Will Styler's Homepage
Will Styler

Associate Teaching Professor of Linguistics at UC San Diego

Director of UCSD's Computational Social Science Program

Will’s Teaching Professor FAQ

I’m an Associate Teaching Professor here at UCSD. Lots of people aren’t sure what that means, and how we differ from other faculty or lecturers on campus, so here are some answers to common questions:

What is a teaching professor?

‘Teaching series’ professors are academic senate faculty, just like any other UCSD Faculty member, and have the same rules, regulations, and possibilities of tenure and advancement as any other assistant professor. We’re just hired specifically to focus on teaching and pedagogy, expanding the undergraduate course offerings of a department.

Can you get tenure?

Well, I did! Teaching professors have the ability to gain ‘security of employment’ (which, although titled differently for our series, is functionally equivalent to tenure), contingent on excellence in teaching, research, and service.

How are you different from the rest of the ‘ladder-rank’ professors?

The main differences are…

Is ‘Teaching professor’ like an adjunct, visiting professor, or lecturer?

No, at UCSD, teaching series faculty are full members of the academic senate, are generally fully voting faculty in reasonable departments (as I am in mine), teaching a similar load every quarter, and have the possibility of advancement, tenure and sabbatical. Note that the ‘Lecturer with (possible) security of employment’ title confuses this matter, but we’re different from conventional ‘lecturers’

Do you get to teach graduate classes too?

Absolutely! Although our main focus is great undergraduate education, I do teach graduate classes as well, just a bit less frequently.

Can you supervise an Undergraduate Honors thesis or LIGN 199 Independent Study?

Absolutely! In this way, I’m no different from any other faculty member, and I’m happy to talk with you about your projects.

Can you serve on dissertation committees?

Absolutely. Just reach out to me and we’ll figure out if I’m a good fit.

Do you take on and advise graduate students? Do you chair dissertation committees?

I’m always happy to meet with any student in the department, providing advice, guidance, or help with specialized tools, and if we feel it would be a good fit, I would happily co-chair a dissertation committee with another faculty member.

That said, I will only in exceptional circumstances take on students ‘of my own’, and to take on a student directly and serve as an advisor is something I don’t generally do. Given my teaching load and my more limited opportunities to support you (as I don’t have a ‘lab’ to employ you as an RA), it’s likely better to have me as a co-chair or contributing member of your committee alongside one of my many excellent colleagues, rather than being your advisor directly.

This does mean that if you’re applying to UCSD specifically to work with me, you’ll want to reach out ahead of time to discuss your application, to see if I’m able to take on students, and to make sure it’d be an exceptionally good fit.

Do teaching professors take on university level service or work in the administration?

Absolutely, and I have. At UCSD, we have or have had teaching professors as department chairs, program directors, associate vice chancellors, provosts, and more. Although there are more research professors in these positions (which makes statistical sense!), there are few (if any) positions which a suitably qualified teaching professor cannot hold.

Will you ‘become’ a conventional, ladder-rank professor later in your career?

Teaching has always been one of my biggest passions, so the teaching track at UCSD is perfect for me, as it lets me focus on what I enjoy most. So, although it might be possible to switch tracks, it’s extremely rare, and I don’t think I’d want to anyways!

What is an ‘LPSOE’? ‘LSOE’? Is that you?

There are a series of official and working titles in the teaching track:

The ‘LSOE’ names are the official University of California system title for the Teaching Professor series. As in the general academic system, ‘LPSOE’ or Assistant Teaching Professors are pre-tenure, and ‘LSOE’ or Associate Teaching Professors (and beyond) have tenure (technically ‘security of employment’, but closely analogous). So, on paper, I’m an LSOE, but those official names are quite misleading and silly, and the preferred, working titles for most teaching professors at UCSD are the “Associate Teaching Professor” style titles.