GenX women in higher ed from around the globe

Posts Tagged ‘GenX’

Growing Up in Academia

In Liminal Thinking on 2011/03/08 at 22:05

Denise Horn, writing from India

I have friends who are well advanced in their (non-academic) careers—they are senior managers, higher-ups in government bureaucracies, established account and movie executives. They pay mortgages, have children, talk about their investments and have all the trappings of late 30-something, early 40-somethings that we generally associate with that population. They are grown-ups.

Despite being in the same age cohort, however, I don’t feel like a grown-up, really. I feel more like a grown-up in waiting.

It’s not that I’m not an adult, with all the responsibilities that entails, but rather it’s the mindset of being a “junior faculty member.” I’m just in the strange netherworld of post-doctoral student life and pre-tenure. It’s the place where we’re supposed to establish ourselves as academics yet are often treated as an unknown quantity. We can’t defend ourselves openly: we must rely on tenured colleagues to do that for us. We can’t make waves: we have to work through back channels to avoid upsetting the wrong—tenured—faculty member or administrator. We can’t take on too much work other than teaching and research, lest our—tenured—colleagues think we are not “serious” adult academics. At the same time, we are a bit coddled with extra research time (at least in my university), forgiven for rookie mistakes, and (one hopes) protected by chairs and senior faculty mentors.

What does it mean to “grow up” in academia?

For those of us on the tenure-track, I think it means that our worlds are open to us intellectually, yet constrained by the politics of our various institutions which may lead to harsh judgments if we break the rules—just as my parents would have done when I was sixteen. It means that we look forward to the day when we can speak our minds freely and speak out when need be, without fear of losing critical support in future assessments—much the same way I felt as a kid in school, longing for the day I could dye my hair any color I wanted or stay out late. But less flippantly, being granted tenure means that we have done all the things a “good girl” should have done, and finally, recognized as worthy of regard. We are longing to be given the keys to the car.

I’m making light of this with my metaphors, of course, but this sense of “juniorness” as an academic, and all the insecurities and vulnerabilities it engenders, has sobering effects on one’s psyche. While I look forward to the day when I can speak more openly or have a role in administration, we can see, from our vantage point as juniors, why some of our senior colleagues seem bitter or prone to anger over seemingly trivial matters. There is a tradition of putting current juniors through the same abuse one received as a junior scholar that pervades academia. It can be terrifying, stultifying and frustrating.

We hope that every generation will learn from the previous one. But when those of us coming up in the ranks “grow up,” will we repeat the same mistakes? Or will we really try to change the face of academia and welcome the newcomers?

Are You Up-to-date?

In Under the Rain With No Umbrella on 2011/02/18 at 22:43

Itir Toksöz, writing from Istanbul, Turkey
Finally, I am on the semester break. Two weeks ago, I handed in the grades and I have one more week in front of me to complete some pre-scheduled administrative work and prepare the courses for the next semester. This year it is even more important for me to be well-prepared for my courses even before the semester starts because I have to fill the shoes of both an academic and an administrator. From the perspective of an institution, the two positions may be regarded as complementary, in the end academies are thought to be run best by academics. However from the perspective of an academic, I can say that sometimes different shoes on different feet cause an imbalance and hamper the ability to progress smoothly. To walk in these shoes and not to trip, or to be able to run in these shoes when the deadlines are short-notice or near, I need balance. In order to keep the balance, I need to do my preparations more meticulously than previously. So the break is not really a break but a period when I can slow down but still do some work so that I can keep up with the pace of the coming semester.

Read the rest at Inside Higher Ed (link here)

Why You, in Higher Education, Should Blog

In Uncategorized on 2011/02/12 at 23:43

Lee Skallerup Bessette, writing from Kentucky in the USA

Almost a year ago, I decided to start blogging and got on Twitter. A few months after that, I responded to a call for submissions from the University of Venus. The collaboration with the writers I’ve met and interacted with online has been amazing. Writing about issues in higher education that I care about has been incredibly liberating and empowering. And being calleda role model, well, kinda rocks.

But this is all well-worn territory for me (and for you if you’ve been reading me at all). The point of this post is to try and convince you why you should blog, specifically for the University of Venus. UVenus was founded on the premise that the university was ignoring an entire generation of new voices. This is an opportunity to have your voice heard about your thoughts and experiences in higher education.

Our narrative? It has essentially been taken over and written for us. Professors and administrators are being spoken for and spoken about; for an example, look no further than the angry backlash when news that undergraduate students don’t learn was released. We are facing massive budgetary shortfalls (at least in the public system), increasing pressure from the government to increase graduation rates and other measures of accountability, and watching as an increasing number of young people, particularly non-traditional or minority students, are pushed out or pushed aside.

