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?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nothing could be worse. our context than what just happened.

A new faculty that we hired told us TODAY, the week before classes begin, that (s)he would not be joining us. Their entire teaching load must now instantly be redistributed and we must scramble for adjuncts. Since we don't live in a booming metropolis swimming with hungry recent science Ph.D.s, we are really stuck.

Anybody wanna teach Chemistry in a cute college town? Send a message.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Chronicle's "Vitae" becoming pointless

I have subscribed to job search alerts through the Chronicle of Higher Education's job search for, well years and years. I have always been (very passively) looking for the right solution to our two body problem. The Chronicle changed its service recently to something called Vitae.

Seems targeted, right?

For the last oh, 6 months or so, it has been completely spammed by a few "institutions" which advertise mostly undesirable positions EVERY DAY. It has become an extreme annoyance.

I see these every time I get an e-mail from them. If these were truly desirable positions, they shouldn't have to perpetually advertise for them. Also Vitae should probably cap the number of repeat ads.

Central Washington University in Washington, United States
posted on June 10
Central Washington University in Washington, United States
posted on June 03
Westwood College in Virginia, United States

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

reading suggestion

On ‘Poor Husbands’ and Two-Body Problems

- See more at:
On "poor husbands" and two-body problems
On ‘Poor Husbands’ and Two-Body Problems

On ‘Poor Husbands’ and Two-Body Problems

- See more at:

On ‘Poor Husbands’ and Two-Body Problems

- See more at:

Friday, July 11, 2014

We won the lottery!

Random bullets of not-necessarily crap:

  • Have a draft waiting to be finished about how our marriage has deteriorated since a month or two before the move. Went to counseling today. We're going to make it, but we are entering the "hard work" phase of our relationship.
  • Trying to analyze data from my sabbatical. Will need to go back for one more experiment at the end of this month.
  • Meanwhile, time to read and choose textbooks for Fall courses ASAP.
  • Lose our Au Pair at the end of the month. Have begun to cobble together child care from and Lots of fish in the sea. Let's see how the retention is...
  • Enrolled my son in kindergarten today. He blew the lid off the entrance evaluation. When I asked about gifted programs, I was informed that our school district is excellent at bringing English Language learners up to speed and serving the lower tier learners. But gifted? I was encouraged to be an activist within the school district...
And finally...
  • EXCELLENT NEWS that will make it VERY HARD TO MOVE! We won the lottery to get my son (and daughter, as it is automatic) into the bilingual program!!!. Now half of his entire early elementary school hours will be conducted in Spanish. We are ecstatic!!! 

Just noticed: Happy 500 posts to this blog!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Back to separated

The family and almost all of our stuff have now returned to our modest town home in our modest-sized city.

On Monday, Hub drove back into work at my now-former institution in my now-former city. We are back to the status quo, with a few exceptions.

1. We still have our au pair, who has been super helpful this week. She works upstairs and I work downstairs and the kids have a grand time. She has been useful in getting the kids stuff in order.

2. The day Daddy drove away, we were delivered a little kitten. The kitty had been dumped behind a doctors office, and a nurse put a signal out via social media. We have been discussing getting a pet for a few weeks, but the timing made it possible to avoid a big let down that evening when we all went to bed for the first time without Daddy. Kitten Picture

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What THEY are really like

I grew up in a lower middle class community, and we had ideas about what rich and successful people were like. THEY were exclusive and cold. THEY saw people as tools and weren't genuinely interested in anyone that couldn't benefit them somehow. THEY were surely unhappy from a lack of true human connection. THEY took themselves and their work too seriously.

This weekend we attended a milestone reunion for Hub's university, an extremely selective institution. He/we had never attended a reunion before, so we expected for there to be a lot of THEM there, as we are in some of the prime earning years of our middle-aged lives. Hub and I were fully prepared to mentally strain to overcome our intimidation of THEM and the inevitable comparisons that would ensue.

What follows is a random-ish list of observations of Hub's classmates at the reunion. Please note that there is an inherent bias, as attendees of a class reunion are a group more interested and skilled in socializing than their non-attending peers. But, this was presumably still a good sample of highly successful people (THEYs).

