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Author Topic: what advice would you give to new faculty?  (Read 52107 times)
untenured
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« on: April 24, 2012, 8:49:48 AM »

Since this forum is quiet, let's spruce it up.

Faculty that are about to retire have a wealth of experience to share.  What would you have done differently if you were an assistant professor again?

I'm asking this because I am a newly minted associate, and am trying to figure out in which direction to take my career.  I have no idea what I will look back on and find gratifying or a waste of time.
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weathered
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« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2012, 11:49:51 PM »

It seems like no faculty is going to retire this season. Or they probably went away cruising.
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untenured
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« Reply #2 on: May 02, 2012, 4:12:14 PM »

Yes indeed. Or the question was just too vague.

I should have added "in bed" or something, as one does with fortune cookies, to make the thread more attractive.
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Quote from: kedves link=topic=56697.msg1152543#msg1152543
You are among the Pure and Truthful, however small their Number.
My goodness, that was an exceptionally good analysis of the forum.
zuzu_
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2012, 12:56:41 PM »

My Dead Friends

by Marie Howe

I have begun,
when I'm weary and can't decide an answer to a bewildering question

to ask my dead friends for their opinion
and the answer is often immediate and clear.

Should I take the job? Move to the city? Should I try to conceive a child
in my middle age?

They stand in unison shaking their heads and smiling—whatever leads
to joy, they always answer,

to more life and less worry. I look into the vase where Billy's ashes were —
it's green in there, a green vase,

and I ask Billy if I should return the difficult phone call, and he says, yes.
Billy's already gone through the frightening door,

whatever he says I'll do.

"My Dead Friends" by Marie Howe, from What the Living Do. © W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.
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nebo113
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« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2012, 2:36:58 PM »

Love the poem! 

1.  Keep your cool.

2.  Don't work harder than your students but

3.  Know what you're doing every minute in the classroom but

4.  Leave room for serendipity

6.  Always know what's going on in administration

7. The office staff are your best friends

8.  Use your favorite color of paper for assignments.  That way, all you have to say is "Check the green sheet."

5.  Bulk up your IRA

Now I have to go paint my new door...to my new log cabin...in the mountains.
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resis
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« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2012, 7:39:54 AM »

1. Have a career backup plan, because it's possible the world will need far fewer full-time instructors in 20-30 years and your skills might not easily transfer to non-academic work.

Software already writes financial and sports news as well as, and far more cheaply and quickly, than humans can:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/can-an-algorithm-really-w_n_1451874.html

Is software that teaches effectively, with minimal input from only a small group of expert instructors, really that far away? Lots of smart people are working on such software, and they're doing it in a culture that is deeply frustrated with how much higher ed currently costs.

2. Tenure isn't the best form of job security. It protects your speech but doesn't protect you from layoffs due to financial exigency. As in most professions, the greatest security comes from doing highly-valued work so well that lots of employers would love to have you on their payroll.

And with the exception of the colored paper suggestion (which is a little dated), I agree with everything in nebo113's well-considered list. Great advice.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2012, 7:44:31 AM »

C'mon, people, surely someone wants to help us newbies out.

How do we balance research, teaching, and service?

What service is worth doing and what service should we be ducking as though our lives depend on it?
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lucy_
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« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2012, 9:10:33 AM »

Well, mid career, not near retirement, but will chime in:

Still trying to balance research and teaching and service, but suspect I'll be doing that my whole career.
Maybe continually questioning the balance is the best way to balance it?

But think I can give advice on the service. I tend to be the kind of person that looks around, sees what I think needs to be done / that no one else is doing that I think is a real gap, and then just does it.

My old dean who just left for a higher admin position said he asks the question, "Did that person make a difference?" Meaning if that person weren't here, what would be missing.  He really appreciated that I started a number of things on campus.

I also find that if I start things with a few other people and share the wealth, I get just as much credit, but also divert any unforeseen heat. And form strong bonds with those people.

I find that if I do the service that I want to do, then I am too busy already with service to be asked to do much else. Plus I'll get a reputation as being the "go to" person in that area, such that when asked to do additional service, its usually in that area, thus something I enjoy and see as worthy of my time. Instead of something that makes me want to poke my eyes out.

So, what service is worth doing? and Which should be ducked as though our lives depend on it?

The specifics will highly depend person to person. For me, service that involves the students as directly as possible is most worthy or at least most enjoyable. Also, I enjoy service that is very goal oriented, like reviewing proposals and giving out awards, monies, etc. Also I enjoy service that involves more "doing" (homework assignments) then sitting around in meetings just talking a lot. But some people like meetings and talking and planning, so really the specifics depend on one's personality.

