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My application for promotion to full professor has officially advanced to the office of the provost.  At all levels to this point, my promotion has been recommended.  I was not surprised by the positive evaluation of my materials in the early (department-level) stages, but I am, apparently and irrationally, somewhat stunned that my dean supports my application.  Obviously my promotion is not yet a done deal – the provost needs to approve, and the board of regents needs to approve.  But barring some unforeseeable glitch, the likelihood that I actually will be promoted is much higher today than it was yesterday.  And I’m a little… confused by that.

This is the thing: I have been, I now realize, bracing myself for a denial.  This isn’t false modesty on my part.  First of all, I had really wanted my second book to be at least under review when I went up for full.  The manuscript isn’t even complete. Second of all, administrative turnover and a complete lack of mentorship toward full meant that I really had no idea what the expectations were when I put together my application.  I mean, I did my best, but I was definitely going into this process blind.  So I guess I had figured that I’d submit the application and that the feedback I got would tell me what was missing, and then I’d resubmit my application next year or the year after.  While I really want full promotion, and of course that motivated me to put the application together, that’s not the reason I applied this year.  I applied because I figured that it made sense to do it given the other people who were applying from my department.  I applied because it was a way to showcase the work that I do to new administrators who don’t know me.  I applied because there are changes coming to our processes for promotion and tenure and I figured that I might as well try to do it under the current (admittedly less rigorous) system. I applied because there was nothing to lose in doing so.  But I realize now that I did not apply because I thought I would actually maybe get promoted. And now it looks like there is a good chance of that happening, and that feels, frankly, weirder than I thought that it would.

I mean, there is no next promotion after this.  There is no next hoop to jump through.  I mean, I can create goals for myself, and I can create hoops for myself, but at the end of the day, this is IT.  That is so crazy I can’t even talk about it!  I mean, who is at the end of the line when she is just 40 years old?!?!  That is INSANE.  And so I feel a bit lost because of that possibility, frankly.

But you will all laugh at this.  So I got my letter, and I was shaking I was so anxious as I opened the envelope.  I couldn’t even really read it – I just raced through to look for the verdict.  But then I was like, “OMG!!!  IT’S HAPPENING!!!” and I wanted to tell my department best friend, CC.  She was just about to start class down the hall, and because I’m an impulsive weirdo, I barged into her class and was like, “I HAVE TO SHOW YOU SOMETHING!”  And she, who has been almost as impatient about things as I’ve been figured out what I was talking about, and was all, “IS IT GOOD?” and I was all, “TOTALLY!”  Now, a lot of her students in that class know me, and they were all sitting in there, and they were like, “WHAT’S GOING ON?!?” and as I was making my exit, I said, “It’s a secret!”  And the moment I walked out I heard them enthusiastically questioning CC.  She didn’t reveal my secret intel, and then later I ran into one of those students in the elevator, and she told me that CC wouldn’t tell and she tried to get it out of me, and I said, “you will know, but not yet!  nothing is certain!”  My student then said to me, “well, even though I don’t know what it is, congratulations!”

I love my students.  LOVE. THEM.

So this leads to the “other news” of the title:

  • I have a (former) student who has made it to the interview process for Teach for America, which is awesome. I also have a student applying to be a Rhodes Scholar, and students applying for internships, study abroad, law school, and grad school.  All of them are freaking amazing.
  • I heard from a non-trad student whom I had thought dropped out who in fact just needed to stop out in order to get the money to finish and she wants to come in for advising!
  • I had a student burst into tears in class yesterday (not good, except) which led to the student coming in for a meeting today and figuring out stuff with her research paper (GOOD!).
  • All but one of my modernism students actually showed up for library instruction and they all seemed to be stoked about how much they learned!  And I even learned some new things (which I admit is part of the reason I do library instruction – so I can find out the latest features that will make my life easier).
  • Critical theory in the intro to the major class!  I so love introducing what “theory” is when I don’t actually assign them theory to read!  It makes everything so much better when I actually do teach them theory!

And then, in non-student “other news”:

  • Footloose is wonderful, deals perfectly with my high-strung-ness because he is like the most low-strung person in the way that he interacts with the world (though he is totally high-strung in his own way but he just internalizes it rather than externalizing it), and he totally doesn’t REACT when I freak out, which, yes, is kind of annoying (because, DUDE, use your words), but which also, yes, is exactly what I need in a person

 

That’s enough for now.  More soon,

 

 

I know I never write anymore.  I feel guilt about that, I do.  And I don’t think the drought in posts will last forever, but it’s happening now because I’m in a transition phase and I might actually, depending on how things go, “come out” and blog under my actual name, in some fashion, at a time in the near future.  Though maybe not.  We’ll see.  But another reason I haven’t really written is mostly that I’ve been super busy, and when I’ve had time to blog I’ve been too tired to blog.  Whatever.  I’ve got something to write about today.

