Tag Archives: students

Baby Gonna Cry?

Baby Gonna Cry? | New Faculty

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There seems to be something happening around me lately. It’s the fourth full week of classes around here and I think I may have to run to the store and buy a box of: DIAPERS.

This also goes along with my  “boundary talk” because quite frankly, if another grad student looks at me and goes, “wwwaaahhhhh, i’m working so hard…..wwaaahhhh,” I might reach out and touch their life. Or their head w/ a ‘thump’ like those ‘Should’ve Had a V8 commercials.’

I’m usually pretty good at brushing them off, smiling, and saying things like, “I’m sure you’re doing great” and “welcome to graduate school,” but last week was a test for me. Mind you, the grad students that know me well know that they better be pretty constructive if they’re going to complain and at least ask for help before they begin whining, but now that I think about it, none of the grad students (or undergrads) that I have have complained this week to me. Not once. I don’t think it’s because I’m any better or worse of a faculty member or human being, but when hand selecting these students, they knew what they signed up for. There was no ‘sugar coating’ with any of them.

I had the opportunity to chat at length with a grad student this summer who thought he was pretty slick. He’d been funded but had dodged his faculty employer most of the summer with a lot of travel and not much work. He thought he was funny, ingenious, and quite frankly, had ‘worked the system.’ I saw this grad student not too long ago.

WHO’S WORKIN’ WHO NOW SUCKAAAAAA????

His faculty employer figured him out, paid him, and then doubled (if not tripled) his work load this fall. And you know what: the grad student is doing it because he knew he was WRONG for skirting his summer responsibilities. His over-blown ego, breezy non-chalant attitude about how he thought he was soooo smart, and sense of entitlement had quickly washed away and had been replaced by a fresh layer of work, work, and KARMA. I know his faculty member–they’re no slouch, I knew who’d win that battle….faculty: 1, student: 0.

I also love the grad students who take to social media to air their laundry. HELLO! If you’ve got time to complain on facebook, you need more work. Some of these students don’t even try to take a light hearted approach, they just complain. What did you think was going to happen? Who do you think is watching you on social media? Get it together, be professional for a moment and once again: get to work!

Dear grad students, grad school is tough. It’s going to test you mentally, physically, and emotionally. If you’d wanted an ‘easier gig,’ I’d suggest the Qwickie Mart selling slurpees. Stop complaining and get to work! The end.

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That’s Life

That's Life | New Faculty

I’ve found myself staring longingly at facebook and other social media this summer along with the dozens of blogs I subscribe to via feedly and bloglovin and I’ve determined one thing:

we’re making life look too pretty for our kids

We post these beautiful photos of food, scenery, family, and our vacations but never the stack of dirty dishes, crying children, the photo where our finger was in the field of the photo, or the 2847 hours it took to plan, book, and organize for the ‘perfect’ vacation.

That's Life | New Faculty

As I’ve gone on my own journey this summer, I’ve had to stop looking so longingly at these photos and put things into perspective.Behind that beautiful peach cobbler is a stack of pits, containers of ingredients, and likely some food props. Behind the scenery is probably some jerk who littered, behind those family photos are probably some tears (we won’t know from who-the parents orthe kids or both), and behind that vacation photo set is a large headache as someone planned it trying to offer their family a maximum experience in only a few short days. I’m not trying to rain on everyone’s parade, but I see larger implications for our future.

I’m an “adult.” I use the ” because I’m mostly fully formed but always a work in progress. I can think about that perfect situation, like a wedding, and know that it took an army of people to get that bride and groom or bride and bride or groom and groom down that aisle and onto their life. It did not happen in the ‘best 100 photos’ that they purchased from a photography service. If we don’t like it, we simply delete it, but that’s not how life works. We make mistakes, big and small, and instead of erasing it from our mind-we have to deal with it in order to grow.

I found myself super tired last week after personal and professional obligations had me burning life at both ends and last night: I crashed. I wanted nothing more than to veg out on my couch, watch some Netflix, and talk to my dad on the phone, since I’d been too busy to do it all week.

And then, I checked my phone. I’d been ‘invited’ to an event on facebook. I liked the people hosting it, it looked fun, and I knew I’d probably have a good time.

But I didn’t go.

I was just too pooped.

I’m taking the time to write this post and share it because I think our culture has trained us and more importantly, our children, that unless something is always perfect, fun, or shiny- it’s not worth sharing. We’ve been conditioned to always feel like we need to live a life competing against the “jones” but they’ve gone from our neighbors next door to 1,000 friends, connections, and otherwise virtual humans. Every time I log into a social media outlet, I see people having fun (which is great) and when I see someone who’s having a bad day, I don’t want to see it. It’s happened to me too! I’m so guilty!

This busy week I’m referring to involved doing something really unpleasant, I had to get police involved, and it’s not something that I would deem ‘fridge worthy’ for the public to see, but it is part of my life and it did happen.

As bloggers and humans, it’s ok to share some of the ‘messy stuff’ from time-to-time as long as it doesn’t violate your personal/private space. People who read you will appreciate it because it probably happened to more than half of your audience due to this thing I call “being human” which none of us seem to have the ability to escape. If we choose our words carefully, others can learn and grow.