Also, once doing your share of service, if given more service, ask to have something else removed. For every new thing I do, something has to be removed. That helps balance research, teaching, and service.

I also like being committee chair, program chair because that allows me to facilitate and develop the committee / program in such a way that we are efficient: short meetings with very specific agenda items so we can get in and out, volunteers for "homework assignments", as many "virtual meetings" via email as possible. It used to be that our department / college had a habit of making the committee chair "do all the work". But some of us newer people have turned the position around as one of facilitation. Also when I'm in charge, if someone has an idea, I ask them if they want to be in charge of it. If they say no, then I ask for a volunteer. If no one wants to take up the cause, then I figure its not "near and dear" enough to anyone's heart, and let it die. In the past, the committee chair would have been responsible for making it happen or assigning it to someone else. But i find that people do that which they are passionate about. Of course there are some things that have to be done that no one wants to do. Those things I try to spread out and make it so we each take a turn or do a small piece of it. But usually we're all so different, that everyone wants to do something different.

But it is important that one gets tenure based on research and teaching; more research at some schools, more teaching at others, more of a balance at yet others. and though service is the third leg, and something we have to do, it really should be the smallest leg, at least toward the beginning of a career, IMHO.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2012, 9:40:02 AM »

But it is important that one gets tenure based on research and teaching; more research at some schools, more teaching at others, more of a balance at yet others. and though service is the third leg, and something we have to do, it really should be the smallest leg, at least toward the beginning of a career, IMHO.

My job is officially 70% teaching, 20% service, and 10% professional development (aka research).  I should not make service the obviously smallest leg since it's more than my research is supposed to count.  That's why I'm asking about service worth doing (aka service that will matter to someone else and is a net asset to my CV).
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busyslinky
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« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2012, 9:55:38 AM »

But it is important that one gets tenure based on research and teaching; more research at some schools, more teaching at others, more of a balance at yet others. and though service is the third leg, and something we have to do, it really should be the smallest leg, at least toward the beginning of a career, IMHO.

My job is officially 70% teaching, 20% service, and 10% professional development (aka research).  I should not make service the obviously smallest leg since it's more than my research is supposed to count.  That's why I'm asking about service worth doing (aka service that will matter to someone else and is a net asset to my CV).

Here's a question.  Do you think you will stay at this job for the rest of your life.  Do you want to stay at this job for the rest of your life?  If so, follow the standards as set by your institution.

If not, what got you this job?  What will get you your next job?

I'm saying that if you really want to move and keep your options open in academia, research and publications (and grants if you are in a grants field, which I think you are) is the way.  But, you probably know this already.  That is why I think you might have to go against the percentages that your institution sets and make the percentages more in line with what you think will be most marketable.

Service might be worth doing if you eventually wish to take the administrative route.

I'm probably not going to retire anytime soon, but I have typically put more emphasis on research.  Recently, service took up a lot of my time, but shifting back to Research. I eventually see teaching taking up my time but not for another year or so.   Be prepared to shift as you go along, that's what is so nice about our futures, we can take many roads.

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polly_mer
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« Reply #10 on: July 20, 2012, 12:19:31 PM »

If not, what got you this job?

The fact that I'm eager and capable of teaching chemistry, physics, math, physical science for teachers, and pre-engineering (all of those things except pre-engineering are for reluctant learners) as well as contribute to the general liberal arts mission of the tiny niche job including a stated willingness to do service.  Oh, and I'll live in a generally-regarded-as-undesirable place to do it.

What will get you your next job?

I have no idea.  My jobs don't tend to follow logically in a progression and my CV does not look very much like anyone else's that I've seen.  I cannot be competitive in the research area where I am trained at an institution like this.  Consequently, whatever I do has to be different and not at all like the research I was trained to do.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 12:20:47 PM by polly_mer » Logged

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lucy_
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« Reply #11 on: July 20, 2012, 12:19:52 PM »

But it is important that one gets tenure based on research and teaching; more research at some schools, more teaching at others, more of a balance at yet others. and though service is the third leg, and something we have to do, it really should be the smallest leg, at least toward the beginning of a career, IMHO.

My job is officially 70% teaching, 20% service, and 10% professional development (aka research).  I should not make service the obviously smallest leg since it's more than my research is supposed to count.  That's why I'm asking about service worth doing (aka service that will matter to someone else and is a net asset to my CV).

Ah, hadn't thought about that scenario. I'd still stick with my advice in general. If its service that is important to you, that you are passionate about, then I think you will make the biggest impact. It will certainly be more enjoyable, feels less like work, and produce less burnout.

IMHO, if you try to do service that you think others will find important, then I just think we are second guessing ourselves all the time.

Of course there are others that do try to find service that will make them the most noticed the fastest, but I find I can't really fly under the radar no matter how hard I try.

