Putting the “Best Foot Forward”: Promoting Applied Anthropology for Tenure and Promotion

Society for Applied Anthropology Meeting, 2011


Linda Bennett (University of Memphis) and Sunil Khanna (Oregon State University)


Sherilyn Briller (Wayne State University); Erve Chambers (University of Maryland); Ruthbeth Finerman (University of Memphis); Brent Weisman (University of South Florida)


Since 2003, the Consortium of Practicing and Applied Anthropology Programs (COPAA) has been actively involved in responding to tenure and promotion concerns. One of COPAA’s core missions is to develop meaningful ways of defining, documenting, evaluating, and promoting diverse forms of applied scholarship and to raise awareness and recognition for applied teaching and work among faculty, department chairs, deans, and members of tenure and promotion committees. COPAA’s efforts have resulted in several organized sessions at the SfAA meetings; a policy document on promoting applied scholarship for tenure and promotion; a review of tenure and promotion guidelines for applied, practicing, and public-interest anthropology (forthcoming in American Anthropologist); and a panel discussion at the 2010 AAA meetings on evaluating applied, practicing, and public interest anthropology for tenure and promotion. On this panel, participants will present a summary of the key COPAA documents on applied scholarship for tenure and promotion and will discuss how these issues relate to tenure and promotion reviews at their institutions. The key COPAA documents will be provided to all participants. Anthropologists who have an interest in these issues should attend, particularly those who are just beginning their careers at or who will come up for tenure and promotion review soon.

Summary of Discussion

Distributed in advance

  1. Current draft of the “Guidelines for Evaluating Scholarship in the Realm of Practicing, Applied, and Public Interest Anthropology for Academic Promotion and Tenure” being developed by the AAA Committee on Practicing, Applied, and Public Interest Anthropology for the AAA website
  2. “A Review of Tenure and Promotion guidelines in Higher Education: Optimistic Signs for Applied, Practicing and Public Interest Anthropology” (Bennett and Khanna American Anthropologist Review Essay 2010 Vol. 113(4): 648-650).


  1. The draft of the “Guidelines” document was revised following the meeting, incorporating suggestions by the panelists and members of the audience regarding: importance of clarifying career coherence and consistency in tenure and promotion dossiers; inclusion of funding (contracts and internal and external grants) as a type of possible “tangible product;” and several areas of reformatting and language clarification.  The revision was sent to the CoPAPIA committee for submission to the AAA Executive Board at its May 2011 meeting.
  2. Several other issues regarding tenure and promotion were raised by panelists and members of the audience to be addressed in future discussions: e.g., the tenure and promotion process beyond the department at the college and universities levels; working both bottom-up and top down within colleges and universities to advance recognition of the importance of these scholarly approaches in tenure and promotion processes; representing anthropologists whose “home base” is not within a department of anthropology; the importance of department chairs in the tenure and promotion process; negotiation of these scholarly roles “on the front end” in faculty contracts; and the critical importance of external letters.