What We Learned About Creating Our First Dossiers

By Alexander Hoffman, PharmD and Jaclyn Boyle, PharmD

The promotion process can be daunting. As Bates et al. note, the highly particular nature of the promotion and tenure process, the diversity of responsibilities of health education faculty, and the intricacies of the traditional academic environment make the promotion and tenure process labyrinthine.1 Some faculty may even avoid or delay promotion due to a seemingly insurmountable workload. Developing your dossier can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. As two junior faculty who recently went through the promotion process, here are some key lessons we learned:

  • Get organized and start early.
    1. We thought several times during this process “I wish I would have started my dossier during my first year as a faculty member.” While your narratives may not be constructed until later, it is never too early to begin organizing your dossier files.
    2. Keep good records. Create an digital filing system with categories for teaching, scholarship, and service. File your evaluations (student, peer, course), annual performance reviews, copies of your publications, presentations, and other scholarly work. Maintaining these materials will make dossier construction much easier.
    3. Use a dossier template. Many colleges have a required template – check with faculty resources, a colleague, or your department chair. Building your dossier on a template with standardized formatting will simplify the process.
  • Make a timeline.
    1. Start by reviewing your faculty bylaws. What are the requirements for advancement? What are the due dates for material submissions or mid-cycle reviews? Do you need to select external reviewers? Yancy et al. found that approximately 80% of colleges of pharmacy require external reviewers and 85% of those require at least 3 reviewers to be suggested.2 Make sure you have these key milestones clearly marked in your writing process.
    2. Map the dossier and narrative writing process from start to finish. Dossier construction is more technical and is essentially an organized product documenting your teaching, scholarship, and service. Narrative writing requires a creative mindset as you reflect on your faculty career.
    3. Schedule time to complete dossier writing. Writing narratives is an easy task to delay, but you will be much further ahead if you schedule uninterrupted time to do this work.
  • Tell your story.
    1. Your narratives are a meaningful description of your evolution as a faculty member. Varpio et al. discuss that the need to adhere to promotion and tenure guidelines should be balanced with the reflective context of your personal journey.3 What key events or realizations did you discover throughout your journey as a faculty member? How have you grown as a teacher, scholar, and servant leader? What are your plans for growth in each area? Only you can put into context the hard work you have done as a faculty member.
  • Reach out to others.
    1. Get examples from others. Unless you are in a new college or school of pharmacy, there will be faculty colleagues who have gone through the promotion process who can help by providing examples of their dossier and narrative work. If you are in a new college or school or pharmacy, reach out to faculty who are above your rank in similar areas of practice or academia at your own or other institutions.
  • Have a support system/colleagues to collaborate with.
    1. If other faculty members are going through the promotion process, working with them can provide a support system during a potentially challenging time of your career. In addition, scheduling in-person or virtual time to work together and asking questions about the contents and organization of your promotion materials  provides an outsider’s perspective as well as encouragement. An established time to work on promotion materials with a colleague develops an unspoken expectation of accountability in the case that you need a bit more self-discipline (like we did!).
    2. Have a mentor or trusted senior faculty review your dossier and narratives. Feedback and advice from someone who has already completed the promotion process is invaluable. Your mentor can look at your writing with fresh eyes and give you constructive feedback.
  • If you have the opportunity, volunteer to be an external reviewer.
  1. The process of reviewing another faculty’s dossier and narratives, comparing their submission to the college’s bylaws, and providing a recommendation for promotion can be helpful in envisioning what your future external evaluators will look for when reviewing your promotion materials. This experience may not be available to all junior faculty, but if it is offered to you, take it.

While at first submitting our materials for promotion seemed impossible, handing in our final submission provided a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. If you organize your materials, make a timeline, and set your goals, you can make this process simple and (mostly) pain-free.

What are your next steps in the promotion and tenure process?


  1. Bates J, Schrewe B. Navigating the unchartable: paths to promotion and tenure in health professions education. Perspect Med Educ. 2016; 5:323-324.
  2. Yancey AM, Pitlick M, Woodyard JL. Utilization of external reviews by colleges of pharmacy during the promotion and tenure process for pharmacy practice faculty. Curr Pharm Teach Learn. 2017; 9 (2):255-260.
  3. Varpio L, St.Onge C, Young M. Academic promotion packages: crafting connotative frames. Perspect Med Educ. 2016; 5:354-357.

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Alexander Hoffman is an Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at the Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Pharmacy. Educational scholarship interests include student mentoring and advising, co-curricular development, and professional development. In his free time, Alex enjoys reading and hiking.

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Jaclyn Boyle is an Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice at the Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Pharmacy. Educational scholarship interests include professional development, preparing learners for careers in academia, and evaluating new teaching and assessment methods. In her free time, Jaclyn enjoys spending time with her family, spinning, and yoga.

Pulses is a scholarly blog supported by Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning

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