That's Life | New Faculty

I’ll still be posting photos, recipes, and the like, but I might take a post a month and discuss things that DON’T make for the perfect pie because let’s face it:

it’s the messy stuff that makes a life too.

ps: all the photos are of my ‘life’ AKA: my mostly organized but somewhat disorganized house–my unmade bed, my tools, and my closet–the photos are mostly blurry, poor quality and not that great, but they show me one thing: LIFE!

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Stop Being so Nice

Stop Being So Nice | New Faculty

 

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I’ve got a grad student who is a real tool. He’s not mine (thankfully) but someone else’s who I take to collect data. The super glamorous part of my job, NOT. This student has had a problem with me since day one. For reasons that I cannot fathom, he doesn’t seem to like women. No, that’s not an assumption, he’s got the balls, and was so bold to say it out loud. Then, he got pounced on by the other faculty.  Hello 1900, welcome back, I’ll go and bake some cookies…

I did the ‘wrong’ thing first. I tried to be nice to this character. DON’T MAKE THIS MISTAKE!! I didn’t know what his problem was so I tried to talk to him, make conversation, ask about his research. That got me no where. Then, I discovered that he didn’t like me due to the fact that I had ovaries. Now, if you want to hate on me because you don’t agree with my research or opinions, fine, you’ve got your platform, but because I’m a female–suck it kid. Suck it hard.

This fall (I took the summer to reflect and strategize), I quit being so god damned nice to this succubus of human. I greet all of my students, I mildly say hello to him. He needs things from me, I deliver minus the smile and warm pleasantries. He wants curbside service to his car from the van we drive, I dump all of the students closest to the dorms, where MY students typically reside and farthest away from HIS car in the commuter lot. He starts in about how great his program is one week and two weeks later he’s saying he’s going to be here another year because he is two years in with no prelims or data, I smirk from the drivers seat. My favorite interaction with him from this semester:

him: “can you drop me closer to G lot (parking)?”

me: “nope, i’m making one drop tonight, i have another mtg in half an hour & still have to return this vehicle.”

him: “i’m going to be late for a meeting if you don’t.”

me: “well, i guess you’ll just have to move a little faster then, thanks for your patience.”

It’s hard sometimes to be nice. I like students, I like kids, I like teaching, but I really detest assholes. My morning advantage from HBR came through and the short graphs hit a high note with me:

“Being liked is overrated,” writes Jessica Valenti in The Nation. She’s primarily writing about women — for whom likability is negatively correlated with success — but her advice is useful for the yes-men out there, too. Valenti, the founder of the blog Feministing, admits to wasting hours online responding to every commenter, giving equal time and attention to both the thoughtful people and the snarkiest trolls. “It pains me to think of what I could have achieved if I had that time back.”

When we adjust our behavior to be more likable — withholding our most deeply held opinions so as not to offend, agonizing over every bit of negative feedback, eventually “tempering our thoughts” as well as our words — we stunt our selves, our careers, our impact in the world. “The truth is that we don’t need everyone to like us,” she writes, “We need a few people to love us.”

I’ll give Valenti the last word: “Yes, the more successful you are — or the stronger, the more opinionated — the less you will be generally liked. All of a sudden people will think you’re too ‘braggy,’ too loud, too something. But the trade off is undoubtedly worth it. Power and authenticity are worth it.” It’s a piece worth “liking.”

I’ve had to work at being mean in general and I feel bad because my behaviors toward this student make the others suffer. I go out of my way to ask specific students how they are, what’s new with them, and generally work to avoid this student. The other thing that really annoys me, he doesn’t seem to grasp my name. I have a first name. I generally ask people to use it, the WHOLE name. If I wanted someone to shorten it, I would say, “just call me ______.” Generally, I say, “please call me_______ and what name do you like to be referred too?” It’s a pretty standard exchange. This dude, he just doesn’t get it. I’ve had the “please call me ______” talk with him about a half dozen times and out of pure spite, he can’t seem to muster my three syllable name. Not because he doesn’t know, but because he lacks the ability to see beyond his misogynistic ways. The best part is that I’m the phd in the crowd and he’s the one lamenting that his program will take a year longer because he produced so little his first two years as a grad student. Jokes on you dummy (channel Dennis from 30 Rock)!

So, this new faculty is seeking advice. How would you handle the current state of idiocy that is in front of me each week? Thankfully, it’s only one day a week, and each week I practice being as un-nice as possible. The correct people have been notified, the student was warned last year, but he still fails to see the big picture. Thoughts? Suggestions? Coping mechanisms? I’m done for the semester looking at him, but usually just have to smell his heavy cologne when he’s in the building 🙂

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Boys vs. Girls

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I am fortunate enough to have a great group of researchers under my wing this year. With the collaborative effort of my PI and I, we are herding like them jello on a hot day–it’s actually going a-ok for the moment and I’m pretty happy with how things are going. These researchers all happen to be females and so am I. The PI they work for is male. They get regular face time with me each week for several hours as we collect data, work in schools, and generally travel around. They get one hour a week with the PI for a weekly research meeting where it’s all business. As it should be.

