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Since my days in graduate school I have sought opportunities to learn some new information. Whether this is attending a presentation, joining a reading group, or signing up for a workshop, I’ve done a lot of things not because they were particularly important to my success but because they sounded interesting or fun. (The fact that I have a high tolerance for boredom also works in my favor, since the snippets of useful information are often surrounded by useless information.) This semester, though, I think I have found the limits of demands on my time. Between preparing for class, meeting with students, grading, writing, and trying to get a new research project started, I have finally reached the point where I literally do not have time for a lunchtime discussion of teaching or a book discussion about gender.

Luckily, student meetings are winding down just as midterms are ramping up. I would look forward to spring break if I didn’t have so much work to do during it! In the future I may have to reduce some of my teaching efforts in order to increase my sanity (and, you know, the chance of getting tenure).


 

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What counts (and when)?

At my previous institution, a few peer-reviewed publications and evidence of continued “scholarly activity” (such as conference presentations) were enough for tenure. These publications could be on any topic in any publication as long as it was peer-reviewed. At my current institution, the picture is considerably less clear.

The major change is in what counts and how much. As at many institutions, all peer-reviewed publications are not created equally. Nobody is expected to publish in ASR or AJS but things like impact factor are considered. The type of research also matters. As one colleague stated, publishing in outlets like Teaching Sociology is like a cherry on top of a sundae, but it isn’t the sundae. They also like to see progress in these areas, so one high-profile publication followed by three lower-ranking publications is not as desirable as the reverse would be.

All of this makes the publication gauntlet that much more daunting. There is also uncertainty, though, about when one wants things to be accepted and published while moving along the tenure track. The third-year review, for example, is less of a formality and essentially the same in practice as the tenure review (requiring the exact same documents). This means that publications are essential for passing the third-year review but there are cases in which individuals with a few publications at this point neglected to tell the tenure and promotion committee about a paper that had been recently accepted so that it would be seen as “new” at the tenure review.

The final issue that I’ve encountered is a lack of information about what actually counts as “published.” Accepted papers do not seem to have the same weight as those that have actually been published (indicated in the fact that they are not requested as part of the review). “Published,” though, encompasses a wide variety of things today. Some journals have long lead times before publication in print, others have long lead times but “online first” availability in the meantime, and others have short lead times (or even all-online publishing) but questionable impact factors.

Together, these factors make a process that I breezed through at my previous institution much more stressful (I haven’t even had time to work on my time machine!).


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A recent discussion on campus alerted me to the fact that mentoring has changed. Models with a single assigned mentor (or anti-mentor) are no longer preferred. Instead, everybody should have lots of mentoring relationships in which all partners mutually benefit. The result is “mutual mentoring.” According to the NEA’s summary, mutual mentoring involves:

  • mentoring partnerships that include a wide variety of individuals—peers, near peers, tenured faculty, chairs, administrators, librarians, students, and others;
  • mentoring approaches that accommodate the partners’ personal, cultural, and professional preferences for contact (e.g., one-on-one, small group, team, and/or online);
  • partnerships that focus on specific areas of experience and expertise, rather than generalized, “one-size-fits-all” knowledge;
  • a reciprocity of benefits between the person traditionally known as the “protégé” and the person traditionally known as the “mentor;” and
  • perhaps most importantly, new and under-represented faculty members who are not seen or treated solely as the recipients of mentoring, but as the primary agents of their own career development.

All of these things sound great! Who will be arranging these relationships for me?

That, apparently, is my responsibility. Here are “some good first steps to create a Mutual Mentoring network of your own”:

  • If your department already has a formal mentoring program in place, take advantage of it, but keep in mind that the mentor chosen for you, or by you, as part of this program should not be your only source of professional support.
  • Ask some key colleagues whom they think you should approach about your specific subjects of interest. Keep in mind that there are many different ways that you can “click” with a mentoring partner. Who teaches classes similar in size to yours? Who uses a particular classroom technology that you’re interested in adopting? Who seems like the best overall personality match?
  • Identify near peers (colleagues who are close to your career level). Near peers can be particularly valuable because their experiences as newcomers are still reasonably fresh. Helpful “global” questions to ask near peers include: What do you wish you would have known when you first arrived? What is the most valuable thing you’ve done in support of your teaching?
  • Look for mentoring partners outside the faculty ranks. A talented, tech-savvy student may help you navigate a new class management system, while a librarian specializing in your discipline may be able to recommend hard-to-find resources.

I don’t think that new faculty should shirk the responsibility of forming networks and I also recognize that some of these are relationships that many people already have being recast as mentoring, but there also seems to be a disconnect between people saying “we’ve recognized that the best way to be successful here is to meet a lot of people inside and outside of the institution who can help you in different areas” and following that up with, “good luck finding them!” In an ideal world, experienced faculty would reach out to new faculty (who are busy enough juggling teaching, service, and research), not the other way around. I guess that all junior faculty are in charge of changing the culture now.


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For your viewing pleasure, and in light of the response to her video for “Formation” and Super Bowl appearance (backlash to which, according to one Fox News writer, “continues to grow”), here is Saturday Night Live’s brilliant response, “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black”:

 

Keep in mind that if your workplace is freaking out over the realization that Beyoncé is, and has always been, black, you might need to put on some Adele to sooth them:

 

Update: Here is a more detailed discussion from Doug Hartmann.


