Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Be vulnerable? Guard my Image?

Two things have made me really try to think about whether I should vulnerably open myself up for correction, or if I should guard my image and project confidence.

The first is, I have a de facto mentor whom I really appreciate. De Facto because I sought out this person and luckily they went along with it, there was no formal mentoring program. Mentor is in my field and tenured at Really Big Teaching U across town. And pretty cool, too. I have a feeling that Mentor thinks that Small Religious U is a lower quality institution than Really Big Teaching U. In fact the words "Have you seen your scores?" (meaning standardized test score averages) ring in my head. When I finally did look at them, ours were higher than theirs. I still have a bit of an inferiority complex. Occasionally when Mentor discusses what mentor is teaching to an equivalent course, I think really? That much info? I don't teach that now, I wait.

Another thing is that I am going to give a research talk at suburban MRU where hubby works. I know what they think about institutions like mine: a recent hire to their program said to me at a party, "Why don't you move here? We have plenty of community colleges around here." I'm not dissing CCs, but I am saying that faculty at suburban MRU have the idea that there's their job and then there's teaching... all lumped into one category. Reminds me of that map for New Yorkers where there's New York and New Jersey and the rest of the country is labeled "Deep South". I'm intimidated to speak there because the way Hub describes their seminars is that the PIs are like sharks and can really attack a speaker (their unbridled curiosity, no doubt), and that the culture is to pepper the speaker about all details of their talk.

Now I feel like I have the reputation of PUIs (SLACs) to defend in both of these cases. In the case of my mentor, at least, I would love to learn from Mentor about teaching style and time management, etc. But I have to be able to ask. And sometimes I'm scared to ask.

As far as that talk goes, geez, I am truly intimidated. My post-doc work (which I will present a bit of) is interesting and solid, relatively innovative. The stuff from Small Religious U is solid, but relatively expectable. I have simply not been able to keep up with all the new literature since the post-doc, and when we published, I really knew my scthuff. I have forgotten some details now. What if they find the chink in my armor and attack? I could bleed, bleed, bleed, and cement their stereotypes. And embarrass my husband. Of course their suggestions for the unpublished stuff could be helpful. I certainly don't want to throw myself out to the sharks, but I wouldn't mind some powerful minds giving suggestions / finding flaws!



  1. I always seem to find that the audience tends to tailor the tone of the question period to the speaker. Even departments with a reputation for attacking really only do this once in a while and to established people who they know can handle it. Any audience that tears apart someone whose primary workforce consists of undergraduates is full of conceited asswipes who you want nothing to do with.
    I'm not saying that the mentality is to "take it easy" on people from PUIs, merely that they will likely understand the unique challenges of doing research at a PUI. If they don't, it might be a good idea for you to commit a slide to explaining how research works in your lab (undergrads, mostly during the summer, constantly changing personnel, etc.) to give them perspective. Don't worry, they won't grill you.

  2. I think PLS is right. I can understand your slight hesitation about giving the talk, but it sounds as though it'll be a rewarding experience, and with any luck you'll get some excellent ideas on what to do next with the project.