Tag Archives: faculty

Easy Come, Easy Go

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Summer 2017 was by far, one of my most productive and fruitful professionally speaking. As I reviewed my weekly plan and then crossed things out, it was most satisfying on many levels.

To count up: seven grant submissions, one manuscript that I first authored, and prepped for one new course and one returning course in my roster.

The things I couldn’t control: manuscripts I wasn’t first author on, an extra NSF grant at the last minute that I said yes to, and the weather (bc we all know you can’t control that).

The other “wins” of summer 2017? SUP–so much paddling this summer, I’ve caught the bug! I was able to spend extra time at home with my family, hike some tall peaks before it got too hot, reroute some summer travel and take a ladies road trip to the deep south, and read 30 books! I save all of my “pleasure” reading until summer and my list had grown to be massive this summer! As soon as I start class planning, I stop reading for pleasure since I’m reading all day. It’s a habit that I love and hate. I wish I could read more during the academic year but I just don’t after I’ve read things all day.

Overall, I’m really pleased with how the summer unfolded and am already trying to formulate my fall plan. I’ve added a new course and am unsure how much time it will take so I’m hoping to get my plan done after the first week of the semester. I’ve also already blocked one day a week for “my work” and will religiously keep it blocked unless something comes up. Overall, I’m working on religiously guarding my time this year. It’s a constant goal and I usually fall off of the wagon at least twice, but with the accountability of a great women’s writing group, more responsibility, and even less “space” to screw things up, I’m going to try REALLY HARD!

May the odds be ever in your favor this fall! Welcome back to a new academic year!

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Summer Slam!

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Summer is moving whether we like it or not and my summer writing plan was nothing short of lofty. Six grants, two-four manuscripts (other authors collaborating), some work travel, my endless summer reading list, funded grant work that needs attention, and VACATION. I mapped it out by week and gave myself some measurable and very manageable goals in order to stay motivated. I made adjustments as needed and didn’t feel bad pushing one thing back and pulling another forward or vice versa.

So far, so good. Four/six grants submitted. One manuscript mostly drafted, another in editing mode w co-authors. Other two manuscripts are resulting from a post-doc project, we’ll see if the post-doc comes through on their writing responsibilities (hard to know sometimes).

I cut down the conference circuit in a big way this summer. I had planned for three, I ended up going to one. While I know there’s trade-off’s with this, there were several factors that helped make my decision to stay put. 1: money. Some of this is getting way too expensive. 2: time. I’ve got plans for my personal and professional life and they don’t involve traveling for conferences. 3: value. Value? As in, what value is this adding to my dossier?

I’ve got my eyes set on a big conference next year that’s abroad, so it will take some excellent scholarship and pooling of resources in order to get me there. It’s also a conference where my research can really take off and I can learn a ton, so I’m willing to sit back for a summer and do the legwork at home. Not slamming myself with conferences has given me the time, space, and permission to plow through more research and writing. It also opened up some more time to do my favorite thing: GO HOME. An extra week is like finding a billion dollars in your winter coat when you pull it out of the closet the first time it’s cold. PRICELESS.

I also love my college town in the summer. With fewer students in town, it’s really quite lovely and I forget to take advantage when I’m on the road all of the time. Between paddle boarding to happy hours with friends and hiking, it’s really quite lovely. I need to leave more DURING the semesters when the kids are all here 😉

Funded projects are getting the attention they deserve and my endless summer reading list has added up. I amass articles and books all year and once the summer hits, I download, print, check out, and read. I try to break my days up into halves or thirds, spending each chunk writing manuscripts or grant submissions (usually mornings when my brain is really fresh), and then reading and/or grant work in the latter part of the day. I do not work weekends in summer as a personal rule and shy away from evening work as well.

Have I found the magic formula yet? No. But I like how this summer has shaped up. While I’ve adapted to changes in travel and scheduling, it’s really been all for the better. It’s opened up more space and time to slow down a bit and really think about some things. It’s given me time to do some things I enjoy besides work in the town I call home. It’s given me the gift of permission. I will likely never have another summer like this, life has this funny way of doing what it wants, so I’m taking the gift of less travel and more space now instead of trying to arm wrestle it into submission.

I hope you’re having a great summer, no matter how much you’re reading, writing, or relaxing!

 

 

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Steamrolling Into Summer

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source: I took this, that’s Henry!

