This fall, the Peabody Conservatory rolled out its first-ever rank and promotion process for faculty members, marking a true milestone for Peabody, which historically had operated under a system of annual contracts.
Seventy faculty members (nearly all of the eligible faculty members who applied) were assigned a rank — of assistant professor, associate professor, or professor — beginning this academic year.
“Given Peabody’s long history of annual contracts for faculty, this is a significant step forward in attracting and retaining the most outstanding artists, scholars, composers, and pedagogues for our faculty,” says Abra Bush, senior associate dean of institute studies, who staffed the Faculty Ranking Committee and was a non-voting member.
The robust faculty ranking process was developed by the Promotion and Evaluation Committee, which included several department chairs. Under the process, faculty applications were first reviewed by department chairs and recommendations were made for rank. Then the applications moved to the Faculty Ranking Committee, comprising Julian Gray (BM ’79, MM ’82, Guitar), chair of the Guitar Department; Robert Muckenfuss (MM ’94, Piano; DMA ’04, Ensemble Arts), chair of the Vocal Studies Department; Mary Ellen Poole, director of the Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin; and Stephen Gange, executive vice provost for academic affairs at Johns Hopkins University.
This group met for a week last February to individually review every application. The committee made recommendations to Dean Fred Bronstein, who then made the final determinations of rank.
“It was profoundly special to be a part of the first — after 162 years — ranking which had been discussed for decades,” says Muckenfuss, who also served as chair of the faculty for several years. The ranking process is important to faculty members, he says, “because it validates your work and standing in your profession. It’s a comparative gauge with other colleagues around the world.”
Bush explains the different ranks as follows: An assistant professor is generally new to the professoriate and receives a three year contract; an associate professor, someone of national esteem, receives a four-year contract; and a full professor is someone of strong national or international esteem who is granted a five-year contract. Faculty at Peabody remain untenured.
The application was extensive and included a resume or curriculum vitae; a list of recordings, performances, publications, or other artistic or scholarly output; a statement of the faculty member’s teaching philosophy; and student evaluations. Muckenfuss says, “Faculty members’ teaching at Peabody was the most important aspect to their application,” including how their work is in sympathy with the Five Pillars of the strategic Breakthrough Plan — Excellence, Interdisciplinary Experiences, Innovation, Community Connectivity, and Diversity.
“I’m grateful for the thoughtfulness of the faculty who have worked on all of these initiatives over the last several years,” says Bush. “I’m deeply honored to lead changes with Dean Bronstein that will positively impact not only current faculty but future generations of faculty for years and years to come.”
— Margaret Bell