I’ve worked at my current institution in a tenure-track role for 11+ years, now, and I am now experiencing something that is one of the most delightful things I’ve experienced as an academic.  I love the fact that I am now in a position where I have former students with whom to connect to current students or recent grads for mentoring.  I strongly believe that it is a problem for me to be the One True Mentor to my students.  I want them to follow a path that is true to them, and I know that if I am the only voice they hear that it can be difficult for them to find their own way.

In the past month, I’ve been able to connect up some current/recent students with former students who graduated about 5 years ago who actually have done or are doing the things that my current/recent students want to do.  Why is this so meaningful to me?  A few reasons.

  1. I love that I maintain relationships with my former students to the extent that they are willing to mentor students I have right now.  I feel like that should be the norm rather than the exception, but it isn’t.  I care about what my former students are doing and have done, and I care about keeping in touch with them.  And it turns out that the benefit of this is that I can call on those relationships to help the students with whom I am currently working, even though that isn’t why I maintained those relationships in the first place.
  2. I might have good advice to give, but I don’t know all the things, and I know that I don’t know all the things.  It is so nice to be able to defer to people who know more than I know, have more experience than I have, and to indicate to my students that I am not the authority.
  3. I feel like connecting up these people models the fact that it takes a village to find success in one’s life.  You can’t depend on one person to make your life happen: you need lots of support.

So I’m overwhelmed and I’m tired and I’m really freaking busy.  But I’m really happy that the work that I do allows me to connect students that I’ve taught across the years.  That is really and truly satisfying.

So, So Tired

Never in my time at my institution do I recall being busier or more ready for fall break (though of course, I could have repressed previous traumas).  I’m going to visit my High School BFF and to meet her new baby!  It will be a welcome respite from what has been one of the most obnoxiously busy fall semesters of my career.  Today was a 12-hour day, filled with grading, teaching two classes, meetings with three students, a college assessment meeting, and then a talk at a local library. So I don’t have much to say.

But I want to say some things, anyway, since I’m such a crappy blogger these past few months.

  1. Everything’s simply great with Footloose, though given both of our crazy schedules (his crazier than mine, if you can believe it), we just don’t have that much time together.  But maybe that is why we like each other so much?  Ha!  Anyway, we both like each other, we both like being together, so now it’s just a matter of carving out some more time for each other. Which is happening, slowly but surely, at least so far.
  2. The promotion application wends its way through the levels of evaluation, and it is at the halfway point in the process.  Unanimous recommendation to promote from the full profs in my department, and a positive recommendation from my chair as well.  All of this sounds like smooth sailing, yes?  Well, not necessarily.  The unanimous recommendation from the full profs was… perfunctory.  I compared letters with CF, who is also going up, and there were identical lame sentences, and a lack of specificity in both.  In other words, while they unanimously recommended me (and her), they didn’t really make a case for either of us.  And remember, two others were going up.  I suspect, in spite of the differences in our records, they got similarly bland unanimous support as well.  I do not believe those men read any part of my application beyond my cover letter and cv. My chair’s recommendation was better – specific, engaged, and she did clearly explain why I should get the promotion.  This may make it seem like I have it in the bag, but the next two levels are our new dean and our new provost, and it is entirely unclear what they think the criteria are for full promotion.  Also, since this is their first time at the rodeo at our institution, they may want to send a message with their decisions this go-around.  At any rate, so far so good, but I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch.
  3. You know what sucks?  Committee work.
  4. You know what doesn’t suck?  My students, who are really so great this semester that I can’t even stand it. They are so engaged and so into everything we’re doing.  They energize me for all of the irritating work I do outside of the classroom.
  5. It occurs to me that I should probably check on that journal article that submitted August 1. Hmmm.  Maybe I’ll give it another month.

And that’s all I’ve got, folks.  I’m too tired to have ideas or to write about them.

 

In the past 10 days or so, I have heard from approximately 6 different guys whom I have “dated” – some more seriously, some less – from out of the blue. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of a steady suitor whom she apparently likes a great deal must be in want of the attention of tragic exes.

