Sunday, October 11, 2015

Service Counts! Who Knew?

Flavia commented on this recent Chronicle article about who gets hired where, and when. I have no statistically significant information to impart on this subject; however, I am moved to muddy the waters a bit by introducing some anecdata regarding searches at my new uni, including, especially, the one that resulted in my hiring.

First: I've met a good handful of new faculty at Idyllic State, and none that I know of is right out of grad school; a VAP position seems to be minimal (and there's a contingent of us in the Humanities/Fine Arts who were TT for five years or more prior to moving here). There is one person I've met whom I don't know to have had a previous position, but I don't know that he didn't, either. VAPs and moving from one TT/tenured post to another seems well within the pale, in other words.

Second: It's becoming increasingly clear that, while I'm sure that I wouldn't have been hired if my research hadn't been up to snuff, it's my undergraduate teaching and service experience that clinched my candidacy. Surprise! I genuinely didn't think that my service experience, extensive as it is (and frequently in leadership/chairing positions) would help beyond a certain minimal threshold. As it happens, there is a Service Gap in my new department, and also increasing pressure to grow undergraduate enrollments. My strengths, unexpectedly, were a fit for their needs.

Thus, my teaching award, years of positive evaluations with a 4/4 load, chairing of the curriculum committee and subsequently the division, and directing the Honors Program (which involved recruiting and considerable encouraging of students) made me a particularly attractive candidate. Presumably the fact that I continued to publish during this time helped, of course, but it's been pointed out to me since I got here that I have a lot to offer in terms of undergraduate education and outreach. I honestly didn't think that that would matter so much at what is a decidedly research-oriented university. never know. My research portfolio, on a more junior candidate, might have been much less appealing to the search committee (not that I know that, of course). The things that I emphasized on my CV because, well, why not? happened to respond to needs within my new department that I could not possibly have anticipated.

Good luck to everyone who's on the market. It sucks, truly. And "fit" is a real thing, even if it means a lot of different things; you really can't judge what a committee might be looking for, beyond, of course, what's on the job ad. (And there's always stuff beyond the job ad.) The only (rather lame) bit of advice that I can give is to 1) clearly note on your cover letter how you are the best possible fit for what the committee is asking for; 2) explain yourself if you're moving from a t-t or tenured position; and 3) play up anything (within reason) that may help you stand out.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

TM is really TM, now

In her comment on my last post, What Now? quite sensibly asked what TM's new field is, since he left his tenured position to follow me to my new job.

Well! TM is now...a minister! --Which is sort of funny/ironic, since TM stands for The Minister, the sort of tongue-in-cheek nickname (used only on the blog) that I gave him when I met him back in 2007 and we were both new VAPs at Field.

So he's really a minister, at a UCC congregation in a nearby town, and I, surreally, find myself a minister's wife. (Not that that means much of anything--but someone did ask me a couple of weeks ago if I were "the minister's wife." Life takes us on strange paths, doesn't it?)

A couple of weeks ago, following his selection by the search committee, he preached a sermon before the congregation, who then voted him in as their new part-time senior minister. Tomorrow is his first sermon as a their full-fledged pastor.

He has not entirely left academia, however, and there may be some very good adjuncting possibilities around here (that would allow him to teach his field much better than he could at Field). And hurrah for being a two-income household again!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Settling In

I expected Bonaventure to have some adjustment problems as we started our new lives here in Idyll. And he did, a little--especially when I started spending whole days in the office, back in early September, he would be alternately surly and needy with me in the evenings. And he woke up a little more at night for a while, too; he's still not a champion all-night sleeper (and in fact he now comes up to our bed at around 4 or 5 am--please don't judge; sometimes I let him stay), but he's more or less back to normal.

What I didn't expect, for some reason, was that I would have adjustment issues, too.

At this point--a little over a month into the semester (and somehow already having midterms?!)--I'm feeling like myself again. But things were strange for a little while. Of course, while change can be exciting, changing everything at once is a little bit much.

And the change has been pretty dramatic. We're 1200 miles from our old house; we're closer to family; I'm in a job in the same field but with very different expectations; TM is in a whole new field; Bonaventure is in all-day nursery school for the first time (4 days a week); and we have to drive everywhere, when we used to walk. Even the landscape is different:

Fig. 1: down the street from my first apartment (and last house, actually; they were half a block apart) in Field Town

Fig. 2: the view from my bedroom window in Idyll

Anyway, by now I'm feeling acclimated, more or less. Overwhelmed with work, as always, but it's interesting work, at least for now. I'm on two dissertation committees and a master's exam committee, for students who are doing neat things and from whom I'll learn something. I'm involved in a seminar series that will kick my ass. I'm preparing my first graduate seminar. It's cool. And every day I feel a little less like I'm frankly out of my league, and a little more like this is my new, good life.

Oh, and we DID close on our house--in time to move in the weekend before classes started. Had I not mentioned that?

Monday, September 21, 2015

The downside to working in the office all day, every day is that packing lunch is a macabre affair

Today's noontime menu:

-banana (1)
-carrot (1)
-cheddar cheese (5 slices)
-cottage cheese
-hardboiled egg (1)

I also have a bag of rice cakes in my desk drawer.

I am a good eater. I like to eat. I do not "diet."

This lunch, which I patched together at the last minute out of what was to hand in the kitchen, depresses me.

