I’ve Met Mr. Magoo



I’ve been on the struggle bus with an undergrad researcher this fall. He’s been fighting me the whole way and needless to say, I hit my personal “full” line with him this week. Seven weeks of not taking instruction, fighting back with me every week, arguing with me about due dates and other trivial things, and finally….for the last three weeks, he’s refused to take any mentoring-all my words passed right through his head and exited as soon as they entered.

I’d been in touch with his academic advisor, who is a great advocate for all of his students and our dialogue had been productive.

  • I’m frustrated.
  • And I’m out of strategies.
  • So I admitted it to my student.

Part of being a mindful and self-aware faculty member is knowing when you’ve hit your limit. Your stomach tells you when it’s full. Your body tells you when it’s time for bed. My “stress bone” (wherever that is) was screaming pretty loudly at me and while I read the students latest attempt to convince me that I’m wrong and he’s right, I thought, “why am i fighting this so hard?”

There’s a few reasons: I am an educator, I love helping students, I believe anyone can be taught, and I’m aware of my imperfections so I try to remain unbiased.

But–in a society where we only want to blame one party but never look anywhere else, the students academic advisor shed some light on the whole situation for me that helped me finally pull the plug and have a ‘come to jesus’ with the student.

The advisor likened the student to mr. magoo. Not because he has poor vision, but because of his stubborn refusal to admit there’s a problem and that he is indeed part of it. College is a place to stretch, to practice, to self-regulate, and to be challenged. Learning how to fail is equally important and my message is clear: you’re failing but in order to correct it, you have to admit it to yourself first.

I’m stubborn, but I’m also exhausted and my stress bone was aching at the thought of trying to muddle through more of this students work with no real direction, no ownership of the problems behind it, and the continued notion that “it’s all of my fault” without accepting any responsibility.

I shared my concerns with the student, let him go for the week, and got an email “how can i be better?” In the meantime, I laid out a plan of achievable benchmarks, sent it to the advisor and student and said, “i need  break-i’m at a conference next week, see you in two weeks.” I can’t battle like that every week and I’m learning that I don’t have too. Instead of taking time to reflect, this student continues to miss the mark, insisting a meeting where he will defend himself to me because it must be my fault, will fix things.

I refused to meet with the student. I’m taking my two weeks and I told him why, “I’m taking a pregnant pause for both of us to regroup on this.” I want him to think through the benchmarks, I want him to meet with his advisor, and I want him to assume some responsibility over his education and his research. I need to do the same-think through my responsibilities to him and my other students, what I can offer, and what my upper limit is on the capacity for my time and resources. I’ve learned that the absence of anyone to fight with is a powerful tool.  On the outset, it sounds cold, but it’s for self-preservation at this point for me. I cannot reason with a student who will not take the reins of their life. Self-regulation, motivation, and self-awareness are all skills that should be kicking in and until this student assumes responsibility for those, I cannot help. I can coach, I can mentor, I can praise effort, but I cannot assume his share of the work.


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Modeling Behavior: Apologizing



As someone who is mostly and usually human, I make mistakes. Somedays, you could fill a pretty big bucket with them and other days maybe a rocks glass. Ok, most days you could fill a bucket. Sometimes, I make little mistakes, other days I make giant, non-refundable ones. So, I have to suck it up buttercup and apologize.

I made an apology worthy error this spring with a graduate student. I was unaware of this at the time and a colleague mentioned it to me. I apologized twice on this one. I first apologized to my colleague, saying there was no excuse for my behavior and noting I would address the student as soon as I could. I then did something else.

I thanked my colleague. 

Not for pointing out something I did wrong or putting me on blast, but for being kind enough to let me know that I had unintentionally made a mistake. I was clueless. My colleague and I had a good talk and we both walked away without any hard feelings. I don’t know always know how people respond to me and not everyone takes me the same way. I get that.

The student was equally pleasant to address. My apologies are simple. I make no excuses for my prior behavior and I assume 100% of the responsibility.

“I’m sorry  I made you feel ______. That was unacceptable behavior and I will do my best not to do that again. I try to model the behavior that I want from my students so I hope you will forgive me when you’re ready.”

The student was gracious. The interaction lasted a few minutes and it was done.

The art of apologizing is really very simple.

