Greetings, PhD Class of 2019. Welcome. We are excited for your arrival on campus later this summer. As you enjoy your summer, I thought I’d take this opportunity to write you with some advice for your next adventure. My comments are just based on my personal experiences but I thought maybe they would be of use to you as you start your PhD.
My first set of comments all revolve around one basic point: this isn’t an extension of undergrad. The early course work you do in preparation for your PhD should be thought of as something completely different from your past experiences. Even though the campus might look like your undergrad institution, even though there might be a football team and drink specials on Thursday nights – your days as a high-achieving undergrad are over. For some of you, you might be 10 or 20 years post-undergrad. You might have multiple master’s degrees and real-world experience. For others, you might have graduated just this summer. For everyone, however, graduate school - at this program – is just beginning. There are going to be lots of differences from your past experiences. Let me highlight a few:
As a junior faculty member, I am not in a position to turn down advice. Fortunately, I receive good advice from mentors, colleagues, and friends. I am very thankful. Lately, I have also been getting advice from a few organizations for faculty development. They provide free tips on writing and productivity, navigating the job market, and balancing responsibilities as well as seek to debunk some of the myths about success in the academia. On average, their advice has been fairly useful (I have not signed up for paid services, and I certainly do not have a representative sample here).
But based on my experience, I take issue with the advice industry’s focus on mistakes. A laundry of list of mistakes junior faculty must avoid seems ubiquitous: taking on service, supervising theses, investing too much into your current institution, working on multiple projects at once, not eating healthy, not seeking out mentors, not having work-life balance... Avoid these mistakes!
Academics are generally pretty lucky when it comes to parental leave- at least on paper. Many universities provide more leave than the minimum required by governments (so more than nothing in the US), yet there are several aspects of our careers that cause parental leave erosion. I should say from the outset that I had a generally supportive and positive experience while on leave last year, but I've also found several sources of leave erosion. *I acknowledge that there are many different types of parents taking parental leave, and I'm mainly drawing on my experience, or those of close friends in the field. I'd love to hear other experiences.
1. Pre-leave 'make up' work: This is a typical scenario: parents learn they are expecting, figure out when they are taking leave, and start working overtime to get 'extra' things done before the leave. In some ways this is understandable; it makes sense to want to wrap things up, tick things off a list etc before baby arrives. However, the idea that we need to work extra hard so that the parental leave doesn't 'put us behind' or give some kind of disadvantage places unrealistic expectations on parents. Doing more work before your leave also means you (and your colleagues) treat your parental leave as a reshuffling of work, rather than time away from work. This kind of extra stress is the last thing that parents-to-be need, especially since pregnancy can be really terrible. You might be flat on your back trying to hold down any type of sustenance rather than writing your opus in the 8th month- and that's ok. Parents don't need to 'earn' their leave- and working extra, taking on extra roles etc before baby arrives means you donate time to the university and treat the arrival of the baby as the 'finish line' rather than the starting gate.
2. Parental leave free labor: I blame sabbaticals for this. While on sabbatical staff that are 'away' are still expected to respond to emails (even if it is slowly) and somewhat maintain their visibility and roles in the department. But parental leave is, and should be, different: parents take it because they have a new baby, not because they are focusing more of their attention to one aspect of their job. Also, most parental leave involves a pay reduction- so from a purely economic sense, parents are not getting paid to do their job anymore, they are paid to be parents, on leave. But that's not reality. Most parents on leave end up responding to emails, doing copy edits on articles/books that are in the publication pipeline, writing reference letters, providing annual reports to funders, giving advice or feedback to grad students, and maybe even reviewing. These are tasks that one is almost obliged to do in order to sustain a minimum lifeline as an academic, but it is UNPAID LABOR.
I’m leaving for the Midwest Political Science Association conference this afternoon, a wonderful 3 days since I returned from ISA. I’m a little (*cough*) “conferenced-out” – it wasn’t a good idea to do both conferences so close to each other. I am excited, however, to see all the fabulous IO panels at Midwest.
As I finished up the last of my conference slides this morning, I was reflecting on the “conference-ese” we all use and what our phrases actually mean. To the untrained participant, the phrase might not get noticed. For the seasoned conference participant, however, it is obvious what the phrase really means. Let me translate some of these:
Long ago, Dan Drezner posted about the imposter syndrome. The basic idea is that many folks feel as if they will be found out, that there are other folks out there that are smarter, more informed and that one is just getting away with being less than that until eventually getting found out.