I am now teaching at an institution with one of the highest rated food services in the country. It's outstanding. But I will not allow myself to drop $8-$10 a day on lunch, especially not at what happens to be a lean financial time for my family.

So...what on earth do people take for lunch? I used to do this regularly, like back when I was 23 and had a miserable office job--although I do remember an exhausting number of cheese sandwiches being consumed in that period.

Leftovers, when we have easily transportable leftovers, are an obvious solution, but otherwise...? I need to get better at this.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Bewilderment of Resources

(Another distraction from the housing situation. Re. which: so far, so good. We've had our final walk-through [although the seller hadn't actually moved out; she is, at least, fully packed]. Closing is scheduled for 10 am tomorrow. We know how big the big pile of money has to be. Luck luck luck luck luck....)

Today I had my day-long new faculty orientation at New State U. By the way, I've decided to call New School "Idyllic State," and the surrounding area will collectively be known as "Idyll." I'll write more about why later.

Anyway, a few observations:

First, I was struck by how many of the upper administrators who spoke to us were women, including many women of color, and several women who referred to having young children. While this doesn't necessarily translate into optimal support for mid-career women with children, or women of color, or women, or anyone else for that matter, it is at least...interesting. May or may not mean a thing. But my first impression of Field was of a bunch of men introducing the women who worked for them (that changed a lot in my eight years there, actually), so this was at least interesting in a potentially positive way.

Second, the theme of the orientation seemed to be this: There are SO MANY RESOURCES available for you! In every possible way! For every possible thing! So much money for you to apply to get! So many people eager to help you do any damn thing you want!

This was a) refreshing, and b) completely overwhelming. I now have so many pages of notes (and so many handouts) that I haven't a clue where to go, or to whom to go, for what, or what I can even ask for. Which is pretty much where I was yesterday.

Clearly, I'm having a bit of culture shock adjusting to a Huge Research University after being at a Teeny College (where people are friendly and will go to extraordinary measures to help you and you basically talk to the same three people for anything you want done, but you also have to do an awful lot yourself and there is no money). I'm wildly impressed with the resources that are available to me, and feel special in a way that I didn't at Field. I feel like a total rube, in a way, completely wide-eyed and grateful for everything that comes my way.

For example: I asked the IT guy if I could get a 13" MacBook Pro with Retina screen and maximum memory capacity for my free computer, and he wrote back to say that he'd ordered me one. Um! A used desktop--which was, I'll note, perfectly adequate--came with my office at Field, but this is quite a different order of service. I actually feel kind of guilty for asking for this much--like they're just taking it on faith that I actually need a fancy computer when I'm just a lowly Humanities prof who can noodle around on an outdated version of Word.

Monday, August 31, 2015

If if if

IF the seller of the house that we by all rights should have been inhabiting for two weeks now is NOT in the psychiatric ward of the hospital on Wednesday, we will have a place to live.

I am out of hoping energy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Opening Activities at a 4/4 SLAC and at a 2/2 R1: The First in a Series

At Kalamazoo this year, Notorious Ph.D. asked me if I would blog about the transition from a tiny, cash-strapped, midwestern SLAC with a 4/4 load to a big East Coast R1 with a 2/2. I suspect that there will be a lot to say, so, to distract myself from the ever-changing, endlessly bizarre situation that is the Mihi Family Housing Crisis, I will write about one of them.

Difference No. 1: Gearing up for the new year.

At Field College, this is what happens in the week leading up to a new Fall semester:
  • Wednesday before classes start: mandatory day-long faculty retreat.
  • Thursday: half-day faculty retreat/faculty meeting (which is attended by all full-time faculty).
  • Friday: all-campus (faculty and staff) meeting, at which everyone is introduced to everyone else. This is entirely useless, because either you pretty much know who everyone is, or you don't know anyone, suffer from total information overload, and don't remember a thing. After the meeting is the (equally pointless, in my view) Benefits Fair, at which you collect free toothbrushes and whatnot.
  • Saturday: students move in; we're invited to help them. I have only known one professor who has ever done so. Because: syllabi.
  • Sunday: if you're lucky enough to be teaching a First-Year Seminar, you have your first class meeting this afternoon.
  • Monday: if you advise a student organization, you have a mandatory ice cream social to attend. If you teach First-Year Seminar, you have a two-hour community service project to complete, followed by a picnic. You may also have your second class meeting this afternoon (this has fluctuated in recent years).
  • Tuesday: mandatory (and usually rather nice) opening convocation. Big picnic lunch with all the new students. Advising meetings all afternoon.
  • Wednesday: classes start.
At New U:
  • ...
  • ...
  • ...
  • Classes start! After labor day!
As a new faculty member, I have things to do--orientations and whatnot, which I'm eager to attend (I need information!). Perhaps more senior folk have meetings, but if they do, I haven't heard about them.

There are a lot of factors at work in this distinction. Little colleges like Field need heavy faculty governance and involvement; faculty do all of the advising and need to be apprised of changes in marketing strategies, athletic recruitment, accreditation visits, new requirements for Education majors, and all kinds of things that you wouldn't think that you'd need to know about. They're also expected to be very involved with individual students; the personal connection is, after all, what Field (and a lot of schools like it) sell, and what makes them different from the local State U's. That involvement, incidentally, is what I enjoyed the most at Field, and I hope that I can cultivate some of it at New U (admittedly in a different register).

But now, my primary directive is research. And good lord, I need to get settled in a house and in my office so that I can do some.