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Mount Saint Mary’s

I don’t even know what to say about this, other than to wonder about the motivations of the board of trustees and that I’m fairly certain that Newman has “caused considerable damage” to the University through the creation of this climate of fear. So much for the protections of tenure.

Here is a story about the situation from Inside Higher Ed (this is the one I’ve seen most frequently on Facebook) as well as one from the Washington Post.

Update: The fired faculty members have received offers of reinstatement and the faculty as a whole has called for Newman to resign by Monday morning.


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Many believe that Super Bowl 50 will come down to which team scores points while stopping the opposing team from scoring points.

Whether you want to understand football sociologically or want to ignore it altogether here are some links to help:

Enjoy the game (or don’t)!

Image from VectorBelly.


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Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 9.23.26 AMLink: https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/695759776752496640


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Jstor is a shelf

Continuing on the topic of student conceptions of research, another issue I have encountered as students conduct literature reviews is the belief that Jstor is the first and last place to look for academic research. This belief seems to be less prevalent at my current institution than my previous one, but many of my past students never even considered looking for sources outside of Jstor due to the convenience of full-text articles.

One problem with this is the fact that Jstor only provides results from the journals in its own collection, artificially limiting the resources that students have available to them to whatever Jstor has been able to negotiate for. (I wonder if students would be equally willing to limit their movie viewing to those that are available for streaming on Netflix, which has similar convenience and limitations.) The second problem is that even when Jstor does include a particular journal, access to that journal is often limited by a “moving wall” of three to five years. There are many topics for which recent publications contain important insights that were overlooked in the past but that students using Jstor would not have access to for several years (I was once accused of not knowing the literature in a particular area because I had not cited an article published a month or so before I submitted a paper to a journal!).

These issues can cause problems but are not lethal to a student’s chances of doing well. A much worse (though much less frequent) problem I’ve had when students use Jstor is that they think of Jstor as the source of the articles they are using. In the minds of some students, they are reading articles from Jstor rather than from The American Review of Criminal Awkwardness because that is where they got their articles. These rare students don’t realize that Jstor is like a shelf holding specific issues of specific journals rather than a publisher of academic information.

As professors, we can begin to address these issues with our students but the ASA citation guidelines can also help by not instructing students to include web addresses for PDFs that they downloaded from online databases. It is time to recognize that the database through which you access a source is not nearly as important as the original source of the source! (A source is a source, of course, of course…)


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When discussing research methods, there are a number of barriers to overcome in the ways that my students think about research. One is the frequent use of the word “experiment” as a generic term for “study.” Although that is annoying, and some students still do it after a semester of methods training, I’ve found that it is even more difficult to reconcile students’ various uses of the term “research.”

In high school and some college departments, a research paper is one in which you combine information from several sources into a single paper. In this context, “research” consists of the gathering of sources, likely from Jstor and other electronic databases. Within sociology, I think that these papers are better conceptualized as literature reviews or review papers. In contrast to my students, I think of research as the collection and analysis of data, though even this is complicated by the fact that many sociologists who use existing surveys will never collect their own data.

Due to this terminological confusion, there must be at least a few students who enroll in research methods courses wondering how many ways there are to search Jstor and why they have to spend an entire semester learning to do so. Discovering that they will spend a semester discussing ways to collect and analyze data must be a shock!


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Seven* years ago, having accepted a tenure-track job offer and realizing that my ability to give graduate students advice would be greatly diminished by working at a small liberal arts college, I started this blog by bragging about my job market success. Over the years, some things have changed (I finished my dissertation, started my first job, then started my second; I started a corresponding Facebook page) and some things have not (I still use the same now-ancient theme for the site, I still occasionally think I’m clever, I still like giving people advice).

As I said on the site’s fifth birthday, I originally thought that five regular readers would make writing this worthwhile. Now, I’m closing in on 100,000 total views. (Don’t scoff. Not everybody can be like Conditionally Accepted with their hundreds of thousands of views and getting called up to the big leagues!) Even though I’m not writing about grad school and the academic job market nearly as much these days, I hope that people are still finding my career musings worthwhile. Since WordPress now distinguishes between “visits” and “views,” once in a while I will notice that somebody new has discovered the site because the daily “visits” will remain constant while the “views” climb, which is always nice.

When the blog was three years old I posted lists of the most popular posts and my favorites. (Those lists of favorites still make up the “good places to start” section of the blog – maybe I should update that…) It is harder to remember which posts were my favorites now that I’ve written over 700 of them, but the post that brings people here in the most ironic fashion is probably the one in which I talked about Kanye West and Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs, quoting one of the twitter responses in the title. Over the years I have seen quite a few people arriving at the blog by searching for the title of that post, but I don’t think that an analysis of racism is what they’re typically expecting to find. Take that, racists!

In other news, today Mattel announced that Barbie now comes in three body types: petite, tall, and curvy. I have no doubt that Mattel purposefully shared this news on my blog anniversary in an attempt to bury it (like when companies release bad news on Fridays). Clearly, the two posts I’ve written comparing Barbie to Lammily and their nearly 400 combined views are the reason for this change. Take that, Mattel!

Given the huge effect my blog is having on racists and toy manufacturers, it is clear that similar influence on sexists, classists, and college administrators is not far behind. Yes, I think it is safe to say that my work here is nearly complete. Maybe this will be my last post!

*If Prince didn’t work so hard to keep his songs off of the internet, I would put a link to the song “Seven” here.


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