1. I expected more obvious trappings of wealth than I actually observed. Jewelry, clothing, etc was not showy in most cases.
2. Not a single person smoked.
3. I didn't see anyone look at their phones during the social events we attended.
4. These families in their late 40's had a lot of small kids, even babies. This was a topic of discussion among us.
5. People were very gracious and graceful at initiating and taking leave of conversations. I felt more awkward than usual. I want to learn these social graces better.
6. Conversations felt truly genuine. Each person seemed to be "present" in the converstions.
7. People made easy eye contact in the crowd and did not tightly self-segregate into groups.
8. Everyone knew not to ask intimidating questions. "What do you do?" came up naturally and comparisons were very few.
9. There were a few comparisons of children's accomplishments, but it was done graciously with the spirit of respect and admiration for the kids. This was also in the context of "my kid does such-and-such and can't even get into Alma Mater".
10. There were several "less-accomplished" folks un-intimidated to share their position in life.
11. There was also a bitter classmate- "My education cost twice as much as our house, and I suffered blatant discrimination at work, so I quit working". Discrimination is an ugly thing, and can derail even people like THEM. It's not just a birthright of us lower-class folk.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

IHE on Spousal Hires

For your two-body, trailing-spouse, spousal-hire blog-reading pleasure:

"How can you avoid the painful letdown that might emerge after the initial excitement of landing a position that allows you to live with your partner?"
The trailing spouse

Recent references form this blog to a similar fear:

Monday, June 2, 2014

Can I take my class to a big meeting?

Something that probably doesn't happen at large R01's (weigh in!). My letter:

Dear Dean, Dept Head, anyone else who needs to see this;
[Adv Course] Labs; Nontraditional [Adv Course] will not have a traditional weekly lab this year due to space constraints, but some amount of flipping will allow us to conduct about 1/2 to 2/3 of our labs during the lecture period. In addition, with permission and funding, we will go to the [Big Meeting Close By (BMCB)] this year.

One day's international scientific meeting is worth a million labs... (of the smokin'-hot-new-science variety). Going to the entire meeting would be equivalent to an entire grad-level course (3 hours *14 weeks).  It's [When and How Long]. I don't know if all week is appropriate for our students, but I'm trying to give a sense of the massive learning potential there.

[BMCB] Funding
In the past I have taken my research lab students (7) using "course fees" to pay for their registration costs. What funding options are available to me for taking [Adv Course] undergrad and grad students? The registration fees are cheap for this sort of thing, but they need to become members of  the [Science Org.] first, which is ridiculously cheap (and looks good on their resume).

[Links about fees and membership]

There are also guest registrations (for one day), but I'm not quite sure that our students would count as "guests". This is intended for folks like [Philosopher of Science] (who has joined previously in his role as a philosopher).
[BMCB] Logistics
Those costs are for a week of meetings. There are only guest (one day) and full registrations. I will attend the entire meeting, but I haven't decided how many days to offer for the students. My research students gladly went for all the days and crashed on friends' couches. As expected, some of the students became pretty saturated after a few days. It would be different as "requirement" for a course.
Financially, for four undergrads, it's totally do-able. For 2 grad students, probably OK, but for 9 grad students, it will need to be discussed.
In practical matters (how long? how much? logistics?), the same applies.

I'd still love to get them there somehow, for some amount of time. It's a rare and great opportunity for them. I argue that it is fundamentally different from other undergrad-driven data meetings. The field of [My field] is changing SO FAST right now with the advent of new tools, [Special Programs], etc. that even our brand new text is out-of-date. Sitting in [Adv. Course] will teach them about the last 20 years of the field, going to the meeting will teach them about the NEXT ten years, the years they will participate in.


PUI Prof.

Friday, May 30, 2014

"Add more sections" resolved and Advanced Course "stayin' alive"

In this previous post, I relayed a risk that my load might increase substantially due to over-enrollment in one of my courses. I'm relieved to say that we found a solution by what I'll call the "Stuff 'em in" plan, which relieved me from a potential additional 2.5 hours of contact time.

Moreover, I found out that my advanced specialty course was under-enrolled, and at risk of being cut by the dean. If I would have "lost" that course, there would be consequences.
  • My load would be lighter, and my pay less (good/ bad)
  • It is taught only once every two years, so some students would have really missed out.
  • I would be sad. I love this course. It makes me happy to teach it.
  • I keep it very current. I have been working on finding material for it all year, so that work would be for naught.
  • This is the course I would be hired to teach if I ever moved institutions. It's in my specialty. Having it worked out "perfectly" an running smoothly is a high priority.
  • This is the perfect year, as the national meeting in the field will be in town this year. I'm going to take the students to the meeting if approved...

