Tag Archives: highered

How I Know it’s the End of the Semester…

I put face moisturizer in my hair one day and the hair product on my face and then walked around thinking, “why is my hair so damn greasy? why is the smell so strong near my nose?”

It’s the end of another semester folks…and I for one could not be more pleased. Or tired. Or burned out. I get this way every semester and everyone I know starts walking around like zombie’s with glazed eyes, stress eating their feeling to fill the void, and barely functioning.

A friend on fb posted:

“I just put deodorant on over my shirt.”

Hence, the replies followed….

“I once spit a mouthful of water into a towel rather than the sink.”

“I notice that my breath is minty, my teeth feel clean, and say to myself–aloud–“Oh. I must have brushed my teeth” without irony and with enormous satisfaction.”

“Stood in front of my office door for much, much longer than warranted while trying to unlock it with my truck key… the electronic, “press button to unlock” part.”

Cheers to the last push to the imaginary finish line or very obvious one: commencement.

May your grades be easy, your students follow directions, and you reclaim your inbox, your life, and your laundry pile!

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Taking the Time When You Need It

Taking Time When You Need It {New Faculty}

I’ll admit it: I sat by the pool and went swimming this afternoon while the grad student I brought with me is doing stats homework. Amount of guilt I feel: NONE. I did that time. I earned an hour of pool time to swim laps.

The grad student and I traveled together to a three day conference in sunny FL. I am more excited to bust out my sandals than to sit in three days of meetings (oops, i was honest) but honestly, anywhere warmer and nicer is welcome for me. The temp was 83 when we flew in, a slight breeze, and only moderate humidity. Um, hello FL, I love you in March.

Back to my point. I feel zero guilt at present. I did read an abstract that a student texted me about because it’s due and I wanted to view it, but other than that, zero work today. ZERO. Why? Because as much as I know there’s always more work to do, today I give myself permission to: fly, eat, swim, lounge watching the NCAA tourney, and whatever else I want. I might even take myself out for a cocktail later. I know we just came off spring break, I’m not an idiot, but I also know I will spend the next three days solid being “on” and my introvert personality is already coping with this fact. And by coping I mean “panicking” in case you were wondering.

Due to my nature of planning, I knew I had to plan in some down time for myself. The week was productive, fruitful, and busy as always but there was no down time built in. I did this to myself but also knew it would be a doozy of a week after break.

So, to make a long story short: I’m taking the time because I need it and you should too!

Listen to your inner monologue and respect it.

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The Freedom to Think

OUTOFTHEBOX

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My sister was in town for work and we hooked up for dinner. Less than an hour from my place, it was no trouble at all. The food: amazing. The drinks: excellent. The company: WHINY!!!

It was great to see her, meet her colleagues, and enjoy some great food, drinks, and a whole lotta WHINE!!! I didn’t order near enough cheese to accompany the onslaught of negativity that I faced. For almost two hours: they complained. (yes, i realize we’re all whiny pants now and again, but i’m going somewhere w this, bear w me).

  • About work.
  • About people AT work.
  • About life AT work.
  • About everything work related.

Don’t get me wrong, it was great to see my sister and I’m glad we could get together, but as I sat there listening to each of them air their grievances FOR ALMOST TWO HOURS, I began to wane….it made me think about my job and my work and how I tell people about it.

 

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As academics we have the luxury of being able to think about what we want, research what interests us (most of the time), and discuss our platform with our students, and keep moving forward. Yes, there are guidelines and time frames. Yes, there’s a mountain of expectations, increased assessment, and a host of other parasitic like expectations, but it’s really nice to be able to go to work and do something that I find value in each and every day.

I’ll play my own devil’s advocate here and say maybe they just needed to air it out for a bit, but it got so daunting, I couldn’t wait for the meal to finish. My sister is in HR and there’s a mountain of rules and regulations to follow that I just don’t have to deal with. I grew so impatient that I flagged down the server to start the process of splitting the check just so speed up the process.

