Fall 2017 Welcome

Dear ECM-ers,

I hope your September and the first few weeks of classes have been going well.  A key ECM goal this year is to provide regular blog posts that provide information to supplement and support your monthly committee meetings.  This month I’d like to delve into managing ego, managing expectations, and time management since all are central to our own productivity, perceptions of accomplishment, and job satisfaction.   Setting up good habits and attitudes in these areas help ensure that as you build your group’s own enterprise for tenure and promotion that it doesn’t consume every waking moment of your time and thus compromise a healthy work/life balance.    

Managing your own ego can be the first step in seeking out resources and perspectives.   It’s the age-old joke about asking for directions and whether that is faster/less stressful than figuring it out yourself.  However, I think there is a difference between asking for help and asking for perspectives.  Each of you are in the driver’s seat of your career. It can be hard to ask for help because it can feel like you are giving up the wheel.  However, asking for perspective means you never give up the wheel, but gain knowledge of the road that you can’t see right in front of your vehicle.  Not everyone sees the same road, but collectively multiple people have seen most of the road and its obstacles.  The road is ever changing, so staying solidly in the driver’s seat is important.  I view ECMs as a highly valuable tool to gain perspective; so consult your ego, but don’t let it keep you from seeking perspectives.

Managing expectations – your own expectations and others – are frequently established as an afterthought or in a manner that isn’t transparently ‘owned.’  Expectations can end up hidden behind TODO lists, assignments, and other obligations.   However, the simple act of talking through what all parties expect from an activity/effort can be very beneficial.  One strategy is to intentionally separate the long term from the short term expectations.  The road to tenure and promotion is a perfect example.  Discussions on expectations typically arrive very quickly at, “How many grants/publications/etc. are expected in this department to achieve tenure?”  However, this question yields less than satisfying answers for many new professors, “It depends on …”  A focus on the short-term first usually helps this discussion greatly.  Answers like, “In the first semester, we expect you will establish your group by hiring (or identifying) your first graduate student, setting up your lab/other, giving seminars in other departments, starting to form collaborations, starting to integrate into the department as a citizen invested in our joint future, etc.” Tomorrow’s Professor enewsletter has long been a favorite read (skim?) of mine.  A recent post highlighted a book on the “Slow Professor” by Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber whose underlying concept was to embrace deliberate, high impact efforts and resist the chaos from the ‘more, more, more’ messaging.  Please consider talking with your ECM about strategies to protect and cultivate time to think creatively and critically, which ultimately increases output quantity and quality.

As you all know from your past experiences, to achieve your goals, managing your time is key.  You did well at this in your previous positions or you wouldn’t have been successful and thus recruited and selected for your tenure-track position.  However, with your new roles, each of you have likely encountered – or will soon encounter – new time pressures and increases in disparate, unexpected, yet important tasks.  These new time pressures typically require adaptations because the game changes with each new stage of our careers.   This new game – for which you are prepared – requires some additional skills to thrive and your ECM can provide perspective.  Consider asking your committee members what strategies and tricks they use to maximize positive outcomes with greatest efficiency of their time.  For example;

  • How do you get to know your students on a personal level (beneficial for teaching evaluations) without it consuming all of your available time?
  • What strategies improve the quality and timeliness of your own or your TA’s feedback to students in large classes?
  • What is the best way to delegate comparison shopping of basic lab supplies to hourly students?
  • What strategies help with vetting potential graduate students?  Is relying on the standardized scores and application sufficient? (Hint: no)
  • How to prioritize and decide what great ideas go to which funding opportunity?
  • How to evaluate service requests?  Do your committee members have strategies to specialize their service?  Their outreach? Are there benefits to that strategy?

Please let me know of any topics you would like to see covered in these blogs.  This fall, we plan to cover an introduction to centers and institutes as well as an overview of resources at the Center for Teaching and Learning.   Also, the following two blog posts about current opportunities and resources.  

Happy ECMing,

Assistant to the Provost for Faculty Development

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