Monday, January 30, 2012

The Interview

As I wrote last week, the powers that be have finally decided to move forward with converting my current position to a tenure-track line.  And that means that I have to be interviewed.  In some ways, this is a formality, but in some ways it isn't.  The appointments committee has been convened to write a job ad for my position, although the position won't be advertised.  I have to submit a job letter, and I have to give a talk.  Both departments that I will be appointed in will be invited to attend.  The appointments committee, which will have representatives from both departments, will meet with me and interview me, and then they get to vote on my appointment.  They will receive feedback from members of both departments, and I've been warned to expect some aggressive questions at the talk.  But only the 6 members of the committee get to vote on my appointment.  So there are some risks.  I do, however, know most of the members of the committee, and most of them are friendly and cordial to me.  One has even gone out of her way to talk to me at every recent department meeting.  There are also other things occurring between the two departments which make the current role I play as a bridge of sorts increasingly important.  As an added bonus, I have training that no one in the English department has.  In an American university, this training wouldn't make much of a difference, but apparently in a Canadian setting it makes a huge difference. 

So that's where I am, and now I have to prepare a job talk.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Moving Forward

Yesterday I received an email from Dr. English asking me if we could meet later this week.  It seems the powers that be have finally decided to finalize the conversion of my current position.  As I wrote last year, my current appointment, although full-time with a research emphasis is not a T-T appointment.  I was "promised" last year that my position would convert to T-T.  Well, I've been hearing "It's going to happen soon, don't worry" for the last 9 months.  Archer has even been told by the dean that my line is already in the budget, so in the dean's mind, it was a done deal.  Except I know I have to give a talk and have an interview, both of which are little more than formalities.  For me, as long as those two things have yet to be done, I don't really feel like anything is a done deal.  And you know, I'd like to actually sign a contract.  I know Dr. Writing has been pushing this along, but academia moves at a glacial pace.  It seems now that I will be getting concrete information about how the conversion will proceed, including details about the interview and the talk.  I'm happy this is finally moving forward, but I'm still wary and cautious.  I don't think I'll believe any of this is happening until I've got a contract in my hands.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Too much information

So is it possible to tell someone, tactfully, that said person is a bit too interested in my private life?  Can I say I prefer to keep our relationship professional?  Or is that too harsh?  The person isn't taking my non-committal answers or evasiveness as a clue.  Instead, the person just continues asking questions that I feel are somewhat inappropriate given our relationship.  You see, this person is my TA (and yes, feel free to hate me for having a TA; I hate myself a little bit).  Given that, I don't feel it is appropriate for this person to ask about really personal stuff. Nor do I want to know really personal things about the TA.  For example, the TA just called me to say s/he's missing class.  Saying, "I'm not feeling well" is more than sufficient, but instead, this person felt the need to go into detail regarding the severity of the stomach flu that has afflicted hir.  For real.  I don't need to know that.   Just sayin'.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Taking a guess

For the past few weeks I've been working on a grant application to develop a new course.  I'm a bit inexperienced at writing these sorts of proposals within a university setting, so when I sent off my first (actually my fourth or so) draft to the guru of research, I had made some fairly key mistakes.  RG told me s/he didn't think I would have time to get it together by the internal deadline, which is today.  I was irritated--at myself, at him, and at his comments, where were not helpful for revising.  So I talked to Archer who has applied for and been awarded this exact grant, and then I talked to a colleague who has also been awarded this grant.  She generously allowed me to look at her application.  Then I spent all day Wednesday, much of Thursday, and all day Friday reworking the proposal.  Archer kept the boys occupied on Saturday so I could get the final touches done.  I sent it back to RG and to Research Department chair.  RD Chair responded almost immediately with some minor suggestions; s/he wanted me to add a few sentences and take out some other things.  I finished those edits on Sunday morning in 10 minutes.  As of last night I still hadn't heard from RG, making me think that RG was going to tell me not to submit the application. 

RG sent me a long email and edits this morning.  Based on the email I expected the edits to be huge.  They are not.  RG made very few changes, and RG wrote that the application is now worthy of consideration.  I'm irritated again.  Why?  The changes I made are not substantial.  I rewrote two sections entirely, and I provided a lengthy narrative for the budget.  The proposal itself, however, is essentially the same.   I am beginning to think that RG didn't think I'd be able to get all the supporting documentation together--which I already had.  I just didn't realize I needed to send it to RG with the proposal.  Even if my proposal isn't awarded, I'm feeling vindicated.  I suspect RG thought I'd just give up.  Guess what?  RG was wrong.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Worth Sharing

I'm rereading parts of The Country of Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett in preparation for a class I'll teach later today.  Here is a quotation worth sharing: "We don't want to carry no men folks havin' to be considered every minute an' takin' up all our time."  I love Jewett.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Yesterday Archer spoke with Yetta.  She and Pita were keeping R's boys so R could catch on some work and J (R's soon-to-be ex-wife) could go to the gym.  Archer and I both had work to do, but as mine was more pressing, Archer took the boys to Home Depot and the bookstore for a few hours so I could get some work done.  When they got home, I kept the boys busy with an art project so Archer could read for a bit.  Dropping the boys off at someone's house for a few hours just so we can have some time to ourselves is not an option.  When I heard that R had done this for the umpteenth weekend in a row, I was jealous.  Not that I want to live in the same town as my in-laws, mind you, but sometimes I would like to hang out with my husband on the weekend while not having to manage the chaos of watching two very active boys at the same time.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Archer took the boys out so I could have some quiet time to finish the grant I'm working on.  I don't think I've ever been alone in our house on a Saturday.  I must say the silence is a bit disconcerting.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Traveling to Home State