As summer comes upon us and we all trudge through the last of the grading, celebrate with our students at commencement, and wave goodbye to the students so we can enjoy some summer, it’s important that we take a moment to celebrate one of the most important aspects of our profession:

 The freedom to think.

As I sat there and listened to my sister and her colleagues I was very thankful for the ability to stretch my brain space each day. I continue to be thankful to have earned my education and have support from many areas of my life to pursue things that make me personally and professionally satisfied.

As you wade through the final weeks of your semester, hopefully you can find a moment to be thankful for the freedom to think.

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Reality Check: Spring Social Media Clean Up

Spring Social Media Cleaning | New Faculty

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‘Tis the season! The hiring season is upon us! I see finely dressed students on campus for greek life events, but more importantly:

  • career fairs
  • internships
  • interview season!!!!!

I was eating cupcakes with a faculty friend and we were joking about how ridiculous we probably looked shoving cupcake into our piehole at lightening speed. We decided that perhaps not really a social media moment–a ‘real life’ moment for sure, but nothing that was really worthy of an instagram. We started swapping stories of some of our students (former & current) and their desire to ‘connect’ with us over social media. It turned into a “who’s worse” kind of conversation and we both had some dousy’s to share. I don’t know if a winner was ever declared–(is there ever really a winner in these?)–but we did determine a few things:

  • there really should be an app that screens your pics before posting.
  • most apps should automatically be shut down after 11 p.m. to help this.
  • there should be some sort of ‘screen’ prompt – “are you SURE you want to post this?”
  • when in doubt, just don’t….

As we sprint towards Spring and you may be on the job market, consider your social media presence. Clean it up, take it down, deactivate it. Job prep doesn’t just involve making sure your business suit is clean and your job talk is prepped, it now means making sure our online presence is also tight. If you keep a website, blog, twitter, instagram, facebook, vine, snapchat, linkedin, etc… update them, clean them up, change your preferences for privacy if you’re concerned, make sure that profile picture fairly represents the “you” that you want out there for the public to see.

As a former web designer and IT person, I can tell you this:

  • everything can be hacked
  • no one is 100% “private” anymore

So, do yourself a favor and spend some time cleaning it up this Spring. Like Spring cleaning, it can be fun to go through memories, therapeutic to purge some of the ones we’d like to forget, and can help us get our online presence in check with the presence we want to sell to potential employers. I find myself deactivating a few times a year, making sure my own search engine optimization is in check (what you see when you google yourself) and use services such as brandyourself.com to help me make sure people see what I want them, not the other way around.

You know people don’t usually go beyond page 2 or 3 in a google search, so spend a little time now and clean up your searches.  I know I’ve not always been studious about this and I do let it slip because I get busy with my real life presence and forget about my virtual presence. It’s one of the times I do appreciate an email from whatever service it is to say, “we haven’t seen you in a while, want to update us?” I usually do or at least click on my profile to make sure it still conveys the message I’m trying to send (awesome, hello???) 😉 I know the email reminders can be a bit tedious, but it does remind me to check myself on social media.

We’re not going back to web 1.0 anytime soon, so we might as well participate in our online presence. Take the time now that you’ve invested a few moments in reading this post and tidy up your online feeds. I have never heard anyone say, “i’m so bummed i lost 30 min cleaning up my social media.”

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Intellectual Property-Who’s Protecting Your Ideas?

Intellectual Property | New Faculty

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I’m hoping to generate some good conversation on this–whether in comments, on social media, etc…because intellectual property (IP) is something that has become very elusive and tricky over the past decade, particularly in academia, but also in industry. Here we go!

