Real World Professors
Arts & Sciences will give “professor of the practice” titles to non-academic teachers

Poets and politicians are among those without doctorates but with plenty of real-world experience who will now have the designation “professor” when they teach at Tufts. The Arts & Sciences faculty now has established the title “professor of the practice” for distinguished teachers who are experts in their fields but do not necessarily have a scholarly background.

In the past, those without academic credentials, such as former Massachusetts Senate President Thomas Birmingham, have been hired as lecturers and traditionally have taught one course per year, says James Glaser, dean for undergraduate education for Arts, Sciences and Engineering. The professors of the practice will likely teach up to four courses per semester and also advise students.

“This allows us to bestow upon very prominent people without Ph.D.s a title and status that is important,” says Glaser. “It’s a way to bring prominent practitioners to campus to teach students. There are a lot of people without Ph.D.s who would be fabulous in a classroom and bring in real-world experience. We are not trying to replace faculty but to supplement what’s going on here.”

The decision, made last spring, is expected to result in professors of the practice joining the faculty next year. Those with the designation are eligible to serve on the faculty for up to five years, a time period limited by American Association of University Professors tenure rules.

The new designation puts the School of Arts and Sciences on the same footing as the School of Engineering, which already has four professors with the title, all of whom worked in industry before coming to Tufts.

This story ran in the December 2007 issue of the Tufts Journal.