It had 4 undergraduate students pre-enrolled in it, but the masters-level students have not enrolled yet. The problem was resolved by my adept chair asking the director of the master's program to foot part of the bill, assuming that some of the grad students will enroll.

Stayin Aliiiiiiiive, Yeah

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maybe you could move here?

Ran across a colleague at the coffee machine, a potential collaborator who is up for tenure this year.

She asked "How's the research going?"
Me, "All done, analyzing data"
*brief description of my project*
She, "How long will you be here?"
Me,  "About two weeks more"
She, *pouty face*
Me, "Hopefully I will get to come back in summers and such..."
She, "I'm sure they will be looking for tenure-line faculty soon, as we are expanding."
Me, "Oh, I would really like that. It would be so good for me in so many ways"

It is important to me that if I were to apply for a job here at sabbatical institution, that I have the support of the other tenure-track faculty (see here, number 2). It seems on the surface, I might.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Add more sections?

Got a note from my department chair:

Bread and Butter course too full. Need to add another section. Since you are loaded one extra hour for a course which will not have a lab this year due to the renovation, we are thinking about adding it to your load.

Note that adding one section will have me teaching lab on Tuesdays from 8-10, 10-12, 1-3, 3-5.

I argued that the advanced course (missing the lab) will be going to an major meeting this year (we are!), so that more than compensates for the hour of missing lab.

Think they will buy it?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Getting Ready to Return Home

These past weeks have been consumed with:

Analyzing data
Deciding we need a higher N
Doing more experiments
Making sure I have all the software I need  loaded on my laptop to take back with me.

Driving back to my home institution to pack my office and lab for the remodel
Driving back to permanent home for social engagements including weddings and grad parties.
Thinking about packing but not packing

Trying to get daughter into free pre-school at son's school. We exceed the income limits but can get some points for "family factors" including Hub's weekly absence
Trying to get son into an immersion program at his kindergarten.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Pres and the Hub

Soooo, apparently the White House called the institute this week to ask about Hub's project. No lie.

Monday, April 7, 2014

My weaknesses as a scientist contribute to our two body problem.

I went to a talk today. I asked questions of the speaker that caused them to pause and consider alternative hypotheses, to relate their talk to broader issues, to question their interpretation of the literature. I often get compliments on the questions I ask during talks. This is my strength, a public one. I have the impression that many of the faculty at my sabbatical institution think I am really "on the ball". A post doc told me the other day that she thinks I'm brilliant. She just doesn't know the other side...

I have had major struggles in the lab for the sabbatical (see this previous post). I will have fewer data from this year as one would expect. While struggles are a part of lab work, my struggles are greater than average. In the past, I have had some denial allowing me to blame it on the situation.

The struggles from my sabbatical echo struggles I had during my post-doc and I have finally come to terms with my weaknesses as a scientist:

1. I take about 25-30% longer to learn many techniques than my peers do. While I survive despite this by working as hard as possible, when it comes to highly competitive environments or challenging techniques, I lag behind.
2. I have trouble troubleshooting. When something goes wrong, and the problem could be A, B, C, D, or E, I have a tendency to pick C, then D, when actually it is B.
3. I'm a very patient and tolerant scientist, and I mean this negatively. It's an issue with "Hmmm, this doesn't seem right. Well, golly, I'll just try it again." when it should be "What the hell is wrong?!?  I'm going to stop everything until I figure this out."

These issues are all interrelated, as you can imagine. They lead to fewer data and lower quality publications from me than others. This is why I have referred to myself as a "B+ scientist" in previous posts.

The major theme of this blog is that Hub and I are trying to find work in the same area, so we can avoid the commuter marriage we have now. I always imagined that I could go back to research full time in some sort of "research assistant professor" position if need be. I had even put that ahead of teaching at a community college as plan B or C.

I really love research. I love to work in the lab full-time. I like formulating hypotheses and testing them. I like working with my hands. I like learning new techniques. I like to build stuff. I had great training (for which I am deeply grateful).