I feel like I’ve barrel rolled right into summer. In case you’re wondering, it was a very clean barrel roll with no big rocks on the path. I don’t know how it happened but I thought I just got back from overseas…. A quick trip home helped my mental state but it added up and the driving alone was a pain in my ass (really, my lower back was screaming). A quick trip to the chiropractor straightened me right out (pun totally intended)!

Alas, graduation and the pomp and circumstance (pun intended again) that goes with it is in full force. Taking advantage of the time to not be on campus, I started to pretend an adult lives at my house who cleans things. The the ritualistic nature of stripping the covers off of the couch cushions, the shame and pride of vacuuming a semesters worth of crumbs out of the couch, and the nice smell that the febreze has when I deodorize the couch and love seat is my internal trigger that the seasons have changed and so has the semester.

There’s other things that trigger the changing of my academic seasons. Move out will and has taken full force, summer happy hour emails have been sent for standing invites with friends, and conference season kicks off in just over 48 hours. Why enjoy that first week of summer when you can get on a plane and hit up your first conference? Relaxing is for quitters…..

We don’t realize what a frenetic rush we put on ourselves as young faculty members. I had not been sleeping well since coming back from overseas and while I could only use the excuse of jet lag for so long, there were so many things to take care of. This coupled with taking a month off to go abroad, on top of whatever else I’ve been up to made sound sleep this elusive thing I chased. I even hung some Tibetan prayer flags over the bed hoping it would catch some good prayers and they’d turn into good dreams or good sleep. It took the internal ‘click’ of the semester for me to sleep like a log for the first time in weeks for a solid 8.5 hours before I stirred and heard Henry moving in his crate to let me know it was time to get up and play.

USDA grant season has slowed, I’ve got a NSF due next week, a NIH in June, and another one (can’t remember the acronym) in early August. I feel like I have one more but honestly, I can’t remember…My pubs for the calendar year are published-looking shiny and real and I am already scheming of what to push out for 2017. I have plans to push out two more this summer for hopeful publication next year. Gotta keep the wheels turning right?

I have blocked out my summer calendar now that summer projects have been decided on and blocked out travel. Two conferences, a week in CO, and then home to the farm. In between, I have plans to read, write, evaluate, work on grants that are currently funded, work with undergrad and grad students that have been hired, and heck-NOT work weekends, evenings, or before a normal time of day (normal is defined as “when the sun gets out of bed”).

All the pre-planning is letting me do one very important thing: it’s giving me permission to slow down. Blocking out the time gives me space to think, write, and read. I ordered 14 books the other day so I better have some time to read (and yes, they’re all for work). Slowing down in summer doesn’t mean productivity lags, it means I actually have time and give myself permission to do the things I can’t afford to do when there’s a room full of students, a pile of things to read, and researchers all staring at me for answers. The grant work alone I’ve neglected is enough to fill several weeks.

August will be here soon enough, but today, May whatever it is, I’m going to slow down. Downshift my internal engine, sleep through the night without interruption, and work through the massive pile of books that will be delivered when I get back from my conference. Now that the couch is clean and my house looks like a living, breathing human who doesn’t hoard a pile of shoes somewhere near the door lives here, I can steam roll right into summer.

 

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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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Dating in Academia: Part Deux

Dating in Academia: Part Deux {New Faculty}

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It seems that dating a nerd gets a lot of hits. No, not those hits, but web hits from my wordpress stats manager. Let’s keep it up to snuff shall we?

In honor of the ridiculous amount of traffic this first post on dating in academia garnered, I decided that I was indeed a masochist and that this should be a several part series. Part two anyone?

I’m fortunate enough to have some bad-ass, awesome, intelligent lady friends. And “male” friends who are colleagues as well. Instead of just making this a pro-feminism post (but believe me, I’m all about it), I asked the duddddddes for their take. Strangely, we’ve not dated any of our single, male faculty friends. Life is easier when we can commiserate together with drinks after 5 p.m.

Male faculty:

“I tried dating a woman. She was not in academia. She had a kid. Both of those things were fine. She failed to recognize that in search of tenure, I didn’t have a ton of time all of the time hang around waiting for her. She kept lying, stringing me along, even to the point of kissing me and then saying “don’t do that again, but I liked it.” Mixed signal anyone? I get that finding childcare can be tough and respect that, but then found out that her kid was with the other parent for a solid week and she never mentioned it. I dropped that like it was hot. It was a hot mess.” ~paraphrased over friday drinks.