The interesting part working with a group of females is that sometimes I feel like the male counterpart doesn’t quite know how to hang with us. It’s not weird or inappropriate, but minus the amount of facetime, he sticks to business. While I see the value in that, these undergraduates want to talk to someone. They want to be mentored. They want the human connection. Call it a generational thing if you want, but they thrive on interacting now that they’re comfortable. I stumbled across this article from HBR and it resonated and validated my thoughts. It’s not that the PI is a bad guy, he’s just not into the emotional stuff, he’s into research. And shouldn’t he be?

A few weeks ago during our weekly meeting, the PI was caught in another meeting that back logged his schedule. Instead of wasting the time or canceling, I sat down with the research team to check in, see how everyone was, and where the research was heading. After completing business, the students began to chat for a few minutes. I figured they would leave shortly as we were done, but they stayed with me for almost an hour. I was surprised by this initially, but once we started conversing, I was surprised by how fast the time went. Empathy and awareness of others is a quality that I don’t always associate myself with. I have learned to be better about empathizing with people as I’ve grown older, but it’s not my strong point. My PI is even less empathetic by nature, making me look like a sainted academic in some cases.

As we chatted, we started talking about future plans, careers, and other ‘girl talk’ which was pretty harmless. After the hour, one of my researchers looked at me and thanked me. I asked her why she was thanking me. Her reply was simple, “you took the time that no one else will right now. my family is overseas (military) and they’re not always available for these kinds of chats. you make me feel less crazy about graduating and not always knowing what I should do next.” I told her I was happy to listen and the team left.

The following week we were all crammed in a van heading out to collect data and one of my students said, “I have two questions, one related to research and one not related at all.”  I said, “ok, ask me the non-related one first.”  She asked me how I’d become such a good cook. She had made a couple recipes off of my other blog and said they were really good. Was she pandering? Brown nosing? Being genuine?  I was honest and said, “practice.” I then shared a bunch of stories about a temperamental oven I had once where I kept burning cakes. I took the time to share my failures before my accomplishments in the kitchen on purpose. By showing and telling these young ladies (and gentlemen in the van) that I had failed and burned things hundreds of times before I ever thought about blogging the very ‘best’ of my culinary work, I tried to tune into the fact that cooking could be like life or research. Not always perfect. By being authentic instead of flashing my bravado around about my latest kitchen creation, I hope that it displayed the fact that I am human. I then shared the fact that my ‘kitchen aid fund’ had been depleted because I needed some new tires on my car. Priorities people.

I enjoyed this paragraph quite a bit: “From an early age, men often overvalue their strengths, while women too frequently underrate theirs. In reality, we all struggle to feel a stable sense of value and self-worth. Men often defend against their doubts by moving to grandiosity and inflation, while women more frequently move to insecurity and deferral. Men seek more often to win, women to connect. So long as the path to power is connected to proving you’re bigger and badder, it’s no surprise that men have mostly prevailed.”

I see this time and time again. In myself, in my peers, and in my students in middle schools. They have the tools yet they undervalue their worth as an individual. When did this happen? Should I stop seeking to connect and move into the category where winning become paramount? As a new faculty, it can be extremely difficult to navigate power issues, politics, and stakeholders in your new professional circle.  Can it be as simple as boys vs. girls? Armed with this new knowledge, how do new faculty bridge the gap of gender and identity to create their own space in academia?  This is a tough set of questions for me and my brain.

How do you connect with students? Do you skip building relationships and move into productivity? How do you manage the expectations from all the parties who are invested in you?

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RUDE! How the Presidential Debate Affects Everyone

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Have you seen Mad TV?  Remember Bon Qui Qui?  She’s a bit rough around the edges, but she does make a good point.  When she screams “RUDE” and puts her hand up, the person who is acting at the burger joint if caught off guard for many reasons. As I watched those damn debates, all I wanted to do was jump into the stage where Obama and Romney were and slap their hands every time they were rude and scream in my best Bon Qui Qui voice, “RUDE.” Forget the comments about Big Bird, just the rudeness of both men. Perhaps a slap on the wrist wouldn’t have been effective, I would have paid a 3 year old with a gong to just continually bang on it when the men were being rude. That might be loud enough to shut them up. I actually quit listening to the content (it started to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher “wwaaahhhh, wahh, wah, wah, wah”) but instead starting focusing on how many times they insisted on being rude.

Why is it bothering me?  Because people watch this and then think, “this is how I should be behaving.”  It’s no secret that education as a whole gets less and less respect. Teachers are exhausted because of increasing standardized demands, having to basically raise their students in many cases, and continued battles with things that shouldn’t even be on the table like etiquette.  Higher education is no different anymore.  I overheard a grad student say he was becoming a college professor so no parents would bother him and I did LOL at him (oops) and then share with him the semesters that I had parents emailing me and calling my office phone because their son/daughter had not received an A in my class. What the what??? What happened to manners in general? Where did they go? Classroom civility has become an issue at the undergraduate level as students see others model bad behavior, they come to class with their ‘guns blazin’ and have no problems being disruptive, rude, and extremely confrontational on purpose.  While debate is healthy, getting in a peers or a professors face for a 9 a.m. class is not.