I got burned once. Maybe twice if you count grad school. I learned my lesson. Much like the old “hot stove” mantra, I shared an idea, only to find it be commandeered by a superior as “their own” shortly thereafter. It happened in grad school but I was much too naive to think about it. Or even notice it. But I wised up real quick on faculty. It also took me some time to react, process, and reflect on the fact that someone had poached me like an egg. That’s for another post since I feel like grad school was a scary blur still. One of my colleagues did it to me once after we’d met one-on-one and were discussing research. I had some hair brained, left field idea about “next steps” and the next thing I know, I’m hearing the boss say it to a group of PI’s on a conference call with NO mention of the fact it was my idea. Good grief. Lesson learned. I spoke up on the call, adding something like, “i’m glad we discussed that and it will work” and only then did the colleague give in and give me an ounce of credit. While I’m certainly not crying “big baby” here since we’re all adults, the point is that IP has become really fickle in our sue happy culture.

What do I do now? I wait. I keep the juicy or novel ideas that I have to myself when we’re one-on-one and wait to share them with at least one or two other people. Why? So I at least get credit. I haven’t cured cancer, but I deserve some credit, even if just another human saying, “that’s a good idea, let’s talk about how we would map that out for the next iteration” instead of swallowing my pride and remaining mute.

Intellectual property is so fickle. I can understand why people go to court, get IP patents, sue each other, and other measures to protect their ideas. I can also see why people are nuts! I had patent protection through my university for a year while we evaluated if the idea was patent worthy. The university dropped it so we didn’t pursue it due to financial constraints (AKA: we didn’t have the money to front) but it was sort of nice to know that Texas Instruments was all over our talks at a conference….until they came out w/ a similar product. Their R&D has a lot more steam behind it than I did as a grad student.

The big question is: what do you do? How much do you share? What if it’s your best idea and you lay it all on the table for an interview but don’t land the job knowing that another faculty can just pick up with your idea and run? It’s tough to watch your best ideas or work go abandoned or worse yet: totally butchered.

Intellectual property has heated up over the past decade and so has the boom of patents and other protective services offered by the government and private agencies. Apple and some of the big players register dozens to hundreds of patents each week and are a well oiled machine with bottomless pockets to pay the fees, R&D that can bust a move, and all of their ducks are in a row in this case. How can someone like you (or me) make sure their voice is heard, their idea can grow, and if we’re using agriculture terms here: get fertilized, nurtured, and fed what it needs to go from an idea to a fully bloomed flower? (or tomato, or ear of corn….).

As a new faculty and grad student, it can be really intimidating to share and get burned. Learn from my mistakes readers: protect yourself. You don’t need thousands of dollars or the late Steve Jobs on your team, but sometimes, getting credit and giving credit where it’s due can often make someone feel empowered enough to keep going. Give credit to yourself, get a little pat on the back from people who are on “team _____” and if you need, go big, be bold with those ideas. Rarely has anyone ever spit something out of their mouth or thought from their brain that didn’t get at least another thought or a few minutes from colleagues.

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Death by Chocolate? How About Death by Meeting?

Managing Meetings | New Faculty

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As a new faculty, everyone wants you. They want to meet with you. They want your time, they want your ideas, they want you physically to be in their presence  they want you virtually, they want you……and all I wanted to do was crawl in a hole of survival to make it from Monday-Friday in one piece. Being new to faculty life can be the ultimate high and the ultimate low for the first year. There are countless opportunities for service, new research, teaching, advising, and social opportunities. If you’re like me, by Thursday night, you need a nap that lasts 12 hours, and another half day of couch/coffee to recover for the following week. Socializing has moved to the bottom of the list.  In fact, I’m the woman who says, “One drink” and I actually mean it.

Since returning to academia after being “out there,” I’ve grown to hate meetings. I have found a direct correlation to my feelings about meetings to the amount of coffee or sweets I consume.  I really hate them. They make me want to stab myself in the eye with a pencil. I even hate things that feel like meetings but have some random other nugget like “let’s get coffee and chat” attached to them.

I had started a post a long time ago about how much I hated meetings and incidentally, HBR ran a piece about why meetings suck and I jumped on board and combined some posts. HBR wanted their readers to know that meetings suck. I’m here to affirm that they suck in academia too. Some days, there’s nothing like a whole bunch of educated windbags all with egos the size of California to just rub your day the wrong way (CA, i love you). Other days, wonderful things happen in meetings, true collaboration takes place, and you walk out feeling like, “hell yeah, let’s rock this puppy!” Unfortunately, my ratio of “omg, i wantodie” is much larger than “hell yeah, let’s do it!” and it’s usually because the meetings lack leadership, focus, and goals.