  1. DO: Address the issue in person. Over the phone if you physically cannot meet. Text apologies or email apologies are only good for small things–typo’s or a slip in reading a calendar. If you apologize over a text, you’re not really apologizing and you didn’t really mean it to begin with, especially if it’s important (it usually is), and something bigger than the “i’m running 10 min. late.”
  2. DO: Keep it simple. The best apologies are the most simply crafted. They’re not novels.
  3. DO: Refrain from “if” or “but” statements in your apology or defending your action. Those two words imply you’re not actually sorry or that you’re trying to place the blame back on the person. This never works. “I’m sorry but…..” but what? You’re acknowledging you made a mistake, so if you’re really apologizing, don’t relinquish responsibility or minimize it to devalue how the other person feels. Even if you don’t use “if” or “but” you can still half ass it by getting defensive-grammar isn’t the caveat, it’s your message.
  4. DO: Understand it’s a one sided communication. I acknowledged my mistake and guilt and left it at that. I asked NOTHING of the person in return and did not try to make a single excuse for my mistake.
  5. DO: Give it time. The person might not respond. Ever. And that’s going to have to be ok. I acknowledged people’s feelings, owned what I did, and moved forward.

Don’t believe me? Google “the art of an apology” and see what pops up. Even better, I got a TON of practice in my 20’s when I was teaching because I screwed up all of the time!  I found the best apology strategy was: acknowledgement, acceptance, stating it, and moving forward. Students can be moody and need time to process, just like adults. I have yet to have a student come back around after a proper apology.

The other thing: modeling the behavior I want to see. As a professor, I’ve got eyes watching me always. If I’m mentoring grad students, undergrad researchers, or anyone, I want to model the behavior I would like to see from them. Owning my mistakes, apologizing, and being sincere are three impactful and important things for students to see so they can model it in the future when they make a mistake. I don’t go mouthing off intentionally so everyone can see me apologize ;~)

What does a half-hearted apology sound like? “I’m sorry about _____ but I didn’t do ______ so just to let you know….” You can fill in the blanks and get the picture. Someone didn’t think they did anything wrong, they want to clear THEIR conscience-not your feelings- and honestly: THEY DON’T REALLY WANT TO APOLOGIZE.

I’ve received those too and so will you. As someone who works with students almost each and every day, it’s important to me to not just model behavior, but to hold myself to that standard as well. It’s an excellent reminder that we’re all human, we make mistakes, but how we rebound from them is equally important.

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In Defense of “Free Time”



Running, busy, over committed. Three words most adults use on a regular basis. The notion that we have to be in that perpetual busy contest is killing us and selfishly, it’s driving me crazy.

I’ve had a few days in the recent past where I am busy. I’ll pack a day in order to get a day free. Not free of work, but my time is free to me to write, to catch up, to reflect, to shove off early, to accidentally take a nap without .

Facebook is showing me 1,390 back to school posts and I love them. But what I hate hearing is “we had such a busy summer” because then I wonder, “when did they have time to actually enjoy the summer?” I don’t hold anything against people for that statement, but I wonder how people would respond if the post said, “we had tons of free time this summer.” I imagine a lot of people would guffaw and reply smartly, “must be nice” but I wonder if anyone would say, “my family did too, so we went out to catch lightning bugs almost every night.”

I’ve learned to guard my time but it does get away from me on occasion and then I have to have an internal chat with myself. Heck, I overcommitted this week, had to apologize, and then had a stern reflection while swimming laps. But, what would happen if you set aside free time? Would you even know what to do? Would you want to fill it with something? Or simply read a book? Would you feel the need to defend it to someone? Or would they celebrate it with you?

I understand that we’re busy, but busy doing what sometimes? This culture of busy isn’t working but what will it take to stop it? Idle time seems like a decadent dessert, a luxurious morning sleeping in, or simply freeing ourselves psychologically that we always have to be busy.

I noticed myself wanting to be un-busy on a recent trip to see my sister. She was a great hostess and we kayaked, went to the beach, and had some really yummy meals. One afternoon of my visit we ate lunch and she said, “what do you want to do?” I recommended we do nothing, watch a movie, take a little siesta, and simply enjoy some free time.

When my life gets too structured, it makes me nervous and I fight it. But too little and I’m frazzled. In defense of free time I’ll end with this–free time gives us the freedom to think, the play, to be curious. Carve out some free time for yourself so you can be free, be curious, and give your brain a little breathing room to do what it’s really good at, even if it’s simply to take a nap.

