The department or unit then can do the collective work of defining what it values and how that should be documented in terms of each of these categories. For instance, in 2018-2019, the various departments in the College of Arts & Letters each came up with their own unit values. These together were put into a word cloud to formulate the College values that now guide all daily work done in the College: “equity, openness, and community.” Returning to the departmental level, if the unit has as one of its values the value of equity, then this value should be applied to the content and process of all of its work.[6] How can it go about operating in more equitable ways on a day-to-day basis? The values should guide procedures for annual review and promotion and tenure as well.  In terms of the CPIL model above, the unit could consider how it would define equity and intellectual leadership in the area of “sharing knowledge.” A unit conversation might define equitable research and dissemination practices. A discussion of mentorship/stewardship might employ equity in terms of clarification of rank-appropriate activities. It might lead to an honest and open discussion about the equitable recognition of mentoring needs and support activities across the unit. For instance, the pre-tenure professor can mentor students and non-tenure-stream faculty or peers. The senior professor would have greater expectations of stewardship in the department and the broader profession. These might entail, for instance, ensuring the success of multiple undergraduate or graduate students and pre-tenure colleagues through promotion and tenure and into a solid mid-career footing. Stewardship might mean helping to open up new career possibilities for a non-tenure-stream faculty member, mentoring new faculty on a large multi-year grant, or leading in an administrative capacity.


This model is not intended to add on new work, but to bring about a more inclusive and honest discussion of ways to shift perceptions of existing work that is undervalued or unrewarded yet contributes greatly to student or faculty success. It can encourage a more collaborative, expansive model that pays forward help received from others in the past. It can find new ways to open up the evaluation of critical, transformative scholarship that does not fit existing definitions for promotion and tenure. This type of work will most definitely receive peer review support when its full story is told rather than being limited and reduced to the act of checking a monograph box. It is important that the process outlined above is in every way in line with the recommendation of the 2006 MLA report. “Change in favor of a more capacious conception of scholarship, which we strongly endorse, should not mean ever-­wider demands on faculty members, most especially those coming up for tenure and promotion.”[7] Rather, the process above is meant to reconceptualize and help guide the work already being done.


Here are some additional suggestions that can help with unit discussions. Following best practices, any proposed changes to department policies must be discussed broadly within the department, documented, and voted on according to the bylaws procedures. It is often helpful to consult with chairs of other departments at your university and aspiring peer groups for context and other models. A number of other disciplines are already accepting a variety of publication types and have practiced models as evidenced in their bylaws and review guidelines. This is not without precedent in the arts and humanities. Some bylaws examples can be found, for instance, on the websites of the Department of Philosophy, the Department of English, and the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at MSU that regularly acknowledge many different types and forms of scholarship. It is not uncommon for our colleagues in other humanities disciplines to accept the following:


  • Feature/documentary films

  • Open educational resources

  • Digital humanities

  • Public humanities

  • Video games

  • Exhibitions

  • Articles

  • Patents

  • Data sets/corpora



In the arts, which have a complex system of exhibitions, a matrix can enable certain types of creative scholarship to be valued consistently over time. Some fields are meeting peer expectations halfway with senior scholars writing reviews of digital humanities projects to help with the evaluation of this scholarship. There are disciplinary organizations that have their own guidelines. These guidelines can be used as a model for the evaluation of other types of work as well.See for instance:



As can be seen, there are many existing models, and we must develop the right structures to bridge from one administration to the next, one departmental culture to another. In addition, faculty positions often come in the form of dual appointments that have assessment challenges of their own. To help with this, it is important to develop assessment guidelines for faculty with dual appointments to keep such faculty from working twice as hard. For the increasing numbers of non-tenure-stream faculty, we are working in the College to create more inclusive practices, career pathways, mentoring programs, and promotion policies, all following the CPIL model above as it applies to faculty, staff, and students. 


The population of the United States is undergoing rapid demographic change.  Students with German ancestry have become less predominant, and fewer and fewer students come to college having had German or for that matter any language as an option in high school. We as faculty must meet our students halfway and let them teach us how German studies can be meaningful for them. Otherwise we risk being inaccessible and will fail to continue to appeal to busy undergraduates who have many options. Like participatory research, many of us faculty have long been employing student-centered, active-learning strategies at the lower levels.  It is time to articulate this approach across the curriculum, from 101-level courses to our hiring and evaluation practices. We need to aid students in discovering the types of meaningful research that enables them to bring their past and present ways of knowing together with the diverse intellectual traditions and cultures of the spaces that today are called Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Moreover, if we are unable to acknowledge the important service of mentoring such undergraduates and stewardship as an institutional justice issue for all, we will not maintain, much less grow, a diverse faculty in the twenty-first century. This is key, particularly in helping first-generation faculty, tenure-track or not, to navigate the complex networks of higher education and its research landscapes. It is through the listening to and valuing of diverse perspectives that a field will continue to produce transformative knowledge so that all of its faculty and students feel they belong on campus. Faculty in German studies know this in theory, but need to commit to putting it into practice.