Moreover, I have a growth mentality: I can and will improve on my weaknesses. I will try my hardest no matter what, BUT I should probably put the "perma-postdoc" option much lower in my alternative careers list than it was last year.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Rescinded Offer 2: And yet...

I continue to read about the "rescinded offer" from Nazareth to W as outlined in my last post. While it seems the furor has cooled a little on the internet, I appreciate being challenged by a reader (a full 1/3 of them) and continue to read about the issue a bit.

My last post summarized comments and sites I had read and resonated with, particularly those that pointed out her requests for a delayed start, no more than three new preps a year for three years, and a pre-tenure sabbatical as being pretty unreasonable. The other issues were not unreasonable in my mind, esp. maternity leave.

OTOH, I can also resonate with the need to negotiate firmly at the beginning. This has touched our family as I outlined in a previous post. 

A quote from David M Ball in IHE:

As for the argument that the successful candidate in this economic climate, regardless of gender, should shut her mouth: at no other likely juncture will a junior professor have a better opportunity to negotiate the terms of her employment than at the moment of her hiring. The conditions under which she is employed will dramatically shape her chances for promotion and tenure. Negotiated terms matter to future success. Indeed, the tenure track itself doesn’t accede to the logic of the market.

I continue to think about how I will negotiate if offered a position at Hub's institution. Will I be intimidated to Lean In? Will I overshoot? At least, AT LEAST I have a job (and tenure) so the worst case scenario is status quo, commuter marriage and semi-single motherhood. The tenure's nice, single motherhood not at all.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rescinded offer.. links and my brief thoughts.

Perhaps you have already heard of the tenure-track faculty candidate whose negotiation efforts landed her not just with "no's" to her requests/ demands, but resulted in the college rescinding their offer to her.

There's some very good discussion in the comments section of this post

regarding negotiating a tenure-track position at a PUI. Read the comments and follow the links...

Here's more,

and the comments seem more oriented to SLACs. In this case, W, the applicant responds.

My thoughts are along these lines (from Philosophy Smoker), however more understanding and less harsh. I would probably not pull the offer. Do I think she is being punished for negotiating too aggressively? Yes, mostly. Do I think her counteroffer showed a lack of understanding about the institutional culture? Absolutely. Do I think it is gender related? Not enough information to make an informed opinion.  (Thanks nicoleandmaggie for pushing me to clarify)
Anonymous said...
I'm with the university on this one.

"1) An increase of my starting salary to $65,000, which is more in line with what assistant professors in philosophy have been getting in the last few years."

Is this what professors that *that institution* have been getting in the past few years? Because that's what matters most. If she wants to be paid more than everyone else getting hired there, she needs to demonstrate why she is that much more valuable than other new colleagues at that institution.

"2) An official semester of maternity leave."

This is reasonable, and may even be legally required. However, this gets buried in unreasonable demands.

"3) A pre-tenure sabbatical at some point during the bottom half of my tenure clock."

Again, do all new hires get this kind of leave? If not, see #1.

"4) No more than three new class preps per year for the first three years."

This is something that can be reasonable negotiated, but without knowing what she was hired to do, it's a tough call. If she was hired to explicitly teach in multiple areas, then it's an unreasonable request.

"5) A start date of academic year 2015 so I can complete my postdoc."

Nope. If you want to finish your post-doc, that's fine. But you don't get to hold up that university's need for a new faculty member so you can not teach (and presumably go back on the market again). They have a need for the following year; if you can't satisfy that need, then you shouldn't be hired for the job. That alone is reason enough to offer it to someone else.

She was offered the job, and told them: I need more money, a research leave (that, presumably, others won't be getting, else it would be part of her contract already), and a year off before I start. Nope. If I'm on that hiring committee, I pull the offer too.
March 11, 2014 at 11:50 AM

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Rep! A Rep!

A biomedical supplies sales rep came into the lab today. It's been at least 10 years since I've had a rep drop by my lab. They came by all the time when I was in grad school... they would pop their head in respectfully, and if we weren't obviously buried in some work, they would hand us brochures and sometimes freebies/ swag. Apparently they aren't allowed to (or weren't incentivized to)  drop-in in the foreign lab where I did my post-doc. I never saw them. I have dealt with reps in my own lab at the PUI, but I had to call them to come see me. But today, there was a drop-in from VWR in my sabbatical lab. Ironic, they used to be so annoying! Now they are such a novelty, it's worth writing in my blog about...