I had a conversation with PIC about the debates a few nights later and he commented that of all the news outlets he looked at (he’s a bit of a news junkie), not a single one mentioned the fact that both candidates were extremely rude to each other and to the moderator.  They were not respectful of one another or anyone they might be speaking too. Don’t get me started on content, I’ll get on a far-away tangent. People were critical of Jim Leherer as the moderator and while he might have done a better job commanding the two men, the bottom line was that neither of the candidates gave a s*^t about respecting Leherer. No one cared about the respect or lack thereof that the two candidates exhibited.  In the world we live in today, it seems the loudest mouth gets the crumbs and the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so when will being a polite or introverted person come back in style?  I, for one, can’t wait and it can’t come soon enough.

Education continues to face major put downs-not from lobbying groups, decreases in funding, or by bad press, but from PARENTS–perhaps the group that should be the biggest advocate for education of all kinds.  Instead of crapping all over your kids teacher or professor, sometimes it’s best to say nothing until you get the facts.  I don’t think parents do it on purpose all of the time, but I do recall that some of my hardest working students were the ones whose parents took two minutes to invest in their kids education. These were the parents who sent emails to check in, not attack. These were the parents who came to parent night just to be informed. These were the parents who volunteered to help, not scorn. Their only agenda was for their child and creating a positive educational environment, not sneaking around to dig up dirty dirt and then freak out every faculty in the building.

This trickle down even exists in higher ed.  Outside my office window I heard students discussing a professor they didn’t like and one said to the other, “if I don’t get the grade I want, I’ll just keep emailing and arguing with him (the professor) in class until he just changes it.” Hey you little brat, why don’t you try EARNING the grade you want first, then the argument will be null and void?  But that’s not how these young people think.  True learning and grades are often not directly correlated and today’s generation is having a tough time with that. They only see winning as the outcome. They LEARNED this behavior from somewhere though and odds are, it was their parents or from parents in their former peer group. This saddens and frustrates me to no end.

As a former public school teacher, I burned myself out and the rudeness of my students and parents was one of the contributing factors.  I had a student who announced to me on the first day of school that on December 13th he would no longer be in school.  He was dropping out.  Every person in his family dropped out of high school and he would be doing the same.  He was so PROUD to be quitting school and quite frankly, he made my life a daily hell when he did come to school until December because of his rudeness, lack of any kind of human respect, and because he knew his days were numbered and neither parent gave a shit, so why should he? A few years later, his younger brother graduated against amazing odds and not one of his parents attended his graduation. Out of four siblings in that family, he was the only one to earn his high school diploma and his parents couldn’t be bothered to attend.  Even if education wasn’t their priority in life, shouldn’t they support their son (first and foremost) and then support the institution that was working with him to get him to graduation day?  No, instead they emotionally beat their kids into thinking that education was worthless and the child that wanted to succeed, they shunned from their family. I’m sure they have good reasons but there is no excuse for allowing anyone to be as rude and disrespectful as that young man in my class was.  That goes into human decency and it is unacceptable.

I would insist that the two candidates clean up their acts for the next debate. If nothing else, stop being so damn rude. To each other, to the moderator, and to our country. Basic principles are still important and it’s important that as a first world country, as role models, and as decent human beings, they go back to the basic rules their moms and dads taught them. You don’t have to be a privileged child or a poor child to know that common etiquette is important and this ‘show’ we’ve been giving all of the other countries of the world is making us look like jerks.

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Creating Hype in Higher Ed

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The Apple announcement made me do some thinking. We wait, we buy tickets, we speculate about the newest iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, new iOS, and pine away as each detail is announced via live blog, feed, or better yet: we get one of those coveted tickets to the events that only happen twice a year.  How come higher education can’t be more like an Apple event?

You may be thinking that it sort of is and you’re right.  But let me go on this tyrade for a few minutes while I scarf my lunch before my next set of mtgs/student things….

College and a higher education used to be this sacred, amazing thing.  Now we’ve gone online, offline, asynchronous, synchronous, MOOC, Kahn Academy, rolling admissions, summer sessions, part time, full time, no time for any of it in the whole grand scheme of things.  The prestige of education has been sucked out due to a lot of factors, politics included.  If we want an educated workforce, that’s great, but what about the trades that don’t necessarily require an M.D. in order to fix my toilet but trade training in plumbing instead? Why aren’t apprenticeships and admissions to trades and other occupations kept under lock and key like the newest iPhone?  Why are these jobs looked down upon in many circles? I know I certainly can appreciate and will compensate whoever can cut my hair because I know I’d look like a fool if I tried to do it myself. That person did get special training and had to pay for it, so why do we marginalize their worth because they didn’t get their phd?