If you are passionate about something, you will do such an outstanding job that everyone will notice. And you will become the go to person for that thing; you will become known for and appreciated for it.

I really didn't know what kind of service i'd be doing in my first year or two, but then I just started noticing things that I really thought needed to be done, just started doing them, and was greatly appreciated for doing the things that had fallen by the wayside but that others also thought needed to be done, just no one was doing them.

Then when I moved here, there was things that I thought we needed that we didn't have, some specific student organizations for example, and helped start them. They are now a big part of our department's sense of community.

Thus, I still think service grows organically out of our interests.
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lucy_
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« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2012, 12:24:09 PM »

But it is important that one gets tenure based on research and teaching; more research at some schools, more teaching at others, more of a balance at yet others. and though service is the third leg, and something we have to do, it really should be the smallest leg, at least toward the beginning of a career, IMHO.

My job is officially 70% teaching, 20% service, and 10% professional development (aka research).  I should not make service the obviously smallest leg since it's more than my research is supposed to count.  That's why I'm asking about service worth doing (aka service that will matter to someone else and is a net asset to my CV).

Here's a question.  Do you think you will stay at this job for the rest of your life.  Do you want to stay at this job for the rest of your life?  If so, follow the standards as set by your institution.

If not, what got you this job?  What will get you your next job?

I'm saying that if you really want to move and keep your options open in academia, research and publications (and grants if you are in a grants field, which I think you are) is the way.  But, you probably know this already.  That is why I think you might have to go against the percentages that your institution sets and make the percentages more in line with what you think will be most marketable.

Service might be worth doing if you eventually wish to take the administrative route.

I'm probably not going to retire anytime soon, but I have typically put more emphasis on research.  Recently, service took up a lot of my time, but shifting back to Research. I eventually see teaching taking up my time but not for another year or so.   Be prepared to shift as you go along, that's what is so nice about our futures, we can take many roads.



I agree with this advice. While I try to do what is expected of me, I also try to do what would put me in the best light if I chose to move, especially between PUIs, Masters Level, or R1's. Thus I try to make sure both my teaching and research are strong and my service is fine.

The truth is, I tend to do too much service, so my advice comes from someone who has to force myself to remember my priorities. I'm certainly not one who does just the minimum service.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #13 on: July 20, 2012, 12:28:44 PM »

Thus, I still think service grows organically out of our interests.

Blah, blah, blah.  "Follow your passion" is crap advice when I don't know enough about what I might like and what I might be asked to do to make a reasonable decision of "You're asking me to be on the parking committee.  Can I get on <some other committee that aligns with my interests> instead?"

What matters to people outside of my institution?  Is it student involvement, serving on faculty senate, or something else?  What are things that generally have to be done, that first-year people are often asked to do, and which of them is actually worth doing?

STFU dictates that I don't spend my first year saying, "Hey, what about Terracycle for funding scholarships?  What about a new push for STEM co-living arrangements?  Hey, we could write a great grant for innovation in STEM tutoring excellence!"  How do I avoid being Sparky the Wonder Poodle while doing service that needs to be done?  And don't say, first-year people don't do service.  If that's true, then you aren't at a place that is close enough to where I'm going.  With under 50 total full-time faculty, everyone has to be doing service.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2012, 12:29:56 PM by polly_mer » Logged

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busyslinky
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« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2012, 12:51:45 PM »


What matters to people outside of my institution?  Is it student involvement, serving on faculty senate, or something else?  What are things that generally have to be done, that first-year people are often asked to do, and which of them is actually worth doing?



I have seen people in our school succeed in each area, service, teaching and research.   

If you are looking for something outside your institution, the ones who I found successful in moving to somewhere else were all very good to great researchers.   One of them really did not have a great research record but still got tenure here.  After tenure they tripled their research output and found another position very quickly.  They moved for 'family reasons'.  The other three left for greener pastures.

I did see one person who basically received tenure because of teaching and service (yes, they had some publications, but relatively minor overall).  This person is now in upper administration.  She has made herself saleable to the market, after tenure, by going to the administrative track.  She enjoyed it and does a good job of it.  Is it her passion? 

A third person we kept around because of their great teaching.  Their research was good (not great), but good enough to jump the bar, very little service.  They actually have teaching gigs in other countries during the summer and travel every year. 

In  your situation, it clearly requires that your teaching is flexible.  As you have already realized, there is value in this flexibility.  If I were in your shoes, I would build on this flexibility in both content and approaches.  Are you doing on-line, for example? 

Overall, building up your skill set from any of the three dimensions is marketable.  I just happen to think that research is more marketable because of what the internal or external competition's  capabilities.
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