See diagram: “Values, Activities, and Outcomes of Intellectual Leadership” by Sonja Fritzsche, Bill Hart-Davidson, Chris Long. Licensed under CC By 4.0


[1] This is a revision of the “research” roundtable contribution that I made at the “Re-Imagining the Discipline” German studies conference at Cornell University, Sept. 12-14, 2019.

[2] Van Hise, Charles. Untitled Address to the Press Association, February 1905, University of Wisconsin. As quoted in Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Generous Thinking. A Radical Approach to Saving the University. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018.

[3] “Report of the MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Promotion and Tenure 2006.”  Profession, 2007, pp. 9-71.  In general, although somewhat now out of date, this report should be used as a resource for rethinking categories for promotion and tenure.

[4] Dotson, Kristie. “Conceptualizing Epistemic Oppression.” Social Epistemology, vol. 28, no. 2,  2014, 115-138.

[5] I wish to acknowledge Bill Hart-Davidson for this wording.

[6] "Content and process" is a phrase that comes from the values-based discussions undertaken in the Department of Philosophy at MSU in 2018.

[7] “Report of the MLA Task Force,” p. 23.

[viii] I wish to thank Kathleen Fitzpatrick for this list.


Sonja Fritzsche (Michigan State University)

Diversifying Knowledges - How Do We Re-imagine Annual Review and Promotion and Tenure Criteria[1]


Michigan State University (MSU), the first land-grant institution, occupies lands ceded in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw that are the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary lands of the Anishinaabeg — Three Fires Confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi peoples. Organized in part by American Indian and Indigenous studies, the 200th anniversary of this treaty was commemorated by a regional conference and family day at the Indian encampment site on the Red Cedar River that runs through campus. In spring 2018, Larry Nassar was tried and convicted on multiple counts of sexual abuse that took place while he was an Assistant Professor at MSU. These two separate events are examples of an institution that has failed to listen both in the past and present. It is an institution that has put itself first, rather than recognize the needs of the human communities inside and outside of its walls. Since spring 2018, many at MSU have reassessed what they truly value and have committed to not just profess, but also enact those values across the university mission. In her recent book Generous Thinking, Kathleen Fitzpatrick quotes Wisconsin’s Charles Van Hise from 1905. It was his vision that the land-grant university “is and should be focused on the needs of the people, both through its extension into the community and through its on-campus programs. A University does not exist for the benefit of those who work there.”[2] Rather, it is through participatory creative projects, research, and teaching that the land-grant institution can have its greatest intended impact. Should not the land-grant ideal then also extend to the full equitable inclusion of perspectives represented by all of the institution’s diverse faculty?  


The recognition and integration of diverse ways of knowing lead to more innovative, effective, and resilient knowledge creation of the highest quality. While this may be recognized in theory, putting it into practice can be more difficult. For years now, it has been discussed that the crown jewel of German studies – the book – is becoming harder and harder to publish. There is nothing wrong with the monograph. In fact, there are many excellent examples being published each year. Yet this product continues to be the gatekeeping standard at many institutions for tenure and promotion, a fact that puts many pre-tenure scholars at risk. This state of affairs was most publicly acknowledged by the publication of the 2006 report of the MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship on Promotion and Tenure.[3] Since then there has been very measured progress providing alternatives, particularly for scholars who find themselves personally subventing or otherwise unable to attain the coveted university press book contract. More and more series disappear, presses discontinue.


The focus on the book also perpetuates inequitable structures of power in the discipline that limit the types of knowledge that are valued. Is there not then a moral and ethical obligation to decolonialize and diversify German studies? What types of “epistemic exclusion” – a term coined by Black Feminist Philosopher Kristie Dotson – are evident through restrictive definitions of what counts for promotion and tenure?[4] Or as German studies scholar Priscilla Layne has argued at this conference, it is time to alter the “lens” through which the field defines excellence. Multiple German studies scholars have been working on this project for many years in terms of the content of what is studied and the structures that define this work, among them members of the organization Women in German, which began in 1974, and the faculty involved in the recent initiative “Diversity, Decolonialization, and German studies.” There is still much to be done.


In the spirit of these words, the MSU German MA/PhD program underwent a student-centered redesign in 2014/2015 that focused on interdisciplinary dissertations in multiple formats, with particular emphasis on technology, media, and the digital humanities. The program has also done much to create a more diverse and equitable curriculum that prepares graduate students for the realities of a twenty-first century job market that is in line with the MLA’s Connected Academics model. 


While the program is producing graduate students who engage in alternative ways of knowing and knowledge creation, the multi-language department that houses this program is also engaging in a review of its long-established evaluative practices for faculty in language and literary and cultural studies. The monograph is the standard in the department scholars in this department section. The department also houses linguistics, TESOL, and second language studies program faculty. Faculty in this section are promoted and tenured through a series of peer-reviewed articles. My question is: Which German studies programs include film or new media projects, digital humanities projects, work in the public humanities, or collaborative works as valid forms of research for promotion and tenure? German studies still has very few recognized online or open-access journals. While this type of publishing has become standard in many other disciplines, it is still viewed as questionable among many Germanists. If we believe that we are an interdisciplinary field of German studies, the way we value our research continues to be very disciplinary. It is in these alternative media and forms that some of the most cutting-edge and diverse meaning-making is taking place, yet many departments and programs, particularly at the research I level, do not acknowledge the potentially transformative contributions of this work. This lack of reinforcement then acts to de-incentivize innovation in the field. 


