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.


JaneB said...

If you work this one out, let me know, will you?

This is my 14th (aargh) year as faculty here at NorthernUni and, despite all my good intentions about reducing commitments and writing this year, my cat is booked into the cat-hotel for 9 weeks out of 13 this summer due to field commitments, my travel schedule is full, and I'm juggling a lot of commitments to team projects, which tend to all fall due at once... oh well, at least it's not dull!

Liberal Arts Lady said... mean I might be having this same problem in 12 years!? Crap. Or, maybe I should feel less like a newbie after all. ;)