Monthly Archives: December 2014

Holiday Break(down): The LAST Busy Contest of 2014

The Last Busy Contest of 2014 {New Faculty}

this is my dog molly. she has nothing to do with this post, but isn’t she cute? she loves to spoon. iSpoon 🙂

Ah, the holidays….the coveted two weeks where you have the freedom to do what you want, eat what you want, and….have the busy contest with your colleagues? NOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Upon returning to college town USA, I unpacked, did all the things, and took a sleeping pill to ensure the 9.5 hr. drive would be gone from my conscience forever. I awoke the next morning refreshed and ready to do adult things: go swim, get groceries, take a friend to the airport, and start watching her dog. You know, responsible stuff that I wanted to do.

To my dismay, I ran into a colleague at the grocery store and right into the classic “BUSY CONTEST” at its’ finest. Ugh! My colleague asked me if I was working this week. I replied, “no, I had not planned on it, I might do some work from my couch, but nothing really.” thingsthatareamistake…..

This person had to rebound on her answer. She was clearly out of sorts. She started in on, “well, i have so much to do….” We know where this is heading right? In order to maintain the precious nugget of sanity I had found through my sleeping pill sleep, I said, “well, facilities turns down the heat during break anyway to save money, it would be freezing in all of the buildings.”


It was amazing. She was officially out of things to compete with me on. No work? No problem.

Ladies and gentlemen of this blog, I will NOT ever play this contest with you. Not during break, not during the 6th week of a semester, not during grading “season,” which I personally consider more unpleasant than my annual ladies exam. If this person squawks again about it, I’ll do the same thing. If she thinks I don’t have enough to do, she’s wrong. I just don’t believe in making it such a big deal every day around people who are generally equally motivated and busy or busier than I am.

Confession time: I did come to the office a day later. Mostly to drop off my illicit batch of maple syrup to a colleague who requested I bring her back some and I’m typing this post on my work computer. Still: no real work…..I mostly updated my dropbox (see dog picture above & multiply by 200) and am going to have coffee with a friend soon.

My wish for all of you in 2015: to never have to play the busy contest or to squash it like that stinkbug in your house.

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I get by with a little help from myself: making self-care a priority when times get tough

Self care is NEVER selfish!!!! There’s a lull between the holidays and before folks start trickling back into a routine. Take the time and savor it!

Tenure, She Wrote

It’s the holidays, which means making the lighting-fast gear shift from last semester’s grading to next January’s grant deadlines, all while navigating the ups and downs of the holiday season. For me, it’s been more downs than ups (family drama, and distance always sucks). I’m feeling the weight of anxiety and depression pretty heavily this season, and a series of rejections hasn’t helped. I’ve had a really hefty travel schedule, too. I still haven’t replaced the social safety net I had in graduate school, and I’m feeling pretty isolated. For better or worse, I’m not feeling very resilient right now.

And yet that’s exactly what I need to feel, to bolster myself for a new semester (two new courses to prep!), and three NSF deadlines in January, and manuscripts to write, and students who need me to be a rock through their yough times, too. Plus, given the long turnaround times of papers and…

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2014: The Year I “Leaned In” to Myself

2014: the year I leaned in {New Faculty}

My mom, my sister, and I on a Christmas Day hike, 2014

2014 was a big year for me professionally. It took me a while, but I finally got on my own two academic feet and started to “lean in” to my career. My first few years were fun but low paying. Rewarding, but temporary. A paycheck but not a career. Publishable, yet not credited enough. For lack of a better term, I was a hot mess for the first few years. Low efficacy, poor identity about my place in the academy, and other personal hiccups bogged me down, and set me back. Just like my Christmas cactus, that for the first time since being given to me by my late grandmother, it’s going to bloom at Christmas and so am I this year. Strangely, I’m taking that as a sign from above, below, or right down the middle.

While I can make jokes, transitioning to this new faculty position had so many more positives than I dreamed. I knew returning to agriculture was a good move for me. STEM was a great place to be. I learned a lot. I published. I earned every one of those pennies, but I knew in my mind that it wasn’t going to be long term (more than a few years) due to the nature of the work, the PI, and the other details. For lack of a better term, I needed to get my shit together to move forward professionally. That job was a good place to do it. To grow, to stretch my proverbial legs, and to make many, many mistakes.

