Back to School Reading List

All over the northern hemisphere, instructors and students are headed back to school in the middle of a COVID pandemic. These are strange times and I find myself turning to the words of wisdom of various published authors as I work through how to make sense of our moment in time. I’m taking the liberty of sharing my fall 2020 reading list with you, in hopes that there will be a title that provides insight into your teaching and learning quandaries this fall. Continue reading


Summer Plans — Revised

A year ago I wrote an essay about how to make the most out of summer plans. Today, summer 2019 feels like a lifetime ago and like it belongs to an era that no longer exists. Summer 2019 was about making the most of the space between semesters and summer 2020 is about survival. 

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — Audre Lorde

The following is a list of questions I’ll be entertain this summer, in an attempt to care for myself and, thus, engage in political warfare:

  1. What can I do that would feel life-giving today?
  2. If I were to open research documents, would that fulfill me?
  3. Who, among members of my community, would benefit from a piece of me today?
  4. When is the last time I went for a walk? Is that what I should do today?
  5. Is there a change I can make that would help me feel less lonely or isolated?
  6. What is my body telling me about what I need today?
  7. How can I set myself up for success before the fall is in swing?
  8. Have I been getting enough quality sleep? What would it look like to rest?

Junior Prof’s summer reading list

Like last summer, I also plan to read a few books this summer.

Small Teaching and Small Teaching Online — I looked over these last summer and now that we are all moving toward a fall semester at least partially online, it feels pertinent to look back over these teaching strategies.

As the United States engages in a nationwide reckoning with White supremacy and structural racism, I will also pick up two best sellers on these topics before turning toward anti-racist pedagogy readings in the fall.

Why I am No Longer Talking to White People about Race — Reni Eddo-Lodge helped spark a national, British conversation about race in the U.K. She covers a wide range of topics including the intersection of race and feminism, and how racial and socio-economic strata may be more interlinked than one would think.

How to be an Antiracist — Ibram X. Kendi’s book is being hailed as one of the most important books on racism ever published. This is taken from an online summary — “Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.”

Those, my friends, are my only expectations of this summer.

Academic Social Media

In February of 2020, Dorie Clark wrote an article for Harvard Business Review titled “Build a Network — Even When You Don’t Think You Need One.” Clark’s main argument is that everyone — even the “lone wolf,” academic type — benefits from having a network of humans with whom they can collaborate. The last section of the her article addresses identifying a vehicle for networking, and I’d like to suggest that various online platforms and social media outlets are excellent networking vehicles. The following is a synopsis of the four digital platforms of networking I have found useful, as well as an outline of some of the pros and cons of those platforms.

Continue reading

Resigning and Choosing a Non-Lateral Career Path

I have really struggled to write about my recent job resignation and to figure out how to communicate my experiences with it. We are in the midst of national (and even international) conversations about hiring freezes in higher education, so it’s difficult to imagine someone wanting or needing to resign from their job. However, that’s exactly the position I found myself in not long ago. I was wracked with guilt about how my resignation will affect my current employer because I was afraid they would be unable to replace me. However, after I had the difficult conversations I needed to have, I was amazed to find I felt more supported than ever in my pursuit of my career goals. Not only that, I was reminded of a painful reality in higher education – many faculty and staff are faced with a lack of mentorship and transparency as they navigate their workplaces. By opening up about my situation to my coworkers, I discovered I should have had many of these conversations much earlier. Continue reading

The Pros and Cons of Campus Visit Dinners

(Originally published here on Inside Higher Ed.)

The campus visit is an odd portion of the academic job search process. It is arguably the key moment when the power dynamics between hiring committees and candidates begin to shift.

A typical tenure-track search might produce three candidate visits and, due to the limited number of candidates at this stage in the process, departments tend to switch their focus from critiquing candidates toward impressing them. (I don’t mean to say that the search committee isn’t still evaluating candidates — only that it has narrowed its pool of potential hires and, if candidates have multiple options, the committee’s labor could produce a failed search.) For many departments and universities, getting the “top candidate” will become a point of pride.

Thus, the visits often consist of a combination of evaluative moments (interviews, meetings, teaching demonstrations and job talks) paired with expensive dinners and real estate tours. These dinners and tours could be considered job marketing efforts, and, recently, I have become increasingly aware of debates regarding the professionalism of this type of marketing. Continue reading

Junior Prof’s Resources for Contemplating Contingent Labor in the Academy

It’s no secret that the last several decades in higher education have witnessed a large-sweeping, administrative turn toward divesting in human labor. As the consequences of these administrative decisions make themselves more and more clear, the subject of contingency in the academy has come to the attention of authors, institutions, and academic news venues. Continue reading

How to Advocate for the Research You’re Already Doing

(Originally published here on Inside Higher Ed.)

Part of our training in graduate school involves fine-tuning the skill of academic research. And a lot of graduate school programs will insist that the holy grail of publishing opportunities lies in the peer-reviewed publication, whether in article or book monograph form.

Upon completion of a graduate degree, if you choose to stay in an academic job with a research component, or find an industry job that requires publication as a metric of employee success, peer-reviewed articles continue to reign supreme among supervisors who need to rack and stack their subordinates against one another for raise and promotion purposes.

In the last 18 months of my job, I’ve had a number of conversations with colleagues about the merits and pitfalls of jobs that have such a narrow evaluation system. Here, I argue that we should value research and publication outside of peer-review metrics. I’ll also offer a tentative plan for advocating for the research that you want to do — rather than the institutionally prescribed format of peer review. Continue reading

Junior Prof’s Book Proposal Tips

I’ll never forget the biggest highlight of my dissertation defense – learning that my dissertation “made sense” as a book to my advisors. I should start by saying that I’m in a field where writing a book is fairly common. There are many researchers out there in STEM, the Social Sciences and the Humanities who will never write a book and whose research findings would be illogically organized if presented in book format. However, I am not among them. I have always envisioned publishing my work as a book and feared greatly that my advisors would tell me not to. Recently, a lot of my time has been occupied by the work of turning my dissertation into a book that makes sense. Earlier this week I took to Twitter to announce an accomplishment of which I am very proud: I submitted my book proposal. Continue reading