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What If We Quit Trying to Create Screensaver Moments?


(that’s my desk, it’s not screen saver worthy)

The academy is fraught with misconceptions about old men with white hair who sit around all day smoking their pipe while wearing sweater vests and discussing philosophical questions in a cloud of smoke.

Sadly, about 90% of that is untrue. The sweater vests and the discussions are about the only two things in that statement that remain intact at all here in the academy. And maybe some old guys ;~)

Academia, like many professions, is built on notions and stereotypes that simply do not hold up anymore. As someone who sits in two worlds, I can say that these stereotypes are about as far from true as possible. I sit in the agriculture world too and trust me, it ain’t all stereotypes there either.

Instead of perpetuating these notions, it’s time to get real and quit trying to create screen saver moments for others.

  • We’re hustlers.
  • We’re entrepreneurs.
  • We’re teaching.
  • We’re advising.
  • We’re researching.
  • We’re publishing.
  • And we’re running.

Toward the next thing, toward the next grant, toward recruiting the next set of students, toward the next research project that’s unpaid but we hope will lead to something paid.

We are not sitting around chatting for long. The academy isn’t going to remain this stone thing in an ivory tower. It’s crumbling around us. Funding continues to be cut, pressure to increase enrollment is up, pressure to recruit, pressure to submit grants, pressure….Insert the song by Queen now.

Sometimes, it helps to have some real talk. I call it “come to jesus” talk and it means no disrespect to anyone but the tone is set. I had this talk with a grad student recently. He had failed. Failed miserably and instead of owning it, he tried to flee the scene of his ‘crime,’ doing no work. I let him think he was running for a week and then he had to face his own music.

And he got tears in his eyes.

I didn’t yell. I didn’t have to.

Continually creating a screen saver moment for him wasn’t going to work. He wasn’t going to learn. And if someone had taken a picture of our meeting, it would hardly be worthy of an instagram post.

But it was real.

Vivid, living, and in color. There were no rose colored glasses.

This semester, I encourage all of us to quit trying to create screen saver moments. For ourselves, for our students, for everyone. While there are accomplishments and victories to be celebrated, when we try and glamorize our hustle, we’re feeding into the stereotype I outlined in the first sentence of this post and academia is the polar opposite now.

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30 Minutes a Day



Writing. Your best friend. The bane of your existence. The bread and butter of an academic. Seeing your name published is rewarding but mandatory if you want to play in the game, dance with the devil, whatever crappy figure of speech you’d like to insert.

After getting almost nothing from a grad student after a summer worth of payment, I had to tackle a manuscript and go it alone. (that issue is a ball of wax that i melted in a prior post) Filled with vitriol, caffeine, and fortitude, I opened the file and got reacquainted with my writing. I had set it aside to give the student ample time to write on it and had given myself the deadline of a trip to get the draft drafted and passed off. A month later and with sparse additions from said student, I ripped it open like a bandaid from my skin and took the nestea plunge.

Since no one eats an elephant in one sitting, I knew I wasn’t going to bang the rest of this out in one sitting either. I then consulted my calendar, said several curse words, and decided that the weekly email I get from the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity was correct and that 30 minutes a day was a lot more manageable than the 83 hours it was going to take to get this one out into a journal’s hands. I’m no dummy at this point and I’m aware that I will not and cannot sit down and write on something for hours at a time.

Employing the 30 minutes a day has worked. REALLY WORKED. I’ve been able to do it the first few weeks of the semester almost every day with the exception of weekends and the weekend I dipped out early to go see my sister for my birthday. I can be taught and I do listen most of the time. Here’s what I’ve done, maybe it will work for you too:

  • picked the morning, morning works for me cognitively. if i can’t do it in the morning, i do it before i leave. it’s like my exit card.
  • closed the door or eliminated distractions. we’re a friendly group, but a closed door means “try not to disturb.”
  • left a printed copy of the manuscript on my desk, front and center to remind me
  • keep a log on my desk so i can track it, the reward is worth it of being able to write it down (screen shot below)
  • selected a piece to work on each day, a chunk, not the whole thing
  • weekly email check in’s with a virtual writing group

Screenshot 2016-09-05 09.57.53

I made my planner in a word doc, but it was after going to an Anthropologie store and seeing one that was put together neatly, coveting it, but not wanting to spend $18 on it. My colleague was with me as we were traveling for work, and she purchased one. I came home and made my own, printed and stapled together. It sits on my desk in a booklet, much like the one from Anthro, but not quite as pretty. It serves as an excellent reminder to write each day.