I’ve stopped going to meetings unless I know it’s something I need to do. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t jumped ship. I stil have my weekly set of meetings, but I’ve started to plan more diligently about them:

  • I plan them (or as many as I can) on the same day. I already feel like they’re a time suck, so why not just get them all out of the way. 
  • I set clear guidelines with the people I’m meeting with. “I have one hour to dedicate to this.” It might sound a little bitchy, but you know what? We’re all busy and unless it’s some barn burning research going on, I’ve got an hour for you and that’s it. If you can’t spit it out in an hour, then you need to get your shit together and communicate. 
  • I walk out. Yup–I do it. If it’s cutting into my time, it’s not productive, and I think it’s draining my day, I excuse myself. I usually leave half hr. gaps between meetings in order to travel or clear my head, but sometimes, I just leave a really unproductive one and move on. Even if I don’t have another appointment, I just leave.
  • I quit apologizing for turning someone down. If it’s something I want to do, I reschedule, but sometimes, I simply say, “thanks but no thanks” and move on.
  • I’ve started saying no. My mantra of being less generous with my time is going well, three months in, and I’ve gone to a few meetings and come out thinking, “well, what the hell did i just do that for?” If I can’t come up with a good reason, I don’t go back. I don’t care how good the snacks are. Odds are, I can make something better anyway. The projects I can think of that I walked away from aren’t really causing me to lose sleep, nor am I filled with regret about backing out. 
  • I’ve stopped taking most meetings later in the week. I’m pooped. The odds that I say or do something totally dumb increases. Is there still an occasional Friday afternoon meeting that can’t be avoided, sure. But for the most part, I’ve started to schedule my calendar to avoid those later afternoon, late week meetings. 

When I’m the one asking for a meeting, I do the following (grad students, listen/read up!!!)

  • I send an agenda–sometimes it’s detailed, sometimes it’s bullet points
  • I send any supporting documentation that needs to be discussed or reviewed.
  • I stipulate a time frame.
  • I’m on time, even if no one else is.
  • I end on time. (or early)
  • I don’t overdo the small talk. We’ve got shit to do.
  • I dominate to steer the conversation if I need too.
  • I’m not afraid to wrap things up and/or follow up via email if there are unresolved items. Sometimes, you are doing good work and you do run out of time, take it to technology to help you out, but don’t be annoying. 
  • I keep notes for later. If it is a good meeting and there’s a lot of good stuff going on, I need to revisit it. Others will also want a synopsis as well, this is a great way to help your brain recall it and others will appreciate it.
  • I stay off technology (unless it’s via skype) meaning, no emailing, facebooking, etc…I wanted an hour from you, I’m going to be respectful of it.

What would you add or delete to the list? How would you tell other new faculty or grad students to begin managing their meeting mantra now before it gets ahead of them like laundry? How do you deal with the time suck part of your professional life that can also be called “meetings?”

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“Work Smarter Not Harder”

Work Smarter Not Harder | New Faculty

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When I was in grad school, one of my committee members told me to “work smarter, not harder” on some things. Apparently, I was fluttering about like a wild chicken at the time. I took those words to heart and began to think about how I could “get it all done” and still maintain some sanity. I was not being wise with my time and quite frankly, I was stressing myself out more than anyone was putting pressure on me. I cried and broke down at least once per semester. I remember calling home in tears wailing more than once. My health suffered, I gained weight. Grad school taught me what being isolated was, even after finishing, it took about a year to begin to feel ‘normal’ again, like an integrated citizen.

I received an email from a graduate student a few weeks ago (and again today). Both were asking if the pace and emotional turmoil of grad school ever subsided. Sadly, the frenetic pace of it does not, but there were lots of things I would recommend, like working smarter, not harder. Carving out time, taking emotional and physical care of yourself, and finding people outside of your discipline that can climb on board “team _____” to be your support network.

