A Professional Milestone

Six years ago to the day, I became the first person in my family to earn a PhD, (alongside my Academic Wonder Twin Matt Carter, First of His Name. ❤ )

This week, I received notification that my bid for promotion-in-rank was approved, and I am now Associate Professor of English.

To put this in context for those not well-versed with academia, 1.2% of the population of the United States earns a PhD. Between 10-30% of people who earn a PhD go on to obtain a full-time faculty position. Assistant Professors are promoted to Associate at a rate of between 10-50%, and (in 2007) 22% of full-time faculty were at the Associate level. Within these levels, women make up 50% of Assistant Professors and 45% of Associate Professors (in 2020). So, to put it mildly, the odds are really never in your favor. Getting to Associate in a full-time position is a true gauntlet run.

My university doesn’t have a tenure system so it’s still annual contracts going forward, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to teach, research, write, and publish in a full-time faculty appointment, I’m grateful for the visible signal of respect for my professional accomplishments that comes with this title change, and especially, I’m grateful for the wonderful colleagues I get to work alongside and who wrote letters of support on my behalf. And I’m looking forward to figuring out the shape of this next stage in my career.

In the face of the huge and terrifying shifts in women’s agency and autonomy and breakdown in trust in our governing and legislating bodies that we are staring down in this nation, this event seems such a small thing in comparison. But it is, personally and professionally, a very large thing for me.

Thanks to everyone who had a hand in it. No one ever gets to this point alone.


About Melissa Ridley Elmes

Professor and writer; Unrepentant nerd; chaotic good. Author of Arthurian Things: A Collection of Poems. PhD, MFA. She/hers. Views my own.
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4 Responses to A Professional Milestone

  1. Sarah Gordon says:

    Congratulations! You deserve it!

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