In order to create hype in higher education, it’s time to take a good and hard look at what we value.  Yes, we value an educated workforce, but no one is saying what kind of education.  I know that I value my ‘arsenal’ of people who I depend on to keep my life moving: the mechanic who works on my car, the stylist who keeps my ever curling/waving hair in check, the teachers who I work with, the students whose parents all did NOT go to college but wanted the best for their children, the dentist who keeps my pearly whites just that, and the folks who offer me service at my favorite grocery stores, restaurants, who brew my beer, make my wine, cut my cheese (hahahah-sorry), and all the folks who get my goods and service to me and ship them to others from me.  A whole plethora of people with different educations ranging from drop outs to advanced degrees keep each of us moving at the speed of business.  I value them equally so why can’t the rest of society?  Some of the smartest dumb people I know have advanced degrees and some of the dumbest smart people I know deliver my pizza.  I put equal value on them because I want my chiropractor to re-align my vertebrae and I like my pizza hot and fresh with the cheese evenly distributed.

Our education system needs to be like the newest Apple event: hyped up!  Instead of assuming everyone is going to college, it’s time to take a good, hard look at why we go to college.  Is it to ‘find ourselves’ by learning how to do a keg stand or is it to identify with our own identity in order to find something we are truly passionate about?  More and more, I hear students outside my window, on the bus, in line at the eateries, and everywhere bitching about their professor, their lack of funds from mom and dad, or the car that someone else bought them and I can’t help but think that this sense of entitlement that our society has come to know is becoming engrained in our children and will sadly trickle down.

Education is not a right past the 12th grade. The strike in Chicago is a whole other ball of wax, but it’s time we value those who educate us and the education system.  Creating hype might be the answer. It should be a big deal to get into college, much like the Target ad that ran during the Olympics and while we can joke about #ivykidproblems or #firstworldproblems, the bottom line is that education is a great gateway and instead of keg standing our way through four years, we should be taking it more seriously. Instead of opening access to everyone, making higher education more private (not privatized) might bring back some of that prestige to an education.  It breaks my heart to hear these entitled kids piss and moan about how mom/dad won’t drop another $200 into their bank account so they can buy liquor for the home game weekend while I know other students who are scraping every nickel they have to pay their own way. Trades could do the same thing.  I want my electrician to be certified, I want them to earn a fair wage, and I’m happy to pay it.  Something like my home should not be a highly negotiated thing if I’m getting electrocuted when I plug in my coffee maker.

If we continue to marginalize our education by dumping all over it, our future students will do the same.  Instead of this fantastic experience, it’s become this thing that ‘we HAVE to do’ instead of a privilege that we WANT to do. It’s no longer an honor to go to college, it’s turned into this spoiled child syndrome thing. Some may say I can stand on my little soapbox and say these things because I do have my college degrees, but hear me out. I was raised (very well I might add) by parents who did not both contain college degrees, so when did a degree become a measure of any kind of intelligence of gauge of future success?  Standardized testing has done much the same thing in our country and quite frankly, I hate standardized tests.

As a new faculty, it’s sometimes really tough to get my students excited about the fact that they are and will earn their degree because they see the world as a place where you have to have it, not as a privilege to earn it. It’s difficult to communicate the ideals that education is something special because society, employers, media, and everything else has watered it down.  I wouldn’t mind bringing some of the hype and prestige back into higher education so when I have kids in a billion years, a university education can be something so coveted and special that they think twice before ripping off their clothes, taking a bunch of photos, and posting them to whatever Facebook is in 2035.

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Shouldn’t You Be Flipping My Burger? The Big “D” in Academia

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My student is Hispanic.  Correction, he’s El Salvadorian.  I’ve discussed him before. He’s awesome.  No matter his skin color, he is one cool kid.  He and his mom arrived on the bus with all of his stuff at 4:30 a.m., went to my house, slept for a few hours, and then we made our way to campus with his belongings to check him into this dorm, get his financial aid done, check with the bursar, head to a big box store for random school supplies, and get his mom back on the bus back to NYC at 2:30 p.m. Trooper doesn’t describe these two people.  His mom wouldn’t get back to the city until the next afternoon.  My student and I finished the day by unloading/unpacking the rest of his room and I think we both crashed like the Exxon Valdez that night in our respective houses/dorm room.  I checked in with him the next day to see how he was and he was making friends, writing cover letters for part time jobs, and was on his way to get his computer set up for the university system.  He is a champion. Not for doing these things independently, but for enduring his move in.

While moving him in, we went to the lounge to set up his computer system and a man (a parent I assume) popped his head in and asked us, “aren’t you supposed to be flipping a burger for me?”  He made a point to walk through a closed door just to cause trouble. That takes balls. Big ones. With a giant helping of idiot on the side. I hope his child doesn’t model that behavior. We were shocked, I didn’t even respond and my student merely smiled and waved at him. Who the eff was that guy?  Why would anyone make a point to enter a room just to throw a racial slur?  I’m sure we could wax on this all day and I’m sure it would be a waste of time.  Needless to say, I was furious and I could not believe that within an hour of moving this student to campus, someone was throwing racist prose his way. Since he clearly came in to cause a stir, saying nothing was the best course of action in this case.  You may disagree but in that moment, arguing wouldn’t have accomplished anything, this man wanted to get a rise out of us. Not giving him one was the smartest thing to do at that time.