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Assigning loading aka playing tetris

Though next year's courses don't start until the Fall, planning for them has started in earnest. We are currently "loading" courses. The person in charge of "loading" or assigning our courses is the department chair. Here's a description of the process, not necessarily in order, which is much like playing "course tetris".

First they must determine how much each person wants to work. Many in our department work 3/4 time, the minimum required to keep our benefits. I have done this for several years. This year I asked for full time. For us, full time is 24 hours for the year (Many of you just drew in a sharp breath. Yeah, that many). For science profs that teach labs with their courses, that amounts to about 3 full courses per semester. For others, 4 courses.

Second they match who is qualified to teach which course. Some courses, like my specialty course, can only be taught by me. Gen. Ed. courses such as our Biol 101 equivalent can be taught by many of our faculty and are often team taught.

Third, the chair and the registrar work to keep a person's courses from conflicting with each other.

Fourth, team teaching assignments are figured out to avoid direct conflicts and overloading. For example, I am teaching a full course on my own and co-teaching two courses. I will need to coordinate which part of each course I teach during which part of the semester . Ideally, I'll have my portion of one course during the first half of the semester, and my portion of the other course in the last half.

But these assignments have to make sense. For example, my colleague's expertise is molecular. The molecular portion of nearly every general course is in the first half of the semester. Once a colleague and I rearranged the curriculum to match the our expertise according to our half of the course. It was a mess, because we took the text book out of order, AND it was a two semester course, so people transferring in and out from other colleges really missed some large sections.

Fifth, the registrar then arranges the courses to make sure that popular courses don't overlap. Our University is small enough that we don't offer multiple sections of many courses. So if the students who take Organic Chemistry are the same ones that take Physiology, then Organic and Phys can't be offered at the same time.

Sixth, the registrar also takes into account our desired work schedule. I love it when the registrar asks me when I want to work. And usually he can get pretty close. For example, I asked NOT to teach any courses before 9a, because I need to take Boy to kindergarten this year.
Seventh, the registrar schedules the courses in the physical space we have. Courses with 30 students need to go into appropriately sized rooms and classes with 60 students go into our lecture hall. Since there is only one classroom on campus that seats more than 60, none of the big classes can be scheduled simultaneously. If all the instructors that teach big classes insist on teaching them at 10am, then there's a problem. Luckily, our registrar is a deeply kind, sincere, and firm when necessary person, and these conflicts never arise to my knowledge.

This year, we have a special situation; we are having work done on the building. We are
down half of our lab spaces and out of our offices. Some courses that need labs will not have them this year, and we will revert to virtual labs for many things. But taking labs away from a course changes how much loading each course is worth. That puts us back to step 1 and step 2!

How is it done in your experience?

a previous post on loading


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Students like to see you have a family life.

Thanks to the magic of Facebook, I see that a friend of mine, a professor, took her 2 year old into her lecture. Apparently her students took pictures of her lecturing with him on her hip and doodling on the board below her notes. The images were tagged with "My prof rocks!" and "That's what I call a working Mom!"

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Have we found a solution? Perspective

Thanks for your comments on Have we found a solution?  Please keep commenting...
A clarification: I'm listing reasons not to "gun" for a potential/ hypothetical job at Hub's institution. I would certainly apply should one open up. After reading your comments, I realize that Number 1 is the only formidable caveat. Some of the others sound a little whiny. They aren't THAT important.

Relative importance of hesitations about me taking a hypothetical position at Hub's Institution

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Have we found a solution? Caveats.

My sabbatical institution is hiring new teaching faculty. They want to expand their undergraduate programs, as the institute director made clear in a "state of the institute address". Of course I imagined what it would be like to be hired at Hub's institution! I know that the positions offered are very reflective of my perfect position: more teaching than an R01 recipient would want, more research than adjunct or two-year college faculty would want. (note; I realize in reviewing my blog that this idea is more than a year old!)

Seems like sunshine and unicorns, right?
I would be very interested in a position here with Hub, but this is just a hypothetical think-through, as
I have thought through other two-body problem solutions with you in the last few years. For example: Hub could move to my institute, or we both move to another situation near family.

