Sunday, February 28, 2010

pushing it

Becoming faculty has been, to some extent, a struggle of balancing things for the greatest future benefit. As a grad student I grabbed every opportunity I was allowed to in terms of field projects, collaborations, experiences. I've worked in a lot of disparate research areas as a result, but I think this set me up fairly well to be the only person in my specific discipline at a small school. I feel more prepared to be a generalist, because I have had introductory experience in many areas, in addition to learning a lot about my particular dissertation topic.

I'm starting to think that I failed to make a break in this particular aspect of my graduate mindset - I have continued to say yes to most field opportunities and collaborations, in addition to forging connections when I needed collaborators to answer my own research questions. The result is that I find myself over-subscribed, working with a number of colleagues in different departments, and having to choose between projects that overlap each other in time.

In some ways this will probably be good - SLAC loves interdisciplinary collaboration, so I'm definitely doing myself a favor there. However, I should probably start to be a little more careful about what I can actually take on given the amount of time I have, the time it takes to train students, and the percentage of my life that I want to spend in the field. This last point is of particular sensitivity lately - even short field projects add up when you have many of them, and at a teaching college I have to be careful to be around and not allow my students to see me as "unavailable". And, perhaps the most dangerous trap of the field scientist, I need to make sure I give myself time to write - a break in the teaching schedule shouldn't automatically be considered "field time".

And of course all of this I knew already - it was advice I was given when I took this job, and advice I largely ignored because who knows how many field opportunities there might be? What if this one turns out to the be the most exciting research ever? What if it falls through, or we don't get funding? I needed a backup...and then I wanted to help out a colleague...and then I wanted a local study for easy access...and then I was contacted by someone new...etc. Maybe I'll know that I've succeeded as faculty when I manage to make this all work together, and stop saying yes no matter how excited I might be about new research prospects. At least until tenure.

Monday, February 22, 2010

card me

Last week I was mistaken for a student. Twice, on the same day. This has happened before, but usually it's once a term, or even less frequently. Keeping in mind that SLAC is an undergraduate-only institution, this bothers me just a little. I also realize that I will likely be garnering very little sympathy from readers.

Maybe I should just be happy about it, while it lasts. Maybe, as a friend suggested, I should start wearing makeup in an effort to age myself. I think this is a bad idea due to a number of issues, but primarily because I have never learned to wear makeup and I don't think it's going to happen at this point. My toiletry needs are also already damaging enough in an environmental sense, and I really don't want to add to that if I don't have to.

My own thought is that if I dressed more professionally this wouldn't happen. I'm not sure this is true, but it's what I suspect. I usually wear jeans with a decent-looking and not-too-revealing do most of my colleagues. SLAC is not the kind of place where people teach in ties and high-heels, for the most part. But I also like being comfortable, and I'm usually doing a lot of moving around during the day, so I'm just not willing to wear something nicer that would cramp my style.

I guess that means that I'm choosing to look young and to allow people who don't know me to assume that I'm a student. So this is an issue of my inability to take personal responsibility. Interesting. Maybe I'll start keeping track of misidentifications, so I can quantify my physical decline over the next few decades. Sweet.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Today I'm whittling away at the stuff that has to come before those final manuscript revisions. I finally finished my field report from my January trip. I'm giving a talk to important people re: my other field project, this weekend, and then that will be out of the way. I have dinner plans for the next two days, lunch plans tomorrow, coffee plans on Sunday...and hey, I only have six meetings scheduled so far for next week. Not so bad, if only it would stay that way.

One of my advisees just emailed me to let me know that they can't come in for advising tomorrow, because they're going out of town. Even though they had two weeks to schedule an advising meeting, and tomorrow is the last day they can do it. I wonder if they noticed that they're taking my class next term. Not a good start, kid.

I'm itching to know the specifics of SLAC's tenure consideration of publications. I realize that papers that were in press when I came here aren't going to help me. But what if I did part of the analysis here? What if I did all of the revisions here? Would things count here that wouldn't necessarily be useful at a larger University? Hmm. I probably shouldn't actually ask. But I wonder.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

no pressure

As an undergrad I studied abroad. As a faculty member, I'm now being pressured to direct the program I attended as a student. This is something I had thought about doing someday, but I certainly hadn't considered doing it SOON. Now I'm all upside-down. Should I apply? And if I decide to spend six months in this country, whose language I still speak better than the language spoken in both of my current research areas, how do I get Partner to come with me? How do I deal with it if he can't? Which of my other two field projects do I ditch in order to make my directorial year manageable? What will my Dean say if I want to be gone for 3/4 of the year (which would be directing this program + one field project)?


I have been teaching a course fairly regularly, which is new at SLAC. I'm not teaching it, for the first time in a while, during the Spring. So now I have requests from Seniors who wanted to take it, and can I please work with them independently if I'm not going to be teaching it? I'm not so much of a sucker that I would normally say yes, but since they're seniors I have a hard time saying no, especially since this is a skills-based course that might help them get a job someday.

Maybe I am a sucker after all.

I've actually been checked up on (checked up upon?) by someone who reviewed a paper I submitted a while back; the reviewer wanted to know how the resubmission went. This is nice, but it makes me feel really, really bad that I haven't actually resubmitted yet - and the fact that I was planning to get the new version out to my coauthor this weekend, or next week at the latest, probably doesn't save me, does it?


I'd like to blame my recent field season + service load. Maybe I'll still do that, even if it's only partially valid. I will say that being on a search committee has reminded me of all the things I liked about SLAC when I interviewed - that's particularly nice now, as I drown in a sea of overdue obligations.

Also, I will yet again be co-chairing a session at the big fall conference. Yay for getting the session passed, I guess. It wasn't so bad last least my co-chair will be the primary contact this time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

field ladies with babies

As previously noted, it seems that now is the time for educated women to get pregnant. Post- or late grad school. Early faculty. Finally making some kind of decent paycheck. Facing the final countdown on the biological clock.

So I shouldn't be surprised that almost everyone I know seems to be pregnant or dealing with small children. College friends, colleagues, wives of colleagues, colleagues of colleagues. My sister. Everybody making babies.

I've also been observing fellow female field scientists during my last two field seasons, as there were pregnant women in the field in both cases; one had a hard time and left early, but the other did fine. I don't know that I would choose to do that, but kudos to them for making it work.

The other thing I noticed was the commonalities of the ages of kids for slightly older academics - people who are approximately 40, or approaching it. Many of these people have kids, and all of those kids are six years old. How old is your daughter? Six. This was repeated often enough that it caught my attention, and it fits with the current rash of early-30's baby-making.

Not that this is unexpected or new information. But there's a difference between knowing something will happen and actually witnessing the arrival of the next generation. I think this has done more to my mental picture of my own age than even getting a job and buying a house has done. Procreation seems like a more decisive separation from what came before.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Saturday night I arrived home just functional enough to pilot my vehicle from the airport to my house, eat something, and fall asleep. Sunday was recovery/laundry/email/cleanliness. And this morning Partner drove off, leaving me to entertain the cat for three weeks.

I actually found that it was easier to say goodbye having been gone than it usually is when we've been living a more normal life maybe this "consecutive travel" thing isn't so bad after all.

Field work was productive, and it was nice to head home just as I was getting tired of the food/early mornings/lack of regular showers. Now my schedule is insane, but at least I can eat WHATEVER I WANT for dinner.