Discrimination in academia is something that I’ve been plagued with. In real life, I’m 100% Korean and was adopted when I was six months old.  I am an American citizen.  I can speak English.  I have a name you can probably pronounce and no, I don’t need to renew my I9 to be in this country.  My teeth are the same as anyone else’s and in case you were wondering, I am supposed to be here (although in blogger world there’s really no ‘here’ but that’s here nor there at this time).  Why the qualifiers?  Because since moving to XYZ university I have been asked on more than one occasion if I’m American, if I can speak English, if I have a name you can pronounce, and yes boys and girls, I was refused service at a dental office because of my skin color.  I overheard the hygienists in the hallway bickering about who was going to look at my perfect, white, not a cavity in sight teeth and they so nicely used the descriptor of “the yellow skinned lady.”  I left immediately and no, I don’t have jaundice.

What is happening in this country?  I feel as though we’re going backwards instead of forwards.  Without making it too political we’re arguing about abortion rights, women in the workplace, and now race.  Is it over sensitivity?  Is it just plain stupidity?  Is it a life force bigger than you and I?  I continue to struggle with my own skin color and identity and have never had more trouble than I have in the past four years.  Why is this?

Academia is an area where there should be no discrimination.  We are all here for a few things:

  • Ourselves (if we’re being selfish and brutally honest)
  • The field we’re studying
  • The benefit to the knowledge base
  • And once in a while you make some money

That’s it.  Simple things.  You could throw tenure into the mix but I feel like the vast array of colleges, universities, and other educational institutions all do the tenure thing differently.  They ARE in business to teach, educate, transform, research, publish, mentor, and maybe even build a retirement fund.  No where in that previous sentence is there any tone of “let’s be mean because you’re not the same color, religion, value, moral, or any otherwise silly predictor different” but for some reason, this country is worse than ever about differences.  The slices are so small. Silly things are getting in the way.  It’s oozing out of my tv every day, nit picking, back biting, it’s like two old female hens having a pecking fight in the barnyard.  It’s trickling down to our younger generations, it’s making our older generations look foolish, and most of all, it’s discriminating against people who are just as smart and deserving as anyone else.  I know my student deserves to be at this university.  He is one smart cookie and it doesn’t matter what kind of cookie, he’s really effing smart.  He’s a baller and I mean that in the best sense of the word.

When did discrimination get back into the drivers seat?  Some would argue that it’s always been there, but from where I’m standing right now, it seems to have become much more amplified and I think some tolerance should be on everyone’s grocery list.  Even my own family member was watching the Olympics with me and said, “those athlete’s don’t look very American.”  My reply, “what does that even mean, we’re American and we’re Asian.  I can’t believe you just said that.”  Their response, “I guess you’re right.”   So, what does an American look like?  If we lined up 100 people of different races, ethnicities, religions and so on, what would they look like?  In my mind, all 100 of those folks would have been American’s but not everyone thinks so. I believe that we have the right to have an opinion, but at what point does that opinion become more damaging than good?  While it might not be my place to judge that, discrimination in academia is something that can get it in grave and get buried anytime.

As a faculty member, I struggle with discrimination, I feel the side effects of it, and it breaks my heart to see my students be treated like lesser humans for things they cannot change about themselves.  I seek out mentoring opportunities for minorities, I go the extra mile for them, but I know as an educator, I cannot save them all.  If I could, I would, but the best I can do on most days is support the ones I do come in contact with.  I try and nuture them, mentor them, and give them concrete life experiences they can grow from.  I hope that as you go out into your own classrooms you are aware of discrimination in academia.  It’s still happening between races, religious beliefs, and everything in between.  Educate yourself and your students. I had to have a long talk with my student about the incident and help him make sense of it.  His final comment to me, “does this happen a lot?”  For his sake, I sure hope not.

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The ‘haves’ & the ‘have not’s’ in academia

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There’s a term floating around that I use often: “first world problems” or “ivy kid problems” since I went to an ivy for two of my degrees.  Haters gonna hate, but that’s the bottom line.  I wasn’t adopted into a rich family with wealth and disposable income and learned how to work for everything in life.  I did grow up in a home with love and discipline and learning what it meant to live a moral life.  I was fortunate with my education and it has afforded me with opportunities I would not have otherwise had.  Today, I am proud to say that I work with intelligent, bright, and highly motivated students as well as figuring out how to pick other students up and teach them how to help themselves.  Working at a big R1 has exposed me more and more to the notion of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’s’ in life and it has me thinking.

During grad school, I had the good fortune of working with a great youth from Long Island and live with them for a month while they conducted intense research projects on campus.  They were wonderful students of diverse backgrounds including religion, ethnicity, economic statuses, and home lives.  I enjoyed this month immensely knowing that I learned as much as they did.  They all did not have supportive parents, thoughts and dreams of college, or monetary means to even buy anything extra in life.  That month really helped me change my shift from thinking about the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’s’ in life.

