Monthly Archives: May 2015

Conference 101: Post Attendance Reflections

Conference Reflections {New Faculty}

I took this pic at the Alamo.

I came, I saw, I conquered. And that was not even counting the conference.

Traveling for conferences can be a mix of fun and headaches all rolled into one delightful ball of travel. Our annual conference was in San Antonio, a city I’d never visited, so I was looking forward to experiencing what the city and the conference had to offer. Our group bonded and spent the night together at DFW with the glamorous cots they provide. The little sleep we all got was made funnier by 3 a.m. and then it was “no holds barred.” We all show our true selves after 3 a.m. folks.

We arrived in San Antonio at breakfast time, showered, and decided that sleep was for quitters. We powered through day one like champs. I was warned before we left home that I would be underwhelmed by the methods and science happening and like good colleagues: they were right. In a STEM multi-state research meeting, a group had done a survey with an N=12. 12? Woof. I had no trouble speaking up. Discussing my research, how it related, and what I could offer to the group as a tangible benefit. It was eye-opening to see and hear the fears and trepidation of my colleagues from across the country and how afraid they were of diving into some research that would require more IRB approval than any of them were used to doing. I have done this type of approval for over 1,000 people so it was a no-brainer. I offered to help immediately and assure them it would be OK. The only way to make the profession better is to help move it forward right?

The vice president of diversity at the local land grant was the guest speaker and she was fantastic. I felt uplifted, optimistic, and then we had to sit through a purely Christian prayer before the next meal. There were clearly NOT christians in the room, at least one woman wearing a hijab, several other monikers of people who were anything but christian. I’m not “bashing” on christianity, but the point is this: if you’re already an organization who is “known” for not being diverse, then don’t make it worse. Think hard about what you do to segregate your potential audience and how you discriminate against people who don’t think or work like you do and offer up alternatives-offering a non-denominational prayer would have been more appropriate. Not everyone loves “Jesus” or “Our Lord” or “Heavenly Father” in every religion.

I sat through a set of research talks where all the presenters brushed around the tough topic of discrimination, prejudice, and racism. Our profession still hasn’t done a great job with these things and they continue to skirt around them. I spoke up. I couldn’t help it. Having those tough conversation is hard, truly uncomfortable, but totally worth it. I’m a minority and I can no longer count the number of times I’ve been discriminated against since moving here. I cannot stand it, but I also cannot ignore it. I have those conversations. I point out to students and peers how their language is inappropriate. I explain why it’s incorrect. I don’t scold or reprimand, I simply say, “do you know how that could be viewed as racist to me?” and go from there. The faculty I listened to are so concerned with international travel, but they fail to provide their students with appropriate tools to cope in those settings because they don’t know how to cope themselves.

I had great exchanges with my colleagues. As a first year faculty in this profession, I felt welcome, I felt safe speaking up and sharing my work and my experiences. I felt as though most folks were receptive to me as a professional. I had a GREAT TIME overall and the city was a great host. I visited the Alamo, I walked the river walk, I ate and drank to my heart’s content, and our flights back were smooth and uneventful. I am so happy I went. I got to know my colleagues, I got to know our grad students, I was happy to network with other faculty and grad students. Most importantly, I got a feel for what kind of research I wanted to do to raise the bar in this field. The kind of work that NEEDS to be done, not the kind that will get accepted.

I share all of this to remind myself and you: we have to cope with the good and the bad. I’m proud of myself. As a faculty member who just finished my first year in this department, I felt confident. I felt good. I felt like the science I was and am doing is solid and I’m not afraid to push that envelope to be better. I don’t complain without offering solutions. Offering to help the other faculty was a small price to pay, being heard about what it’s like to be a minority in a predominantly white professional group isn’t an issue. These things become issues if I didn’t speak up, if I wasn’t brave.

