Thankful 2014

Thankful 2014 {New Faculty}


As I draft this post, I’m sitting in my quiet office on a dreary Sunday afternoon. I’ve recently moved and have an office to myself that has furniture in it that is only for me and not a shared space. Don’t get me wrong, I really haven’t had too many issues the past six months, renovations took longer than expected (duh) and I’m finally in a quiet space realizing how loud my voice is, how loudly I laugh, and just how thankful I am to be sitting in silence. My colleague is next door to me likely doing the same. You could call us the “singles club” since neither of us are married and doing the Sunday dance in our offices. And no, don’t get ahead of yourself, we’re not getting together because we’re the “last two single people” in the department faculty list. Get that thought out of your head before it pitches a tent and asks for a snack. :P

I had avoided the office on Sunday’s until recently and I’m patting myself on the back for avoiding it for so long. I have made a concentrated effort to NOT just dawdle on the Internet at home, answering emails, looking at my online course, doing work, etc…. to try and keep home separate. Besides, the introduction of an apple tv into my life at my birthday has made home time much more pleasant (AKA: full of tv again). But, like everything, avoiding Sunday’s was only going to last for so long. The grading, research, and trying to cut the proverbial “to do” list was just too much after a point and here I am. I give myself a couple hours on Sunday and at least try and get myself in a better direction for Monday morning.

As the semester begins to wind down and the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving is upon us, I’m continually thankful to be in a field that I love, in a beautiful place in the world, with unwavering support from a dozen or more places and people, and this year: an office to myself again.

I think about those less fortunate every day now and it’s sometimes a struggle to think about their lives on less than $1 a day and here I am, swigging a $3 coffee from starbucks. The past six months have been busy with a changing research focus and realigning my expectations for research and publishing. I’ve also taken on the task of teaching, advising students, and adding more service. All-in-all, it’s been a total 180 for me. I’m hard on myself more than anyone else would dream of being and one of the administrative assistants said to me this week, “tiffany, you’re so hard on yourself, it will be fine.”

While this post could be full of useful bits of information, I’ll leave it at this:

be thankful for what you have right now. 

It won’t ever be perfect. It won’t ever look like you thought it should. Being a young faculty is a huge struggle and unfortunately, not a very glamorous one. I’ll have a ‘year end’ type post and set myself some goals for 2015, but for today, amidst my Sunday schedule of writing and getting ahead for tomorrow, I just wanted to let each of you know that I’m thankful for my work, thankful to have the privilege to communicate it, and awfully thankful to have food in my kitchen, fuel in my car, and a roof over my head.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I’m not taking career advice from old white dudes anymore.

Originally posted on Tenure, She Wrote:

Recently, a senior emeritus professor called me out because he hadn’t seen me at a talk in a different department (let’s say it’s Astronomy). “I’ve never seen you at a single Astronomy talk,” he admonished. “You really need to go to those.” I patiently explained that I typically have a teaching conflict, which he brushed off, and repeated his imperative that I really needed “to go to those talks.” He was angry at my laziness in failing to attend these critical seminars in a tangentially related field, and didn’t respect my explanations that 1) I couldn’t, and 2) even if I could, I have to make hard choices and don’t always have the luxury of doing everything I’d like to.

Now, I’m an interdisciplinary scientist– in fact, my position is split between a departmental home and an interdisciplinary institute, which means I go to twice as many faculty meetings and probably four times as many…

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Mental Health in Academia

Originally posted on Tenure, She Wrote:

The academic life is a never-ending stream of new challenges that can trigger or exacerbate anxiety and depression. We’ve talked about some of those stresses here at TSW, from dealing with toxic mentors, to the job hunt (which could trigger Job Market PTSD), to the timing of starting a family, to feeling like you are falling behind even once you have your dream job. Mental health issues seem to be rising in academia and can seriously affect academics’ productivity and success – an insidious negative feedback loop.

