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

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.

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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

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

A Week in the Life of an Assistant Professor

This year I transitioned from graduate school to the professoriate. I was one of the lucky few to get an increasingly rare tenure-track job in the Humanities. It’s been about six months since I started my new job, which has caused me to reflect on the transition and on how I spend my time. It probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me that, with a few exceptions, the demands post-PhD are harder to balance than the demands of graduate school. The economic precarity of graduate school may be behind me, but employment pre-tenure is still precarious and my time feels even more valuable. I’m sharing with you a few lessons-learned, to shed some light on how an assistant professor spends an average week. (The original version of this blog post is available at on Teaching Academia.) Continue reading

Teaching 2.0

(Originally published here on Inside Higher Ed.)

Congratulations! As junior professors, we’ve made it through the fall semester. Now it’s time to start thinking about adapting our teaching for next term.

If you feel your teaching during the fall term was lackluster, you aren’t alone; I admit that my teaching was something akin to survival mode. I had teaching experience when I started my job, but I had never juggled multiple courses, right after a move, while trying to get adjusted to a new environment and new professional relationships. Even before I received my teaching evaluations, I knew there was room for improvement, and my evaluations confirmed that suspicion. Our institution uses raw scores, so it’s difficult to know exactly what I should have done better. While the scores came back solidly in the “good” range, I’d like to see something more like “good/great” next term. Continue reading

“That New Hire Needs Your Help” — A Response

(This blog post was written in response to Jane S. Halonen and Dana S. Dunn’s Chronicle of Higher Education article, That New Hire Needs Your Help.)

I’d like to start off by thanking Professors Dunn and Halonen for their thoughtful and compassionate article, “That New Hire Needs Your Help.” I am a new hire in my department as of August and I’ll admit that when I saw this article pop up in my inbox, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that someone was concerned about my adjustment to my new job.

As they rightly point out, “sometimes the stakes are really low and the politics vicious.” In what follows, I would like to elaborate on this point and also contribute one or two points that I feel were missing from their list. I hope that my anecdotal evidence will prompt those of you who are concerned with the welfare of your new faculty to heed one or two of my requests. Continue reading