Category Archives: Uncategorized

October 22, 2011, 7:36 pm

Getting out of the office

When I was a faculty member at previous R1 institutions, I went to campus 2-3 days a week. I spent the rest of my time working at home. When I was on campus, I often visited with colleagues and friends across campus between meetings, office hours, and classes. I relished the flexibility of faculty life. My first administrative/faculty job was a part-time admin gig, though I often was on campus 4-5 days a week to meet with students, faculty, and staff as needed. But I started my days late, and I left when I wanted to leave. It was nothing close to a 9-5 gig.

One of the side effects of this new 12 month, 9-whatever, administrative position is that I have to remind myself to take breaks. I go from task to task, meeting to meeting, and time just passes by in a blur. Open times are usually interrupted by “could I have a minute” conversations with faculty, staff, and students who poke their…

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October 17, 2011, 6:00 am

Sitting on the other side of the desk

The hiring season is upon us. I am serving as an outside member on a search committee (senior hire), our department is hiring faculty and staff members, and I am serving as a reference for friends and former students on the academic market. None of these roles is especially new, but, for the first time, I am the administrator of a unit doing searches.

There have been some very new experiences in conducting hires as the senior administrator. The first big experience was negotiating the areas of need with the faculty. While I had to facilitate the discussion, I also had my own ideas and interests. I know from prior experiences on search committees that these meetings can be full of conflict when the Dean or Chair disagrees with faculty about the direction of the program.I put my own ideas aside and led the discussion, drawing out the suggestions of faculty. I found the faculty…

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September 28, 2011, 8:31 am

Wary and weary: Mid-level academic administrators in 2011

After a recent meeting of department chairs and directors from around the university,  I came away pretty depressed. As I listened to established administrators from different departments discuss their frustrations with managing faculty in a time of shrinking budgets and increasing expectations, I found two different themes: wary and weary.

I love how mad the instructor looks, because frustration seems to underlie wary and weary.

They were wary because they face a new administration in the university, one that brings its own ideas for who we should be, where we should be going, and the best ways to get there. And like every new administration, some of the ideas and proposals are going to bomb, while others may be successful. The chairs know this, and worry about being caught in the crossfire, asked to …

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September 4, 2011, 1:22 pm

Qualitative Research: Academic and Administrative

Unlike my friend Tenured Radical, who has to teach on Labor Day, I am using this long weekend to write a long-overdue article based on some qualitative research I conducted. Even though I am an administrator now, I still have to keep up my research and finish up tasks that I took on when I was still a faculty member. I am excited to have time to devote to this research project, as I tend to analyze data and write in massive chunks of time rather than half an hour here and there. I need to immerse myself in qualitative data and think about little else to produce something good.

As I work to pull my analysis together in ways that make sense, I find myself amused by some aspects of qualitative research and questioning other aspects. I laughed aloud at some of the errors in the transcription, the result of having an outside service transcribe my taped interviews. Usually the errors are…

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September 1, 2011, 7:33 am

Goodnight, Irene. Hello, Chronicle Blog Network.

As many LGBTQ-related academic issues have emerged around the country in the last few weeks, including:

  • an uproar over a university LGBT Resources Guide,
  • Elmhurst College becomes the first to ask applicants their sexual orientation and gender identity,
  • two more law schools accepting military recruiters in the wake of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law,
  • and a study by the Center for American Progress highlighting the unequal treatment of LGBTQ students and children of same-sex parents by federal financial aid,

my bloggy friends might wonder where I have been?! In short, I have been discovering my new town, preparing both for a new school year and a hurricane, helping to orient new students, and trying to manage maintaining research projects while taking on a new administrative job. I am not sure which of these has been the most exciting challenge.


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August 13, 2011, 1:29 pm

My thoughts for the critics of “The Help”

Okay, I have read all of the critiques of the book and movie, The Help, as I can stand. (See my last post for links.) Here are the main charges as I read them:

1. The main protagonist is a young white woman, and her growth into understanding and standing up for herself is the real journey, while the black maids (whose stories and advice she uses throughout the movie) are simply a device for her growth. Nonetheless, she is coming in and saving the black folk. This is “Mississippi Burning” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” all over again.

2. The movie is historically inaccurate and downplays the organizing of African Americans during this moment in Civil Rights History. The black folks are afraid in the wake of Medgar Evers’ murder, with no discussion of the ongoing struggles for civil rights and the organizing with which he had been involved.

3. Black men are treated as abusive or absent, with no…

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August 12, 2011, 8:16 pm

Le sigh

You know it is a bad day when the major accomplishments are getting my drivers license and hanging my diplomas in my office. Oh, and that I didn’t completely fall off of the chair I was using to hang the degrees–just bobbled a little.

The day started out bad with a headache of unknown origin, the kind where your eyes ache and you feel slightly nauseated. It was quickly followed by an argument with the gf over stupid banking stuff, as we try to manage our old account in former state, and the new account here–for which we have no checks and no automatic deposit from my work. Add to this the minutiae of trying to find documentation for the drivers license, and you have a pretty crappy morning.

This experience was followed by a trip to the very full DMV office. The wait took about 45 minutes, which wasn’t as bad as it could have been, though that just gets you through the door for another…

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August 3, 2011, 8:58 pm

Reflections on orientation as an old timer

You know you are old (e.g., not in your first  second third academic job) when you:

  • wonder why you have a long-ass benefits orientation if they won’t let you fill out paper forms to sign up but instead require you to go online and sign up. I don’t want time to reflect! I want to get it done now, lest I forget and get signed up for some ridiculous plans. 

The HR folks ought to make benefits enrollment like student registration: hold it in a lab with computers and get us to sign up immediately. This is especially important because there are multiple websites to visit–no one stop shopping here!

  • don’t even consider going for the state retirement benefits and want to automatically sign up for the optional program (i.e., TIAA-CREF). Once you have been to more than one other school, you know nothing is forever and vesting is a cruel bitch. Plus, even though the market is undependable, pensions…

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July 24, 2011, 2:44 am

Start up

I have experienced being a new faculty member on campus several times, and one thing I have learned to do is quickly make the transition. The tasks are fairly straightforward: Unpack the boxes, find the library, set up Blackboard course sites, learn my way around campus, order books for upcoming courses, get the new ID and parking decals, and so on. But coming to campus as a faculty/administrator is a whole different ballgame. You have to do all of those tasks listed above, plus a whole lot more.

In my first administrative position, I had to plan and deliver orientations to incoming majors within a week of arrival. There is nothing more intimidating than trying to welcome students to a program where they actually know the university better than you do! I also had to develop advising lists for newly admitted students, reorganize a committee that was supposed to exist but never really met, …

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July 13, 2011, 1:04 pm

Boundaries and other administrative metaphors

I have been re-reading Tina Gunsalus’ “The College Administrator’s Survival Guide,”(left) and one lesson stands out above all others: Maintain your boundaries. My beloved partner is an expert in boundary maintenance, and she has additional words of wisdom. Boundaries, she notes, are like the yellow dotted lines in the road; you usually follow them, but if you cross them for any reason, be very aware and intentional about it. There are reasons to cross the lines while driving: to avoid an accident, to pass a car, and so on. But just as you don’t cross the double lines that demarcate an unsafe space in the road for passing, such as a blind curve, you don’t blithely cross a boundary with a colleague or subordinate unless you have thought it through.

For example, what are the long-term consequences of sharing very personal information with a student? (Is there some education-related purpose…

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