The university as a whole is under siege. Public universities are losing state funding. Adjuncts make up more than half of the professoriate. Undergrads are, apparently, not learning anything. Professors are receiving death threats for their writing and research activities. Students are defaulting on their student loans at an alarming rate, or sacrificing their physical well-being in order not to. The change has come, and so many of us are sitting idly by and letting the change happen to us, rather than being the change. Blogging is one way, albeit small, that we can come together, write about our real experiences, and work for change that isn’t dictated to us.

Mostly though, we need to start talking because we need to confront the bullies; that’s what the media, the politicians, administrators, and even a number of academics are, bullies. They intimidate and manipulate our behavior, they dictate the terms of engagement constantly to their benefit, and they disregard or misrepresent just about all attempts to authentically stand up to them. So many academics seem to have developed a sort of Stockholm Syndrome; not only do we identify with our overlords, we seek constantly to please and appease them. It’s the only reason I can think of why people have called me “brave” for blogging as myself.

At the risk of being accused of appropriating and/or trivializing, please allow me to quote Chris Colfer in his acceptance speech at this year’s Golden Globes: “Well, screw that, kids!” Having been bullied myself as a child, I know how painful it is. I also know how liberating it was to say, screw that, and hit send on my first blog post as myself. Stop standing on the sidelines and blog for yourself and blog for the future of higher education, whatever form it may end up taking. Our voices aren’t just for lecturing undergrads and writing endless articles and monographs. Our voices belong to us and we need to start using them.

And let me end by anticipating all the ways my writing here will be dismissed. I am writing from a position of relative privilege, which is why we are trying to create a space where people who do not have privilege can speak up for themselves. And as for being naïve? I’ve been accused of that my entire life. Doesn’t mean I can’t also be right.

Barefoot Teaching

In Liminal Thinking on 2011/02/08 at 07:07

Denise Horn, writing from Boston, Massachusetts in the USA

I’m preparing for my fifth trip to India, my second with students. I run the Global Corps Practicum program in Hubli, Karnataka State, a month-long workshop on community development and social entrepreneurship. Students are paired with Indian students, and together they conduct the field research and organizational building necessary to solve community problems. I work closely with a well-known organization, the Deshpande Foundation, which funds the program, provides the much-needed community links, and gives our work credibility within the community. It’s a crazy amount of work for myself and my two intrepid teaching assistants (not to mention my students, who have been preparing for the trip for the past few weeks), but in the end, it’s always satisfying.

I’ve been running this and similar programs for some time now, and when I look back, it’s my experiences in southern and southeast Asia that I’ve enjoyed the most. I’ve described my love affair with Thailand in other posts, and have found similar love for beautiful Bali and chaotic India. They are very different cultures, but when it comes to teaching there, I think I’ve found the common thread that shapes my enjoyment: teaching barefoot.

Read the rest at Inside Higher Ed (link here)


Why Women Should Be Fellows

In Uncategorized on 2011/02/05 at 04:50

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, writing from Evanston, Illinois in the USA

“What is a fellowship?” This question opened more conversations than I can count over the last four and a half years of my professional life, and it lacks a straightforward answer. Some ‘fellowships’ are in fact scholarships (Rhodes to study at Oxford; Gates to study at Cambridge). Others are grants (Fulbrights for independent projects) or funded internships (Junior Fellows at the Carnegie Foundation; Urban Fellows in New York City). All three categories and a multitude of additional permutations share a fundamental commitment to mentorship. As we women of UVenus know, we need all the mentors we can find, and thus, I encourage young women to pursue such opportunities with alacrity.

I remain amazed at how reluctant some students seem to throw their hats into the admittedly three-ring circus of applications, nominations, and interviews required to reach the goal.If doctoral candidates in this country receive payment from their institutions, why should someone – particularly a young woman listening to her biological clock – veer off track for monetary support she does not need?

Because fellowships are not about financial capital. They are about cultural capital.

When I address young women, I make an unorthodox argument for fellowships. The simple argument highlights the people you meet from outside your immediate institution and field of study, who will expand your ideas and ease your access to the halls of power. Moreover, money can make certain types of dreams come true. However, my gratitude for the fellowships I held stems not from my non-existent rise to power or my spare change but from the flexibility it gave me to follow my own eccentric path.

We all strive for work life balance, and we all know how ephemeral it seems. A good friend who walked away from her own expensive education and high-profile career to raise her children says, “We can have it all. We just can’t have it all at once.” During my years ‘at home’ with my sons, my fellowships facilitated my peculiar professional juggling act. They served to certify my status as a scholar when I had no institutional affiliation to follow my name. Folks I knew from various fellowships still invited me to write reviews and attend conferences. When I collected the courage to put together conference panels, my former fellow fellows would accept my invitations to apply with me. I know that the fellowships on my CV caught the eyes of senior scholars who might easily have skimmed past the proposal of an ‘independent scholar.’

When I was ready to rejoin the formal work force, my experience with fellowships saved me again. My alma mater offered to pay me for the advice I had previously dispensed for free. I remain in a non-traditional role for a scholar. As I have written here before, no one really cares if their fellowship advisers have an active scholarly agenda (although I think they should). My current job carries no truck with editors or selectors. My certification as someone in whom other foundations invested continues to carry some weight. My choices may seem weird, but others are less likely to see me as intellectually unworthy.

