Monday, January 30, 2012

Money bummers

In my daily life I don't think much about my salary. But this week two things happened;

1. I got my W-2, and that reminded me that others are making a lot more than I am. But I'm happy and fulfilled in my work, darn it!

2. We ran out of money while I was checking out at the grocery store and I had to physically put food back. With a line behind me. That was mortifying, and that DID NOT make me happy.

There were several factors leading to the grocery store incident: We still shop like single people despite being a family of five (organic, name brands, treats, you name it). My last paycheck was before Christmas, so there were five weeks on this check. We spent money traveling over Christmas.

But I have to admit that I'm having this thought: "We are two Ph.D's with secure jobs. We shouldn't be having these difficulties. Professors are supposed to be- not wealthy- but comfortable."

That is entirely selfish and entitled, I know. Forgive me. All of the professors I have been exposed to clearly do not have to clip coupons. Money was not a motivator for me going into academia, but that expectation must be in there somewhere. Guess I need an attitude/ gratitude adjustment.

One thing this money crunch is good for: if I ever decide I can't stand the "separated family" thing, I will learn better how to survive below the poverty line. This is what would happen if I quit my job and moved the family to live in Major Urban Area on Hub's post-doc salary.

Faculty Search updates 2

Moot point. Field + / Faith - candidate withdrew. Back to the drawing board?
At this point very glad that we advertised as a one year position. Despite the option of not renewing any contracts before tenure, when we hire on for a tenure-track position we are really committed to the success of that person. Getting the right person up-front is very desirable. Drat! about our shallow pool this year, drat.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Faculty Search updates

We've had a narrow field of candidates for this year's search. We advertised for a one-year position with the possibility of continuance. We had in the tens of applicants and chose about 4-5 to follow up on. Here are some reasons for us not following up on applicants: incomplete applications, never mentioned teaching in the application, wrote a cover letter addressed to an R01-type institution, among others.

Of those we had narrowed down, we then asked for a "essay on faith / worldview". Religious institutions vary in the stringency of their requirements for faculty. Some don't care what your beliefs are as along as you can support the mission of the institution. Some (rare and fringe) institutions insist that you interpret the holy scripture just like they do. We are in the middle of those extremes; we need you to really believe in our faith but not be in our denomination.

For example: One of our top three candidates returned a statement of faith explaining that they were a cultural [other faith completely]. We had to let that one go. Now we are down to two; one who is an excellent academic fit, very qualified, honors, etc. but s/he wrote in his/her statement of faith that they had been brought up in our tradition but didn't really believe it anymore. The other is a great faith fit, but not academically the desired discipline. The "faith plus/ field minus" candidate could certainly contribute to the whole department, but not for the sub-field we were looking for. We could re-arrange the loading to take advantage of his/her skills.

Whether or not the department is rigorous in the "faith fit", the applicant has to be hired also by the Dean, Provost and the Board of Visitors. And they are far more stringent on the "faith fit" than the department is. So there's no use throwing it all out the window for the right "academic fit".

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cross-disciplinary interactions.

Happy New Year to you all! I have so much to tell you about my meeting, etc., but will have to bite the task off in little chunks if I am to succeed. To be perfectly honest, my normal blogging time has been superseded by streaming episodes of Doc Martin (

Just a note today that I recently received a scholarly article in the e-mail by a professor in the economics department. Here's the story:

The student cafeteria has a special on Tuesdays in which it only costs faculty $2 to eat, so we swarm there in droves for the cheap, good food. We also sit together with the other faculty that happen to eat at the same time. Here's the critical thing; everywhere else I've ever been, lunch time has been subdivided by discipline or even sub-discipline. My last post-doc had people that ate by sub-sub-discipline; the 7-TM receptor people never ventured over to the ion channel people's table (I exaggerate, but still). Well, that's simply not possible here at this small university where there are (at max) two people in your subdiscipline. In addition, the faculty know each other well from whole-faulty retreats, etc.

So on a day last fall, it was like the beginning of a joke; An economist, a philosopher and a neuroscientist sit down to lunch...

We talked in-depth about Neuroeconomics. Hence began an very grass-roots cross-disciplinary discussion betwixt us. As much as science strives to place cross- disciplinary folks in proximity to each other, to varying degrees of success, at a small school like this there simply isn't the critical mass of specialists to sub-divide and "silo" themselves. So I get to learn more and more about things that are peripherally related to my field. I guess when we say its a Liberal Arts education, that counts for the Faculty as well.