During the roundtable discussion “Research, Publishing, Professionalization,” many asked me how to go about broadening the discussion of what counts for annual review and promotion and tenure in German studies as a means of accomplishing the goals above. In this revised version of my talk, I have included some suggestions and models. And certainly there are others not mentioned here that would be useful. First, it is important to recognize that the department can choose to empower itself to reconsider its own criteria for promotion and tenure. The department’s own peer review committee, along with letters from external referees, provide the foundation of the evaluation of each promotion and tenure case. The subsequent reviews and recommendations at the Dean and Provost levels (depending on the institution) are based in large part on the documents of the peer-reviewed dossier. Each story told in the letters (from the chair, the unit review committee, and the external referees) provides the basis for reviewing the tenure case at the upper levels.


Therefore, through collective conversations, the department faculty can consider what they value most. They can formulate their own values as a department and conduct a values-based review of the unit’s promotion and tenure process and policies. If the question is how do we move beyond the book, we must ask: what is valued about the monograph itself? If it is the weightiness or substance of the scholarship, then we must determine  the ways this can be measured. Are there alternative ways of demonstrating the same type of accomplishment?  For instance, a book demonstrates duration of work over time, a significant contribution, a level of impact. Of course some of these concepts can be problematic. The humanities still struggle to have work recognized as research, evidenced by the low number of indexed journals with impact factors and STEM-focused scholarship categories in Academic Analytics. Yet, measuring impact in this singular way can cause one to devalue a smaller journal of a nascent and very innovative field. Adopting an exclusive measure such as an impact factor leads right back to the very challenges of reliance on the monograph. 


What then are other ways that progress on a significant influential project over time might be demonstrated? Where a book establishes a scholarly profile, this same type of excellence also can be shown through a series of related accomplishments documented in annual review letters. A similar type of sustained engagement over time might be evidenced in a progression of articles or range of scholarship types that share the same strong trajectory. Collaborative work should also be valued in part because it often takes more work than the monograph and leads to knowledge production that would not have taken place had there only been one author. 


Note the conceptual shift that has reframed the conversation and opened up a space to value multiple forms of scholarship. With this in mind, if a department wants to expand the forms of knowledge that it wishes to recognize as a valid basis for promotion and tenure, it must do so by reviewing and updating the unit bylaws, policies, and guidelines on annual evaluation and promotion and tenure review. In the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University through the leadership of Dean Christopher P. Long, we are also rethinking the categories of evaluation. Peer evaluation has traditionally been organized in terms of the means by which faculty fulfill the university mission: teaching, research, and service/outreach. While not stated explicitly, these categories in practice as mentioned above have often been reduced to digits: numbers of articles or books, numbers of courses taught and teaching evaluation rating, numbers of committees. It would seem, however, that much of the refinements of the story, the complexities of the work, the very critical thinking present are undone and erased through this very process. Further, certain types of labor that have great impact on student and faculty success, such as the many, many recommendation letters than non-tenure-stream faculty often write or the mentoring of one’s own faculty colleagues, remain invisible. To go a step further, faculty who do not engage in these practices of stewardship, and even work to hinder the success of others, are not held accountable in the current peer review practice. 

Instead, consider the model represented in the graphic below, entitled Cultivating a Path to Intellectual Leadership (CPIL). Rather than evaluate faculty by the means through which they fulfill the university mission – teaching, research, and service – this values-based model proposes that they be assessed according to what Bill Hart-Davidson refers to as the “benefits” of the work, the end goals defined by and for human beings at that institution, in the broader community, the field, and beyond. These categories re-center the people who benefit through the outcomes of “sharing knowledge, expanding opportunities, and mentorship/stewardship.”[5] This values-based approach was inspired by the Mellon-funded HuMetricsHSS initiative. There are two aspects of the CPIL model, the individual and the institutional. The former enables faculty to chart out a path of intellectual leadership for themselves (that “strong trajectory” referred to above) in terms of what Bill Hart-Davidson calls “stepping stones, milestones, and a horizon.” For the annual review, faculty can think of the stepping stones they have taken that year towards a milestone goal.  A stepping stone might be submitting a first grant proposal or writing up a draft of a first book proposal. How the stepping stone is defined depends on the person and is left up to them to decide. Or perhaps they have attained their milestone and have been awarded that first grant or have finished that first digital humanities project. For them, these are the self-defined significant achievements on their way towards their more distant horizon that is sometimes only a figment of an idea at first. Then following the CPIL model, they should frame these accomplishments in terms of the values that guide their work and how and for/with whom they have shared knowledge over the past year, expanded opportunities, and mentored and stewarded the people and professional spaces in which they are active. They should consider how they are leading intellectually in rank-appropriate ways. How does this help them reframe their research, teaching, and service/outreach into more meaningful and active human-centered categories?