Let me elaborate.  The ‘haves’ are the students or people who have means or the ability to think about things differently, go to college, and have the support of others to help bolster them.  The ‘haves’ may not have the most talent but they have the network around them to help them succeed at their own level.

The ‘have not’s’ are the students or people who don’t have the means to think about things differently, go to college, or have the support of others to bolster them and have faith in them.  The ‘have not’s’ often have the talent but lack the network around them to support their goals, dreams, and applaud their success.

It’s not so easy as black and white in these two categories but I firmly believe it boils down to one thing: faith.  Not faith in religion, but having faith in someone and their abilities.  I have faith in all of the students I worked with that summer.  I had faith in them when no one else would. Sadly, I didn’t have enough of the other things these students needed and at least one of them ended up dropping out of high school.  It broke my heart because I knew this student could have been successful in completing high school but he had too many of the ‘have not’s’ in life.  He did not have supportive family, he did not have anyone else around him to help him see he could be successful whether in college or in the world of work, he did not have anyone pushing him to finish high school and no one placing the importance on a high school education.

One of my students will be an incoming freshman here at my university in just a few weeks.  My heart was full of pride and happiness as he texted me in the spring to tell me he was accepted with about 90% scholarship funding.  I was so happy to give him a big hug recently as he and his mother traveled 10 hours for freshman orientation and meet his mom, a lady who has worked herself to the bone to get her two sons their education.  She came to the U.S. decades ago so her kids could be U.S. citizens and she raised them by herself while working as a full time nurse and later a home health aide. Her English is broken, her son did a lot of translating for us, but her smile and pride for her son needed no translation.  She had an older son at Harvard and will soon have another at a prestigious R1.

This woman embodies a mix of the ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s’ in life.  She does not have a lot of money, in fact they are virtually homeless right now, living in a room together of a friends house.  She pieced her education together over the years but didn’t have anyone pushing her, supporting her, guiding her.  She did have the fortitude to know that if she could have her kids in the U.S. she could help them open up doors she did not have. My student told me once what his mom told him, “I made it here to the U.S. so you and your brother could have the opportunities now it’s your turn not to waste them.” A smart lady with enough of a drive so her sons could HAVE the opportunities she did not.

This is a humbling thought that I had not spent a lot of time reflecting on until recently.  I would say that many of my so called problems are ‘first world problems’ and rarely are they serious.  As I continue to work with this student this fall, I have told him and promised his mother that I will be his advocate, I will help him when his mother cannot because she is too far away, and help him navigate when he needs it.  Whether a trip to a big box store for dorm supplies, a home cooked meal, or a faculty figure to help him choose classes and make educational decisions, I have invested myself in this young man.  He HAS support from me and PIC.  He now HAS a network so he never has to feel alone. He will make friends, settle into a schedule of courses, and with my help, he applied for and was accepted into a leadership living community to help him succeed. The only thing that will hold him back now is himself.  His mother, his teachers, his family, his older brother, and now PIC and I are on his list of “have’s” in life and he is very lucky to have had such a great foundation.

Outside of this student, I spent the spring working with students of a mix of the ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s’ and my heart broke when one student saved her snack because there would be no supper or meal at her house until she got to school the next day. I was immediately filled with guilt since I knew where my next meal was coming from and that I could not save her.

I see it in my first generation college students, much like the student above, their families have worked hard to make sure their child earns an education.  I saw parents moving their daughter into the dorms last summer and the father was giving a lecture to his daughter that went something like this, ” you’re the first one in this family to go to college, we saved every nickel we have so you can do this, and we know you can do it.” The little brother had come along to see the big campus, see his sisters new dorm room, and you could tell that the family had made every sacrifice to give their children more options in life. It brings tears to my eyes to think about it because I know that for every family like this one and my new students’, there are 100 more that are the opposite.

Thinking about the ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s’ and doing something about it are different.  I never assume much about students anymore, they all have such unique stories to tell, but I do know that I will support this new freshman because he deserves support and as long as I HAVE that to give, it’s the least I can do.

As a new faculty, how do you think we can help the ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s’ around us?

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why i use social media as a new faculty

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I dig social media.  Not just as a new faculty, but as a human in general.  How else can we keep up with jobs, marriages, bad life decisions that ended up on someone’s smart phone, sonograms, videos of puppies stuck in boxes, Halloween costumes that would have been better left from our memories, pictures of meals that are unrecognizable in dim light, your fungus in your big toe, the person who posts over 30 things a day on kittens, and 100 photos of your kid at the beach crying the whole time because they hate the water?

All jokes aside, social media is a fantastic tool that new faculty should learn to embrace.  And yes, I am guilty of posting a lot of stuff from time to time (or regularly depending on who is my social media friend/connection). Do you literally have to hug it every time you open Facebook?  No.  But the ability to keep up with friends, colleagues, and family members, not to mention students, current events, local events where you live, restaurant reviews, conferences, and other professional work is also important.  I consider myself an ‘early adopter’ so it’s easy for me to log on to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, my email(s), Pinterest, and WordPress all at the same time to keep up with what’s hip.  Is it always about work?  Another no. Does it consume me when I know that it shouldn’t. Yes.  I wholeheartedly admit it and juts like any technology, discipline is required.