Almost exactly three years ago, Patrick Thaddeus Jackson blogged "Who’s Your Grand-Advisor? Crowdsourcing an IR lineage map" at the Duck. Patrick was searching for an academic family tree website with a focus on international relations:
This piece has been making waves in the academic world (for a much better set of recommendations, see this piece). It gets much attention because it both identifies a real problem and then suggests awful ways to handle it. The latter is easier to deal with quickly. However, first let me be clear--what I am talking about here are the letters that universities ask outside scholars to write as they evaluate candidates for tenure and/or promotion. The basic idea is that these letters serve two purposes (at least):
Editor's note: this is a guest post by Brian J. Phillips, of the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics.
What are the best International
As Jennifer Grose at Slate reported this morning, a paper by Wendy Stock and John Siegfried at the most recent AEA meetings, had some very
Dear Kansas Board of Regents,
Greetings. You probably don’t know me but I’ve been a long-time user of your services. I started my college career
When people lament about how broken academia is now (for example Higgs of Higgs-Boson), I am so tempted to generalize about the olden days:
Given the intricacies of our job and the cushy lifestyle most academics live in, it disconcerting when academics use improper and incorrect analogies to describe the intricacies of their job. The latest is the idea that drug cartels and academia are similar enterprises. While I understand the spirit of the idea, the basic assumptions are insensitive and damaging. They represent the the pondering of a privileged academic stuck in the ivory tower.
What does any faculty member REALLY want for the holidays? It’s not a Lexus, it’s not jewelry, it’s a brand new revise-and-resubmit (R&R) manuscript. It’s really all that is on my list every year. That and, of course, world peace.
How can one get an R&R manuscript? So far, I think R&R decisions are the result of the following four conditions:
[Note: This is a guest post from Mira Sucharov and Brent E. Sasley. Mira Sucharov is Associate Professor of Political Science at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She blogs at Haaretz.com and at Open Zion. Follow her on Twitter. Brent Sasley is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Texas at Arlington. He blogs at Mideast Matrix. Follow him on Twitter.]
Changes to our technology and to our scholarly norms present new challenges to scholars who engage in the public sphere. More and more academics in Political Science, and especially International Relations, are blogging, tweeting, and writing for online magazines like Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, and The National Interest, while many with specialization in a specific region or issue-area contribute to region- or issue-specific media.
There is a small but expanding literature on how these changes do and should affect the scholarly enterprise. Often hidden beneath such discussions is how all this affects the scholar herself. There is an inherent assumption that scholars are just that—dispassionate analysts who can look at a set of evidence and draw objective conclusions from it.
Policies and practices set up to avoid discrimination in the past have a tendency to expire. Remember, 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' was originally set up to protect gay service-members within the US forces. Similarly, the often unofficial rule of having one woman on hiring committees has reached its expiry date. Primarily as a result of effective equality and diversity campaigns in the 1980s and early 1990s, many departments instituted either an explicit or informal policy to include 'at least' one woman on each hiring committee- usually after finding that most hiring committees included no women, and most hires were men. The result- in many cases- has been that there has been one woman on hiring committees in academia for nearly 3 decades. The problem is that while the number of female PhD graduates increases, and the number of female applicants increases, the lonely- token- woman on the hiring committee remains standard practice at many institutions. Sure, there is evidence that women can be just as sexist as men when it comes to hiring practices; however, there is also evidence that women offer a different perspective than men (particularly in terms of 'what constitutes-good/real- political science'). Changing the makeup of hiring committees could be an opportunity to change a hiring culture in academia in which men are not only more likely to be hired, but will also be paid more and promoted faster than their female counterparts.
Let's focus on tokenism. The one-woman policy constitutes tokenism for at least three reasons:
There have been a spate of posts about why folks have quit academia.... so much so that Dan Drezner issued this challenge:
Has anyone written a "Why I Haven't Quit the Academy" post yet?
— Daniel Drezner (@dandrezner) October 27, 2013
In the Monkey Cage’s recent symposium on gender and political science, David Lake writes how important it is that our scholarly networks become less gendered, how male scholars must make an effort to mentor women in the field. In my view, the importance of mentorship cannot be understated. Without the support of several scholars in security studies, not all but many of them men, I may have indeed decided that this field was not for someone like me.
In my first year of graduate school, I was beginning to see myself as more of an “IR theory” than a “security studies” student (yes, whatever that means). But in May of 1997, our department administrator called me into her office to talk teaching assistant assignments. “We’d like you to be a T.A. for Warner Schilling’s class,” she said. I was thrilled, but terrified. The course was “Weapons, Strategy, and War,” and if there was one thing I was absolutely certain about, it was that I did not know enough about weapons, or strategy, or war to be teaching anyone anything about those topics. And, having taken this course with Schilling, I knew that this was not for the faint of heart. I would have to guide undergraduates through the basics of shot and pike, of column and line, of counterforce and McNamara curves. I very simply was not qualified.