English includes the study of texts, culture, and pedagogy. It also includes the creation of many different kinds of texts, including poetry, fiction, scripts, essays, journalism, factual writing, and creative nonfiction. Given this range of activities, it is natural that our scholarship takes many forms.
Scholarship includes the research necessary to teach courses with freshness, expertise, and intellectual challenge; such scholarship connects students with the scholarly conversation, as well as acquainting them with critical theoretical language and approaches. Such scholarship involves faculty immersion in the conversation of particular fields. It implies a responsibility to help colleagues keep in touch with those fields, informally and through presentations on either scholarly or pedagogical work. English studies are also central to the larger community conversation; the pattern of life-long reading, thinking, and research that informs writing and presenting on campus and in the local community—e.g. “Texts and Issues” lectures, Agora publications, public programming—are an important kind of local scholarship.
Wider distribution is a natural extension of this local scholarship and is crucial to the department's integrity. As scholars and writers, we have a responsibility to engage with the larger conversation that helps us to discover, reframe, and reassess what we know. Wider distribution enables us to test our ideas in a larger arena and exchange ideas with other experts. This wider distribution includes participation in institutes and seminars, presentation of papers at professional conferences, publication of reviews and articles in peer-reviewed journals, scholarly monographs, public readings, published fiction, poetry, scripts, essays, journalism, and creative nonfiction, and funded grant proposals. Sometimes service to professional organizations includes scholarship, as in editorial work or conference organization.
Peer review implies an editor or editorial board's judgment of a work’s integrity and validity, as well as its place in a wider conversation. Such external peer review is crucial, both for validating one’s work and also for helping a faculty member find ways to revise work that is not yet considered ready for wider distribution. In order to be ready for peer review, Luther colleagues help each other evaluate and revise their work, as well as affirming each other’s professional forays. In addition, some very important publications are not peer-reviewed in a rigorous way, yet because of their importance to the college, the church, the profession, or society at large, they are valued by the department.
The English department cultivates an atmosphere of collegial sharing. Discussions of annual evaluation center around the individual teacher’s planning for his or her future development as a scholar-teacher and how the department can help make those plans possible as part of progress toward successful third-year review, tenure, and promotion.
Student-faculty collaborative research is an opportunity for faculty to combine teaching and professional activity. Members of the English department mentor students as they shape writing done in their classes for submission to a variety of conferences and competitions. When that work has been accepted, members often travel with students to conferences. While not all forms of scholarly activity in English are aided by student research or collaboration, the department celebrates such work where it is possible.
The department affirms scholarship as equal in importance to college governance and administration, and the year-by-year shaping of interdisciplinary programs such as Paideia, Women’s Studies, Africana Studies, and others though both scholarship and service are secondary to our central commitment to teaching.
Third year review: faculty members should be learning to be effective teachers, advisors, and colleagues. New faculty members should also demonstrate their capacity for scholarship by continuing their research or writing program, including presenting at conferences or other venues, connecting with academic peers beyond Luther, and publishing or beginning to take the steps that lead to publication.
Tenure and promotion to Associate Professor: peer-reviewed publication—in addition to ongoing scholarship for teaching, the college, and the wider community—ought to be the norm.
Promotion to full professor: a faculty member, in addition to mature teaching and leadership in service, should have generated a number of peer-reviewed publications since tenure as part of a mature scholarly life that would make her or him recognizable as the peer of professors at comparable institutions.
The Luther English department has a long tradition of commitment to some of the distinctive features of church-related, liberal arts education—interdisciplinary learning; a focus on the whole person, including a concern for the ethical and the spiritual; a commitment to civic life; a concern for religious institutions. Scholarship in these areas sustains our life in community and should be encouraged and rewarded. Such scholarship will likely be broader in its audience, more flexible in its modes of presentation, and less prescriptive in its forms of peer review than our more conventional scholarship within the discipline of English.
(May 18, 2011)