Monthly Archives: May 2014

You Can Always Go Home

You Can Always Go Home | New Faculty

The last few weeks have been a very busy blur. Graduation commenced and I took off to DC for a week of PD w other ‘science based’ educators from across VA. After spending a week in our nation’s capital, it was time to truly come home for summer in my town. My favorite.

As I started my new position, I was greeted by old colleagues, friends, and had manner passerby stop in my office to welcome me, say hello, and make me feel like I was home. While the notion of returning to the north is not in the cards for me in the near future due to a poor economy and limited job prospects, this transition reminds me of the old saying,

You can always go home.

I may never return to the north, but I have felt nothing but welcome returning to agriculture. Agriculture is where I have spent so much of my personal and professional life, it has felt like a welcome that only an agriculturist can give. Hearty. Genuine. With a smile. Usually some food and a cold beer. The comfort behind it is immense and I’m so thankful to be able to return to agriculture without hesitation.

STEM was a great path for me to take. Technical science was something I had wanted to dabble in and had immersed myself in it wholeheartedly for the past few years. I can clearly see that agriculture education has the chops to do the work and make itself viable in hard science, we just need the manpower to do it, the rigor to run the research, and the students who want to teach it, not drive cattle trailers all day. Collaborating with the engineers, the mathematicians, the ‘all-stars’ in the field–that was something I’d wanted to see for myself.

Having an agriculture based background makes me different. It was never more stark than it was during my week in DC w the other faculty. No one really knew what CTE does. There’s a stereotype among faculty about what “we do” and I can’t help but feel very proud to share the good work we do do <——come on, really…… 😉 I get to be the messenger, I got to validate some of the worthy things we are doing, and I get to be a part of the rigorous future.

I guess you can chalk this post up to hearts and flowers for everyone. I am officially back in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences working on international agriculture initiatives and will also be teaching and working with undergraduates in research. I could not be more excited.

This blog will remain. I’m still a new faculty. I’m still putting myself on the struggle bus on a regular basis and while the lens has changed slightly, the rewards and challenges have not. Whether a budding grad student or a fresh faced faculty who is struggling to keep up, I hope you’ll continue to join me.

 

 

New Beginnings, Endings That Aren’t Finished & Jobs

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I headed into the job market like a ton of bricks this past academic year. Ton o’ bricks. No holds barred, applications coming out where I saw fit, people inviting me to apply for their positions. I felt good. Oh so good….

Interview season started. In full force. I was greeted with phone interviews, Skype interviews, follow up interviews, and in-person interviews. Glamorous (nawt). Amidst the jokes, I did have a strong interview season considering the flooded phd market. And while I’d like to say that it was all “luck” or I was “humble blessed” or some crap like that, I’m just going to lay it out there:

I have worked strategically on my CV the last two years. 

There is no other way to describe what I’ve done the last 2.5 years. Late nights, crazy work schedule, hit the ground running every day “work.” Not Kardashian work, Mike Rowe work. Pinpointing the weak areas, filling in the gaps, highlighting the marketable attributes in submission packets, and being extremely strategic have helped me this year. More than I can imagine.

This was not the “fly by night, panic stricken” grad student at the wheel this time. I was NOT trying to be everything to a search committee. I highlighted the things that would work for me. I came to terms with the things I could do really well and accepted the things that I needed to work on. I haven’t taught since finishing grad school. That’s ok, but I needed to figure out how to make my other informal teaching more marketable.

I still have no idea what’s going on sometimes, but I know that my purpose for the last 2.5 years has been to publish, train, and learn the game of academia in a way that I had not been exposed when I was in grad school. I also evaluated the tenure track market vs. the non-tenture track market and laid them side by side to my list of “things that make Dr. New Faculty happy” list. And you know what I chose? Happiness. I no longer have these romantic notions of landing the elusive TT job. I want work that’s meaningful, that’s challenging, that’s rewarding, oh, and pays the bills and keeps me in groceries. I don’t NEED a TT job to rest my head on my pillow at night. I need to be happy.

The other thing that happened.

I quit taking the rejection personally.

