Sunday, December 14, 2014

He did it! Hub applied for a job here in town.

Hub applied for a job at the big school here in town. It's hard to tell how competitive he is for the position. I'm impressed by his CV, but they may want another sub-specialty.

He had recently given a talk there, which apparently went very well.

When asking for a letter of reference, Hub's PI suddenly became very apologetic as he realized he had not properly mentored hub for the next stage in his career. He had not assured Hub a stream of publications, primarily because they have one big project which has taken years and years to get ready. There are lots of abstracts but no official publication. The project will probably go *CNS, though.

Send us your good luck wishes. Our two body solution could be nigh. Or not.

*CNS = Cell, Nature, Science. High impact journals.

Good advocate, you!

My response to a student who couldn't finish an online lab because some links were broken. I graded her harshly, but then she reminded me we talked about it the next day.

I corrected your lab. It's not visible, but I simply made yours worth 10 points instead of 15, since you had fewer points to answer. In this case you have 804/1017 = 79.0%, which is a C+. Previously you had a 78.7%, which is a C+. Thanks for holding me to the highest standards. You will do well advocating for yourself in other aspects of life, too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Adjusting to weaker students

In order to survive, my institution is expanding enrollment across all tiers (Tier 1: strongest students, Tier 5: weakest students). Tier 1 students are very expensive since we have to compete for them with scholarship dollars, so the expansion seems to target the lower tiers. So, in essence, we are getting more students, and more weak students.

Having weaker students is especially time consuming for faculty for unexpected reasons. No, they don't really take more time in direct instruction, because often the ones that need to show to office hours aren't coming. It's the ancillary issues, such as
  • answering more e-mails regarding learning software issues "Prof, I can't get this to upload right"
  • spending more time clarifying instructions "I don't understand what we are supposed to do"
  • providing an unprecedented level of support for studying 
    • from learning objectives: "Be able to describe the molecular mechanisms of such and such"
    • to question by question instructions "Be able to answer questions 4, 5, 6B and 6C"
Not only time but psychological factors are counted in
  • Have thick skin when blamed for student's poor grades in the course
  • Have thick skin when faced with pervasive disengagement despite herculean efforts to be student-centered
  • Have the wisdom to not let the "it's because our students are weaker" become a self-fulfilling prophesy 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Submitted a grant today

Hi All,
I was asked to be a Co-PI on an IUSE grant, which we submitted today. I let some teaching go to complete do my part on it. I hope we get it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I am Wheel. Hear me squeak.

There are a lot of major renovations going on on campus. Super, duper, hugely inconvenient majorly displacing renovations. I had to write a letter today to the powers that be. Enjoy:
Hi Everybody,
I really haven't received any information about a time in which I can expect to move into an office, *ANY* office.
I had hoped to move into Clara Colleague's office because, well, it's a very pretty space... but its still occupied.
I have taken up temporary residence in the office next to it, and though the Technology Office did provide me with a docking station and peripherals, it seems that I have been granted a cast-off monitor... I have contacted Dude about that.

Hunting down a key for that room took time I really didn't have to spend.
In addition, all the offices in the New Office Place are dirty and have trash in them.
I have been working without an office (by choice) for 5 weeks now. I am carrying all my textbooks and laptop in a bag to and from my home.  I am working in the computer labs, disrupting the courses that are in there and annoying the profs. I am meeting students for office hours in the Student Burger Grill .
I wanted to be cooperative and undemanding on your services by trying to prevent THREE office moves this year (New Office Place conference room- to New Office Place office- to finished Fancy Science Center). It seems that my strategy has put me at the bottom of the priority list, and was indeed unwise in hindsight.
I am Wheel. Hear me squeak.   :)
Can I please have an office? Preferably empty, clean, with a computer, and acceptable ergonomics. And something relatively long-term? A phone would be a bonus.

At the End of my Rope.
AKA Phooey Prof, er PUI Prof.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Spooling up to a frenetic start

Whoooo, that was a brutal week. I feel so behind already. However, my cadre of  household helpers has been super so far. Burden lightened. Now, how much are we willing to sacrifice for the privilege? We'll meet tonight about the budget.

In other news...
My favorite class has not gone as well as expected. First, at 22 it's MUCH bigger than I am used to (yes, I said that). Second, I can't gauge where my audience is. It's full of master's students, so I cranked it up a notch, but they don't talk back... so I might be blowing them away, intimidating them, or boring them to tears.

For example, I asked, "Did everyone read the first chapter?" Nods and hands.
"Ok, what stuck out to you, what was new and what did you know already?"
*crickets chirping*

Ohh, this is going to have to take a different tack...

Friday, August 22, 2014

I did this crazy thing...

I sent a gift to the faculty that bailed on us at the last minute.

We had a faculty bail out of hir contract last minute, please see yesterday's post. I'll call this person Dr. Bailer. Our department chair would not elaborate on the reasons why he/she left.

Here's where my imagination goes into overdrive, BUT there are bases to my assumptions. If this person suddenly came down with Ebola, Leukemia, or had a stroke, we would be asked to pray for them, they would be given a leave of absence, and we would bring them casseroles. If s/he had suddenly decided, "To hell with your little piss-ant college, I'm bailing!", that scenario would have been communicated to us, and the reaction of those in-the-know would have been much different.

However, no one is talking about what happened. I have had loved ones in my life with debilitating mental illness (but that's for another blog). It's really the only thing we dont. talk. about.  It's hard on family members, there's still a stigma, it discomboblulates workplaces, and it  freaks churches out. It's called the "no casserole" illness.

I was recently inspired by this interview:
I haven't read her book, but I can't wait to do so. In summary, churches really don't know how to treat people with mental illness, especially since some churches (not ours) still consider mental illness a spiritual problem. Most churches don't know how to rally around a family with a mentally ill member. The author argues that we should symbolically "bring casseroles".

My university is tied to its church and reflects its values. My work does "bring casseroles" when it knows what to do. I don't know if anyone knows what to do with Dr. Bailer.

So I made a bold move. I found out Dr. Bailer was going to complete some paperwork in HR soon, so I bought a book of poetry and a blank card. I wrote words of kindness, emphasizing that I did not know anything about why they are leaving. I said I imagined that it may be distressing and that they should feel our department's care and receive our support. The words on the card are better than my summary here. I was kind but as neutral as possible. I left the gift and card with the HR person Dr. Bailer would be meeting with.

This could be a huge flop, taken the wrong way and insulting. On the other hand, it could give hir some comfort. I expect to never know. What I did is probably totally inconceivable in most workplaces. However, I have been supported and helped in tough times by my colleagues, and want to pay it forward. Regular readers will recognize the larger theme of my workplace's special culture. It's one of the things that makes the decision to uproot and find a position closer to my husband difficult. 

How do you feel about your institutional culture? Would you receive compassion at your workplace in the case of physical or mental illness? What type of reaction have you observed to mental illness in your workplace?  What are your thoughts?