It’s HARD as a new faculty to walk that line. I don’t want to piss anyone off, but I also don’t like the feeling of complacency I got. Having hard conversations is UNCOMFORTABLE, but they’re worth having. I am a minority in science and damnit, I’ve earned my place at the table. I will not be diminished because I’m the wrong ethnicity for the majority of these folks and I refuse to back down. I will behave, I will be diplomatic, but I have a voice and I’m turning into a damn good researcher, even if it doesn’t feel like it every day.

I was just as glad to be home and asleep in my own bed. Unlike the rest of the world, I didn’t make any plans for the long weekend. I slept, I gardened, I took naps, I put food in the fridge and made some delicious meals. Those were things that had not been happening prior to the end of the semester. Tomorrow begins “summer writing schedule” for me and I’m looking forward to some incremental progress on several things.

As a young researcher, it’s important to reflect and keep moving forward. It’s all we can do.

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Setting Up for Summer Writing

Setting Up for Summer Writing {New Faculty}

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In no time at all, the last u-haul’s will leave and my sweet, adoring college town will return to the splendor that I LOVE. I love this town emphatically when the students leave. Only a few thousand stick around for summer to work, research, and live the good life and all of the camps don’t start for weeks. Oh. My. GAWDD. I cannot say enough about summer here.

That being said, the first week of summer here, I’ll be gone. And a few weeks after that. And again a few more after that….Hhmmm, summer…elusive and full of travel at present. Summer scholars will come, I’ll be working with them, we host some major events, and damnit, August already?

Summer as a faculty member, and a 12-month faculty member, is an odd thing. It seems like all faculty work a mere 9-month year, but I can assure you, 95% (or more) of us are toiling away all summer. Summer is the coveted time when there’s fewer students running around. With the burgeoning summer income for most universities, we also teach, continue to work with students in more relaxed settings, and above all, try and get caught up on research.

I cannot stress enough the importance of setting yourself up for summer writing. This blissful time is a great stretch to not only enjoy your life a little bit, but also try and push out that last bit of data, add chunks to get manuscripts out the door to reviewers, and set yourself some manageable goals for the upcoming academic year. While I’ve only been doing this for a few years, I’ve never had a summer dedicated to JUST writing. It’s always been filled with STEM summer camps, more camps, some writing, and taking some time off. This will be my first full summer on this job where I can really sit with some data and write some things. Yes, I’m also doing some summer camps, summer scholars, and you know….maybe not working on Sunday’s until late August.

Set yourself up so you’re not filled with regret in August. Regret? Yes, regret. So many times I hear, “I didn’t get enough done.” Trying my darndest, I want to NOT say that in August. Here’s how I’m going to tackle the monster:

Set manageable goals. Managing my own expectations will be the key.

Set deadlines for myself. Working with undergrads has helped me stay accountable. I just had this conversation with a colleague over the weekend (at happy hour) about how we manage that. Knowing that I had undergrad researchers waiting for me to read/edit/contribute helped motivate me to keep the ship moving.

Under those deadlines, map out what needs to be done to get to that deadline. Is it reading? Is it editing? Is it analyzing data or collecting it? Whatever it is, I try to be mindful and record what I need to do to get to the ultimate goal.

Execute my intentions and check in regularly. With myself mostly. I use Evernote to keep a running list of “to-do’s” but also employ google drive to collaborate with other authors. For me, it’s all about accountability to myself and to others.

Be accountable. You may need a writing buddy, you may just need an undergrad staring at you once a week, whatever it is, find a system that helps keep you accountable. Someone to say, “where are we with ____?” can be immensely helpful.

Most importantly: plan in some fun. Make sure you give yourself the respite you deserve. Your brain works hard and your wrists are probably pre-carpal tunnel (like mine), so however you decompress, pencil it in before anything else. It will help you create the remainder of your summer. If you know you need a day before and after a trip, pencil it in your calendar now so you don’t feel guilty later. If you think you might have a weekend event, pencil it in, even if it gets canceled, you’ve given yourself permission to not work and any extra will just be icing on the cake.

Summer can be a great writing win

 

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