Monthly Archives: August 2014

Looking Sharp: New(er) Faculty Dress Code

Dressing the Part | New Faculty


Faculty life is great because there’s not really a dress code. You can be fancy free and be free to be you. It’s a blessing and a curse. I never met a pair of pants made of elastic I didn’t like but I always like looking sharp and getting my game face on too.

Some days are for grading. Which means they’re also for pants that are loose, comfortable, and will often be made of spandex and elastic. Other days are for meetings. Those days require pants that button, zip, the appropriate length, and perhaps even have a blazer that goes with them. What do you want to exude? As a lady faculty, who also happens to look young but is carrying some extra weight, I struggle. I know what people see when they look at me…I wasn’t born last night! (and yes, i’m working on it!).

I want to be taken seriously as an academic at the table and look as smart as the things that may or may not come out of my mouth. I know that I need to do a few things to achieve this. One is dressing the part. While I was home this summer, my dad and I went out to dinner. I put on some clothes (duh) and his comment, “you’re dressed too fancy for this part of the world.” While I appreciated his compliment (yes, I was overdressed), this is what my clothes look like now. I still have a pile of t-shirts and a few pairs of jeans I love, but when I get up and swim in the tub every morning, the t-shirts and jeans aren’t going on post shower.

This is a first world problem to the max. Yes, I joke about them all of the time in real life. But it is something I spend time and capitol thinking about. Subscribing to Stitch Fix helps. I ran across this post by tenure she wrote and it caused me to actually reflect on it. Then, I ran across this post by small pond science and I thought about it some more….dang you brain. I don’t look like a sage, older faculty yet. I can only count a few gray hairs, a few wrinkles, and that’s about it at last count. The fountain of youth has smiled on me, which is usually a good thing, unless you’re trying to work in academia. Since the stereotype isn’t changing anytime soon, and I’m not wishing for more gray hairs and wrinkles, I compensate by dressing well. I have taken the cues from my peers the first few years on faculty and worked to dress a bit more professionally. Only this year have I had any extra income to actually start investing in nicer pieces. I loved my last faculty appointment, but I’ll be real honest and say this, “it didn’t pay very well at all.” There wasn’t much left over for a structured blazer at the end of the month. No one’s fault, I loved the work.

My friend and I were discussing this and her comment was, “you always look really sharp” and I blurted out “it’s bc i have too! I know what I look like! I compensate in clothes!” and it’s true.

As a female in academia (ok, so as a female on planet earth), I do spend more time thinking about what I’m wearing, how it fits, are the fat bits poking out too far, etc… while I’d love to embrace the notion of “we’re all bodies & we’re all beautiful” academia is a place where that doesn’t register. You need to get some fresh pants on kids. Stat.

Another faculty complimented me b/c I put together good color combo’s and it was then I admitted “I google color schemes” and “I send a pic to my friend if I’m not sure.” I could have taken the credit for being well put together all on my own, but some days, I don’t know what looks good. And that’s the truth.

My favorite google search on clothes goes something like this:

“colors that compliment ________(insert color).”

Google is real nice. It always spits me out some images and a few sites that I always go too. It has yet to fail me, unlike the rest of the Internet.

As a younger and still relatively new faculty member, I have to work at getting dressed. The blessing of not having a dress code is that I can swing into campus in whatever I want, but that’s not the message I want to send to my colleagues. I went to grad school with a girl who wore yoga pants every day. Everyone stared at her butt when she left a room, but they rarely stared at her face when she spoke. Whether we like it or not, those stereotypes aren’t going away. Building a functional wardrobe has been key for me. At least I’ll look good when you read the grammar mistakes on my syllabus…….


Dressing for Academia

Tenure, She Wrote

One appealing aspect of academia for many of us is the lack of a dress code. As a graduate student and a postdoc both women and men gravitate towards casual clothes – it’s not uncommon to see hooded sweatshirts, printed tees, short skirts, and old ripped jeans on the average pre-faculty academic.

It would be nice to think that as teachers our appearances don’t matter, and that students are more concerned with our grasp of the material and ability to teach it to them. However I’ve heard stories that have given me second thoughts: the junior faculty member whose evaluations focused on her clothing instead of her teaching – “she looks like she cares too much about her clothes, she wore a different dress every day!” or the female graduate student who dressed for West Coast weather in East Coast winters – “all the male students really liked class!” These…

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Grad Students: Über Confident Isn’t Winning

Grad Students: Über Confident Isn't Winning | New Faculty


I’m always intrigued when I talk to grad students in general. I always like to hear about how their experience with grad school is going, what they like to do when they’re not doing grad school things, and then I like to run into the major advisors at meetings, workshops, and conferences.

