junior faculty jam session #7: every day life as a professor

Junior faculty jam session #1#2, #3, #4 ,  #5, and #6.

A lot changes when you join the faculty. The stakes are higher and the work is harder. But other changes are less obvious. Here, I’ll talk about one change that is hard to grasp until you do it – the change in every day life.

As a graduate student, you are surrounded by people your age and you often hang out a lot. It can be fun. If not, you usually have at least one or two friends you can kvetch with. Many programs have offices or lounges where graduate students all hang out. Beyond that, many universities have graduate student associations and other opportunities for social life.

Things change a lot when you start the tenure track. The biggest change is moving from a loose group of young people to a relatively disconnected group of older people. You might be the only person under the age of 40, for example. Or, your colleagues may live far away from campus and they may not be at the office very much. To make things worse, many faculty hide in offices as they work. It makes sense – we all need to concentrate. But the effect is that people can feel isolated.

Another big change in your daily life is that you need to work better and faster.  Many graduate students procrastinate. And to be honest, you can get away with it. Nobody’s watching. That’s why we have 10+ year graduate students. But procrastinate on filing your dissertation, you can lose your job after the first year. If you procrastinate on submitting articles, then you can get fired at mid-term reviews. And of course, procrastinate on it all, and you’ll be denied tenure.

Faculty life is filled with constant rejection and competition. You have to learn how to constructively deal with it. I tell be people it’s ok to be mad, even to be jealous, just a little. But then you have to take these emotions and direct them in a more constructive way. You have to develop relationships with people so they can nourish you and you can nourish them. So in your daily life, when you get rejected, you need to turn around and get back in the saddle.

I’ve focused a lot on bad things – isolation, jealousy, rejection. But there’s also an enormous joy in academia, if you take it the right way. Most academics work on subjects that inspire an inner passion that other people don’t have. Renaissance history, nuclear physics, Socrates … it’s all amazingly cool and you now have the chance to spend your life doing that. The teaching can also be amazing. Sure, at the college level, many folks don’t apply themselves completely, but there’s always a crowd that loves your topic. Enjoy those students and help them grow.

It’s a different world, and it’s a challenge. But I think with some careful thought, you can make it a good one to live in.



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Written by fabiorojas

September 23, 2019 at 5:33 pm

Posted in uncategorized

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  1. Also, never never fight for your beliefs. Make sure to maintain the complete moratorium on Climate Change enforced with vigor on this blog. Finally, the great thing about being a sociologist, no accountability for being wrong/right or relevant.

    Climate Justice = Social Justice
    Social Justice != Sociology



    September 23, 2019 at 9:32 pm

  2. ?



    September 24, 2019 at 7:22 pm

  3. Good thoughts, Fabio. Might I add a riff on your statement about Renaissance history, etc? Find something that stimulates you intellectually (or fills your soul), perhaps a subject you enjoyed as an undergraduate. Read on your own. Sit in on a great course on the subject. Write a bit. Perhaps over time, this will provide some fulfillment and pleasure in the face of the bad things.

    For me, oddly enough, it is philosophy. And with retirement just over the horizon, I am now participating in conferences in better-than-average places: Helsinki, Palermo, The Hague, and Aix in the past few years. And lots to read and contemplate when I no longer have term papers to grade!



    September 27, 2019 at 12:44 am

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