When I was job shopping last spring, the job I’m in now landed in my lap. I’d had a good interview season but finding the right “fit” wasn’t coming easy. And then all of a sudden, it showed up. I couldn’t say yes fast enough, I couldn’t sign fast enough, and I couldn’t pack my office and move on fast enough. After six months in this position, I feel good. I have an office again. I have real furniture in that office and a phone that works. Legit, too legit to quit people.

How have I leaned in? I quit worrying about having an opinion. I just said it instead. I joke that from 8-5, I’m “work new faculty” who doesn’t react, who doesn’t make (as many) freudian slips, and who’s generally got her shit together. But really, it’s been a good growing experience. I have normal faculty responsibilities and scaling up my responsibilities has been done in a measured and scaffolded way. I joke that the students are actually listening to what I have to say and THEY ARE. Some days, I don’t even believe it. I feel like I’m treated as an equal. I didn’t always feel that way in my prior appointment. My personal life is happy, symbiotic, and generally peaceful and that translates into my work life. There will always be things to improve, things that aren’t “just right” and other small things, but I am happy. I will never be the “jump up and down” type, but my even keel nature is good, my skin is good, my hair is grown back in, and I’m sleeping most nights. (we’ll not discuss the night I woke up after dreaming that the admin was telling me my grades weren’t in the system).

This post isn’t to say “wow, look at me, i’m awesome,” but rather to say “everyone gets there in their own time.” Whether a grad student or a new faculty, this lesson has been that I need to have patience. I need to forgive myself. I need to be less hard on myself for not doing all of the things that I think I should be. 2014 was my year to lean into myself and my career track. I don’t know what will happen in 2015, I’m excited to find out. But, I’m not afraid of it. I had so much fear bottled up when I was getting ready to finish my phd, that I’m sure it was informing my decisions in negative ways.

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2014 Year in Review: Stats Gone Wild

The end of another calendar year. Thank you to my faithful readers for your support again this year. I started this to catalog my thoughts on what it meant to be a new faculty member and now a “newer” faculty member and I’m ever so grateful for your readership. Higher education will ebb and flow and my own year was one of true “leaning in.” I began a new position and along with that decision, decided that personal happiness beat a giant paycheck this year. My mother and I were discussing it when I was home for Christmas. What I may not make in salary, I get back in my lifestyle. Having always been a country mouse, I enjoy living in a small town anyway and this R1 epitomizes small town, country living! Thank you once again for your support. I welcome your comments in the coming year.

To the numbers: You got nothin’ on that academic year wordpress! The number cruncher in me is always excited to see my analytics and let wordpress do the work at the end of the year. 8,000 views is modest and up from the last year. I cannot complain. It wouldn’t do any good anyway!

2014 Year in Review {New Faculty}

The number junkie in me likes seeing the beautiful graph. Tuesday is usually the day I publish each week, hence the “best” day of the week.

2014 Year in Review {New Faculty}

Not surprisingly, the “grad school out of undergrad” post was my most viewed and I can understand why. I might revisit this topic again for next year, someone remind me. 🙂 The decision to enter graduate school can be a tough one for many and 22 years old is awfully young to be making such important decisions. Some view it as an extension of undergrad, which many will tell you: is NOT at ALL how life is.

2014 Year in Review {New Faculty}

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Every Time A Student Complains About Their Grade

Every time a student complains about their grade via email, my tiny bat like brain does the following things:

First reaction:

When Students Complain About Their Grades {New Faculty}


Second reaction:

When Students Complain About Their Grades {New Faculty}


While I’d really like to send back the honey badger or the bear, I am finding myself annoyed on the last day of the semester. My (grad) students were given rubrics, outlines, and have been able to track their grades religiously all semester. I’ve been a studious reader/grader each week on purpose. DO NOT think I’m going to change your grade because you failed to show up for the final paper (also worth the most points).