Also, as Medusa noted, there is a bit of a nip in the air, so they may just be feeling frisky, like zoo animals.

As of today, it is out of my hands.

First things first: this is totally a different feeling from applying for tenure and my first promotion.  After that, I went into a bit of a tailspin, which led me to reading Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga.  I know.  Clearly I was in a deep, dark place.

This feels much less horrifying.  I mean, sure, I might get denied, but I won’t lose my job. There are no real consequences to failure here, while there would be consequences to not applying, i.e., if you don’t apply you can’t get promoted.

Also, I do feel confident – not certain, but confident.  Look, I’ll be the first person to tell you that there are weak spots in my application.  There are.  I had a couple of semesters where my course evaluations weren’t fantastic.  Did I ultimately address the things that caused those problems?  I did.  But how much weight will be given to those?  No idea.  And since we don’t do peer evaluations of our teaching, and we are never observed by our chair… yeah, that might mean something.  (Though one might argue that perhaps if we took teaching seriously enough to evaluate one another as professionals that I might have solved those problems more quickly….)  And is my research as strong as I would – in the platonic ideal of what a full professor’s research profile should look like – like for it to be?  No, it isn’t.  Now, I’m not embarrassed by what I’ve got – given the rest of what I do, I actually think it’s strong.  But might these weak spots result in me getting denied?  Yes. On the other hand, I’m comfortable that when people review my application that they will understand why I applied. Maybe I’m not a “sure thing,” but I’m not anything to sneeze at either.

And I know this: I worked really hard on my application, and I took it seriously.  I made the best possible case for myself that I could make (which my dean emphasized was the most important thing that I should do, when I spoke with her about it). Given some things I’ve gathered from our new provost and dean, I might have included too much.  But, as I noted to another administrator, whom I really, really like, I’m in a rhetorically difficult position with this application.  1) None of us actually know what this new dean and this new provost want, since they’ve never seen what our materials have looked like in the past; 2) This is the first year with the new electronic submission process (in our college – the other colleges had a “trial year” last year, but our old dean refused to allow any electronic submissions last year), so within my department the evaluators have never seen something that looks like this, and they might just be expecting what they used to get only uploaded vs. in a binder.  Given these two very different audiences, I tried to split the difference and emphasize my narrative (as the dean and provost have indicated they expect) while at the same time including TONS of evidence (the old model was all about throwing everything in but the kitchen sink, which I did not do, but I included more evidence than I would have done if I were more sure that everybody was on the same page about the “emphasize your narrative” portion of things).  The way I figure it, nobody is going to have a gun to their heads to click on all the things, so this should make everybody happy.  I hope.

I know that working hard on the application isn’t going to get me the promotion – that’s like students thinking that “working hard” means they should get an A – but I also cared a lot about demonstrating that I realize what a big deal this is.  I mean, sure, all it really means is that I get an 8% raise.  That is a bigger deal than it should be in the financial climate of higher ed, but still, small potatoes.  But should I get it, this is my third and final promotion of my career.  I don’t want that to be something that I throw together.  It is something that should have gravity.  It is something that I should invest myself in earning – not only in the work that I do but in the way that I present that work.  Effort should be part of doing this, I think, even if it shouldn’t be what gets you the promotion, which I don’t think it should be.  Basically, I believe that if you really deserve the promotion, part of what “deserving it” means is realizing just how important this final promotion is and showing that in the care that you take with the application.  I know, I’m secretly a Pollyanna.  Whatever.  I’ll cop to that.

Now, what will be interesting is how all of this plays out over the next three months as the various applications wind their way through the various levels. In my department, four people are applying.  This is an unheard of thing.  We currently have 6 people who are fully promoted.  All of them are men. Over the age of 50.  One was promoted within the past decade, and one we inherited when he lost an administrative position. As far as I’m aware, only two of the others went up at the same time.  We are not a department that has actively mentored its faculty to aim toward full promotion. (We are a department of around 30… of that 30, only about 7 haven’t been around long enough to be reasonably eligible to apply for full [5 of whom either just don't have tenure yet or only just got it last year] so basically we are talking about 17 people who should be on track for promotion but who have not been mentored toward what they need to do to achieve it or encouraged to apply.  And when I asked for guidance about it I was actively discouraged from applying “too soon” or told that I would “just know” when the time was right.)

Now, one person who is applying is CF, and I know she’s my friend and all, but I expect that her chances are as good as mine or better.  While she doesn’t have as good a publication record as I have, she does have better grant stuff than I do, and in service and teaching I feel like we are neck and neck.  I also know that she took her application very seriously.

