Too Many Courses, Too Few Friends: Thriving as First-Year Faculty in a New Environment

A year ago I was wrestling with a large roll of orange bubble wrap and a faulty tape dispenser as my partner and I prepared to relocate from Connecticut to Nebraska. We had been living in our quiet corner of New England long enough to gain a large circle of friends but we knew absolutely no one in the Midwest. I was also wrestling with syllabi, assignment prompts, and textbook orders as I braced myself for the teaching load at my new institution. The scale of my professional life was about to shift drastically as I transitioned from teaching a few sections of composition as a graduate student at a large public university to developing three different literature courses per semester as an assistant professor at a small liberal arts college. Many of us will meet similar professional and personal challenges as junior faculty: as I reflect on my experiences, I hope that some of the strategies I have relied on will also prove useful to you. Specifically, this post will suggest possible approaches to handling course preparation as a new faculty member and re-building your social life in an unfamiliar environment. Continue reading

Help Your New Hires

(Originally published here on Inside Higher Ed.)

Dear department chairs and college deans,

Will new faculty members join your institution this fall? If so, you can do a handful of things that will help them transition. Much of the burden of figuring it out will fall squarely on them, but an accommodating and hospitable environment will not only help new faculty slide into their jobs effectively but will also ultimately better serve everyone. This is especially true if those individuals are first-time faculty members. Continue reading

Writing Lessons: Practicing What We Preach

(Originally published here on Inside Higher Ed.)

As educators, we often lament the quality of our students’ writing and ponder how we might support their writing development. To that end, I recently attended an interdisciplinary pedagogical conference themed around improving student writing. One of the conference’s main objectives was to remind all of us, regardless of field, that students need our help with their writing and that we cannot burden English departments with the sole responsibility for shaping it.

The research and presentations were geared toward student writing, but I started to ask myself why I couldn’t also heed some of those lessons and be my own writing coach. Why had I failed to see that so many of the tools I use as an educator could transfer neatly to my own writing? Continue reading

On Research Presentations at Conferences

(Originally published here on Inside Higher Ed.)

When it comes to academic conferences, it seems most of us belong to one of two groups. The first is the research poster group, which has conversations with other scholars with the help of a visual aid. The second is the panel of papers group, where each panelist prepares a 20- to 25-minute presentation and then a discussant or moderator takes questions from the audience.

My research and my field generally belong to the latter group. Until very recently, I have ascribed to the common practice of writing an eight-page paper and simply reading it for the attendees. But that all changed a couple of months ago. Continue reading

Making the Most of the Summer

(Originally published here on Inside Higher Ed.)

This time a year ago, I finished my degree and headed into the summer unsure of what to do with myself. It was only in hindsight that I thought critically about how to invest one’s time and energy over the summer. (Those thoughts are documented here.) This year, I’m taking a more proactive approach and creating a plan for the summer before it begins. Here, I describe the decisions I’ve made in terms of my teaching, structuring my time for research, and reading for professional enrichment. Continue reading

A Tool Kit for Teaching About Research

(Originally published here on Inside Higher Ed.)

In a previous article, “Prepping a Course I’ve Never Taught Before,” I wrote how I decided to engage my students in a semester-long project that would expose them to research in my field. My thought process was that I want students to see that higher education is about learning to ask meaningful questions and solving the puzzles that are absent from their textbook. In this essay, I will elaborate on my approach for teaching research, and offer some tools and suggestions for doing so. Continue reading