The Life of a Wannabe Academic

Detail of the life a new academic. The progress from graduate training to professor. Includes reflections on the job hunting process, research in technology and education, and what it is like to be a new college professor.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The other side of the table

For the next 2 weeks we will be bringing in 4 candidates for our open position in the psych department. Our college is blessed in that we will be hiring for all open faculty positions. Other places are certainly not that lucky. And perhaps even more interestingly we are bringing in 4 people to interview on campus. Again this is interesting because we pay for the candidates' travel expenses and food.

We have brought one person in so far with the next three late this week and early next. I find it interesting to be on 'the other side of the table' so to speak in this process. I have been involved in the interview process in grad school, but this feels much different. I will no longer be the most junior faculty member. I am also finding all of the things that I was taught when I was being mentored in my own job search that the on-site interview is often about the more personal interactions. I am asking myself, does this person fit with this school, will they be able to work with our undergraduate students, is this person willing to put personal research celebrity away and focus on student research, and finally of course, will I want to work with this person on a day-to-day basis.

I was fully aware of these things when I interviewed a couple of years ago, but I am finally learning just how much these characteristics are important for me personally. I am very glad that I did all of my homework for the schools I interviewed at and did not just try to sell myself and my research program to the school. That approach really would not have worked well at my college.

I look forward to meeting the next three people, but when decision time comes, I think that it will be a very difficult decision. I have never realle felt this much control and I'm not sure I like that responsibility. Luckily I don't have to make decisions like this everyday.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Remember that thing called 'time management'

So I am now into the semester with my first full week behind me. My weekly ritual this year has been to create a sort of 'to do' list on Friday afternoon for my work in the next week. This is actually something that I started when I was in grad school, but I wasn't always so ritualistic.

I've learned to do this for 2 reasons: 1) I can cross stuff out when I finish them (feels like I'm actually accomplishing something) and 2) so that I'm not surprised at the amount of work I need to do for the week when I come in Monday morning. With my first year of full faculty responsibilities I am learning that time management is absolutely critical. I sometimes balk at the way my weekly calendar seems to just magically fill up with meetings. I've actually started to highlight in my book as well as just writing in times. Otherwise it would just look like a jumbled mess and I wouldn't be sure when it was class time, meeting time, or office hours. Call me anal about it, but I love to have things planned and organized. If I didn't do this, I would be an absolute mess because my memory fails me on these issues.

I'm not yet to the point where I am scheduling in my 'free time' but I fear that I may not be far from that. It is already difficult to protect my lunch time and even then I have an obligation every Friday to provide lunch. I often believe that students (at least lower-level students) often are not aware of just how incredibly busy the average faculty member is. But it is mostly the ignorance on the part of the student of what a faculty members job actually is. Teaching is just a part, and that takes up a lot of time out of the lecture hall! There are also student to meet with for advising and research, multiple committee assignments, student organizations, and an attempt to do some sort of scholarly work. On top of this we try to keep current with the research and have long reading lists. I now currently have a stack of journals with articles I intend to read that is quite literally (in the true sense of the word) a foot high (and these journals are the size of a common magazine). Not sure yet when I'll get to those, but I really should. Oh, and I do like to spend some time with my husband and try to squeeze in time for exercise.

So here is to why I value my long breaks and extended summer vacations. I know it's a great job and that there are a lot of people who probably work a lot harder that I do with fewer breaks, but I will not be ashamed of the privileges that my job affords me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Where is the enthusiasm?

This has been a strange beginning of the semester for me this year. Typically I am one of those enthusiastic nerds who just relishes in the thought of a new school year and a new semester. I get very excited about new class, meeting new people, and I just feel more energetic. This year we have just reached the middle of the first full week of classes for the semester and I honestly feel like I just dropped into the middle part of the know...the part where you are almost going through the motions.

I didn't feel the excitement building that I have in the past. The students, though new to me, seem like they have been in class for weeks already. I am attributing it to the weather. It's been cold, bleak and snowy the past couple of weeks, but I sort of worry that I am starting to get used to the routine. I have been teaching now in some capacity for about 6 years, the last 4 of those with my own courses. I suppose it was somewhat destined to happen. But I didn't think I would feel like this...blah.

It's not that I am being dull and listless in the classroom. I still try to bring enthusiasm everyday. I just don't feel it inside right now. But again, hopefully it is just the advent of the cold winter weather and the transition back to a real schedule that's making me a bit listless.


Friday, January 02, 2009

Let's start this year right

Ok, so for those few of you who do happen to follow this blog, I am sorry for the long hiatus. I do not believe I've blogged since last spring and I know for a fact that I did not blog at all this spring. I have no good excuse, I just got lazy. And quite honestly, nothing of real interest has been happening. But here is a quick overview of the past 6 months or so...


I taught Abnormal Psyc to 4 students. It was interesting and challenging to teach to such a small class. But we got to get into some of the more interesting (or at least what I think is interesting) topics in this area.
Caleb and I went to Lake Okoboji to 'camp.' Honestly I do not think people in northern IA know what camping really is. The 'campground' we were in was basically a parking lot for RV's and fifth-wheels. But we rented a pontoon boat and had a good time. We only got rained on once!

Caleb went to Milwaukee with my dad for the HOG member rally. They had a great time!


We nearly sold our house twice only to have our hearts broken both times. We are still the proud owners of a house in a city we no longer live in.

I taught a capstone class in psychology. Got to read a lot of original literature that I have never had the time to read. Very fun!

Conducted a research study with 'clickers' in my dev psych class. So far the results are as I significant differences. To improve student experience and performance takes much more than the simple addition of a technology.

I am the chair of our IRB board (named IRRB at our college). Lots of paperwork and organization, but interesting to see all the different research being done on campus!

Member of a technology task force for the President of our college. We are going to give a list of recommendations at the end of the school year for where we see Morningside heading and what it should keep in mind in terms of technology.

Ran my first 5K! I actually finished with minimal walking. One day I will run the entire way!

I am faculty adviser for our psychology club. I'm hoping to improve membership and increase the activities that this group does. Right now it seems it is only a pocketbook for students who want to travel to conferences with a service project thrown in for appearances (my personal opinion). We can do better than this.

I received a travel grant to help offset expenses for MPA from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology.

OK so that's the skinny. One of my resolutions this year is to keep blogging more. I have also decided to re-dedicate to Twitter as well. So if anyone who reads this also Tweets you can find me there using my name.

I hope everyone has a great 2009. We can only hope that this year is better than 2008 was for many Americans. I certainly hope it is better for us. We nearly had our house sold....I hope by this summer we will be rid of that expense!