Here’s a recap of our two major activities at the conference.
We held a pre-conference workshop geared around the “Three E” themes of Maureen O’Connor’s presidency. Heather Bullock spoke about engaging disciplinary organizations toward policy ends in the session on Equity; Michael Vandenberg and June Flora were our mentors for the Environment session; and Scott Plous gave an inspiring talk on Action Teaching for the Education session (click here for details about the Action Teaching Award). Thank you to all of them, and to SPSSI Council and SPSSI officers for mentoring attendees over lunch.
Highly Effective Junior Faculty
We held a panel on the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Junior Faculty” (with apologies to Stephen R. Covey for the title). We wish to thank all of the enthusiastic early career scholars who came, and especially to thank those who served as panelists: Diana Sanchez and Adam Fingerhut (the two most recent recipients of SPSSI’s Michele Alexander award) and Shantal Marshall and Amanda Clinton (click here for recipients of this year’s SPSSI teaching awards). On the SPSSI Early Career Facebook page, which we encourage you to visit and “like,” we have posted the extended lists of top tips from our panelists and links to relevant resources. Here are the highlights and how they link in to the committee’s initiatives for the upcoming year.
A primary focus in our discussion was how to prioritize writing time. Many early career scholars find that they “binge write” on academic breaks and are unable to make slow, steady progress during the semester. Robert Boice (check out his book from our Facebook page) has identified slow, steady writing as a behavior that distinguishes successful academics from non-successful academics. Our panelists also stressed the importance of setting aside “appointments with yourself”—ideally 30-60 minutes on a daily basis—that are dedicated solely to writing. To keep you on track, there are several models of writing accountability groups; see the link on our Facebook page to the National Center for Faculty Diversity and Development for more information about the different models. This year, the ECS committee hopes to “soft-launch” a writing accountability program for interested early career SPSSI members. This may take a simple form at first (e.g., matching writing buddies) or a more complex form (e.g., forming larger groups, or geographically proximate groups). We encourage you to keep an eye out for more information over the next few months.
We had an interesting discussion about two other points. The first was saying yes versus. no to requests from other people. Our panelists productively disagreed in their advice on this point. Although many people would benefit from learning how to politely say no, keep in mind that saying yes to certain kinds of service, training opportunities, and favors can pay dividends down the road. The second point was how to make your career work both for and with you, rather than being a source of misery. Our panelists encouraged attendees to: (1) think carefully about how you can align your passions with the goals and missions of your department and institution; (2) know how you work, and make that work for you; (3) be yourself in the classroom; (4) remember you are forever a student; and (5) enjoy the process of doing what you do. All of this advice shares an underlying message: instead of constantly struggling, do whatever it takes to find the joy and “fit” between you and your job.
—Jessica Salvatore, ECS Chair