Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Goal Setting, Research Productivity, and the Associate Professor Survey

(Cross-posted from the other blog)

A friend asked me yesterday if I had goals. Not just "things I'd like to do some day," but articulated, specified goals. With a timeline.

In short, no.

All the career advice I've ever read suggests that goal-setting is an essential part of an integrated, successful career. And I do have "things I'd like to do some day," don't get me wrong. But writing down goals...well, for whatever reason, I haven't done it. One reason, I suspect, is that I'm a little uncomfortable with taking myself quite that seriously, with putting myself forward, in the way that goal-setting suggests. When I write it down here it sounds ludicrous, but there it is.

But here's the thing. I spent some time yesterday with the MLA's Associate Professor Survey, and I wonder if I'm not alone. The key finding for me, that women in private independent institutions (like my own) spend on average 9.6 years at associate professor before advancing to full, was sobering. (Especially since I'm already right at that mark, if not a little beyond it.) But even more telling was the paired statistic that in the same institutions, men are advancing on average three years more rapidly. (That's the largest gap between men's and women's advancement that the survey found.)

I wonder if women are less willing to label themselves career-focused than men are. I wonder if those women aren't articulating their goals, aren't naming them, and are therefore falling behind on them. I think in institutions like mine this could be a particularly insidious trap, as we are sought after and rewarded (up to a point) for our service and our teaching, and can make a pretty good career on them alone. So I wonder if when women like me say, "I'm too busy for my research," they really mean, "I haven't made it a priority." I wonder if they haven't made it a priority because they see that it's not really that highly valued, or because they truly prefer their teaching or service work, or because they have trouble carving out time for it at home. I am not at all ready to discount institutional and/or systemic discrimination against women, either--I know that the research work I do is, on occasion, measured and found wanting, at least in part because my field (children's literature--a female-dominated field) is not taken as seriously as, say, Renaissance literature. But such discrimination may fall into a larger pattern of discounting women's work that women themselves participate in. What would it take for us to claim our own work, our own value?

Or, on the other hand, are we choosing the saner course by pursuing more integrated lives? Sometimes that's what I think, and it does make sense. I have great autonomy in the classroom already; I do the research that interests me in the time frame that I can make work for my family, and that means an emphasis on conference papers and articles rather than on a monograph. (Psst--I prefer to read articles anyway, and suspect that they're more influential in most cases. But that's another story...maybe.) In my essay for Mama, PhD I call for us all to insist on the value of our work, to hold our senior colleagues and administrators to account when they pay lip service to teaching and service and then reward only original scholarship. I do think the work I do is valuable, but a small voice inside me also says, "you're not doing enough research." Maybe if I put some goals in writing I could measure my work against them and silence that voice. Maybe.

We think of these things when the semester ends and the research program hasn't quite ramped up again--or I do. Here's what I wrote yesterday about that survey, taking things in a slightly different direction:

Mothering at Mid-Career: The Associate Professor Survey - Mama PhD - Inside Higher Ed

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Note: when I went to post this, I wanted to tag it for future reference and discovered that I have never used a tag for either "research" or "scholarship" before. Hmm.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

May It Please the Court - And the Pursuit of Happiness Blog - NYTimes.com

May It Please the Court - And the Pursuit of Happiness Blog - NYTimes.com

Maira Kalman goes to the Supreme Court and talks to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She also eats lunch. Well worth clicking through.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Seeking to End World Hunger, One Search at a Time - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com

Seeking to End World Hunger, One Search at a Time - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com

University of Richmond students develop a search engine that contributes free rice for every search--and get it written up in the New York Times. Check it out! This is my new default search engine...

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Edited 4/25/09 to add: alas, Hoongle is no more. Somehow they inadvertently violated Google's terms of service, and shut down. But the students are still full of good ideas, and they still raised a good bit of money to alleviate world hunger.

Reading aloud

I'm blogging about reading aloud at the Mama, PhD blog at Inside Higher Ed today; I also blogged about the president reading aloud over at my other blog just last night. (Click over to it to see the video...) Synchronicity!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter reprise

Today is Easter Monday, which is also, liturgically, my parents' wedding anniversary. (They were married on April 7, which in 1958 was the Monday after Easter.) Last year we had a blow-out celebration for them in the summer, but this year we are back to normal.

Well, almost. As usual, we've had the world's best houseguests here for Easter, but this was their briefest visit--and thus, I have far less baking to report than usual. They arrived, with Mariah, Tuesday evening. Wednesday we did an event on campus in support of Mama, PhD--a reading and discussion that was really wonderful--and they took off Thursday morning to do two more events at Duke. (They left Mariah with us, which was nice.)

Since, as usual, I wasn't on break, the week mostly went on as usual with the addition of various Holy Week services at church: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil, Easter morning. Our guests returned Friday evening in time for dinner, and Saturday involved some egg dyeing and a little baking (vegan cupcakes). Sunday morning was vegan muffins, church, and an egg hunt.

I have no pictures from our Easter feast, but it really turned out well. Roasted asparagus, mushroom galette, spinach salad, and edamame orzo (the recipe says fava beans, but edamame are quicker and easier), with strawberry panzanella for dessert. The panzanella was a new departure for us, and it was absolutely fabulous--highly recommended!

Our guests leave today, but we get to keep Mariah for another week. Nick went back to school this morning a little reluctantly, but we'll get back in the swing of things soon.