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.

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

Stress Management During Application Season

(Originally published here on Inside Higher Ed.)

It is no secret that both the academic job search and the process of submitting grant proposals are grueling and challenging to manage emotionally. At this point in my career, I am no expert in getting jobs or securing grants. But the number of applications I’ve submitted is in the hundreds, and I have navigated the stress they produce recently and frequently. I’ve developed a few strategies for making the process a bit more bearable and outlined them below. Continue reading

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

In Search of the Dream Job

Thrilled to announce that @jenheemstra invited me to be a part of her “Carrier Barriers” blog series. Follow the hyperlink above to her blog, or check out the full content below. Thanks Jen! Hope to collaborate with you more in the future.

Thinking About Employment in Graduate School.

I’ll confess to you that I arrived to the first semester of my graduate school career totally unconcerned about my future employment prospects – no one had warned me that the Humanities were in “crisis” or that landing a job post-PhD could be an arduous task. You can imagine, then, my shock when a unit of my cohort’s “Intro to Graduate Studies” class was themed around the death of the profession I thought I’d one day join. I’ll never forget fighting back tears as a faculty member in my field told me briskly that I didn’t have a prayer of getting a job in my field. In many ways, my dreams of finding healthy employment at an institution (like the R1 I had attended for undergrad) crashed before they ever took off. Continue reading

Job Interviews – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Job market season is in full swing as hopeful candidates find out whether the applications they poured their hearts into will get them first round interviews and whether those interviews will produce campus visits. I applied to a handful of jobs this year…I think eight total…and heard within the last 48 hours that I’ve been invited for a Skype interview at two of those institutions. The idea of preparing for a Skype interview sent me reeling as I began to entertain mentally the work that would go into getting ready to entertain a room full of strangers via a digital platform. That, in turn, caused me to reflect on prior experiences interviewing…some of them great and others horrifying. Continue reading

Impostor Syndrome 102: It’s back!

The research and writing on what we know as impostor syndrome abounds, and with good reason. People from every walk of life experience it and it’s nearly impossible to get through grad school without the myriad of questions inspired by self-doubt: what happens if my advisor realizes I’m way less experienced and/or well-read than everyone else in my cohort?; am I going to disappoint my advisor with my lack of abilities?; I can’t believe everyone can have such informed opinions on Roland Barthes…why am I just now hearing of him?

Most of those questions are prompted by a lack of self-confidence brought on by comparing oneself to a host of high-achieving, accomplished peers. I think most graduate students are reticent to tackle impostor syndrome head on, because they’re hopeful that it will just slowly dissipate. (At least, that’s how I felt.) I know I was DEFINITELY hopeful that it was a sensation that would stay contained within my graduate school career. But recently I had an experience that caused it to come roaring back. My first thought upon realizing it was back… “Great, now I get to deal with the assistant professor version of this arduous mental health challenge.” Continue reading