There are days when I do go over 30 minutes. But if my schedule is tight, I know I can spare 30 easily and will often leave a note in the printed out copy of the manuscript of where I want to pick up the next day.

Thirty minutes a day. I can do almost anything for that amount of time including writing. If your strategy isn’t working, maybe give it a try?

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Asking Questions to Manage Expectations



Faculty life is all about managing expectations. That’s the mantra for today’s post.

I’ve learned to manage my own expectations for myself, but more importantly-for others as well. Keeping this in mind, I also ask a lot of questions when expectations go falling off the back of the wagon. My favorite thing to ask a naughty student when I taught grades 6-12 was, “why are you behaving this way?”

I need to employ this technique for bigger kids I teach and do research with too.

I work with a lot of grad students. They’re invaluable in the research process and I respect them the way I respect my colleagues. No matter what they do when they graduate, I try to give them a holistic education that will prepare them for faculty, industry, private sector, etc…so they’ll have a skill set that’s marketable and adaptable. I have students who say to me, “I want to write/publish with you” since they might want to work in higher education or think a publication or two will help their marketability. I will work with almost any student who wishes to get writing/publishing experience.

Learning how the student likes to work is one of the most important things I work on first. Do they need deadlines? Do they do the work and let me know they’re finished until I read it? Do they need to sit and process together or out loud? How much experience do they have under their belt? What’s their course and work load look like? What do their writing skills look like? What are my expectations from them? How much time do they have? How much time do I want? When is the deadline? What else is leaning on this project/work to go to the next step?

Questions. Always questioning from my end.

The trouble can begin when the expectations aren’t met on one end or the other. Even after all of the questions, the follow through is the key. Holding students and myself accountable is still the hardest part of managing those expectations. I wouldn’t expect a two-year old to write a sonnet, so when I expect a grad student to write a whole manuscript, I’m letting everyone down.

This has happened. I did not expect the grad student to write the whole thing. I gave it to them about 75-80% done and they still couldn’t get the pieces done I asked. They were paid to write and they mustered up two sentences during the duration of the project.

About halfway through I asked the questions again, “do you want to do this?” I gave them the out. “Do you need help? How can I help? Would you like to partner write it?” I gave them options. “Do you need a deadline instead? What’s a measurable one we both can commit too?” I tried the deadline since they weren’t working well autonomously.

In the end, my expectations were not met and I was left underwhelmed if I’m being nice. Grad students are here to learn, not only about the content and process but about themselves too. I’m here to learn. Sitting down with the student and discussing objectives, asking lots of questions, and holding everyone accountable is my game.

Managing expectations through questioning is a technique I’ve employed successfully and unsuccessfully for years. In the end, it’s the relationship with the student in the end. The relationship with me but their relationship to finishing or contributing to a project that matters just as much. Whether it’s a manuscript or something else, their proximity to buying into the work can make or break their process.


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A Troubled State

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I had good intentions of writing- banging away on my manuscript about diversity and inclusion.

And then we kept blowing each other up over religion and sexual identity.

And then we shot each other again over implicit bias.

And then we shouted hate and spewed more vitriol at each other over…well nothing really, but because we apparently can.

And I have to say, it disturbed me. Threw me off my game to say the least. The stage has been set as one of polarized media, negative rhetoric, vitriolic writing, and worst of all, continued hatred with violence on all levels. What are we doing? What are we teaching our children? What are we doing to ourselves?

Maybe it’s because I’ve been sitting waist deep in literature about diversity this summer, the theories of how we can and should and need to be inclusive to help our own society grow, and the long term ramifications of what happens when we don’t do these things. And then I realized that the long term ramifications I read on the paper were happening before my eyes when I turn on any news, open any web page, and live my life.

Maybe it’s because I study implicit bias using facial recognition and non-verbal behavior analysis. I can see people’s discomfort-in their faces, in their body language. It’s a real thing, it clouds our judgment without meaning to do so, and we make hasty decisions in all parts of our lives.

