Posts Tagged ‘Assistant Professor’

Once upon a time, my Facebook account was a peaceful place where I could converse with my grad school friends about grad school things.  Then my sister showed up.  Her statements, visible to all of my grad school friends, that I was “a dork” did not fit with the grad student identity that I had constructed.  Although I accept the fact that a large percentage of grad students are dorks, we prefer to think of ourselves as idiosyncratic intellectuals.  As George Costanza might say, worlds were colliding. Since that time, of course, the rest of the world has appeared on Facebook, changing the dynamics entirely, as a recent episode of South Park highlights.

A few days ago, the LA Times reported (via Contexts) that, “Just because popular social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, encourage members to use their actual identities doesn’t mean people are presenting themselves online the way they do in real life.”  Of course, for sociologists the idea that there is one representation of a person’s real personality is somewhat ridiculous.  This was highlighted by recent posts at Crooked Timber in response to Facebook Overlord Mark Zuckerberg’s statement that

“You have one identity,” he emphasized three times in a single interview with David Kirkpatrick in his book, “The Facebook Effect.” “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.” He adds: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

Personally, I find the idea that presenting yourself in different ways to different people can be seen as a lack of integrity by anybody outside of politics hilarious, and Healy links the idea to a potentially disastrous breaching experiment:

“Hey, I want to present the same public face to everyone, and see what happens! My hypothesis is that people will freak out and maybe some bad things will happen!”

Maybe Zuckerberg’s real goal with the increasingly complex Facebook privacy settings is not world domination through advertising but the elimination of a major element of social psychology!  For what it’s worth, Zuckerberg is currently failing because, despite the fact that family members can see my comments to family members and vice versa, I have not started making comments to my family members about the intricacies of life as an assistant professor, nor have I started making comments to my friends about how big of a dork I am.

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As noted before, one of the most daunting aspects of my transition from poorly-paid graduate student to acceptably-paid assistant professor has been that there is no longer anything preventing my wife and I from looking at houses and thinking seriously about when we want to increase the size of our family.  In preparation for incurring a debt greater than my life’s income, we have both purchased the recommended amount of term life insurance.  The process goes something like this:

Corporation:  Hello, sir, how are you today?

Me:  It’s Dr. sir, and I am generally okay but not well enough to prevent the fear that I may die in the next thirty years.

Corporation:  Die?  You look like a healthy fellow.  In fact, I am willing to bet that you will not die in the next thirty years.

Me:  Interesting… What are you willing to wager?

Corporation:  I will wager hundreds of thousands of dollars that you will not die in the next thirty years, and because I’m so sure that you won’t die I will give you forty to one odds!

Me:  So let me get this straight: I will wager thousands of dollars over the course of thirty years that I will die – really only hundreds of dollars a year – and you will wager hundreds of thousands of dollars that I won’t?

Corporation:  Yes, that is correct.

Me:  What happens at the end of the thirty years?

Corporation:  Well, since you think you’ll be dead by then, if you want to continue our agreement past thirty years it will cost you more for a single year than in the entire thirty years combined.  Otherwise, I’ll keep your money because you will have lost the bet and you will have to live with the fact that you’re a bad gambler.

Me:  But you’ll pay me if I die within the thirty years?

Corporation:  Well, I’ll pay somebody, but you’ll be dead.

Me:  So I’m a loser either way?

Corporation: Right.

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Pitse1eh’s post the other day about drowning in teaching as a first-semester assistant professor got me thinking about my own division of labor (or lack thereof).  She wrote:

I’m drowning. I really am. I find myself wondering if I worked all those long years just to get a job that I don’t even like. I constantly tell myself that it will get better, that everyone has a hard first year, that when all of my classes aren’t new prep things will calm down and I’ll be able to return to what I really love — research.

Over a month into my first semester as an assistant professor, I also haven’t had any time for research.  As I commented on her blog:

I’m in my first semester at a liberal arts school, and my experiences have been largely similar to yours. I have a 3-3 teaching load and I currently have two new preps, but I am exempt from service (including advising) this year. I teach at 8 or 9 am every day (and I am terrible at working from home), so I am in my office from 7:30-4:30 five days a week and do whatever else needs to be done at home (usually on Sundays). I’ve been working about 50 hours a week but exam season is in full swing so I anticipate that that will increase.

Next semester I will have one new prep and I will probably continue to have one or two new preps each semester for the next few years until I’ve covered all of the classes that will make up my primary rotation. As I look around at my colleagues, they have a set of prepared classes that they teach and occasionally teach a new course. They obviously still have to spend time grading but they are not doing nearly the amount of work to prepare that I am. I’m looking forward to getting to that point.

The biggest difference between the two of us seems to be that I like research but love teaching. Because of this, the fact that I have spent absolutely no time on research since the semester started doesn’t bother me. I’m looking forward to getting back to research over winter break and continuing next semester when I have a bit more time, but for now I don’t think much about it.

I would imagine that there are a lot of people in Pitse1eh’s position, having accepted jobs that will eventually allow them to spend time on research but finding themselves overwhelmed with teaching.  Although I’m not in this position, I’m still looking forward to next semester when I will have fewer preps and more classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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I asked for it.

While shadowing a liberal arts professor as a graduate student, I attended a faculty meeting.  I don’t mean a departmental faculty meeting, I mean a meeting of the entire faculty.  At the time, the fact that these professors had a direct say in the organization of their school had a big impact on me.  Sure, faculty at big schools have a say in how their schools are run, but they don’t typically have this kind of direct influence.  This experience was one of the things that I talked about in interviews while on the job market, including the school at which I am now employed.

Now I’ve experienced a faculty meeting at my new institution and I don’t think I’d mind an indirect influence after all.  It doesn’t help that the first meeting of the semester dealt with proposed curriculum changes that a number of departments were not happy with.  Hopefully, this made the meeting more contentious than it would have otherwise been.

If there is a bright side to this experience (aside from having a direct say in the decisions that will affect my future) it is that the contentious nature of the meeting made some of the school’s stronger personalities evident, which will be helpful in future interactions.  On a small campus, it is hard to avoid these people even if they are in different departments.

I asked for it.

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I am no longer ABF.  In fact, I haven’t been ABF for nearly three months.  I’ve moved, arranged my office, attended orientation, and started teaching.  Despite these things, there has never been a moment when I started feeling different.  Participating in graduation didn’t do it because I wasn’t even done with my dissertation yet.  My defense didn’t do it because I still had revisions to make, and the act of filing may have been the most anticlimactic, since the person who received my paperwork did not seem to care that I had just completed seven years of intense study at her institution.

Maybe it is the lack of some kind of symbolic passage into my career as an assistant professor or maybe it is the fact that I’ve been busy preparing for the beginning of the semester, but I still feel like a graduate student teaching a few more classes.  Maybe the realization will come with my first-ever adult-sized paycheck, but I suspect that it will actually come at some moment that isn’t particularly special.  I remember walking down the hallway of my college dorm room and being struck by the realization that I was a college student.  Maybe someday I’ll be struck by a similar realization about my new role.  Either way, it will sure be nice to get those adult-sized paychecks.

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My mom was recently talking to my grandparents about my upcoming graduation and job and she happened to mention that I would be starting as an assistant professor.  They couldn’t belive that after all of the years I’ve spent in grad school to earn my Ph.D. I would only be assisting others with teaching and research.  She explained the situation but, since my grandfather continues to ask her why I won’t be seeing patients, there is no guarantee that her effort was successful.  I’m not sure if it is a good thing or a bad thing that they’re not alone in their confusion.

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