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Resources for Letter Writers

The Norton College of Medicine generally requires four types of letters for promotion applications. If you are a candidate for promotion, guidance for letter is below. In most cases, a completed faculty curriculum vitae and relevant portfolios are available to letter writers. If not initially provided, letter writers may request copies of the CV and portfolios from the candidate or the Department.

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Letters of Support

Letters of support are generally requested by the promotion candidate and should be addressed to the Department Chair. Letters may provide documentation regarding the candidate’s accomplishments and/or regional or national reach and recognition. Documentation from recipients of service such as learners or referral sources regarding excellence of service provided are a required part of the promotion process for those requesting promotion with clinical or educational excellence. Letters of support may also be used to highlight specific required elements of promotion.

Letters may be requested from faculty colleagues, learners (past learners preferred), community leaders, recipients of service and/or others who are able to provide detail and examples regarding the candidate’s excellence in the areas of education, research, and/or service.

There is no specific format for letters of support, however, this Guide for Letters of Support may be helpful. In general, letters of support are not more than one page. Letter writers should explain their relationship to the faculty candidate for promotion and provide details regarding their own work and expertise as well as their knowledge of the candidate’s work and accomplishments. Letter writers need not be employed by an academic institution and academic rank is not required.

The difference between letters of support and evaluation are summarized in the table below.

Letters of Support Versus Letters of Evaluation

Letters of support are requested by you, the faculty member, while letters of evaluation are requested by the Department Chair (see table below for the key differences between these two). These letters are then provided to the Departmental P&T Committee who will review your promotion package and submit their own letter of recommendation to the Department Chair for consideration. If the Chair agrees with plans for promotion, they compose a letter to the dean, outlining your merits for promotion. In most cases, a faculty CV and relevant portfolios should be provided to letter writers.

Types of Letters

Details Letters of Support Letters of Evaluation
Must be requested by the Department Chair No Yes
Number of letters 4-6 recommended

3 required by NCOM

Individual departments may require up to 6

Exemptions may apply
(see below)
Letter writer must hold equal or higher academic rank No Yes
Letter writer must meet criteria to prevent conflicts of interest No Yes

External Letters of Evaluation

The Norton College of Medicine requires three external (also called extramural) letters of evaluation to be solicited by the Department Chair. These letters assist in the assessment of the candidate's academic credentials. In some departments, these letters are requested prior to the Departmental Promotion and Tenure (P&T) committee review; while in others, they are requested after the P&T Committee reviews the candidate’s documentation. Letters may be addressed to the Department Chair or to the Norton College of Medicine Dean.

A form to assist in determining the writer’s suitability to provide an external evaluator letter is available.

Letter writers must be faculty at non-Upstate institutions, holding an academic rank at or above the rank under consideration. Letter writers (2/3 of those requested) may have had a collaborative engagement with the promotion candidate, as long as it was three or more years prior to the consideration for promotion and tenure.

Faculty with current (within the past 3 years) collaborations with the candidate are not eligible to be an evaluative letter writer. Mentors from any stage of the candidate’s career are not eligible.

Guidelines for external evaluator letter writers, including contents, are available here. Writers should receive a copy of the candidate’s CV and portfolios for review. Promotion guidelines for Associate and Professor ranks and tenure requirements should be available to all letter writers.

Letter from the Departmental P&T Committee

The Departmental Promotion and Tenure (P&T) Committee Chair summarizes the P&T Committee recommendations following their review of the candidate promotion packet and submits this review as a letter to the Department Chair for consideration. The letter must contain a majority recommendation, with inclusion of minority views. The letter must include specific and detailed assessments of the candidate’s:

  • Credentials and accomplishments meeting the standards and criteria for proficiency in all areas and details regarding excellence in one area as outlined in the Standards Policy II.A;
  • Scholarship (in instances where tenure is deliberated);
  • Collegiality, including professionalism and personal engagement in advancing the departmental and institutional goals and mission.


Letter from the Department Chair to the Dean

If the Department Chair agrees with plans for promotion, the Chair must provide a letter to the Dean, outlining the candidate’s merits for promotion. This template offers guidance and the letter must include:

  • Comments regarding the Departmental P&T Committee letter, particularly if there were concerns or committee members who were not in agreement with the recommendation
  • Comments regarding external evaluator letter writers, including how they were chosen and their stature in the candidate’s area of expertise. See Standards Policy, VII.B.1 and 2.
    • How the extramural (external) evaluators were selected
    • The evaluators’ relationships, if any, to the candidate or institution
    • The certification of the professional expertise and the objectivity (non-mentor relationship) of the evaluators
  • Comments on whether or not the candidate fulfills the criteria of proficiency in all areas defined in II.A, and excellence in one area
  • Specific and detailed assessments of the candidate’s scholarship when tenure is being deliberated
  • An assessment of the candidate’s collegiality, including professionalism and the candidate’s personal engagement in advancing the departmental and institutional goals and mission
  • Comments regarding the candidate’s efforts and personal engagement, where applicable, to meet Upstate’s diversity and inclusion mission such as via support of diverse recruitment and retention efforts, review of educational materials for bias, promotion of interprofessional understanding and respect, or other diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging activities

At the conclusion of the letter, there should be a clear summary statement of the chair’s recommendation to support or deny promotion and/or tenure. Please see Templates, Guides, Forms an Checklists.