Then there’s me, and naturally, I think that I am grand.  That’s a joke, by the way.

Then there is another colleague who….  Let’s just say that there are some Red Flags with this other colleague.  But this colleague does do a good job of spinning accomplishments to seem like they are more meritorious than they really are.  So it is all about how far the evaluators dig into this colleague’s accomplishments.  That said, I know this colleague was working on the promotion application this summer, so I’m sure that the application itself will likely be decent.

Then there is the last colleague, whose application I actually saw a bit of today, who began putting it together a week ago.  This colleague is confident because “the materials speak for themselves” and because this colleague believes that s/he has support from one of the full profs.  This colleague did not consult with IT about the new format and about best practices for putting together an electronic document of this type.

So, with all of that being said, I am done.  If I don’t get it, I’ll have the majority of my shit together to reapply, and I’ll have feedback about what was missing. If I do get it, I CAN SAY EVERYTHING IN MY BRAIN ALL OF THE TIME.  Well, I won’t, but I COULD.

In non-promotion news, things with Footloose progress apace.  We are going to the symphony on Friday :)

  • One grant application submitted – check.
  • Promotion materials approximately 75% complete and will certainly be done no later than Monday – check.
  • 4 stacks of things to grade? Not touched, but soon!
  • Two more grant apps (one external, one internal) that must be done by Oct.1
  • Attempts at a personal life…. moving right along, in fits and starts.  The good news is that it’s ok that I’m a workaholic.  The annoying news is that the reason that this is ok is that my current One True Love is similarly a workaholic.  Will we ever have time to see one another more than once a week?  I am hopeful, but not optimistic.
  • A student who “hates, like HATES” in a way that is totally upsetting her, James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. All I can say is that I am kind of proud that she’s hating something even though it’s on a syllabus.  Because, frankly, she is a student who twists herself into knots to love anything a prof has assigned.
  • My colleagues.  MY COLLEAGUES.  I can’t even.

I appear to have what I believe is a cold.  I believe that this is a cold, and not allergies, because Footloose has reported a scratchy throat, the appearance of which neatly coincides with the appearance of my congestion.  Further, two days prior to these happenings, CC reported similar symptoms, which I dismissed as allergies, and we hung out.  So either we all have allergies, or we all have an awful end-of-summer cold.  Breathing out of one nostril, it is not fun.

But so yes, the semester is off to an… interesting… start.

Teaching:

My classes are fabulous.  They are full of students (which may not seem like something to brag about, but given the situation of some of my colleagues, this is something to brag about), the students are enthusiastic and excited about the material, and my return to a MWF schedule remains the best decision I ever made.  I am very excited about what I will accomplish in the classroom this semester, and about what my students will accomplish.

Research:

Kind of on the back burner until mid-September, though I am going to try to get another article polished and submitted.

Grant applications:

I’m applying for two NEH grants, and I’m applying for an internal grant, too.  All of those deadlines will happen by October 1.

Promotion application:

I’m applying for full promotion, and that deadline is September 15.  I figure I’m about two thirds of the way done with putting all of that together, and I should be done-done by September 12.  The process is tedious and exhausting, and I am totally flying without a net since I’ve had virtually no mentoring and since we are moving to an electronic format for the first time.  I’m trying to convince myself it doesn’t matter if I get it.

Service and the institution:

This is where things get really interesting.  Lots of Big Initiatives and Big Changes afloat at my institution.  None of this is a surprise, though I fully expect many faculty to be SHOCKED and AFFRONTED and for the rumor mill to go into overdrive with paranoid conspiracy theories.  We hired a new president two years ago, and in that two years we have had a massive administrative turn over, as is typical.  We also have a new strategic plan, and we are coming up for our accreditation 5-year review.  And we are revamping our budget model – which dates back to the 1970s – and assessment is HAPPENING although most people outside of the Colleges of Business, Health Professions, and Education seem to have been unaware that this was coming (huh? what planet have they been on?).  And apparently we are also “revisiting” our General Education program.

And I apparently am going to be the Assessment Guru of my College.

It looks like I am back in the thick of things, in spite of my efforts to scale back over the past couple of years and to get the target off of my back.  Indeed, I feel like the target is large and red and has flashing lights.

Whatever.  If I learned anything from my work on curriculum a few years ago, I can handle a target on my back.  I will live to fight another day, whatever this academic year holds.  I’m not sure that others will be able to say the same.

 

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