had served on panels, co-served as consultant on someone else's projects, invited to speak at one of my own events, was member of same task force, or had cited my work in their publications. It was important that they understand and value academic practice, and was somewhat familiar with my work. I did not want to include anyone that I had never met personally. The criteria for demonstrating excellence in practice is not general knowledge out there so, at least, if they had met me in some capacity, I felt more assured that they would understand the chair's letter indicating what the criteria are. Typically, faculty wanting to demonstrate excellence in research only name academics as possible external reviewers."

Full Professor

-------------

"We are not expected to get external recommendation letters; however, this may change soon. Internally I have sought letters of recommendation from people for specific areas. For example, service-learning falls under the Vice President. I asked him for a letter of recommendation that would specifically speak to my "service" in meeting the Mission of the University. An undergraduate English professor that I work closely with on promoting service learning through out the whole University is going to address these activities as and example of Boyer's Scholarship of Integration for the letter she will write for me.

As for external letters, I would probably send those I asked for a letter of recommendation an explanation of Boyer's model of scholarship and request that their letter specifically address the areas of scholarship that are applicable."

Associate Professor

Promotion & Tenure Review Letter Request: An Example

When soliciting external review letters, many health professional schools ask reviewers to address a set of items or questions regarding the faculty member's portfolio. Not all reviewer letter requests, however, include this much guiding information for reviewers including materials beyond the faculty's curriculum vitae or what specific information is desired from the external reviewers. As a faculty member, you may, or may not, have the opportunity to know who your reviewers are. Thus, we have provided an example letter as a way to shed light on the type of items reviewers may be asked to assess.

Instructions to Provide to Those You Suggest as External Reviewers

If you are able to communicate with your external reviewers before or during the review process, you may want to provide them with guidance to help them focus on your community-engaged scholarship. We have provided a set of questions that may better equip your reviewers to develop a strong letter focused on your community-engaged scholarship. You might want to emphasize what areas you would like the reviewer to highlight since you may know best what your committee will be looking for.

1) What contributions has this faculty member brought to the communities s/he worked with?

As a reviewer, you might want to highlight how this individual:

  • Secured grant funding for the community-based organization or project
  • Developed training manuals, brochures and other educational materials
  • Led seminars related to their area of expertise
  • Developed and implemented an innovative intervention
  • Involved students who addressed unmet needs in the organization
  • Improved the quality and management of the organization
  • Provided direct services to clients
  • Published journal articles or newspaper articles about the project, etc.

2) Briefly describe the faculty member's ability to identify and meet needs that were relevant to the community and/or the organization's mission and goals. Please also describe their ability to collaborate throughout the process of developing and implementing the project.

3) Please identify the impact they have made on their field of scholarship. In other words, how would you describe the tangible benefits of their work? Note whether this project included an evaluation where impact is being measured and if documentation is available.

4) If applicable, please note whether the project or work has been replicated in other communities.

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