The only way to break a ‘hidden epidemic’ out into the open is to talk about our experiences and acknowledge the pervasiveness of the problem. We are starting to talk more openly about mental illness in academia – even if there is a culture of acceptance around those issues. I’m not a psychiatrist, psychologist, or any other kind…

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The Grading Grind

The Grading Grind {New Faculty}


How do you grade?

I had the best intentions in August when syllabi planning. I had my weeks laid out nicely, my readings selected (with the exception of three I added in the latter half of the semester), and gosh darn it, I had my due date calendar up to speed. Delivering an online course means I had to be super organized about things since I’d never actually “see” my students in person, but 100% online.

Inevitably, I made a few mistakes and **gasp** over assigned some work, taking away a few assignments and giving the points to everyone. No one seemed to mind.

As I head to the latter portion of my semester, I’ve accounted for all the things I’d hoped to engage with my students about and I worked hard to design a MANAGEABLE course for ME. Yes, ME. I’ve learned a few things and quickly tried to compensate. I’ve also changed how I do things in many cases to help streamline the process for my students and for me each week.

  • I front loaded assignments to ensure that all of us (students and instructor alike) would have time to complete the final paper for the course. It has long been a point of discussion to professors everywhere of how to load a course.
  • I took an “every other” route with this course. There was work due every week, but every other week was a bit lighter in the amount of writing expected and the assignment expectations. One week, a personal reflection would be due of about 500 words and a ‘group chat’ among teams in the course. There would also be a reading and/or another reading or a guest lecture in the form of video or audio. On the opposite week, there would often be an article critique due (1000 words) and sometimes nothing or sometimes a reflection on a documentary pertaining to their chosen industry. With such a broad course topic, my course attracts a wide variety for an audience and it’s important to me as the instructor to try and understand what is important to each student.
  • I stopped making comments in document (unless there were a LOT) and instead, started emailing students directly with my comments. If there were gross APA, syntax, and grammar errors, I simply said, “this document had more than three errors in the first few paragraphs, please check.”
  • I set aside one day a week (barring any schedule issues) to grade. In a set amount of time, blocked off my calendar, and didn’t come to campus until it was done.
  • I tried not to “over grade” or make so many comments/make the email so long, that the student wouldn’t care. Usually a short paragraph, less than three sentences to drive home a point or pose questions. Nothing too verbose. My students all work full time to, they don’t have time to read short novels.
  • Set clear expectations up front. I told my students what I expected early on. I let them know they’d struggle week one and two and then we’d get into a rhythm. Only a few panicked.
  • I sent out rubrics to help manage expectations.
  • I accepted drafts on the final paper during ONE WEEK of a set length for review. I reviewed each one I sent.
  • I sent a mid-semester survey to give students a voice if they had feedback for me. Only four answered.

What can I work on?

  • My online organization of the course materials. Some things didn’t get organized as well for every student. Their folders for assignments also got jumbled halfway through the semester and I had to make a folder in each folder. Arrggghhh!
  • Grading hiccups. Technology wasn’t always my friend in terms of the CMS our university uses.
  • I worked hard and sometimes struggled engaging all learners. I also am learning to accept that not all of my students care about authentic learning, some just want the bare minimum for the degree.
  • Time. I still think I can be more efficient with my time. I’m still figuring out how to do that.

What advice would you offer a new faculty member who’s teaching, researching, serving, and not sleeping? :)


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tactics for proof-reading

Domesticated Academic:

my proof reading skills are also in the ‘not great’ category.

Originally posted on patter:

I am one of the world’s worst at proof-reading my own work. I’m quite good at revising, but not so good at the final checks. Regular readers of this blog will sometimes spot the odd proofreading omission  – the good news is that I usually pick it up, albeit often after a few days :( .