The same rings true for new faculty. I spent the first portion of year one running around like a nut, but this time: I had things under control mentally and I had learned to go with the flow a bit better. It was still crazy for about four months before it did calm down in many ways. It was important for me to learn to cope. I had a support network, and I had a better feel for my identity as a researcher and scholar. There are still days when I’m a ‘hot mess’ and other days where nothing goes “right” and I’m back to square one, but I am learning how to manage, how to adjust, and how to stand my ground as a professional.

I follow Tony Schwartz and his piece that ran in the NYT resonated with me for many reasons.

“Our basic idea is that the energy employees bring to their jobs is far more important in terms of the value of their work than is the number of hours they work. By managing energy more skillfully, it’s possible to get more done, in less time, more sustainably. In a decade, no one has ever chosen to leave the company.”

Today, I would consider my energy input for my job high and consistent. I DON’T work 16 hour days or FEEL like I have too. Quite frankly, I don’t think I could. Brain drain takes over within a few hours and I have to go do something else. I also know that I will ultimately have to go out to collect data, losing hours that I could be reading or writing, so I have to be smarter about how I work, where I work, and when I work.

Today, I am still a morning person. I do my best thinking during the morning hours. I capitalize on this and am up early going through a quick check of email, answering anything pressing, but then get to work on the ‘big thinking’ task(s) of the day. Working smarter, not harder has enabled me to fit it all in and a mid day work out many days of the week.

I was not managing my energy very well in grad school. It caused me to get crazy mentally and emotionally. I had break downs. I cried. I was a hot mess. The first few months I was on faculty were also crazy, more because of work than anything, but I found myself also struggling cognitively to make the jump from student to faculty. It did take time. I’m there now, but it was a journey. For any grad students reading this post, I promise you’ll feel like a colleague before too long!

“Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity.”

I work really well for about an hour at a time and then it’s time to do something else for a few minutes. Working from home many days of the week, it can be something as simple as changing laundry over, putting dishes away, unloading the dishwasher, or some other mundane task. These tasks only take a few minutes but it’s just long enough to redirect my energy, clear my brain, and reboot my thinking.

There are some tasks that I can only do for an hour and then I become frustrated so this is a great way to maximize my thinking. I know that if I can do something for an hour, I can move on. There’s always times that I may not have the luxury, but I do try to plan ahead to make life easier when things do get busy.

“More and more of us find ourselves unable to juggle overwhelming demands and maintain a seemingly unsustainable pace. Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less. A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal — including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations — boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.”

I’ve started going to bed earlier, about 15 minutes. Not much earlier but it’s making a difference. I’ve started to consciously stop using technology before bed, and NOT going to the office. It drains me. I went yesterday for about four hours and could not wait to leave! I don’t know if it’s the environment or aura the place gives off, but I looked forward to heading to my afternoon meetings. Working from home allows me the ultimate in flexibility and I still work very well. I’ve started to spend Friday mornings at a coffee shop. I have no idea why I like it, but I do so I’ll keep doing it. Because I work from home, I also work out late morning/lunch time when my brain needs the boost.

As a new faculty or grad student, it’s imperative that we learn how to be more efficient to maintain our sanity and contribute positively to our longevity. Burn out is still very high and staying the course can be difficult, moreso today than other years due to increased stress in funding and other politics. By learning how to work smarter, not harder, I’m still maintaining productivity without sacrificing my sanity. There will always be times when things just get ahead of me or when things get super busy, but as long as I’m not on survival mode every day, I think I’m better off.