I was pleased with my class all semester. Many were able to synthesize and analyze their professional lives. As graduate students, the work becomes more reflective and I push them to drill deep and think about how to enhance their professional careers. I have to say, I am disappointed in the group of final papers I received. Many students “softballed” the assignment, doing the bare minimum and then expecting maximum credit. Half of me thinks, “what could I have done better?” and the other half thinks, “hell no.” Yes, I can always improve as a professor, I’m aware of this. However, I also know that your sense of entitlement and the way you communicate are NOT HELPING your cause. Using phrases like “my friends and I think” and “you didn’t do enough” are NOT ways to get me to respond positively to you. If you wanted more than once a week feedback, you probably need a therapist, not a graduate level professor.

Grade grubbing isn’t a new thing and it’s not my first rodeo but I’m a little disgruntled at the number of emails I’ve received from graduate students who think they’re entitled to a better grade. I can always do better as a professor, but I implore my GRADUATE students to STOP GRADE GRUBBING. Stop complaining because you LOST POINTS and change the conversation into “HOW CAN I DO BETTER NEXT TIME?” You will have a thesis, dissertation, or final project of some sort and instead of putting the blame back on ME, change the conversation to IMPROVE for next time.


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Coffee Time!

Are your grades submitted yet??????




Finishing the work I abandon during grading.


Saying the phrase, “I’ll do that over break” too many times. Setting myself up for the crash of 2015 already…..
Coffee Time {New Faculty}

Stressed Out & Grading

Stressed Out & Grading {New Faculty}

‘Tis the season to be grading, fa la la la la, la la la laaaaa. While consuming copious amounts of coffee and tea, I’ve also been grading through the caffeine jitters. (stop drinking caffeine and get it together).

Alas, the end of the semester is here. And by here, I mean in my calendar and in my course management system the final papers I assigned are staring back at me. Like that creeper in the grocery store that keeps ogling at you in the produce department.

There will be a flurry of ‘end-of-semester’ things to look after this year and my semester is going much the same way. On top of research, now there’s final grading, final grade submissions, final meetings with undergrads and graduate students, and faculty “things.” I’ve been in a new faculty professional development group now all fall and have been really pleased with it. It’s more time, but it’s time well spent. It’s already helping me plan my undergraduate research course for the spring and I’m so thankful for the time, space, and permission to plan. I’ll be attending a ‘syllabi bootcamp’ in January to get it tightened up and again, offer me the time, space, and permission to do nothing but think about teaching about research.

As we speed skate to our coveted winter break, it’s important to think about how our winter ‘break’ will ultimately shape up. Final grades will be dropped, December commencement will happen, and then there will be a deserved lull. Some of our universities now offer “winter-mester,” a full blown marathon over 2-3 weeks for students to pay for credit and someone (like you) to teach these fast paced courses. Those don’t offer a lot of flexibility in terms of down time, but for those of us who are not offering ‘winter-mester’ courses, what can we do to maximize our time to get ready for January?

  • Take time off. Nothing is as precious as giving ourselves permission to relax. Step away from your computer, turn off the dings and dongs your phone makes for a few weeks. You’ll stop panicking after about 24 hours and it will be heavenly.
  • Block off your personal/family schedule first. Making time for what’s truly important will be key. Whether married, partnered, with or without children, or whatever your situation may be, plan some time to yourself. Rotting on your couch binge watching Netflix is a perfectly good reason during that delightful week between Christmas and New Year’s and if anyone is wondering, that’s on my calendar.
  • Make a point to do something enjoyable and just for you. Massage? Long session at a coffee shop with a friend? Alone time with no other “humans” present? Whatever your cup of tea is, make sure you plan that time for yourself. It can be a luxurious privilege to do something we want, for an hour, for 12, for several days.
  • Ease back in. If you assign yourself an insurmountable task your first day back, you’ll likely fall off your own productivity wagon. Take care of ‘little things’ first. Mundane and mindless type things–deleting all emails before answering the ones you need to attend to, cleaning up your office space to make room for spring, or simply getting back on a regular schedule. Those with kids will find that is much easier when they go back to school.
  • Respect your circadian clock. If you’re on a roll, keep rolling. If you need a few minutes to take a walk to clear your head, head outside for a brisk stroll. It’s a few weeks where your calendar is hopefully not ruling your life so you can enjoy it. If you’re smart, you do this during the semester as well, but it doesn’t always work out so neatly.

Enjoy yourself. Whatever you do, however you do it, and wherever you place yourself, enjoy it. I wish you a festive and complete grading season.

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