Tuesday, June 07, 2005


A thoughtful introduction?
This seems strange to me because generally I go to great lengths to avoid introducing myself as an academic and instead introduce myself as a "normal person". I avoid words like professor and faculty member and instead identify myself with my profession in hopes of not seeming pompous and obnoxious (I heard someone recently say "Hi! My name is X. I have a PhD. I teach classes in FieldofChoice at State University in Capitol City" to some people he had never met before... blech).

Anyway, I am an assistant professor in a top-ranked allied health department at a public R1 research institution. I have a reasonable teaching load (1-1 this year which ramps up to 2-2 longterm). Research expectations are high and that is something that causes me some stress. Am I getting things out quickly enough? Am I getting my lab started quickly enough? What counts as reasonable work load with regard to seeing subjects or designing new studies? Like Bright Eyes, my profession has a pipeline problem so just because I got my job is no guarantee that I have what it takes to keep my job. In some ways I'd feel better if I had beat out 100 applicants to get the position I have because then I'd at least know I was good at what I do - instead I could just be mediocre but the best of what was out there this year.

Unlike Hall, I am not bitter about my graduate experience or the shift to tenure track and the job hunt. These things were all smooth and insulated, in part because my advisor is a good mentor. In fact, I think I've had pretty good mentoring so far - I definately knew what to expect this year and I haven't found things so overwhelming that I can't keep my head above water (although the fact that I'm coping feeds the fear that I'm not working hard enough or not smart enough to know that I'm failing or something). And the department here is collegial and supportive. I feel there are people to talk to if I were to have problems, both junior and senior. And people have gone out of their way to be helpful when I have trouble with logistical issues (copier, computer support, reimbursement). If there are factions or major competitiveness within the dept, I haven't noticed it.

At the same time I haven't really connected either socially or intellectually with anyone on the faculty yet. I have plenty of social connections in the community but not so many within the university. There are some hints at possible collaborations but not anything concrete yet. And definately no one here to kick around research ideas or design issues with. Not that they wouldn't listen - just not exactly their area of interest and not something they would want to devote a ton of time to. I came from a large lab so this intellectual isolation is something new to me.

I'm interested in issues of professionalism and professional development both from a very personal vantage point and from a more long term passing information along perspective. Either way, I am looking forward to hearing different points of view about what it means to be a professor and how one cares for oneself along the way.