Proof-reading isn’t an easy thing to do – most writers are inclined to see what we thought we’d written, rather than what we actually have. We miss the odd spelling mistake, missing comma, over long sentence, the too often repeated word. It’s hardly surprising we miss these slip ups as most pieces of writing that are ready for proof-reading have been through multiple drafts and revisions. The proof-reading trick is to try to make the text appear unfamiliar and strange, almost as if someone else had written it.

So here’s a few tactics that can help:

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In Defense of Ill Structured Time

In Defense of Ill Structured Time

I felt stifled last week. And when I gazed at my calendar, there became a big reason why: my calendar was exploding. It was a rare week even for me in terms of my over-full calendar. I usually try to be very disciplined about blocking out my time but last week was a hot mess. From Monday until Friday at 6:30 p.m. when I finally got home, it was non-stop. It wasn’t all bad, we had a visitor in to the department that took most of one day, I had some professional development, and then there were the usual suspects of writing group, meetings, and getting my weekly work done.

Here’s the double edge sword. My week was so scheduled that it seemed that I got a lot done, but my brain was feeling under stimulated. I usually try and give myself several good chunks of time of ill-structured writing, to peruse articles, to piece writing together, but last week it wasn’t in the cards. As an introvert who craves the quiet, I was exhausted from the over-stimulated calendar I had and felt cheated of my day-dreamy like existence to read, think, process out loud, and work through research the way I have grown accustom to. I know I don’t always ‘get my way’ in this regard, but I didn’t realize how much of a drain it put on me until I got home Friday and proceeded to not move until my stomach hollered loudly for some supper. In fact, I got in bed and laid there. I didn’t fall asleep, my brain was too busy. I just laid in bed in the quiet for a while and then called a good friend to chat.

Sometimes, we need a busy week. It just happens. I don’t always get the luxury of getting what I want. I’m fully aware of this, but I hadn’t felt that run down since January and I can recall it was one person who drove me mad on that day. I came home and sat in the dark after that :). The situation was completely different and my coping skill that day was to just shut down upon coming home. Last week was more like a marathon, a slow burn, that I survived but also rewarded myself with as well. Could my calendar be worse? Absolutely. But then my hair would fall out, my face would break out, and I’d have a meltdown.

My calendar looks 1000% better this week. I carefully said “yes” and “no” to things to allow for this. I’m sure a few things will be added, but right now, my brain is happy because I’ll get a few hours to think, to read, to dive into things.

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Conference Submissions: Stop, Collaborate, & Listen

Submission season, it’s like road construction in that it never seems to end! I’ve been working on several deadlines lately, pumping out the writing, contributing to things, being a good colleague and mentor, editing like a maniac, and clicking submit with hours, days, and sometimes minutes to spare. Ah….submissions.

Submission season got me thinking about being a good collaborator on interdiscplinary work and how we can manage it. The academy says “you must/should do this” but it’s not always so smooth looking of a process. It’s more like watching sausage get made in most cases, particarly on long research projects. Submissions are a bit different though.

The clock ticks more rapidly.

You have to decide which data to disseminate, what will catch a reviewers eye.

Be mindful not to double dip on that data.

Who to submit with? Did you forget someone?

What role do you take in all of it?

As a grad student or a younger faculty member, it can be daunting to saddle up your horse and get on with submissions. It can be made easier, albeit more pleasant, of an experience if you look after yourself and openly communicate.

  • Who’s doing what?
  • Who’s responsible for final edits?
  • Who’s submitting? Receiving emails, etc….keeping track of it.
  • What’s the time frame? I was editing a paper for a grad student at 10:30 p.m. for an 11:59 p.m. submission. RUDE. The grad student was not on top of it.
  • Who’s on the author list? What are they contributing? Are you leaving anyone out?

There’s a lot of moving parts when you’re trying to submit on a deadline. The best way: get ahead of it early. But since academics seem to be notoriously bad at that, keeping a checksheet or some type of organizer around isn’t a bad idea.

Stop. Collaborate and Listen.

It’s submission time!

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