Tag Archives: transition

Being the “New Guy”

Being the "New Guy" {New Faculty}


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Academic Collegiality: Offering the Proverbial Cup of Sugar

A Lesson in Academic Collegiality {New Faculty}


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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I Don’t Have an Eight Hour Workday

I Don't Have an Eight Hour Workday | New Faculty


I can’t remember the last time I worked eight hours. I don’t think I can. Eight solid hours of productivity at least. My brain just won’t do it. And neither does yours. Hours of monotonous screen time isn’t natural & forcing yourself to think it is is foolish beyond measure.

Think hard. Challenge yourself. How long are you productive in spurts? How often do you break? Working fewer hours leads to efficiency for me. Are there still some long days? Of course. But rarely are they days of continual work. Breaks, food, meetings, trudging back across campus, those moments all add up.

Accepting I just can’t do long days has helped me be more efficient w my time and maximize my productivity the hours I do work. The Atlantic ran a nice article about the European way of life, taking 31 days off a year and doesn’t that sound glorious? Inside Higher Ed ran a nice post too about maximizing time, minimizing the “busy” game (which we all know I loathe). And then Fast Company came out with a great article about how much time our brains can sustain continual work: 52 min. (average). Validation?

“A great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work.” Rather, “the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.”

I try to stay on some type of schedule. I realize it’s easier because it’s just me right now in my life, but still, finding anything that resembles work life balance isn’t really a reality for me. I still check email at home and on weekends. I still do personal tasks at work. It’s a gentle push/pull kind of relationship that I’ll always be navigating, always be adjusting depending on my life and my work. I don’t have any notions of this stopping, technology has made us all more fluid in our work. I think the key is knowing when to say no, just like nancy reagan told us in the 80’s.

Grad school guilt left the building some time ago and I’ve tried to quit working on weekends in general. My idea of a good time isn’t working on a manuscript on Saturday. It happens from time-to-time, particularly when a deadline looms, but for the most part, organizing myself on Sunday evening sets me up to be more successful M-F. The idea of down time is luxurious and feels very guilty still, but I’m learning that if I don’t take a break and switch it up, I’m totally useless.

In the age of the “busy contest,” the only people in my life who get to pull that card are my parents who have an additional 150 cows and calves to feed, 500+ acres of land to look after, and the countless other tasks that come with it. They take their down time too. They vacation several times a year, have enough help (which is wonderful) so they can sleep in at least once a week, and are taking day trips to ease the pressure. Simply breaking up the routine can be refreshing as long as the cows are fed and the hay is harvested.

I know the semester is now in full swing and on days when I can, I’m giving myself the gift of going home, swimming laps in the campus pool, and enjoying some more reading when I can that isn’t related to work or research.

You can call me selfish, I’ll call it self care and self preservation. In order to thrive, I’m going to need some down time and so are you.

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Using Your Network

Using Your Network | New Faculty


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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Who’s On Your CORE Team?

Who's on YOUR Core Team? | new faculty


Not too long ago, I fell asleep on the couch around 9 p.m. The next night, around 9:30, the following night….well  you get where this is going. Binge watching on Netflix has been replaced by binge sleeping. I apparently couldn’t even muster the energy to put my own dishes in the dishwasher, empty said dishes into garbage, and get the coffee maker ready for the next day.

Houston, I think we’re tired.

It has been a stressful few weeks for reasons related to my professional life and reasons I’m not really interested in discussing on here just yet as they would require actual time to sit/stand and type them out.

Maybe over spring “break.” I use the term loosely as I will likely work most of it but at least I’ll get better parking on campus. Silver linings people.

Anywho….I digress.

As I’ve drifted off to sleep night after night, I would wake the next morning to texts and notifications that people (who are capable of staying awake later) had wanted my attention. Most of these people are what I’d like to call:

Team New Faculty

  • These are my people. They check in (even when I’m asleep (Santa??)).
  • They don’t care that I’m laying in a heap on my couch. They are either jealous of my 40 extra winks or likely doing something similar.
  • They fundamentally understand me. It’s an equal understanding.
  • They know what I need: some face time. I need an hour and then I’m good.
  • They don’t judge. I NEEDED those two cupcakes while we gossiped instead of eating a real lunch. (sugar isn’t lunch?) They will often indulge with me, whether it be cupcakes or wine.
  • They check in on the reg. E’rry day? Nah. Some do and that’s cool. But, they REPLY. No dead air up in here.