I turned to bell hooks. She soothed my soul momentarily. But she cannot make it better all by herself, much like I cannot take a stand by myself without there being some casualties along the way. “Many folks found they had to confront the limitations of their training and knowledge, as well as possible loss of authority.” Through this, I grapple with my own limitations on the subject, which are many and varied, but my heart pulls me farther into it, asking questions, consuming information, and having more questions after.

Being brave. Asking for change. Not sitting idle. I’m not be the picketing type, but I’m also not the type to sit around and be treated or watch others be treated like crap because of things they have no power over. No control. No authority. Maybe it is “Me 2.0” or perhaps it’s simply “an informed, sick of being treated like shit when others find it convenient, not putting up with it anymore” me. “And learning does not take place when our firmly held beliefs are never challenged. This process can and should be difficult, messy, and certainly uncomfortable. In academic terms, it is when we are at the edge of discomfort that learning truly happens (Arao & Clemens, 2013).” I can recall THREE times last fall when an undergraduate said, “i’m really uncomfortable with this” in reference to the diversity research. I reassured them each time that they would be ok, they were going to be better when we were done, and they would survive. I did not lead them down a path of destruction, but rather one of self awareness. Am I a God? NO. But I know that true learning is an act that can be physically and emotionally uncomfortable. Cognitive dissonance might be the official term for this, but we can call it like we see it: being uncomfortable as hell. I admire and respect my student for acknowledging their discomfort, for sticking with it, and for coming out on the other side with me.

I follow a person I’ve never met because he writes beautiful words and his post resonated with me in so many ways. Dr. Flanagan, my hats off to you if I wore them.

“The biggest barrier to change is the potential reaction to our changes. We fear how people will react if we don’t give them what they’ve come to expect from us.

They like who I am, but will they like who I’m becoming?

People seem to be okay with Me 1.0, but how will they react to Me 2.0?”

I’m sick of soothing others ethos at the cost of my own. Not everyone will like Me 2.0 and I’ve grown to be ok with that. I grew that way after I got sick of being treated as less of a human for the color of my skin. For my gender. For my foreign born status. No one will come out and say they have a problem, so they’ll laugh and pretend it’s a joke but the laughter fades too quickly for it to be genuinely funny and their face and body language shrink away while their false laughter booms out too loudly. Outside of some mild teasing in the 8th grade, where a boy teased me about my eyes and I went to class after in tears, only then to see said boy ripped to shreds by my history teacher (thanks mr. ford), no one ever cared about my ethnicity. No one ever asked if I spoke English. I grew up without ever feeling bad of how I was born, who I was, or where I came from and in 2008, my world crashed. 600 miles south I moved.

I was asked multiple times in a week if I spoke “good English,” if I “had the right papers to be here,” and “do you have a name i’m going to be able to pronounce?”

My answer to all of these in my head contained a lot of four letter words, none nice. The answer that came out of my mouth was much more PC. I vividly remember talking to my parents and telling them they had apparently raised me all wrong because caring about something so trivial seemed so important to people where I’d moved but no one cared at home or in my profession there or in any of the circles I ran in. I know I was naive but I also know that I lived in a much more liberal part of the world. The racism continued and the effects of it for me have been hard to confront. And the kicker to this was in 2012 when I was actually denied service because “no one wanted to clean the yellow skinned ladies teeth.” I was in tears because I was ashamed and mad and terribly sad all at the same time. It was then that I turned, I became an ally, I become an advocate, I became sick and tired of the status quo of it all. I became tired of staying silent so someone else could remain comfortable.

The aggressions toward me continue. A few weeks ago I was minding my own business at the pharmacy and a woman asked me, “is your necklace like you, only in china?” Not even close on both accounts. I told her I wasn’t from China and neither was my necklace. The bias towards me for no reason, the assumptions because of the color of my skin, all based on what? The color of my skin?

Me 2.0 no longer cares about hurting your feelings. Me 2.0 is pretty damn tired of having people make jokes, be rude, unkind, or think that because they’re doing it with a smile that it’s “ok bc I was being funny.” It stopped being funny and I’m ready for the fat lady to sing. Hell, I’ll sing. Let me dispense some ear plugs first. The micro-aggressions, the fragility, the implicit bias, the defensiveness, and sometimes downright racism have all got to exit stage left. Immediately if not sooner. If you want to have a productive conversation, I’m happy to do that. If you want some literature to consume when you’re ready, I’m happy to provide that. If you’re ready to be uncomfortable, call me. If you want to expose your own bias and racist qualities, and then try to make yourself feel better about them without actually doing anything, don’t bother me, call your therapist.