Here's the rub. 1. Hub's job security. Hub has a relatively secure position, though he is on soft money. His PI told him he would be "the last man standing" if the grants run out (this is highly unlikely).

But Hub asked his PI "Boss" for a raise, one that would bring his salary closer to other research faculty in the institute (since it is a state institution, salaries are public knowledge). Boss demurred, citing governmental restrictions. While Hub makes the most of all his peers in Boss's group, his salary is much lower than those with the same title in other groups. Perhaps he got hired too low on the salary scale and is truly restricted from getting significant raises. Hub feels a bit betrayed and/or used by his boss. He doesn't want me to give up my (tenured) position to join him when he doesn't feel like he wants to stay.

2. Tenure/ respect. I would negotiate for tenure in the new position. If I came in with tenure, would this raise the ire of those who busted butt to gain tenure there, even if my position was different from theirs? Would I be considered a "spousal hire" and never respected as a true colleague?

From the Chronicle of Higher Ed , discussing a scenario of a dysfunctional department and a spousal hire...

Not only does such behavior cause dissension within departments, but it also increases the psychological toll on the spouses themselves. People hired in such deals naturally find it hard not to ask if they really deserved the job. They wonder if their new colleagues resent them. They worry about receiving the same degree of institutional support as someone hired in a regular search.

3. Students. The quality of the students are lower than my current students. I have heard repeatedly of inter-departmental politics that result in the lowering of standards, that the students in the major are actually drop-outs from another major, how  the students in this major don't even qualify for the graduate program in the same field in the same institution. If you don't invest your soul into your students, this isn't important, but I do. I'm sure I could adjust, but it would suck transitioning.

4. Institutional culture. Though my faculty job is demanding for someone in my life-stage and with my aspirations, at least I know my colleagues "have my back".  It's a collegial atmosphere, and there is a lot of cross-disciplinary fertilization, by necessity. As I mentioned in this blog post under 'sit at the table', my current institution is progressive wrt to women. This is something I would give up by switching institutions. You could argue, of course, that the commuter marriage lifestyle is not very "progressive"...

5. Cost of living. This is relatively minor, since money isn't the driving factor and the status quo is expensive with two residences. I would expect a salary equivalent to my current one, cost of living adjusted, because that's what my 'peers' in Hub's institution are making. With that salary, we couldn't afford a simple house within reasonable commuting distance.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bible study Moms; is this the life I want?

Past readers know that I am a person of faith. I teach at a faith-based institution. While we are together during my sabbatical,  my family has been attending a church and we have gotten involved in a "small group" of four families.

The small group spends a weekday night reading scripture and reflecting on it. Both Hub and I enjoy it, and respect the knowledge of the others in our group. Hub is a non-believer and has never been exposed to the Abrahamic scriptures and history, so I am surprised and happy to hear him use the term "fascinating" to describe our meetings. I myself still have a lot to learn and have grown weary of meetings that are composed of either 1. shallow navel-gazing or 2. over- intellectualizing the scriptures until they no longer resemble what is written.

The three other families are composed of active duty military fathers and stay-at-home mothers (SAHMs). Two of the men are military academy graduates, highly selective schools like Hub's alma mater.While military friends are unusual for us, we have felt comfortable in the group. They appreciate my husband's outsider viewpoint and our experiences as academics. I have plenty of SAHM friends, so I haven't considered or asked the women's reasons for staying home. But then...

While on a social get together with this group, I was chatting with the mom that I know the least. She has a degree in a highly desirable tech field, and I assumed that she would return to work after her kids were in school or her constant moves for the military ended. We were discussing parenting styles, and she said something that blew me out of the water. She said, "The man really has to be the head of the house. If the woman starts wearing the pants that's when trouble starts."

Me (silently): ?!?!!?? I excused myself to tend to my misbehaving kid.

I believe families should choose whatever "style" everyone is comfortable with. If she would have said, "WE prefer a patriarchy" I could accept that. She made the statement as if that's How It Should Be for everyone. I hope we can discuss this soon in a civil manner, where I will politely but strongly argue against her view. I enjoy debating women's issues and meeting people with different viewpoints than mine. My fear is that I (and Hub) will associate "people who have a deep knowledge of scripture" with "people who follow the type of politics/ world view that we both disagree strongly with". 