They’re available. No point in being on team New Faculty if you’re never going to be available. I don’t need your face in my face, but because I moved 600 miles from my main group of people, the ones that are still on my team still make the time for a regular phone call, group me, sarcastic jokes, or otherwise appropriate communication. The ones that I have now make time and likewise, I make time for them. It’s really hard to have a full blown friendship over text. I just don’t do well.

Play to my strengths. My strengths are as follows:

  • caffeine
  • sugar
  • carbs
  • just kidding…….

I need time–face time, phone time, time. I appreciate and value that in my life. People who are on my team give me time when they can.

It’s a two way street. I give the time, I do the check in’s, I am available too.

Team New Faculty has undergone some radical changes the past year. Good changes. In fact, EFFING AWESOME changes. In my core (much like the new Ben & Jerry’s Core–amazing looking) group, many have cycled out. I’ve learned to accept that some will cycle out. The folks that I appreciated and was so grateful for a year ago today may not be the same ones I’m grateful for now. I will always be grateful for the folks who’ve been on my team all these years. They were there exactly when I didn’t know I needed them. I accept their passing in my life (no one died in that sense) and I hope most of them come back around again. I also hope a few don’t and I can finally admit that.

As you figure out if the academy is or isn’t for you, I implore you to consider the question:

who’s on your CORE team?

You’re going to need a bang up team of real friends in your real life to help you trudge through this mess. Some might be academics as well. Some might not be. What do you require and need from them? How will you know when it’s time to thin the herd and take on some new team members?

As I slog to spring break and continually pass out on my couch from exhaustion with all the lights on and wake to the tv screen saying “are you still watching?” (hell no, i fell asleep during the opening creds) I’m grateful for the people who are Team New Faculty.

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Is There Such a Thing as Work Life Balance Anymore?

Call it quits, go home! | new faculty


It’s tough going home. There’s the never ending ‘to-do’ list, the bings and beeps of whatever phone you have attached to you, and the continual demands we place on ourselves. The technology we love, we also loathe because it makes us always aware that there’s someone or something that is pulling our attention.

How do you compartmentalize when you come home?

For me (and likely many of you), easier said than done. I’ve talked to a lot of faculty and people in the human race, and I think it’s something we struggle with, no matter our profession. With or without kids, with or without a partner, with or without pets, and other responsibilities pull our time (in both negative and positive ways) when we walk out of the door in the evening (or whatever wonky work schedule you keep).

Turn off the sounds. Turn off ALL THE NOISES!!!! No more bings and beeps after a certain hour or altogether. I turn off my email notification and have it “push manually” because I know I can’t handle the noise.

No answering. Email, texts, whatever. If it’s not urgent and it’s work related–it can wait until morning. There’s also a growing body of research on not doing email related tasks constantly because it causes burn out. I’d get on board with that research. I quit answering email after about 7 p.m. and NEVER ON THE WEEKENDS….EVER!!!!!! Unless I need to do so for Monday morning, I quit answering email. It was difficult, but I made myself not answer. Sometimes, I fall off my own wagon, but generally, I keep a pretty busy life on the weekends. I read the emails, assess, and usually close them for Monday morning.

Set clear boundaries. With yourself. With your students. With your people. It’s ok to tell your people/students that you don’t answer anything after 9 p.m. It’s ok to tell students it will take you a full 24-36 hours to return emails. It’s ok to tell everyone you ignore them on the weekends.

IT’S OK NOT TO FEEL GUILTY. say it again….breathe….repeat it again….

If you need help, get an accountability buddy. I know it sounds totally ridiculous, but it might help. Someone to celebrate. Someone to remind you of your purpose, someone to take the challenge with you. We all know misery loves company 🙂

Do something in the evenings that is more interesting than your work. Seriously. Many with kids will say that until bedtime, the most interesting thing is the kids (as it should be), while others join clubs, workout, have hobbies, etc… for a few hours a few nights a week. Giving the other half of your brain is also a nice reward for a hard days work.

I told myself that when I finished grad school, I was going to stop working on the weekends. I always felt as though work was looming in grad school and while it’s still there now, I don’t feel like I have to hunker down at ‘ye old mac’ every weekend. In fact, it’s one thing I have done successfully. I fall off the email wagon occasionally, particularly before an event or a deadline shows up but usually have no trouble getting back on. In my own experience, the less work I do on the weekends or evenings, the more productive and refreshed I feel come Monday or the next morning.

