Friday, August 31, 2012

Administrative side trip

  Last week I talked about being an adjunct teacher. But I’m not just exploring that as an alternative to a tenure position. I also tried out the administrative route in an abbreviated form.
Let me first say thank goodness for the men and women who coordinate departments, programs, and classes, often behind the scenes. Having tried it myself for a few months, though, I’m pretty sure it’s not for me. I coordinated a summer program for undergraduates, from the application process back in December through to the closing symposium a few weeks ago. I booked tickets, found housing, and managed funds, and I think I did well at it. You know what? I can brag – I was dang good at it, especially as it was my first try. The skills involved in a Ph.D., such as managing data, communicating, hitting deadlines, etc., transferred easily. But I got most excited at the end when I started helping students with their final posters. That was what I knew – how to write an Introduction with limited space, how to communicate findings in a concise way, and how to make a poster easy to read. I regretted getting to know the students through their housing problems and not through their research problems. I’m aware that a tenure track job, among many other jobs, requires good administrative skills for managing grants and departmental duties, and this was a great way to try out the administrative side of the sciences. I considered, briefly, applying for a full time position at my institution that is 50% research assistant and 50% administration. But I think in the end, I would miss the science too much and stress out too much about plane tickets.
  On a side note, as the fall continues, I know that writing a blog will get more difficult. When I started the blog, I had one part-time job, and now I’ll have two, which we all know probably adds up to more that 100%. I’ve had less time to research (ahem, surf the interwebs) about the issues I know affect women in the sciences, so the posts are more personal. Although it can be a bit like navel gazing, I really do find it useful. It’s made me consider what I really want in a career (though I guess I’m still working that out) and also ask other women who I admire about their choices. I've also become more aware of gender imbalances and related problems and work more actively to counter them.

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