Monthly Archives: October 2014

tactics for proof-reading

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


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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Al Bundy Syndrome: Grad School Memories

Al Bundy Syndrome: Grad School Memories {New Faculty}


I know a lot of people who went to grad school. Comes with the territory I suppose.  Some with me, many and most, not. I like working with, collaborating with, and checking in with my grad school cohort from time-to-time. We’re all doing quite well in life-happy, healthy, employed, and it’s really nice to be able to say hello, send a friendly text, email, or smoke signal in the form of a snapchat.

I’ve recently started noticing a few things. Some of the people in my life have what I’d like to call “Al Bundy Syndrome.” Remember Al from Married with Children? The show was a bit crude but our friend Al Bundy did nothing but relive high school for the duration of the show, it was one of the themes. He obsessed about his high school football career, fantasized about girls he wasn’t ever going to be near, and “won” the trophy at least 50 times.

On one hand, Al Bundy is my hero. He could constantly see himself in the best light, only to come around and realize that his kids were brats and his wife was lazy, albeit a hilarious ensemble of personalities. On the other, I felt bad for Al. His life had not gone the way he’d planned and instead of facing reality, he chose to head off to fairy tale land as often as he could. I’ve got quite a few people around me lately that have headed off to fairy tale land. While it’s fun to reminisce about times past, it can be great to catch up with old friends and fellow grad school survivors, I caution this because sometimes, it can become a detriment.

This might span more than just grad school. These folks think that it “WAS THE BEST TIME EVER” so much so, that at least one has returned with no job and no degree to just “hang out.” This might be indicative of a larger problem beyond what I’m discussing here. Others will constantly post on social media about how great it all was, how they hate their current jobs, and how they’d do anything to just come back here and ‘re-live those days.’ It’s fun to quote S*^t Academics Say and follow #whatshouldwecallgradschool on tumblr, but when reality sets in, coming back to grad school town and trying to relive those days would be an utter disappointment.

Grad school is a stage in life, not a perpetual lifestyle. It’s an experience like no other. Meaning, it’s the polar opposite of a jimmy buffett concert.

If you’re always saying how great it was, you’re missing out on the present. Al Bundy missed out on life, even if it wasn’t what he imagined because he was too busy trying to go back. There’s lots of value in reflection but at some point, we have to keep moving forward.

The rose colored glasses are nice, but they’re not permanent. If you’re stuck with those rose colored glasses on, is everything ok in your current ‘present?’ Sometimes, when we’re eager to stay in the past, it’s because something is quite wrong in our present. I have a colleague who does nothing but say how great every other place she lived was so great because she is very unhappy right now but while I knew her in grad school, she hated it but loved the prior places. See how this works? It’s a pattern. It’s ok to wear those rose colored glasses for a while and put them on, but taking them off is equally important. I’m not saying you should break those glasses into a million pieces, but sometimes, we avoid the present because it’s not going well.

If grad school was the best time of your life, then I’m jealous and envious of you. I liked many parts of grad school, but as a whole experience, it wasn’t my best time in life for various reasons. I can reflect now on the positive AND negative aspects of it and yes, I like catching up with friends as much as the next person, but I’m also eager to move forward with my professional and personal aspirations.

To make a long story short, don’t be like Al. Life might be super sucky right now, but was grad school really any better?


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sorry, but social science is actually a science

Every so often, you get the journalist, or academic, who loves trashing social science. The complaints are ritualistic – you can’t do experiments, people use jargon and math, and so forth. Well, Forbes has a nice article called “Enough Already with the Sweeping Claims that Economics is Unscientific.” It makes some obvious, but important points. Yes, some academics become divorced from reality with their models, but do you actually want people to study the economy without quantitative data or theory? These complaints also seem to ignore that economics actually does use experiments and much strives toward policy relevance:

Let me just start by pointing out that it is not the case that “almost nothing in economics is actually derived from controlled experiments”. Look at the CV’s of economists like John List and Esther Duflo and you can see there are plenty of experiments being done. In 2013, the study…

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The Reference Game

Tenure, She Wrote

Now that it’s job application season, it’s a good time to talk about references. References are an important part of any job packet, although searches may vary regarding when and how they will ask for your reference information. Unfortunately, even if you are the best candidate for the job, a bad or less-than-great reference can reduce your chances of making it to the next stage of the interview. Search committees notice letters that are too ‘honest’… it’s true that by and large letters of recommendation in the US are filled with glowing praise, so any negative comments really stand out (even though we all know none of us are perfect). Similarly, reference letters that are exceptionally short are a black mark. Does that letter writer not have enough to say? Do they not know a candidate that well?

In contrast, an excellent reference can solidify a positive impression the search…

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Social Media as Professional Development

Tenure, She Wrote

“Social media…what a waste of time.”

“I don’t get that whole Twitter and blogs business.”

“I made a Twitter account, but I’m not really sure what do with it.”

“You’re pretty active on Twitter…is it worth the time?”

“What have you ever gotten out of being on Twitter?”

All of these are things that have been said to me since I started blogging nine years ago and joined Twitter nearly 5 years ago. Fortunately, I have some pretty good answers – whether the commenter is a colleague in my field or at my university or someone who knows of my pseudonymous on-line presence. For me, the benefits of blogging and tweeting have been pretty important to my professional development, and I think my case makes a pretty good argument for strategically using social media as a young faculty member. However, I’m also completely happy to concede that on-line interactions are…

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Friday Afternoon’s

Faculty Golden Hour | New Faculty


As I draft this post, it’s 4 p.m. on a Friday in my office. There’s no one here. I’m the only one in my suite of offices, classes are largely finished for the day, and even the grad students have cleared the decks for the weekend or for another day. I like the space and the cerebral quiet. It gives me time to clean up my digital to-do list, begin making a new one for next week, and gives me the time, space, and permission to leave when it’s all done. It gives me time to clear out my feedly feed, chuckle at buzzfeed for a few moments, and then answer any emails that have lingered in my inbox unanswered over the past day or two. It also causes me a great pause to reflect on the week that has finished, celebrate my personal “wins” (submission deadlines and thoughtful reflection from students) and “better luck next time’s” (writing and efficiency).

I used to clear out of the office on Friday afternoons too, but I’ve started to stick around. My circadian clock hates late afternoon, but on Friday’s, I like to stay. To mentally and physically clean things up. File, recycle, save for next week. Review my work notebook and evernote to see what’s still on deck for next week. I like the routine. I like the hum of the silence. Even the occasional door opening makes a louder noise on Friday’s since there’s no voices to buffer, no student hum between classes, no laughter or chatter about the last test, question set, or doors banging between classes. Faculty will sometimes have their young children in on Friday afternoons after school gets out. Another hour or so before they head home, the shrill giggles of young children and requests for “mama” are more audible.

Friday afternoon’s are my academic golden hour.

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“Don’t Sell Yourself Short”: On Starting My Own Business

Conditionally Accepted

WhitakerManya Whitaker, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Education at Colorado College. Though her degree is in Developmental Psychology, she teaches courses centered on social and political issues in education such as Diversity and Equity in Education, Education Policy, and Education Reform. Her research focuses on cognitive and social variables affecting the academic achievement of low-income urban students such as perceptions of self, parental involvement, teacher expectations, as well as race and social class.  Dr. Whitaker is also founder of Blueprint Educational Strategies, an educational consulting company that provides trainings and support for urban schools and families. 

In the post below, Dr. Whitaker describes the process of creating her own business, and offers advice for other academics who may consider doing so, as well.

“Don’t Sell Yourself Short”: On Starting My Own Business, by Dr. Manya Whitaker

One of the joys of being a scholar in an applied…

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