Female faculty:

I made the mistake of dating a grad student. I thought he could handle things. Until the day he said, “if we stay together, you can just get me a partner/spousal hire.” Motive (and deal breaker) revealed. Peace out bro’.

Female faculty:

I tried dating a guy. I appreciate how forthright he was with me, but he didn’t appreciate how quickly I broke it off after he let a major deal breaker out of the gate. Three weeks in he says, “so, you can just move {up here} and work for {obscure, small, rarely hiring college} so I can live close to my mom and dad.” EXCUSE ME??? I tried to get to the bottom of this fierce desire to live close to mom/dad but the only reply was, “i need to live near them, i will sacrifice having a fulfilling career if i can see them several times a week.” Which he was, he was not getting work. He complained about it daily, but his parents are healthy and very active, his other siblings had moved for jobs, and he clearly said, “you’ll just have to drop everything you have going on if this is going to work.” No, this isn’t going to work.

Female faculty:

I matched with a guy online. We started chatting through the service. It turned into a “what should I do with my career?” talk. I felt like an admissions counselor. I have no trouble talking future self with people, but not men in their mid-30’s who are trying to woo me, it felt like an 18 year old with his mom in tow.

If you have an awesomely, horrific dating story in academia, email me: domesticatedacademic@gmail dot com. I’ll post it. Yes I will…..We have to have a *little* fun don’t we?

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I’m All Ears: Listening in Academia

I'm All Ears: Listening in Academia {New Faculty}

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People in academia like to talk. A lot. We like to hear ourselves talk. A lot. But sometimes we need to take a step back and listen. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Sometimes, we need to be smart enough to let our evolution take over.

I was stricken with a delightful head cold last week. Due to the amount of nose blowing I was doing, I wasn’t much for conversation. Mostly because it led to coughing and other delightful cold symptoms. I’d like to write a book about the “8236 stages of a cold” that will be due out for publication next year. Nothing like a good cold. And so much hand washing….

Amidst my mouth breathing and sudafed haze, I still kept my schedule. It was just a cold after all. It was a good reason to speak less and listen more. I was reminded of this several times throughout the week.

Chatting with grad students. While it’s our job to advise them, I know I can get mired in the business at hand: making progress. Not feeling 100% helped me sit back and let them drive the bus of their own learning. In between my coughs and nose blowing, students were able to work through their dissertation issues. Because I didn’t have much for a voice, I mostly nodded in agreement and let them keep talking.

Not talking gives other people permission to keep talking. Not talking makes some people super uncomfortable so they keep talking. Not talking and being with someone who fears silence is an excellent tactic in getting all of their secrets out. Just so you know.

Our department also hosted preview days. Potential grad students come in for a series of meetings and interviews spread out over the course of a few days. It’s a great opportunity to meet with potential students, listen to them discuss their future plans, and if our department might be a good fit for that. Along with this comes a lot of listening. Trying to gauge their interest, their maturity level, and their true motive for a graduate degree is a lesson. Paying attention to their body language is equally important.

Sitting back and listening can be a powerful medium. It gives the person you’re with the freedom to converse and it gives you the freedom to listen. No one feels obligated.

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Being the “New Guy”

Being the "New Guy" {New Faculty}

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Being a new faculty member is hard. It’s tiring. It wears you out and wears on you. I know. I’m there. I come home some days and don’t move from my couch except for food, the bathroom, or to move to my bed and that feels like work. I feel you.

I’d like to make a case for getting out  and working after hours, weekends, or getting to know your fellow faculty at social functions that are outside of work hours. I know it’s hard. Many of you will have families and other commitments, but I’m going to encourage you to give it the “old college” try a few times. Hear me out.

I never like making a habit of working on the weekends. However, in this position, I find that if I give myself a few hours on Sunday’s to clear out my inbox, settle my calendar, and get myself organized, I have a much smoother Monday morning ready to jump into whatever I got myself into. Truth.

The awesome part about this is that many of my colleagues like working on the weekends as well. Sunday’s will find many of us in our offices working along quietly playing the never ending game of catch up. Before you get all “misery must love company” on me, the weekends are great for catching up with colleagues. There’s fewer students milling around, there’s no class to rush off too and generally there’s no formal meetings on weekends. Each Sunday I’ve logged has been useful to me in terms of productivity, but it’s also had the added benefit of getting time to converse with my colleagues. We don’t always discuss work, but we do talk. And, as the newest faculty member in the department, I think it’s important to have those conversations to set some context.