Students in grad school tend to go one way or the other: uber confident to the point of arrogant OR the “zero” efficacy zone with so much humble pie, you would have thought they crawled out from one that very morning (also called bed).

I was out with a grad students who’s ABD and he gushed on and on about “how great things were going” and “i’m so far along” and “i’m killing it, i’m just killing it.”

Incidentally, I’d just seen his advisor about a week prior and they had something quite the opposite to say, “underproducer 100%,  a year or more behind.”


Where does this happen? Why does this happen? The Professor is In discussed grad student grandiosity and how it spills over into packets for jobs and it got me thinking about grad students I work with and pointed inward to the kind of grad student I was. This behavior begins long before a student begins putting together packets and the illusion that they’re somehow “doing great and killing it” is something that has always made me curious. I believe it’s a pretty fine line between doing great and doing terrible. It’s no secret that grad school is the destroyer of self-esteem in general so it never hurts to have a healthy ego, but at what point does that ego get the best of us and put us in the “a year behind” category without us even realizing it.

While it can be hard, open communication among the student/advisor is 100% necessary. Each party can only do so much to meet the other half way. What’s important to remember is this: your advisor already has his/her phd and you don’t. You can say that the advisor is awful or that they’re not helping you all you want, but they don’t need another degree and you do. If you think your advisor only has you to worry about, reframe your thinking: your advisor has more work that he/she will ever know what to do with and you’re about 1/48 of his/her plate of work on any given day.

Being self motivated is the only way you’re going to finish. You can have the best support group, most outstanding advisor, and amazing research, but the only thing that will get you to completion is YOU. Compensating with ego will only get you so far, the jig won’t last long when no words come out on the paper. I watched this happen several times during grad school and several more on faculty. You can only go so long without doing the readings, you can only last so long by not buckling down.

As you begin a new academic year, I implore the faculty and the students to communicate. Managing expectations will help everyone and being clear on those in advance can only turn this into a positive outcome. I’m not going to pretend that grad school is full of magic and unicorns, but you can get out with some slice of dignity left by pacing yourself through the marathon, being humble, and working through the process.

I bid you a productive and steadfast academic year.


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Ten Thing Things You Learn Growing Up A Farm Kid

perhaps this is where my work ethic comes from. 🙂 happy friday!

Fastline Front Page


Growing up on a Farm is like nothing else – you get to work with your family daily, raise and support animals and see directly where your food comes from. Check out our Top Ten Things You Learn Growing Up A Farm Kid!

1. You learn patience from an early age – before you can get what you want, the chores have to be done. Dinners will be late (or out in the field) during plant and harvest but you learn to get past that. 

2. You learn where your food comes from – You get to first hand raise and grow the food that you and many, many other people will be eating or will benefit from. 

3.  You learn to appreciate where you come from – You get to grow up on the greatest playground full of wide open spaces as far as the eye can see…

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Using Your Network

Using Your Network | New Faculty


After a few years on planet earth, you meet some people. You go to college. You meet some people. You move once or twice. You meet some more people. You change jobs/professions. You meet some more people.

Twenty years later: you know quite a few people. Introvert or extrovert, you just meet people!

As a newer faculty member trying to rework a course for fall, I started really thinking about all the people I knew and know. I was looking to supplement my online course with video’s, shorter documentaries, and anything that would serve as a “think tank” piece to get discussion going among the students as a way to engage with them without physically seeing them.

I began drilling down who I knew and what their area of expertise was. As I did this, I was pleasantly surprised by the people who I’d crossed paths in life with and how many I had the good fortune of knowing. These folks came from all parts of my life from a friend from childhood to people I’d worked with during my days with FFA and 4-H, to grad school cohort friends, and current colleagues in my faculty life. The best part was that I still keep in touch with many of these folks. Whether it’s by social media, emails, or actual face-to-face time, keeping these ties open has been important for me on many levels. Sure, I don’t speak to these people as much as I’d like to and see some even less frequently, but it’s nice to know that my parents urge to join clubs, set high goals, and earn my education are paying off even if it did take 15 years to get a ROI from it all.

As a young faculty member or grad student, you’re in the same boat. I cannot stress the importance of networking enough, building professional and personal relationships, and being mindful of what you’re doing and where you’re doing it. I know I’ve written before about being under the microscope all of the time and while being human means making mistakes, it’s important that people see you at your best and sometimes you’re worst.