This isn’t “When Harry Met Sally,” this is life. While I love Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, we’re not in the deli faking it. We’re in our suit, plodding through long interviews. My self-esteem has bounced back well over the last two years and being on the “other side of the desk” has made me realize that it’s all about ‘fit’ w an employer. It’s no longer about grad school guilt, or just feeling crappy, it’s about fit. I get it. I got rejected a lot as a grad student. It did affect me in a negative way. And that’s ok. But, this time around, I realized it wasn’t necessarily “me” as a person, it was “me” as a fit within a structure. As informed human beings, we can usually tell when it might not be a good ‘work marriage’ when we’re interviewing too. And that’s ok to accept that. I learned to put my personal feelings aside and squash some of those feelings of inadequacy for the moment. In the long run, a bad work marriage might be worse than a bad real life marriage.

I have been fortunate to have had lots of opportunities to share my knowledge and I have accepted a position at the same university, in a different department with more capacity to teach, co-pi on grants, more research, and project management. It will help fill some of those black holes in my current CV and I couldn’t be more excited. Is it TT? Nope. And that’s ok. I’ll post more about it later (like this summer after i get a better grasp on things and sleep for more than five hours each night).

I also finished strong in my old position. So strong, that I’ve been asked to collaborate on upcoming grant proposals.

I could beat myself up over what I didn’t do, what I need to keep working on, etc… in this post, but for now, I’m going to end it celebrating. If you gleaned nothing else from this post know this:

  • be strategic w your CV. be honest. what needs work? what can you play up?
  • make your own list. do you dream of the TT? it’s ok either way.
  • make the most of whatever situation you land in. i could have sulked for the last 2.5 years, but i chose not too. i chose to get to work. i also had an extremely ambitious boss who fostered my own self-motivated ways and we worked really well together.
  • keep your options open. when you close yourself off to an opportunity, you shut the door on a potential job.
  • take it all with a grain of salt. or a whole shaker.

Happy Summer!

 

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Summer Writing Schedule

New Faculty

Summer Writing | New Faculty

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Summer break is here and while I know most grad students WANT to be buried under the covers lying on the beach, the never ending cycle of reading/writing/research will ultimately call you back. I haven’t met a single grad student who “took the whole summer off” from anything and those that did had the pleasure of adding an extra year to their PHD programs. Yes, you can tell me that YOU didn’t have to work over the summer and I’ll congratulate you, but most of the grad students I’ve ever met, including myself, took some well deserved time off and were back into the books on a schedule or by Aug. 1 to maintain the pace needed to finish with sanity.

I mentor several students, informally and mostly in my spare time. It makes me feel good to work with graduate students and listen, mentor, nurture, and help them navigate…

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The Freedom to Think

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My sister was in town for work and we hooked up for dinner. Less than an hour from my place, it was no trouble at all. The food: amazing. The drinks: excellent. The company: WHINY!!!

It was great to see her, meet her colleagues, and enjoy some great food, drinks, and a whole lotta WHINE!!! I didn’t order near enough cheese to accompany the onslaught of negativity that I faced. For almost two hours: they complained. (yes, i realize we’re all whiny pants now and again, but i’m going somewhere w this, bear w me).

  • About work.
  • About people AT work.
  • About life AT work.
  • About everything work related.

Don’t get me wrong, it was great to see my sister and I’m glad we could get together, but as I sat there listening to each of them air their grievances FOR ALMOST TWO HOURS, I began to wane….it made me think about my job and my work and how I tell people about it.

 

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As academics we have the luxury of being able to think about what we want, research what interests us (most of the time), and discuss our platform with our students, and keep moving forward. Yes, there are guidelines and time frames. Yes, there’s a mountain of expectations, increased assessment, and a host of other parasitic like expectations, but it’s really nice to be able to go to work and do something that I find value in each and every day.

I’ll play my own devil’s advocate here and say maybe they just needed to air it out for a bit, but it got so daunting, I couldn’t wait for the meal to finish. My sister is in HR and there’s a mountain of rules and regulations to follow that I just don’t have to deal with. I grew so impatient that I flagged down the server to start the process of splitting the check just so speed up the process.

As summer comes upon us and we all trudge through the last of the grading, celebrate with our students at commencement, and wave goodbye to the students so we can enjoy some summer, it’s important that we take a moment to celebrate one of the most important aspects of our profession:

 The freedom to think.

As I sat there and listened to my sister and her colleagues I was very thankful for the ability to stretch my brain space each day. I continue to be thankful to have earned my education and have support from many areas of my life to pursue things that make me personally and professionally satisfied.

As you wade through the final weeks of your semester, hopefully you can find a moment to be thankful for the freedom to think.

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