For me, it’s valuable time spent. As a self-identified introvert, I don’t do as well in large groups, faculty meetings are too busy with business for any chit chat, and walking into another faculty member’s office to strike up a conversation isn’t my forte. In fact, the last one makes me downright uncomfortable. The weekend is when the feeling is a little less formal, standing around for a few minutes chatting helps me get to know my peers and them get to know me. I’m “work new faculty” at work. I have things to do and tasks to check off. I’m guilty of not wanting to socialize much and I have a calendar full of things as well. Formal business hours are not the hours you want to get to know me in to get a good picture of who I am.

I’ve been told many times that I’m a hard person to know. I acknowledge that. I think many academics are. We choose academia for the solitude of research sometimes and it feeds our tendencies. Being aware that I’m not the most open, charming, naturally extroverted human helps me work within the boundaries that have been set by my personality.

Our faculty tries to go out to happy hour too. I don’t always want to hit the bar with my colleagues on Friday, but I’ve gone each time it was organized and I felt as though it was valuable time spent. I’ve been able to cultivate talking points as I get to know my colleagues. We rarely discuss work specifically, students and work do come up, but it’s more tangential in nature and non-specific. Again, my personality comes out in these settings since I can speak to people in a more social setting without the fear of students or other hindrances.

Can it be awkward? Of course. Entering an established group of peers is always a little unnerving, but maximizing your personality potential and being self-aware enough to understand how you’re situated in a group can be important. I don’t come out and say how much I love research, but the spouse of my colleague saw me design a course at faculty development this spring. He observed me working for days on it, had conversations with me about the topic, and learned how much I love research and undergraduate students. Because of that positive interaction, my name was brought up to plan a possible undergrad research certificate in our college. That’s pretty exciting to me. I learned this at the bar. I solidified my ability to do this during a hallway conversation on a Sunday. Over half of my interaction about this had nothing to do with M-F from 9-5.

Being the new kid on the block can be tough. It’s hard to know where you fit in the group. It’s kind of like being the last kid picked in gym class in middle school. It’s taken me nine months to order business cards. It’s also taken me nine months to get to know the people I call colleagues better too. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither have my relationships with my peers.

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Manuscript Meltdown: Submission Season

Manuscript Meltdown: New Faculty

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The sound of the clattering keyboard is my favorite. Compared to the sound that I hear when my forehead hits the desk, it’s like music to my ears. Submission season is here! I love working up a manuscript, but only if I get enough time to do it.

Working with graduate students has rewards and challenges. Submission season has caused a small manuscript meltdown from one student this year due to time management. As someone who writes and submits regularly (like all of my colleagues), I cannot help but beg and plead with graduate students to manage their time in order to get timely feedback.

As a young faculty member who happens to love writing and research, I enjoy seeing my students make positive progress. No, you won’t get accepted 100% of the time, but if you’re improving, then you’re moving forward. As a faculty, I always remember to thank my students for their continual hard work. I know it’s a pain. I know it’s not always fun. AT ALL. But, I know why we’re all here. I’m here to help. I’m here to guide. I’m here to comment my face off in your word document in the spirit of improving. I often preface my first round of edits with, “I comment because I care” and I really do. Be worried if you don’t see any comments. Unless we’ve been working on this for a while, I’ve probably lost interest or didn’t give it the time it deserved.

  • Delegate your time in advance.
  • Send notes to your collaborators.
  • Know that it’s going to take much longer than you expected anyway.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help (in a timely fashion).
  • Follow the submission outline.
  • Find a submission to the same conference or journal that was accepted and model it.
  • Edit, edit, and edit it again.
  • Be explicit in your language in the body. There’s usually not space for flowery innuendo. Be literal. Say what you mean.
  • Don’t expect help. I hate to be negative nancy on the whole thing, but sometimes, people don’t follow through. Sometimes, people are on your author list but don’t do work. Sometimes, you’re going to have to man/lady up and rock it out.
  • Understand in advance you can use the writing for something else. If this is ongoing research, you will likely be able to use it for other submissions or articles. Most conferences are moving towards abstracts for acceptance, but there’s still some laggards who want 10+ pages for a 20 minute presentation. I call this a “valuable lesson in patience.”

Understand that growth is what’s most important. You may not get accepted but did you manuscript improve from the previous submission? Becoming a better researcher is a process, it’s something I remind myself of daily. There will be days of frustration and there will be days of sheer triumph. Celebrate whenever you can. It’s always worth a little dance party in your office.