The long and the short of this post is that I’m done with being afraid of how others will react to my change. I’ve been woke. I cannot change the national lens, but I can change the lens outside of my door where I live, work, and exist and hope it contributes to the broader public. Dr. Flanagan is correct in my head, Me 2.0 cares less with each passing birthday how to soothe your ethos at the expense of my feelings, and if you have issues with diversity and inclusion, deal with them yourself, take your jokes to a comedy club. The lights have gone off on this stage.


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We Don’t Want to be Your Token



On a lovely summer night not too long ago, in a land called ‘where I live,’ I attended a soiree with friends that turned into at best one of the more uncomfortable social situations I’ve been in with people I actually know in real life.

It started out bad for me and went to worse in less than thirty minutes, leaving me watching my phone for the most socially acceptable way to leave as soon as possible. We had gathered to celebrate a friend and one of the guests began going on about how they had that “token one black friend so when someone asked about them, the person knew immediately bc they had no other friends of any different ethnicity in their life.”

Ex-squeeze me?

Through her jaded laughter, I know I began to make ‘the face.’ You know, the one of disbelief, of trying to cover it up because you’re in public, and the one that says “holy hell, can i leave now?”

As she droned on about her immediate knowledge of her ‘token black friend’ laughing, I mostly became mortified.

Do I say something?

I opted not to, I was there to celebrate a friend, not make a huge scene, but I also reminded myself why I stopped investing in this racist individual over a year ago. I think what made it so uncomfortable for me was that I know all of these people in real life, they’re not random, ignorant strangers. They’re people who actually exist. This person has some clear issues about diversity and inclusion that were made clear to me some time ago. I had avoided everything about this person for a long time until this. In a small town, it’s hard not to run into people from time to time.

Issues like this end up being something we can easily become desensitized to because we don’t really know these people in the media. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of racist bigots in the world, several that I know, and more that I hope I never meet, but what makes this hard is that I can put a name with a face with a life that some of these people have. When we say and do racist things, we often don’t know anyone or dehumanize them, much like my acquaintance bragging on their ONE minoritized friend. We have lives. We are productive members of society.


You want a token, I’ll get you a subway card in NYC or DC or some from Chuck-E-Cheese. I’m not to be collected to clear your hateful conscience or so you can make some largely inappropriate jokes. As I’ve delved into a new body of literature for my own work on diversity and inclusion it’s becoming easier and more clear to spot these aggressions and micro-aggressions in people. Their defensiveness and white fragility is hard to ignore, and my fight or flight response kicks in much quicker. We’ve created a society where everything is sensationalized and if I do respond I get called “crazy,” “rude,” or a slew of other things, giving the person who is the racist the agency to become the “victim” because some Asian got ‘crazy’ on them. Yes, I did speak up because you and your ignorant behavior are intolerable.

I have learned that sometimes it’ best to walk away. Changing people is worse than herding a bunch of cats but it doesn’t teach anyone anything. It reinforces their negative behavior. While I can say “I hope their karma catches up with them” it often does not. I do hope it does. What I can do is continue doing work, being a productive member of society, and working hard. Like T. Swift says, “the haters gonna hate, hate, hate” and in my world, the racists are gonna keep on being racist so I’m gonna drop the mic, walk away, and appreciate the folks I have in my life who would pissed at me for being late, not for being Asian.

Cause nobody got time for that.


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Saying No to Sunday

just say no


Summer isn’t that long for us nerds. Once you get through with conference travel (yes, fun but also work), service for on-campus events, and the sheer amount of administrivia that comes with the end of the FY, summer is boiled down pretty quickly. Summer is a great time for us to read, write, think, and have the time to actuall do both things without constant interruption. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve also been taking full advantage of the time to take care of several life tasks to keep my adulting game going strong, but I keep pretty regular hours during the summer too.

One habit I try hard to NOT engage with is working on the weekends in the summer. We had a large grant due recently and my writing team wasn’t planning ahead, leaving much of it until the last minute. The Friday before it was due, the PI said to me, “want to work on this on Sunday?”

