Tag Archives: alt-ac musings

January 17, 2013, 3:23 pm

Let’s skip the small talk

I don’t understand why some people have such a strong resistance to using email to communicate at work. I frequently hear and read that “email is a distraction” and “it’s so much better to communicate face-to-face.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I can deal with most emails in two minutes or less, and I can do it when I want to. It’s a lot harder to get rid of most people who pop into my office in less than two minutes.

Especially when they want to chat.

I am not a small-talk kind of person. I’m not very good at it, and I don’t enjoy it. I’ll do it when it is socially required, and I always try to be friendly, but in general I try to avoid it. I especially hate it at work. I strive to be efficient and productive from nine to five so that I don’t have to work more than forty hours a week. I prefer just to get down to business in a meeting or when I have a work request for someone…

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September 26, 2012, 3:02 pm

It could be worse

Sometimes when things get overwhelming at work and I start humming my dearly departed father’s favorite song (“Take This Job and Shove It,” by Johnny Paycheck), I try to remind myself that things could be worse. I could be in the private sector.

I spent a couple of years in the corporate world between college and graduate school, in the typesetting department of a financial printing company. As nice as it was making $50K/year with awesome benefits right out of college, the main thing I got from that job was the firm knowledge that I DID NOT WANT TO BE THERE. This was 1996-1998 – exactly the time period that the movie Office Space was based on. I almost cried the first time I saw that movie, because it was such a perfect representation of how awful my job was.

Just a few of the many things I hated about that job:

  • Having to work overtime/weekends/holidays whenever needed, or else…

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December 5, 2011, 5:44 pm

Academia vs. Roller Derby

Thanks, http://fuckyeahrollerderbyotter.tumblr.com/!

Roller derby! It seems to be everywhere these days, and I couldn’t be happier. Derby 101 has begun at my local league, and I am learning to skate (in between all the times I fall down). I’ve started noticing some important ways in which academia and roller derby are similar — and ways in which they are really, really, different.


1. You’ll fall on your ass. A lot. And you just have to keep getting up over and over again. In academia, it’s metaphorical, but it still hurts.

2. Perseverance is much more important than innate talent. In academia, it’s been noted by many people that finishing your Ph.D. is more a reflection of your ability to keep at something until you finish it, and less a reflection of your intelligence. In roller derby,…

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August 9, 2011, 9:13 am

Not ashamed

On Friday night, I was at restaurant with a group of friends, and as it turned out, three of us (me and two other female Ph.D.s) were all in non-traditional academic jobs — and we all love our jobs. All three of us are in center-related positions with administrative and research responsibilities, and we are pretty happy. One expressed a wish that she had more time for independent research, but that is not an uncommon sentiment even in traditional academic jobs.

I thought of the our conversation when I read this piece in Inside Higher Ed:

When we were interviewing contributors for the first edition of Job Search in Academe, an editor at a respected academic journal told us apologetically that she “liked her job, she really did!” Many of the pleasures of teaching, she told us, were central to her job on the “outside”: working with writers, playing with words and layouts, engaging in…

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February 4, 2011, 9:04 am

My life choices shouldn't make you feel bad about yours

Telling academics that you don’t want a tenure-track job is a lot like telling regular people you don’t want to have children.

Seriously. Try doing either one, and you’ll often hear the same set of responses: It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done; How can you be fulfilled if you don’t?; You’ll change your mind when you get older.

I never had any doubts about not wanting children. I did struggle quite a bit with the decision to leave the tenure-track path. My struggle was summed up very eloquently in a paragraph by Dean Dad, singled out and quoted by The Happy Scientist:

I’m convinced that one reason some people won’t let themselves let go of the dream, despite years of external signals suggesting that they should, is a sense that it would reflect a personal moral failing. They’ve identified so completely with the ‘meritocracy’ myth that they feel a real need to…

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December 6, 2010, 11:58 am

Why I didn't take that tenure-track job

Some of you know that I turned down a tenure-track job offer earlier this year, but you may not know why. Here’s the story.

I applied to a large number of tenure-track positions, at many types of institutions, and ended up landing four campus interviews this past spring. Since I have a pretty strong teaching record (the result of several years as an adjunct before my postdoc) and because my publication record is good but not stellar, all of these interviews were at teaching-oriented schools with ambitions for increased research but not much funding. I went into these interviews with an open mind and a desire to like these schools and see myself pursuing a career there.

The first interview was at a small branch campus of the same university where I did my postdoc (I was at the large R1 flagship campus). I liked them, they liked me. The college was small, but the science building was…

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October 14, 2010, 4:57 pm

Titles and respect

I see a lot of bloggers complaining that their students do not call them “Dr. So-and-so” and how that is disrespectful – and how it happens far more often to female faculty than it does to male faculty. Having done quite a bit of teaching myself, I understand the problem very well and sympathize.

But I would argue that it is worse when you are in an administrative position and the faculty members that you are managing assume you are staff, and address you as “Ms.” in their emails. Even when your email signature clearly points out that you have a Ph.D. When I was hired for this position, they were looking for someone who had a Ph.D. and who would continue to do active research, because they felt that it would be valuable for many of the responsibilities of this job. They are even giving me a faculty appointment in one of the departments to assist with things like getting funding. However…

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September 24, 2010, 12:21 pm

The "alt-ac" track

After an epic and ultimately unsatisfying (but not technically failed) tenure-track job search, I began to wonder once again what exactly it was I wanted to be when I grew up. At that moment, I saw an intriguing ad for a job as one of the directors of a well-funded and exciting research center in my field. I applied, despite my conviction that I was underqualified… and got the job. And now here I am, trying to figure out how to get things done (the 75% administrative part of my job) while not losing myself (the 25% research part of my job). So far, so good… but we’re just getting started.

Unlike the graduate school/post-doc/adjunct/tenure-track world, there isn’t much out there in the blogosphere about jobs like this one. The first time I saw the phrase “alt-ac track” was in this recent article at ProfHacker, and even in that article there’s no acknowledgment that such jobs exist in…

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