The decision to change and acknowledging that you’re in too deep is the first step. In grad school, I took one day per week and didn’t work. I called it “life stuff Sunday.” The day was reserved for life tasks: laundry, yoga (yes it’s a life task in my life), groceries, errands, etc… It didn’t always happen on Sunday’s but for the most part, one day a week was set aside to accomplish things that needed attention. After all, the Target call bot can only call 29847 times before the pharmacist actually calls and asks if you’re ever going to come and get that prescription.

Finally, there’s no change that happens over night (except the weather, those people are wrong 98% of the time). Start small. Say to yourself, I’m not going to answer emails for 24 hours and work up from there. Turn off the noises. You’ll find yourself so much happier. I turn off my ringer for better parts of a day, especially when I’m trying to write. You’ll be surprised by how easy it is to begin to ignore things (and people).

Making yourself too available might make you miserable but it doesn’t have too.

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Accepting Our Limitations

Accepting Our Limitations | New Faculty


I was sweating it out at yoga on no particular Sunday and I was concentrating on increasing my flexibility when I turn left. It’s certainly a weak point. I cannot get my elbow around my knee, my balance is at a deficit on that side, and overall, I find myself struggling when I need to turn left. Blame it on the scoliosis or simply that I’m right dominant, so my inclination is to turn right more often and underuse my left side in general.

Whatever the reason, it gave me pause during my practice:

I need to accept this limitation.

The same is true in the academy. There will always be something. It will never be without limitations. Whether it’s our research (hey, there’s a reason there’s a ‘limitations’ section in our papers), red tape from administration, or limitations with our grand ideas for our teaching, limitations are something we have to adapt too.

I have been ‘fighting’ my left vertebrae and muscles for years. I only accepted my reduced range of motion in the last year or two and began to actually work on it. Through intense yoga practice, better home stretching, and that indulgence of a ‘once a month’ massage, I’m not feeling so tight down the left side of my spine. My range of motion isn’t noticeably better to anyone except me, but I may be able to wrap my right elbow over my left knee by the end of the calendar year. I imagine I will feel the same amount of gratification as the day I could do a headstand for longer than 10 seconds without toppling over too.

Academia has forced me to also accept my limitations: not writing enough or going too long in between bouts of writing. I’m lucky. I have lots of opportunities to collaborate and I’ve certainly capitalized on those. While it’s only February, I’ve already sent out two articles and my name on the by-line is moving up from third or fourth (or later) to a solid second on both of these pieces. I want to contribute more to my scholarly writing. I NEED too, but I’m also limited by time, but who isn’t?

By continuing to not only accept my limitations, but work on it actively, just like my yoga practice, my writing practice is and will hopefully continue to strengthen.

Limitations are also prevalent in our research too. In perfect world land, we’d all have unlimited budgets, students who already knew what they were doing, and unlimited time to dedicate to furthering the notion of science. In real world land, rarely do any of those exist. It is important to accept our limitations as researchers, particularly those we cannot always control and be transparent about reporting those in our findings. As a largely qualitative researcher, being transparent comes with the job as each population and participant is different, but it’s important to note those differences, even if a reviewer sends back a scathing report.

Limitations also remind us that we are in fact, human. There are only 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week. and 52 weeks in each year. There’s not enough time for everything. Ever. And we need to accept that. As a young faculty member, we quickly realize that we’re not going to be able to do it all. In fact, we’re barely going to be able to do half on a good day. We need to accept and then forgive ourselves for this instead of constantly beating ourselves up over it, getting in a busy contest with ourselves and with others, and simply step away for the day.

In academia, we need to accept our limitations. In ourselves, we need to do the same. Keep working but also know when to call it a day and go home to the ones we love. Or in my case: lay in a heap on the couch and enjoy life for a few hours with no ‘sounds’ going off on any device 🙂

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Excuse Me, Your Ignorance is Showing

Ignorance in Academia | New Faculty


I never fail to be surprised by the things that people and colleagues say to me without thinking. Admittedly, I’m also guilty of living in my own little world, so fear not, I’m not without my own judgement of myself from time to time here. I share the three antecdotes below as a lesson to my peers, my graduate school readers, and my colleagues. Don’t be like these people. 😀 

I deliver lots of professional development (PD) as part of my job. I love it (truth). We bring in folks to help us out, sort out curriculum, and get all the teachers ready to deliver. It’s a fun part of the job (truth). The last set of PD was equally good and I’m excited to implement a new curriculum to the middle school students.