“No. I don’t work on Sunday’s in the summer.”

I caught the guy off guard. He replied, “Oh!” pretty surprised and his face widened out at my response.

“It’s the one rule I try and give myself in the summer. I’ll be on the grid first thing Monday morning to finish this up.”

“Well, alright, good for you,” he rebounded.

Why bother telling you about this? Because BOUNDARIES. It’s the only thing I try to NOT do during the summer and here I stood, being asked to do it. Dang it! New faculty me three years ago would have been all, “ok, but just for a couple hours” but New faculty me in the present gave it a “hell no, I won’t go” as quickly as I could. Yes, I considered it, but then realized we had several days to get this together, not mere hours.

I enjoyed my Sunday-went paddle boarding and enjoyed my day in general.I was pretty proud of myself and quite content with what I did instead of running to campus. My friends/family were also properly happy for me-saying no is hard for me. Whether it’s because I’m a female, a minority, a young faculty member, or I just have a hard time saying no, follow my example, follow Nancy Reagan, and “just say no.”

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Steamrolling Into Summer

2016-05-13 13.20.49

source: I took this, that’s Henry!

I feel like I’ve barrel rolled right into summer. In case you’re wondering, it was a very clean barrel roll with no big rocks on the path. I don’t know how it happened but I thought I just got back from overseas…. A quick trip home helped my mental state but it added up and the driving alone was a pain in my ass (really, my lower back was screaming). A quick trip to the chiropractor straightened me right out (pun totally intended)!

Alas, graduation and the pomp and circumstance (pun intended again) that goes with it is in full force. Taking advantage of the time to not be on campus, I started to pretend an adult lives at my house who cleans things. The the ritualistic nature of stripping the covers off of the couch cushions, the shame and pride of vacuuming a semesters worth of crumbs out of the couch, and the nice smell that the febreze has when I deodorize the couch and love seat is my internal trigger that the seasons have changed and so has the semester.

There’s other things that trigger the changing of my academic seasons. Move out will and has taken full force, summer happy hour emails have been sent for standing invites with friends, and conference season kicks off in just over 48 hours. Why enjoy that first week of summer when you can get on a plane and hit up your first conference? Relaxing is for quitters…..

We don’t realize what a frenetic rush we put on ourselves as young faculty members. I had not been sleeping well since coming back from overseas and while I could only use the excuse of jet lag for so long, there were so many things to take care of. This coupled with taking a month off to go abroad, on top of whatever else I’ve been up to made sound sleep this elusive thing I chased. I even hung some Tibetan prayer flags over the bed hoping it would catch some good prayers and they’d turn into good dreams or good sleep. It took the internal ‘click’ of the semester for me to sleep like a log for the first time in weeks for a solid 8.5 hours before I stirred and heard Henry moving in his crate to let me know it was time to get up and play.

USDA grant season has slowed, I’ve got a NSF due next week, a NIH in June, and another one (can’t remember the acronym) in early August. I feel like I have one more but honestly, I can’t remember…My pubs for the calendar year are published-looking shiny and real and I am already scheming of what to push out for 2017. I have plans to push out two more this summer for hopeful publication next year. Gotta keep the wheels turning right?

I have blocked out my summer calendar now that summer projects have been decided on and blocked out travel. Two conferences, a week in CO, and then home to the farm. In between, I have plans to read, write, evaluate, work on grants that are currently funded, work with undergrad and grad students that have been hired, and heck-NOT work weekends, evenings, or before a normal time of day (normal is defined as “when the sun gets out of bed”).

All the pre-planning is letting me do one very important thing: it’s giving me permission to slow down. Blocking out the time gives me space to think, write, and read. I ordered 14 books the other day so I better have some time to read (and yes, they’re all for work). Slowing down in summer doesn’t mean productivity lags, it means I actually have time and give myself permission to do the things I can’t afford to do when there’s a room full of students, a pile of things to read, and researchers all staring at me for answers. The grant work alone I’ve neglected is enough to fill several weeks.

August will be here soon enough, but today, May whatever it is, I’m going to slow down. Downshift my internal engine, sleep through the night without interruption, and work through the massive pile of books that will be delivered when I get back from my conference. Now that the couch is clean and my house looks like a living, breathing human who doesn’t hoard a pile of shoes somewhere near the door lives here, I can steam roll right into summer.


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