Tag Archives: networking

All My Rowdy Friends Go Conferencing With Me

All My Rowdy Friends Go Conferencing With Me {New Faculty}

I knew it! All this time I’d been waiting….attending….observing….being creepy….and now it’s happened. My friends and academia are in a “relationship” and my friends are my conference buddies and vice versa. It was only a matter of time really. The longer you spend in a field, the more people you meet. The more people you meet, the more people you’re bound to run in over and over again until out of sheer force of introvert awkwardness, you start a conversation.

My good friend from undergrad and I took similar yet different paths through life and low and behold, she’s on faculty too. In her first year, her university sent her to the same conference that a lot of my colleagues and I are attending. Instead of riding in the collective van, she and I rode down together to have a fun and networking-laden conference. It was a great time, but let’s not forget, it’s still four solid days of socializing non-stop with each other and all of the folks at the conference. Being the good adults that we are, we made it clear it was ok to be quiet.

Overall, it’s been really  nice seeing and getting to know folks in my profession over the last year. Not only do I have a better handle on what’s going on in our profession, but I have a better idea of some of the players at the table. These things give me a better idea as to what kind of research folks are doing and what kind of research I want to be doing. I haven’t got my mind wrapped around all of the things yet, but as the two major conferences for my field are now wrapped up, it’s time to marinate on some of those things and begin to formulate a plan for my professional road.

Conferences are a great way to connect with old friends, meet new ones, share meals at amazing places you can’t find where you live, and network for days. It’s always cool to run into people from your old alma mater(s) and catch up about what’s happening in and outside of work time. It’s fun for me now to banter with grad students (especially the ones that thing they’re REALLY smart) and you can spot them a mile away, which is sort of adorable in an “aawwww, there’s a baby fawn” kind of way.

One of my undergraduate researchers attended to present her work as well, it was her last hurrah with me and she’s off to grad school in a few weeks. It was really nice to see her, spend some time with her, and stand back and have a “super proud” advising moment as she talked the talk with faculty  about her research. **sniff, sniff**

Conferences can be as good as you make them. The end. Attend the sessions, figure out what interests you, and go forth and conference!

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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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Using Your Network

Using Your Network | New Faculty

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After a few years on planet earth, you meet some people. You go to college. You meet some people. You move once or twice. You meet some more people. You change jobs/professions. You meet some more people.

Twenty years later: you know quite a few people. Introvert or extrovert, you just meet people!

As a newer faculty member trying to rework a course for fall, I started really thinking about all the people I knew and know. I was looking to supplement my online course with video’s, shorter documentaries, and anything that would serve as a “think tank” piece to get discussion going among the students as a way to engage with them without physically seeing them.

I began drilling down who I knew and what their area of expertise was. As I did this, I was pleasantly surprised by the people who I’d crossed paths in life with and how many I had the good fortune of knowing. These folks came from all parts of my life from a friend from childhood to people I’d worked with during my days with FFA and 4-H, to grad school cohort friends, and current colleagues in my faculty life. The best part was that I still keep in touch with many of these folks. Whether it’s by social media, emails, or actual face-to-face time, keeping these ties open has been important for me on many levels. Sure, I don’t speak to these people as much as I’d like to and see some even less frequently, but it’s nice to know that my parents urge to join clubs, set high goals, and earn my education are paying off even if it did take 15 years to get a ROI from it all.

As a young faculty member or grad student, you’re in the same boat. I cannot stress the importance of networking enough, building professional and personal relationships, and being mindful of what you’re doing and where you’re doing it. I know I’ve written before about being under the microscope all of the time and while being human means making mistakes, it’s important that people see you at your best and sometimes you’re worst.

I don’t know if all of my contacts will say yes to a guest video or audio cast, but it was really nice to be able to reach out to folks, personalize a few lines of an email and then make my request. As I put the finishing touches on this post, I sent out 10 emails and have had seven, yes SEVEN come back and say they’d like to help me out. In stats speak: that’s pretty darn good! It made me see how vast a network I’ve been able to set up and I hope those people feel the same way when they saw my name drop into their inboxes.

As you navigate the first few years of your faculty career, it’s important to reach out to your network to help give you a boost. You know you’ve helped others before and it’s only kind to return the favor. I made sure to ask for a manageable commitment, didn’t get too heavy handed with my request, and set firm expectations for deadlines so I can get things up for my upcoming class. I always tell my students, “you never know when you’ll come across someone in life again,” so make sure you’re representing yourself the way you want to be remembered for the future. The first few years on faculty are fraught with distractions, requests, and time management issues so why not give yourself a break and lean on the folks you can count on? I’m ever so grateful to have seven “yes’s” this evening and was again reminded how wonderful it is to be back in agriculture.

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Knowing All the People

Knowing All the People | New Faculty

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Sometimes when I’m talking to my boss or other more seasoned colleagues, I find myself green with envy.

They know ALL the people…..

But, I have to remind myself of one very important thing:

they’re old & they’ve been riding this horse a lot longer than I have!

I don’t mean old like “ancient” or “stone age” but old in the sense that they’ve simply been on this journey for 15+ more years than I have. Rome wasn’t build in a day. Relax…have patience….

I’m an introvert so meeting people can be painful for me. Not “stabbing in the eye” kind of pain, but it’s not on my top 5 list on most days….

As a young faculty member, building your network can seem like a daunting task. Knowing yourself and your personality are the first (and probably most important) things in order to help you build your network without “stabbing” yourself in the eye later.

I attended a LARGEEEE conference last summer. It was thousands of people and if we’re being honest: was painful for me. There were some organized events, but for the most part, it was a free-for-all after the day ended. It was so big that everyone just scattered and set in a large city, which was great for going out and checking out new restaurants, but terrible for networking. I socialized but it was with people who I already knew. No one new. On the networking scale of 1 to 10, it was a -84 for me.

Scaling back my expectations and the size of the crowd, I’ve been invited to several STEM related events over the past few months here at big box U and I’ve done much better. The size of the crowd is key for me because I feel like I can work the room without feeling like it’s working me over. I also know one or two people in the room (generally) so I can say hello to them, which leads to the old, “do you know my colleague……?” This often leads to an introduction and a connection. Much more my style.

As a young faculty member who is balancing every possible expectation, it’s ok to stand back, evaluate the crowd, and decide on a plan of attack. Knowing how we work socially is the most important aspect of the plan so don’t deny yourself before entering the hunger games of networking. You might like the challenge of taking on a room of 200, or you may covet a room of 20, either is fine.

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