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Eberly College of Science Mathematics Department

Workload Policy for tenure-line faculty

Workload Policy Guidelines – Department of Mathematics


Tenure-line faculty members in the mathematics department have a wide range of skills and expertise and are expected to contribute to the mission of the department through a diversity of research, teaching and service responsibilities.  Letters of appointment typically express this expectation through the following language: “All faculty members at Penn State are expected to engage in scholarly activities appropriate to their areas of interest and specialization.  In addition, assigned responsibilities include combinations of activities such as teaching, research, and service, with specific duties to be determined by the appropriate administrative officers of the University (the department head) and based on program needs.”   The purpose of this document is to detail these expectations in a straightforward and equitable way.

Basic principle

All tenured and tenure-track faculty members in the Department of Mathematics are expected to have a continuing record of high quality teaching and service and to maintain a vital and productive mathematics research effort.

Research workload expectation

A vital and productive research program will have substantial scientific impact as assessed by publications in highly regarded journals, citations, invited talks, and national and international awards. An individual research program in mathematics can be successful without support from external funding agencies.  However, such funding is needed to maintain a research community involving graduate and postdoctoral scholars and to maintain active participation in the international research community.  Accordingly, a faculty member’s funding track record will be considered when determining the effectiveness of his/her research program.

Teaching workload expectation

The normal teaching workload for tenure-track faculty members and for tenured faculty members with effective, externally funded research programs is 9 credits (three courses) per year.  Distinguished research professors[1] have a normal teaching workload of 6 credits (two courses) per year. An independent study course or a  course attended by fewer than the minimum number of students stipulated by University policy (see will not normally be counted as part of a faculty member’s teaching workload. 

Newly hired faculty members will normally receive a temporary reduction in their teaching workload to enable them to establish a vital and productive research program.

Teaching quality will be assessed by peer evaluations as well as by quantitative measures such as SRTEs and outcomes tracking .

Service workload expectation

All tenure line faculty members are expected to undertake departmental service responsibilities such as participation in departmental meetings, committee service, mentoring junior colleagues or postdoctoral scholars, advising PhD students, undergraduate course coordination, and participation in student and faculty recruitment.   In addition they are expected to become involved in the university’s governance process and to serve the profession through paper and proposal review.  Senior faculty members are expected to exercise leadership in the profession at a national or international level (examples: editorial boards for scholarly journals, leadership in scholarly organizations, organizing conferences or summer schools.)

Special responsibilities (e.g. some associate headships) may require a faculty member temporarily to devote a greater proportion of effort to service and a lesser proportion to teaching or research. 

Service quality will be assessed by considering the impact of the faculty member’s achievements in his/her service endeavors.

Workload Assessment and Review

The Department Head and Policy Committee review each faculty member’s activities annually in each of the categories of research, teaching, and service.  The overall annual evaluation of a faculty member will give due regard to the balance of his/her duties (so that, for instance, a faculty member assigned primarily to teaching will be judged primarily on the basis of teaching.)

A more comprehensive review is mandated by policy HR-40 every five years.  As a component of this more comprehensive review, the Department Head and Policy Committee will consider whether the faculty member’s research program remains effective and whether his/her teaching and service work continues to meet the expectations described above.  If areas of concern are identified, they will consider whether it is necessary to adjust the balance of the faculty member’s duties between research, teaching, and service.  The final responsibility for assigning this balance rests with the Department Head.

As a guideline, if a faculty member’s research program does not receive external funding, but is otherwise judged to be successful, s/he may be requested to teach an additional course every third year (thus, in these circumstances, the annual teaching workload will be 10 credits). Tenured faculty members whose research activity falls significantly below expectations may be required to take on additional teaching responsibilities.  In these circumstances the faculty member’s teaching workload may be up to six courses (18 credits) per year.  Intermediate arrangements are also possible and will be determined by an evaluation of the faculty member’s overall contribution to the mission of the department.





[1] Those who carry a title of distinction, such as Distinguished Professor or Evan Pugh Professor.