It seems ironic...our family has lived in a relatively small city, but our community and church are globally minded and socially progressive. Our closest friends at "home" are hot-headed liberals. Though not "hot headed", we are comfortable in our home crowd. Now that we are living in a "big city" our new friends are presumably conservative evangelicals.

I'm always looking to solve our two body problem, so everything that I see in our current Sabbatical-together lifestyle, I ask: If we moved here, would I be happy? Or is our small-city life more suited to us? Do I want to live like this?  How will we build community here? Is this what I want from the rest of my life? The cultural differences between now and the status quo seem to warrant consideration, were we to imagine a life together here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Update on Failing my Sabbatical

I have finally worked the issues out with my technique but continue to transition to a completely new one. I will be able to do both soon, the first one well, and let;s cross fingers for the second one. I was also pulled into an office and asked/ told something very validating.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Why my kids will stay with me next year and not their Dad.

It's just cheaper. By a lot.

If you follow my blog, my husband I have jobs in two different cities. This year, I am enjoying a sabbatical and working in his institution. I, the children and Hub are all living together (TOGETHER!!!) in the urban area where he/we work(s). It's already time to begin discussion where we are going to raise our children next year when I return to work and we continue this commuter marriage.
This spreadsheet describes our monthly expenses for rent and daycare in various arrangements. Dad works in an urban area where rents and day care are expensive. I live in a smaller town where the cost of living is lower. Rent 1 is Dad's rent in the urban area (900 for a studio, 1100 for a one bedroom, 1800 for a small house). Rent 2 assumes that we have rented out our home and I would find a cheaper apartment (500 for a studio, 700 for a one bedroom). In that case our mortgage (mort) is counted as $300, the loss we will take each month to rent it (we have a 15 year mortgage- rents can't match the monthly costs).

Boy will be in kindergarten in the fall, so care for him counts as after school care, unless folded in with an au pair. Girl will need full time daycare either in an institutional setting, or with an au pair. Au Pair agency fees AND monthly pay for the Au Pair, etc. are folded into a $1383/month cost for an au pair.  More is how much more we are paying for that option over the cheapest option.

A few notes; Only "Both kids with Mom" (+/- au pair) and "Split kids" Are options on our budget. Though it is financially viable, splitting the kids is pretty undesirable as they love each other dearly and are best friends (for now).

How does this fit with your experience?  Your thoughts?

I'm reading "Lean In"

I picked up Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" from the library before leaving on our humungo "Circle the US visiting Grandparents" tour this holiday season. I wanted to know what all the fuss is about. I didn't really think it applied to me, since I have NO INTEREST in running a Fortune 500 company. I don't even want to be the department chair.

I was wrong. There are a lot of useful things in the book for me (and you perhaps). I would like to expand on these in upcoming posts.
Here's a preview:
  • What would you do if you weren't afraid? Close the Leadership ambition gap.  
    • Yes, perhaps the reason I don't want be the Chair, or Dean, or Provost is because I feel underqualified and too disorganized. If I am treading water now with my family life, how much worse would it be? She addresses this common feeling among women  
  •  Make your partner a real partner.
    • This is an especially hairy situation in a commuter marriage. Hub is motivated and tries his hardest, but how does one do half the work when he is in another city for most of the week? We are working on it.
  • Sit at the Table
    • Since I got tenure, and am not currently vying for another position, I have relaxed into full humility and deference mode. Seems opposite of expected? It has to do with regional and institutional culture. And security. If I don't have to claw my way up, compete, and make sure I get noticed, I can be as sweet as sugar. Perhaps this isn't serving me well.
    • Fight the imposter syndrome. Yes, I have it and it is currently raging on my sabbatical as I am learning a lot of difficult new things. While Sandberg discusses her struggle against it, she has a lot of empirical evidence (two degrees from Harvard, Phi Beta Kappa) to argue against her imposter syndrome. I haven't published adequately, I have empirical evidence FOR it. Nonetheless, I must "fake it until I feel it", as she suggests.    
  • Myth of doing it all
    • Sandberg cites the relatively large Early Childhood Research Network to argue that there is no difference in several measures of development between children who were cared for exclusively by their mothers and those who were also cared for by others. Huge sigh of relief from here. My kids beg me to stay home when I leave for work, and I say I choose to go to work so I can help other people, too, and that I enjoy my work. Good to be reminded that I am not ruining their lives.