This morning I was up early with Bear, as usual.  So I was double checking prices for travel associated with the grant I'm writing and printing off info from various websites.  Out of curiosity, I checked on tickets to Home State during spring break.  Surprisingly the tickets are actually affordable; they are, in fact, imminently affordable.  Archer had already spoken with Yetta about the possibility of us visiting then, and she offered to buy the boys' tickets.  So it looks like we'll get to visit our families for the cost of 2 tickets, or $500.  Not a bad price.  Plus we get to fly and can only stay a week because the visit happens in the middle of the semester.  Not bad all around.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A gripe about academia

I have rarely used this blog to gripe about academia even though I define myself, at least in part, as an academic mother.  I don't gripe because I don't see it as productive.  I also don't gripe because I more or less knew what I was getting into when I entered a Ph.D. program.  I knew jobs in academia, particularly the humanities were hard to come by.  Contrary to popular belief, this is not a result of the downturn in the economy; jobs have been hard to come by in academia for 2 generations or more.  My primary mode of survival is to get the job done to the best of my ability and to redirect the energy I could spend griping doing other things.  Not griping does not mean that I don't think academia has problems; in fact, I think it has serious ones.  One that is bothering me the most right now is the lack of mentorship.

Now as I've written about before I am situated between two departments.  What I haven't discussed is that one department is very research focused; it was, in fact, considered one of the flagship departments of the university until about 10 years ago.  It is still highly respected, and almost every faculty member has held a major research grant at some point.  It has a lot to brag about, and brag it does.  The other department would be seen as a service department at many comparable institutions in the States.  It is staffed almost exclusively by part-time faculty members.  It has an excellent reputation on campus for knowing what kinds of classes students want to take and for offering the right class at the right time.  It is also the only department in the faculty that is growing, and it is growing a lot.  Its enrollment has increased by 40% in 3 years.  While it lacks a research profile (primarily because there are only 3 1/2 full-time faculty members in the program, and yes, I'm the 1/2), it is a department that is respected across campus. 

Now my home department, as it were, is the Research department because there is a support structure in place to help me develop a research profile.  Also my own research aligns more closely with Research department, although my teaching overlaps neatly between the two.  From Service department, so-to-speak, I am not supposed to receive much in the way of support, other than teaching.  While I have received a lot of support from Service department in terms of teaching and structural support, I have received nothing in the way of mentorship from Research department.  There is supposed to be a mentorship program in place, and I was supposed to receive a mentor at the beginning of the academic year.  I did not, though. 

Part of this is my fault.  I have not actively sought anyone out, nor have I pressed the department head to assign me a mentor.  Much of this is the culture of the department, and much of it is due to the liminal space I occupy between departments.  The people with whom my research area overlaps don't really know me; this is due, at least in part, because I'm not required to do any service in Research department.  I perform all my service for Service department because it has so few full-time faculty members.  I show up for all department meetings, but I don't serve on any committees for Research department.  I don't say much at department meetings because I'm still trying to understand how things work.  I recognize and accept responsibility for all of this.  I've done a few things in the past 6 weeks or so to build relationships in the department.  I working on making it better for myself.

The problem I'm experiencing seems to me to be problem inherent to academia.  Mentorship is not a priority in many academic institutions.  While this is a topic that is often discussed in the Chronicle of Higher Ed, I'm not sure it is something academics take seriously.  We often seem to take the attitude, "Well, I didn't have a mentor, and I managed okay.  Why should I take on the responsibility of mentoring someone else?"  This is the "I suffered through, so should everyone else" mentality, and I think it only serves to create more problems.  I'm not sure what the solution is, but I do know I'm going to start being more assertive and seeking out help when I need it.  That isn't a solution for the entire academy, but it may be a solution for me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Grants, grants, and more grants

I'm putting the finishing touches on one research grant, and I've already been advised to apply for another.  It seems, according to Dr. English, that I have a knack for grant writing.  I didn't say, "Well, duh.  I worked as a professional grant writer for 2 years before returning to graduate school."  Instead, I just said, "Thanks!"  I really wanted to say that writing grants is all well and good, but if doing so takes away from writing for publication I'm not sure I see the point.

Clothes: A Mini Rant

I have a closet full of clothes, most of them I like, some of them I really like, some of them I keep because they are functional.  I like my summer wardrobe a lot better than my winter wardrobe, but I do enjoy my sweaters.  Today was one of those mornings that nothing that I put on looked right.  I even picked out what I was going to wear last night.  But I put it on, and I wanted to scream.  I then proceeded to change my clothes 4 times in 15 minutes because nothing looked or felt right.  I finally settled on a dress I love but that I normally wear in the fall not the winter.  Why?  Well it has short sleeves and I have yet to find a sweater or a jacket that looks nice with it.  So I'm wearing a dress I love with a cardigan that doesn't really go with it, and as a bonus, my tights seem to have shrunk.  I'm not particularly happy with the way I look, nor am I very comfortable.  I think it is going to be a long day.

Oh, and I just realized I forgot to put on my watch.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Tomorrow . . .

life goes back to normal.  Wild Man goes back to kindergarten, Archer and I go back to teaching, and Bear, well Bear will continue to be Bear.

This semester promises to be challenging for all kinds of reasons, some of which I may get to blog about, finally.  Right now, I'm enjoying the sunshine that is streaming into our family room, the smell of banana muffins fresh from the oven, and watching Bear yawn (he just woke up for a nap that was a bit shorter than usual).

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year!

I think that says it all!

We're celebrating with Thai food. . .