Category Archives: Tenure

August 12, 2014, 12:22 pm

Is lecture really the thing that needs fixing?

d510c2df-22fc-47b9-8511-e1e69a9d560bOne of my Twitter people asked me to share my thoughts on yesterday’s Chronicle article, “Can Universities Use Data to Fix What Ails the Lecture?” At the time, I skimmed the article and replied that LectureTools, the technological tool developed by Perry Samson to gather real-time data from students during a lecture, reminded me of the contraption you see in the photo to your left. That’s an automated chalkboard eraser. As technology goes, it’s quite effective in what it does. Just look at how clean that board is! Which is great but… that’s a chalkboard for goodness’ sake. A piece of communications technology that is not significantly different than prehistoric cave drawing, and which has been improved upon countless times. (Purists who still cling to chalkboards: You guys are Luddites. Sorry.)  Strapping an awesome piece of technology to a chalkboard doesn’t make the …

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August 10, 2012, 9:00 am

When exiting graciously isn’t the right thing?

About one hour after I wrote my last post about the importance of leaving an academic position gracefully, I came across this item about the resignation of Annette Clark, the (now former) dean of the law school at Saint Louis University. She didn’t so much resign as she blew up the administrative offices of the university and walked slowly away from their burning ruins. Check out this excerpt from her resignation letter to the university top brass:

…[Y]ou have failed to make good on your assurances to me when I accepted the deanship that you would fully support the law school and our efforts to enhance its program of legal education, national reputation and rankings. From the beginning of my deanship, you have evinced hostility toward the law school and its faculty and have treated me dismissively and with disrespect, issuing orders and edicts that allowed me virtually no…

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August 9, 2012, 9:00 am

Finding your next job: Happy endings

This is the final post on Finding Your Next Job. I hope it’s been of some use. As a reminder, you can one-stop-shop the entire series at this link. Helpful for if you need to bookmark it or pass it to a colleague.

This post assumes that you’ve gone through the process of the job search and accepted an offer. Congratulations! You’ve just stepped into the unknown. But before you get too far out there, you have to take care of business at home, which means acting with integrity one last time and leaving your current employer with grace. How this happens depends on the climate of the job you are leaving. If the job’s been good to you overall, beign gracious is easy; leaving will be hard. If the job has been a bad scene, then vice-versa.

But first, why should we try to be gracious when we leave a job, though, especially if your dean has been a jerk and you can’t wait a second …

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August 8, 2012, 3:33 pm

Finding your next job: Handling offers

The panel discussion on Issues for Early-Career Mathematicians in Academia went very well at MathFest last week. We had a small crowd with good questions, and I enjoyed getting to know and hear from Rick Cleary and Jennifer Quinn, who spoke on how to get tenure (from the department chair’s point of view) and how to get involved in the mathematical community. This blog series, which was an incubator for my part of the panel, has a couple more posts left in it, both having to do with what might happen at the end of a search for the next job.

On the one hand, absolutely nothing might happen at the end. You may go through the soul-searching of understanding your motivations and balancing your stakeholders’ needs, spend hours research schools and putting together your materials, and spend days going to interviews — and nothing may come of it. You get no offers. If that’s the case, …

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July 27, 2012, 9:25 am

Finding your next job: Understanding “why”

I’ll be at MathFest next week, and one of the things I’ll be doing is participating in this panel discussion. I’ll be speaking about “Finding Your Second Job” and then leading a breakout group to discuss this issue. It’s a little funny that I’ll be speaking on this, since I’m actually on my third job right now (and I hope it will be my last one!) but I won’t let that get in the way.

Finding “the next job” in academia is a very complex issue on a number of levels. I only have 15 minutes to do my schtick in Madison and so there’s no way I can touch on all the nuances. So I’d like to take this week leading up to MathFest to blog about this issue in detail. There may be some people out there who are planning to go on the market in the fall — or wrestling with the possibility of doing so. If you can make it to MathFest, I encourage you to stop by the panel…

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May 17, 2012, 12:15 pm

What constitutes peer review for textbooks — and who cares?

Via Inside Higher Ed, The University of Minnesota has started a web site to curate “open source” textbooks in a variety of subject areas. Right now, the mathematics selection consists of 15 titles, many of which can be considered open-access classics, including Strang’s Calculus, Bob Beezer’s “A First Course in Linear Algebra”, Tom Judson’s excellent Abstract Algebra: Theory and Applications, and the Whitman Calculus book. In other words, these aren’t new titles created specifically for this website. But it’s nice to have these all curated in the same place. (I don’t know if UMN plans on solicit new works specifically for their website.)

The claim here is that open-access books** tend to have slow adoption rates because of the lack of “peer review” (and also because many faculty don’t know that open-access resources are out there), and the UMN website will provide some of that review …

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April 15, 2012, 10:49 pm

The bubble within the bubble

http://www.flickr.com/photos/leecullivan/

This op-ed from the Times Higher Education raises an important point about the demands placed on the personal lives of academics:

Robert Markley has made it to the promised land, securing a tenured post at a large research-intensive university that would be the envy of a thousand early career hopefuls.

But it’s not all milk and honey. He is on his second marriage (and attributes the break-up of his first directly to his work), sees his new wife only during holidays and on occasional weekends, and spends up to 40 per cent of his income on the travel and two homes that make even this possible.

The professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is among the scholars in our cover feature who go to extraordinary lengths – and accept…

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March 19, 2012, 6:38 am

Lecture Fail?

Jeff Young from the Chronicle has started a flame war conversation on the future of lecturing in higher education by having students send in videos with their thoughts on lecture, followed by professors sending in their videos on the same thing (and to rebut the student comments). Here’s my response, which shows up at the main discussion thread but a few slots below the main professors’ video:

To sum up my main points from this video:

  1. The discussion shouldn’t be about whether we are pro-lecture or anti-lecture, but whether lecture works in terms of student learning, where by “student” we mean the learners that are actually there in the classes we are teaching at the moment.
  2. When you frame it that way, lecture by itself is often a poor choice and we need to be open to using whatever combination of teaching tools best enables our students to learn.
  3. Something that…

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December 5, 2011, 7:30 am

The end of the beginning

It’s hard to believe, but we’re entering our last week of Fall classes here at Grand Valley. For those of you who only started reading the blog since it joined the Chronicle blog network in September, this was only my first semester at GVSU. I started here this fall, having left a tenured position at a small liberal arts college where I was on the faculty for ten years, uprooting my wife and three kids to move here to west Michigan in search of a better life for us all. It’s been an eventful time for us since coming here in July and therefore no surprise that fifteen weeks have gone by in what seems like a flash.

I can’t imagine getting off to a better start. My students have been smart, mature, and industrious and it’s been a pleasure to help them learn. My colleagues have been supportive in every way. I’ve really enjoyed the large university environment GVSU offers. My wife’s job…

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November 2, 2011, 7:30 am

Was this professor really fired for being too tough?

From Utah, here’s a story about business prof Stephen Maranville who was denied tenure at Utah Valley University, apparently based on student complaints about his use of the Socratic Method. I won’t quote from the article because it’s short — read the whole thing — and because it sounds a lot like other cases where profs have found themselves on the wrong side of student and administrative graces because of grades or pedagogy or both.

Here are my thoughts on this.

1. It can’t be as simple as the meme of: Professor is tough -> Students complain -> Administration caves to student demands -> Prof gets fired. What actually happened in Maranville’s classes? Do we know? There are profs using the Socratic Method all the time, being tough and holding high standards with students not that different from UVU students, who don’t get complaints on this scale or lose tenure. Some of them are…

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