Social media can be a valuable tool for a professional.  I like to see what my colleagues are doing, what they’re highlighting, what’s important to them.  I understand that once I put something on the Internet, it’s open to public scrutiny and while I try to keep things pretty light, I find a lot of things in this world pretty humorous that others may not.  Not everyone agrees with me and that’s usually ok because I take it with a grain of salt.  Some days, the grains are much larger or smaller than others, but nonetheless, it’s always meant in good fun. All in all, it’s a great way to learn what others interests are.  It’s a great way to open a conversation, prompt students in class, find talking points with colleagues, or just share things in general. Perhaps you need to do a little recon work on potential students–head to the Internet and find what you need.  Will it cast a shadow on someone?  I sure hope not, but as the information age matures and we move from Web 2.0 to 3.0, it’s important not to shun social media from your daily, weekly, or regular repertoire.  Some might think it’s the last thing a new faculty has time for but I argue that you SHOULD make time for it. Simply “liking” a Facebook status shows that you are paying attention, reading, consuming, and producing other content.

Taking the time to subscribe to some regular feeds via rss or email can be valuable.  As someone in STEM and education, I subscribe to a few daily emails that I actually take the time each day to read.  Gleaning teaching tips, facts or research are positive side effects of what social media has to offer.

As a new faculty, how do you handle social media?  What do you wish you could do with your social media that you don’t have the capability to do right now?  Maybe your idea is the ‘next big thing’ that will catapult us into Web 3.0. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

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Puttin’ on the big girl pants

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Sometimes, you have to change your diaper, put on your big girl pants, and be more forceful.

I know the saying, “you catch more flies with honey.”  Believe me, it’s one I use more often than not and know that by being polite and professional, you can get a long way.  But, everyone has their limits.  Sometimes, it’s time to put on the big girl pants and be a bit more forceful.  I try to avoid this tactic because quite frankly, it’s really not my style.  I am opinionated and from the north, making me an odd duck in the south, but being independent and strong minded are two of the qualities I would attribute to be my ‘strong points’ so I’m going to keep going with those things.  Yes, I am also more introvert than extrovert so being forceful isn’t something that comes easy or naturally.

I engaged with a group of graduate students during the last academic year.  All year, requests for research were met with minimal fanfare and almost minimal cooperation.  Upon having a piece of research accepted for presentation, the research team knew we needed to collect some more data.  Frequent requests were met with silence, crickets, and otherwise deafening white noise.  Hhmm, I know they were all reading their email, I know most of them had those handy, dandy smart phones, but still nothing, not even a professional or haphazard response.  It’s crunch time for this presentation and this researcher had enough.  Besides consenting via the IRB process, these students also accepted other kind favors throughout the year that gave them advantages that others in their peer group did not have, (no, not money, please–) but other things that would help them out, besides the research.  As a former graduate student, I know how important getting data, particularly from humans is and how difficult it can be.  All of my graduate students are also into social science research and they also understand this plight.

So, I did what any good professor would do, I stopped being so damn nice. No, I didn’t call anyone, track them down, or embarrass them in public, but I did tug on some strings with this group.  Come on, you’re a professional. If you were an undergraduate student, I would have known to get this data by May 1st before classes ended and moved on.  All of these students are funded during the summer by the very dept. they are studying in and their dept. head and advisors are in on this–so why the lack of cooperation?

It could come back to a few things.  They don’t like me. They don’t see the value and diminish by saying they’re too ‘busy.’ They want something for nothing (who doesn’t?)

If they don’t like me, too bad.  They consented, time to ante up and hold up their end of the bargain.  If they don’t like someone else on the research team, too bad.

They don’t see the value.  Just because it’s not important to them personally, doesn’t mean it’s not important to us.  They consented. No one formally dropped out. I’m running out of patience with this one already.

They want something for nothing.  I get excited when I get a free drink card at Starbucks, only to realize I had to buy 15 other drinks for this card to appear in my mail box. You can’t always get something for nothing, even if it is finding a penny heads up on the sidewalk, it’s dirty.  Now, my glass isn’t half empty today at all, but my point is this: rarely do we get something for nothing.  We could even argue that unconditional love from someone comes at a cost so it’s no different in the game of academic research.  Be accountable.  Be professional.

As a new faculty, I’m sure this is not the first or last time I will have trouble with research participants.  Perhaps my surprise stems from the fact that these are supposed  to be professionals, but like I’m learning quickly, I continue to be disappointed.  I need to manage my own expectations for research and student conduct. I will not apologize to any of these students for sending them a message that called them out.  I refuse to. Call me stubborn, too independent or too strong minded, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to grovel to someone who couldn’t be responsible enough to be held accountable for the last nine months.  No way. Incidentally, after sending this message to them individually, I received very quick  responses, both sent via smart phones as both had the tag of “sent from…..” so, perhaps the urgency finally resonated.

How do you handle research participants who are less than participatory? Is it better to be more passive or find the balance?  What happens when the balance isn’t working?

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