Academic Portfolios

A stack of files.
Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

A few years ago, early in my first faculty position, I wrote about how I tracked academic work. I still implement the core ideas of that piece, but most of the details have changed; I thought now, after working on my first annual review after applying for tenure, would be a good time to write an update.

Academic Review

I'd like to start with a quick overview for new or prospective academics. There's the well-known Big Evaluation, when you apply for tenure & promotion; and a few years after that the application to Full Professor. Many institutions have a pre-tenure reappointment review at around year 3. You will also likely have one or two annual reviews; for pre-tenure academics, these serve as a check-in on your tenure progress, and for all academics they're used for performance evaluation and determining merit raises (in institutions that use the evaluation for raises).

When I was at Texas State University, tenure-track faculty had to provide data for two reviews each year, because the progress / reappointment review and performance review were separate processes with separate deadlines. It was weird.

But for each of these reviews, you need to provide a complete log of your activities, in the format required by your institution (often in addition to keeping it current on your CV). You also need supporting documentation. What precise documentation is required will vary from institution to institution, but you can't go wrong by saving everything, even if you don't need to submit it all to the institution.

Current CV

I keep my CV continuously updated as a part of my web site. Some of the technical information is here; the web pages for my publications serve as single-source-of-truth for publication information, and my CV itself is a Markdown file that pulls in the publication information, along with other content, for rendering to HTML. WeasyPrint converts that to a PDF that I can save, share, upload, etc.

Some institutions require you to highlight new things. Texas State did that; I dealt with that by including the year in an HTML class or data attribute on the relevant HTML <li> elements, and a bit of CSS to recolor everything for a particular year. These days I would probably just mark up the PDF in Acrobat.

Keeping my CV current as I get new publications means my annual CV update is mostly adding new teaching & updating my service. Huge time-saver at review time; time sink overall, but it's my pet time sink and I'm rather proud of it.

Logging Work

Different types of work have different logging needs. Paper acceptances sort of log themselves, but you need to keep track of service work, grant applications, teaching, etc. I have different logs for different bits:

  • All reviewing work is logged in a DynaList notebook, by type; this is also where I keep track of deadlines and my overall reviewing workload.
  • I have a spreadsheet for grant proposals that lets me look at my overall funding rate, etc.; I included a copy of this in my tenure application.
  • Teaching I just update in my CV every year; our faculty effort reporting system automatically gets it from the registrar's office.

Many universities have online systems for tracking work; Boise State uses Faculty 180. You will need to enter your work into this system for review, but I find it completely useless for my own use. I recommend keeping your own records, and then updating the effort tracker at review time. This lets you keep them in a format that's useful for you; also, you can keep copies of them if you ever need them for a dispute, you get fired, or you're looking for a different position. Keeping your own copies of vital professional records (so long as no FERPA or otherwise-protected information is implicated) on your own private drive is good practice.

Documenting Work

I maintain a Portfolio folder that I use for documenting all my work: copies of my annual review reflections, documentation for my accomplishments, copies of my CV each year, tenure application materials, and whatever else is relevant to documenting my professional career. I've gone back and filled it in all the way back to the beginning of my Ph.D.

This folder is organized by year (calendar year, since we do annual reviews on calendar year cycles at Boise State). Within each year, I have several things:

  • That year's reflections from my annual eval (Word documents)
  • End-of-year CV
  • A Papers directory with PDFs from all papers published (or in some cases accepted) that year
  • A Proposals directory with every grant proposal submitted
  • A Teaching directory with saved teaching resources
    • Syllabi
    • Student evals
    • Representative documents (assignments, final exam, project description, etc.)
  • A Service directory with documentation & evidence for major service assignments (e.g. thank-you letters for program committees, etc.). If the only evidence available has confidential information (such as the titles of papers or proposals reviewed), I print it to a PDF and use Acrobat's Redact tool to remove the private info.
  • A Talks directory with documentation for invited talks.
  • Other files to document random things (like my ACM Senior Member designation).

After receiving a year's evaluations (from chair, tenure committee, dean, etc.), I save PDF copies into the year's directory as well.

I try to drop things into this folder as they happen, but usually need to spend an hour or two each year reviewing it and hunting down any missing files. Making sure it's up to date as a part of my annual eval, though, means it's already there and I don't need to check for missing things when preparing for one of the big evaluations.

A little organization in advance can save a headaches later.