 

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Syllabus Boot Camp

Syllabus Boot Camp {New Faculty}

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I signed up for a course design workshop this year. I’m teaching a new class in a few weeks and really wanted to give it the time it deserved to plan the darn thing. Yes, deserved. Instead of tossing things around in my brain and trying to spit things back out on paper, I gave myself 2.5 days of time. Our pedagogy shop sponsored the workshop and provided everything from coffee and snacks to lunch to meaningful and useful advice on instructional goals, assessment, and flipping the classroom if we were interested. It sure beat the half-ass approach I took in the fall.

On that note, my teaching survey’s came back. Not bad kids, not bad. Some of the feedback was very odd, some of it made NO sense, but some of it made PERFECT sense. I had been handed a stale class, pumped some life back into it and forgot to update the syllabus and organize things in a more coherent manner. lesson learned. Not all the feedback was bad and many of the comments were valid for positive and negative reasons. As hard as we try, we do take some of it personally. One of my colleagues tanked on the survey and was pretty upset about it. She also attended the course design workshop. Her ATTITUDE was: if I screwed up, I can get better. She spent her 2.5 days thinking about her class for next year already. I admire her tenacity to not let it get ahead of her.

It was an easy decision to go to this workshop. Even with the random pile of stuff that I had to plow through to get ready for the semester, I could not have brought the course to life without the time, space, and permission to do so. I encourage anyone reading this to also seek out those resources at your university. They have the knowledge. They have the time. They will offer suggestions. If you don’t have this luxury, call on your “team” to help you out. This has already made the semester less painful. Now, if all my grants would get funded and manuscripts accepted.

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Academic Collegiality: Offering the Proverbial Cup of Sugar

A Lesson in Academic Collegiality {New Faculty}

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year in the hallways of my office. It’s annual reporting time for all faculty. A grad student swung through, saw one of my computer screens and observed, “almost every faculty I’ve seen today has that on their screen.” Let me tell ya kid, we’re really all in this together.

It’s my first faculty reporting season on this job. It’s a totally different form/page/requirement list than my old job. I was thankful to get a tutorial from a more senior faculty member this week and a crash course provided the broad strokes that I’m going to need to finish mine. There’s one more relatively new faculty member in the department and she and I visited about it a few times as well, making sure that things like “objectives for 2014” were missing for both of us since we never put in objectives last January because we weren’t employed by said department/college. A sense of camaraderie has been nice in that respect. It’s more like, “you struggling?” “yup.” “Oh hey, me too.”

I began this job in May so it’s been about seven months on the job. Needless to say, there are times when it feels like I’ve spent a lot of time working but don’t have a lot to show for it. That’s my self-efficacy monster to wrestle with. Knowing I have a colleague who also feels that way softens the blow a little bit. Neither of us have gone up for any external funding yet. Hell, I just moved into an office around Thanksgiving. Can I report that?

The colleague who was nice enough to give me the tutorial-she also got a tutorial on hers from a tenured member of the department since she’s going up for tenure this year. See how this works? You never know when you’re going to need a good colleague to show you the ropes.

As I work through this first year of the process, I’m humbled by what I have done, by what I haven’t done yet, and by my colleagues. I cannot stress the importance of having good colleagues who are willing to take a few minutes of their day and help me out. Willing to admit they’re struggling or when they’ve figured something out and are willing to show me has been an invaluable asset to me. Small? Yes. Important? Absolutely.

I have continued to be overjoyed to be back in agriculture. I know I’ve discussed it here before but this would NOT have happened in my old appointment. It just wouldn’t have. As much as I know that my job is just my job, it’s also important to me to be happy, to be able to be social, and to feel like an equal member of the faculty. I do feel that way now. It’s not just getting help on my annual report, it’s small things like joining the other faculty for a happy hour, engaging with them over casual conversation, and not worrying that every little thing I might say is being put under a microscope-there’s room for error. HBR ran a piece about how your colleagues should be like good neighbors, willing to lend a hand, a proverbial cup of sugar, but also know you’d reciprocate if ever asked. It just so happens that I brought back some NY goods for one of my colleagues as a kindness. I didn’t have to, but I wanted too. Who doesn’t appreciate good maple syrup? Pancakes for everyone!

If my car broke down on the side of the road and I had to call one of these folks for a ride, I think they would answer the phone AND also come get me if I asked. I hadn’t had that feeling of collegial security since 2011. It feels pretty good.

 

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