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Dear Arne Duncan, Let’s Talk

Dear Arne Duncan | New Faculty

Dear Arne Duncan,

I’m an educator. And I’m having a helluva time these days. I spent my years in the public sector of education. I pursued my terminal degree in the name of the student (trust me, i’m not getting rich, in fact, can we also talk about the student loan program too?), and I’m drowning. I’m not alone and I think it’s time for you and your colleagues in Washington to ante up and start listening. Another standardized test isn’t listening, it’s crap. I believe that every child can learn. I respect you, the President, and education, but I’m having a helluva time slapping on my smile every day. Let me elaborate:

I feel uncertain for a variety of reasons these days. I think my 30’s have me coming to terms with the fact that I am disposable. No, this is not a self-deprecating post at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. As we look at the changes in the economy, the diminishing funding for higher education and education as a whole, and then pair that with the fact that many of my readers have invested their passion, their love, and their careers in educating students and investing in our youth, it’s hard not to feel disposable. This also adds onto the fact that our parents don’t teach their children to respect education and our public school teachers are coming under increasing pressure to “do it all” from educate to teach manners, respect, discipline, and in some cases–all out combat, to ‘do their jobs’ each day. It’s truly becoming exhausting for all of us.

To play my own devil’s advocate, perhaps we had become too comfortable. Perhaps a little stress is good. A little uncertainty keeps us on our toes and striving for greatness (if you will) in many cases. But lately, it’s gone past stress for productivity and seems more and more like we’re all first year teachers in “survival” mode every day. It’s not rewarding, it’s soul sucking. The “teachable moments” are becoming farther and fewer in between, and some of the joy has been sucked out. We don’t support education or its’ educators anymore. We don’t mentor young teachers, we give them more work, we give them more bubble sheets, we give them no respect. Higher ed is pushing for massive numbers of students but getting rid of faculty to teach, conduct research, and simply saying “teach more, advise more students, we’re building more dorms, and while you’re at it, get us a grant so we can take over half of it back in overhead.” I know they don’t say it like that, but they say it. My campus is pushing to add 10,000 more students over the next five years and they’re proud they’ve decreased the number of TT track faculty by 40% as a result. Adjuncts (who do the ultimate work) will fill those roles with no certain futures and will fly by the seat of their pants each semester based on enrollment. Don’t you want all faculty from TT to adjunct to worry about great teaching instead of the next grant, the next paycheck, or if they’ll get fired because their sections aren’t filled to capacity?

To sum it up: this is intolerable. We need an educated workforce to do the 21st century jobs but no one wants to pay or can afford to train them. Employers don’t have the manpower or infrastructure to train all of their own employees and they simply don’t want too. Universities are losing ground and funding quickly, competition for grants is increasing ten fold, and each election season brings more stress and anxiety as a result. Public education (pre-k-12) has become a massive sinkhole and our students, our children, our future–are paying the price. We have great teachers in those buildings but they are ruled by tests, SOL’s, and bubble sheets. They no longer teach, they test. They no longer inspire, they memorize. They no longer have passion, their retention is down from seven years to five years at most before our system burns them out and they look elsewhere for work. I’m one of those burn outs. I cared so much that I exhausted myself in five years. I sacrificed my marriage because of my passion and I paid the ultimate price. It was my choice, but the notion that I had to give every last drop I had did not just come from my innate sense of love for students, it came from my students’ parents, my administrators, and the standards that your office and my state government sent to my school.

I challenge you today, to start thinking about education in our country differently. You claim to see it every day. You say you have your hand on the pulse. You claim that job skills are important but there has been nothing done to educate our students on how to handle themselves professionally. Schools are giving out “top bubble sheet” awards.  Arne Duncan, if you ever read this post, call me, email me. Send me a fb message. Pull out your big data and let’s talk. I promise I can hang with the lingo. I do “big data” and I’ll tell you that the majority of our profession (including your office) doesn’t look at big data the way its’ meant to be read. Let’s talk students. I’ve taught the “rich kids” and the kids whose parents won’t buy their kid glasses because they’re too much money. Let’s talk workforce. Let’s talk CTE and the arts. I love them both. A child should be educated holistically to learn that each subject area compliments another and they’re not separate entities. Let’s stop racing to the top. It’s setting our kids and teachers up for failure. Education is not a race, it’s a marathon. You should know that. I know my colleagues and I do.

Let’s hang Arne. I’ll buy the coffee.

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