I don’t know if all of my contacts will say yes to a guest video or audio cast, but it was really nice to be able to reach out to folks, personalize a few lines of an email and then make my request. As I put the finishing touches on this post, I sent out 10 emails and have had seven, yes SEVEN come back and say they’d like to help me out. In stats speak: that’s pretty darn good! It made me see how vast a network I’ve been able to set up and I hope those people feel the same way when they saw my name drop into their inboxes.

As you navigate the first few years of your faculty career, it’s important to reach out to your network to help give you a boost. You know you’ve helped others before and it’s only kind to return the favor. I made sure to ask for a manageable commitment, didn’t get too heavy handed with my request, and set firm expectations for deadlines so I can get things up for my upcoming class. I always tell my students, “you never know when you’ll come across someone in life again,” so make sure you’re representing yourself the way you want to be remembered for the future. The first few years on faculty are fraught with distractions, requests, and time management issues so why not give yourself a break and lean on the folks you can count on? I’m ever so grateful to have seven “yes’s” this evening and was again reminded how wonderful it is to be back in agriculture.

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Preparing A New Course VS. Impostor Syndrome

Conditionally Accepted

Ideally, developing a new course will entail excitement about all of the possible topics, readings, discussions, and assignments.  (I said “ideally,” ok?)  It usually does for me, but that little bit of uncertainty, which probably fuels others’ excitement, expands into all out impostor syndrome.  Unfortunately, that leads to a much longer and tortuous process, and sometimes continues to shape the course throughout the semester.  In this post, I hope to offer a few tips for others who may struggle with impostor syndrome, particularly while developing a new course.

The Impostor Professor

First, let me briefly give some personal background.  I taught two semesters, followed by a summer course at another university, during my third year of graduate school.  Thanks to a fellowship, I did not teach again until I started in my current position.  So, that is one year’s worth of teaching experience, followed by three years without teaching; in…

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Don’t Blame Technology

Prof. Janni Aragon

This is an oldy, but goody. I am reading lots of books about teaching and seeing so many new faces around campus. I felt it was worth re-blogging this post.

The New York Times article “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction” is making the rounds. You can find it here: It is to easy to blame technology on the disconnect that educators find with the current cohort of students in our first year courses. I am going to speak to this notion that the Net Gen are artful multi-taskers and think differently. Instead, what we really have is a cohort of young people who are used to using technology all of the time for gaming, fun, communicating, research, school work, and for making connections with others. Of course, some are using technology merely for gaming or social networking, but you get my point.

Part of my job is…

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what’s up with impact factors?

Usually when someone starts throwing citation impact data at me, my eyelids get heavy and I want to crawl into a corner for a nap. Like Teppo wrote a couple of years ago, “A focus on impact factors and related metrics can quickly lead to tiresome discussions about which journal is best, is that one better than this, what are the “A” journals, etc.  Boring.” I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, I’ve heard a lot about impact factors lately. The general weight of impact factors as a metric for assessing intellectual significance has seemed to skyrocket since the time I began training as a sociologist. Although my school is not one of them, I’ve heard of academic institutions using citation impact as a way to incentivize scholars to publish in certain journals and as a measure to assess quality in hiring and tenure cases. And yet it has never struck me…

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Developing curricula to accommodate reality

Tenure, She Wrote

As I gear up for my second year of teaching I’m thinking about all the little logistical things that I can change about my classes to better accommodate the unique needs of my students and advisees. At my regional comprehensive college many of the students are non-traditional, first generation, and/or holding down multiple jobs. Over half of my students commute to campus, either from their parents’ houses in the outlying rural communities or from the nearest city. Some of them are in my age range and have children, and many are working 20-40 hours a week to support themselves and/or their families while keeping a full course load.

These students have more taking up their time, money, and energy than my college peers or those I taught in graduate school and during my postdocs. This means that many of my students didn’t have the time or money I expected students…

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you can’t always write what you want


I seem to spend a lot of time these days writing things that I don’t much like, things that I don’t want to write now, or perhaps ever. This writing feels like a chore, an obligation, a duty, a necessity. What’s more, it doesn’t feel like ‘me’. It seems mechanical and as if I can’t put anything of myself into it.

My list of writing I don’t want to do includes a lot of predictable bureaucratic essentials: reports of projects; reports of activities of the research centre I direct; reports about research activities for audit purposes and reports on student progress. But it also includes some writing which will make a difference for other people and so I must do this even though I don’t enjoy the writing: references; letters of support; reviews of papers, bids and book proposals; assessments of various theses and assignments.

Both of these –…

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