Someone who had come in to help out with the PD had forgot several (and key) things. She looked at me and asked if I knew anyone who could ‘do all this stuff for her in the next hour?’


My reply was simple, “no, b/c everyone I know is at work.”

I told her I could do it during the lunch break if she could be patient. She could not be patient.

Her reply, “you don’t any friends who don’t work?”


“No one who could just run out and do this right now?”


What assumption was she making? Do we all have people who stay home? That’s ok, but guess what? Everyone in my age demographic is working their ASS OFF in this game and I’m really proud to say that! Friends who don’t “work” are running their house holds and asking them to pack up kids for a few items was not the kind of favor I was going to ask.


Fast forward another week. A grad student stopped me in the hall as I was closing my office door on a Friday afternoon. “Hey doc, you heading out for the weekend?”

“No, I have meetings for the next four hours straight dear grad student.”

“You guys (the faculty) are never here, are you working?”

“Yes, we don’t like interruptions….”


The same grad student about 3 days later sent me an email requesting a meeting “as soon as possible.”

My reply, “I’m free on Monday at 7 p.m.”

“7 p.m. is too late in the day for me.”

“7 p.m. is my earliest appointment as I finish my other commitments around 6:30, it’s the best I can do.”

“Ok, i guess so…..”

In academia and in life, we often draw a mass set of assumptions about people, circumstances, and life. Even if that’s not our ‘reality’ at this moment-it’s important to take it into account, even if it’s not YOUR experience at this moment. I’m not upset that my colleague assumed I knew people who were at home eating bon bon’s, waiting for me to call them, I grew irritated because she kept pushing the issue and started to behave poorly when she wasn’t going to get what she wanted immediately after realizing her mistake. I grew impatient with the grad student who thought that the faculty aren’t working if we’re not sitting in our offices and that my schedule was so massively inconvenient for him.

A little tolerance anyone?

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Knowing All the People

Knowing All the People | New Faculty


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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Seek Forgiveness Instead of Permission

Seek Forgiveness Instead of Permission | New Faculty


Mistakes happen. Mostly we don’t mean to make the flub. Sometimes, we just forget. Other times, we were not informed. Only in a small margin, do we do things we know are wrong and then ask for forgiveness later. Putting yourself ‘out there’ in an academic sense can be tricky and like life, mistakes happen.

Someone once said to me, “it’s sometimes better to seek forgiveness instead of permission” and they may be onto something.

Scenario 1: I had apparently made some administrivia errors the past few months without even realizing it. In fact, the person I was also working with was making the same mistakes (oops) and upon being ‘busted’ for our errors, we were sent a nice note, nothing harmful, to remind us. Upon receipt of this, I sent a note back saying, “my apologies if this caused any extra paperwork, i appreciate your patience.”

The mistake: small.

The paperwork behind it: minimal at best

The mistake: not intentional

Scenario 2: I booked a flight for a long weekend to see a friend during break. I had the vacation days. I am usually quite transparent about taking days off with my supervisor and in the midst of the end of the semester, I must have forgot to notify him. Of course, he asked for a group meeting on one of those days and I had to inform him I’d be out of town. I searched my email and did not find any record of communication. My mistake. It was a mistake because I had not even realized it. My supervisor was more than understanding, asking me to keep him abreast of my travel from here on out and that was more than fair. I once again thanked him for his patience and cooperation and compromised by letting him know I’d be available via email as he needed.

The mistake: small/medium

Paperwork: none

The mistake: not intentional, failure to communicate.

The moral of the story here is this: we don’t plan to make mistakes very often. For me, the travel communication was my fault and I am usually very transparent about my travel and my supervisor knows this. It is sometimes necessary to simply seek forgiveness because it’s too late to ask for permission. When I discussed it with him, he said it was no big deal and that he was glad I had taken a long weekend to head south to warmer climates.

Keeping those lines of communication open is key for ourselves, our colleagues, and our students. Sometimes, we must also just seek forgiveness and be ok with that. As the semester gets underway, we will find ourselves busy and forgetful at different points. We may need to seek forgiveness instead of permission.

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