Fair? No. True? So far as I can tell, yes. Do I have a significant statistical sample? Absolutely not. Do I know other women from the rolls of British Scholarship recipients who have profited from their fellowships as they carved peculiar individual paths through their professional and parenting lives? Absolutely. Perhaps we find the courage to constantly recreate ourselves, because we won the fellowship lottery once and think lightening might strike twice. Perhaps the fellowship safety net gives us the sense of security we need to strike out on a tightrope over the professional abyss. No matter what motivates us – and yes, of course, each makes her own decisions for her own reasons – fellowships play a part.

Every woman (and man) should have the freedom and the courage to find her or his own way through the treacherous terrain of personal and professional goals. As yet, the constraints seem too many and the solutions too few. Fellowships broaden horizons and help fellows find their footing on slippery slopes.

In an ideal future, I would like everyone to have all these advantages, but as a first step, I want more women to be fellows.

Evanston, Illinois in the USAElizabeth Lewis Pardoe is a regular contributor at University of Venus and an associate director of the office of fellowships and teaches history and American studies at Northwestern University, from which she earned her B.A. (1992). She earned M.Litt. (1994) and M.Phil. (1995) degrees in European History as a Marshall Scholar at Cambridge University before completing her Ph.D. at Princeton University (2000)For more, visit or find Elizabeth on Twitter@ejlp and LinkedIn.

Who Is Your Role Model?

In Uncategorized on 2011/02/01 at 03:35

Who is your academic or higher education role model? Who are you trying to model your career after?

Ana: Although I don’t have a given professional or academic role model, I have had the chance to meet individuals that inspired me, by their professional integrity, ideas and core human values. Mostly, they are people trying to induce change and to make the world a better place, by promoting outstanding professional and intellectual achievements while keeping high ethical standards.

Rosalie: Dr. Carolina Hernandez. She did the seminal work on the Philippine military during Martial Law period and inspired me in that research direction. She’s the successful academic who is also a policy mover; internationally-renowned but committed to mentoring young scholars. Her travel schedule is a killer as a Delta million-miler. Despite her stature, she’s very accessible as a person and extends assistance to scholars needing “introductions.” We hung out together several times in Tokyo in 2004 and had great conversations about balancing career and family.

Meg: My mother was a public school teacher. The passion and creativity she brought to her profession was infectious. She ensured that each student had the opportunity to succeed in her classroom, and offered them control over their own learning. She brought teams of instructors together to explore innovative teaching techniques. She trained teachers in her school district and in other districts. She seemed fearless to me.

Afshan: I have a few academic mentors, and friends. They are mostly people who have shown me that you can be a great researcher, a great teacher, and still be a mentor to your students. But I don’t think I have a role model. Certainly nobody I’m trying to model my career after. Is that strange? I have never actively charted out my career path, nor do I feel the need to.

Mary: I am encouraged by strong women who are seeking a new path within higher education, women who inspire me to fight the fight. In addition to the brave writers at UVenus, two women who come to mind immediately are Drew Gilpin Faust and Ruth Simmons. These women are not just the presidents of Harvard and Brown; they are passionate advocates for change who are creating a new vision for higher ed. Their pioneering work inspires me to do things differently and to make change happen, NOW!

Denise: I was very lucky to attend a grad program with a strong feminist political theory faculty–they did more than teach theory (incredibly well), they also modeled academic and professional behavior that I strive to emulate. One professor in particular, Mary Hawkesworth, was and is an incredible mentor: she let me know that she thought my work was important and interesting and she pushed me hard in my writing and research. It’s because of Mary that my first book was published, and I can never tell her how grateful I am for all the support she’s given me over the years. I hope someday to be that person for my students…

Deanna: My role models are reflective of the observations I’ve made from my time working in Graduate Studies. I admire Angela Failler for her research, Mavis Reimer for her communication style, Hinton Bradbury for his flair and quirkiness, Diana Brydon for her use of social media, Clare Bradford for the accomplishments which brought her to my campus, and finally, Mary Churchill with her ability to juggle so many roles and projects while still maintaining such a warm and approachable aura.

Anamaria: I do not have an academic role model. I am an improviser and a borrower of the worst kind: I don’t even remember my sources. Always thankful for the inspiration that people, in general, give me every day.

Heather: My academic role model is Laura Patterson, Associate Vice President and Chief Information Officer at University of Michigan. In the early 1990s she saw the possibilities in combining technology and student records, and currently oversees complex administrative and research computing. I’ve never had the opportunity to meet her, but in my dreams, my career will follow a similar trajectory from Registrar’s Office to CIO.

Elizabeth: I have joked for some time that I am in the market for a role model, but I have yet to receive any offers. I have models – plural. Women I admire as great administrators, mentors, mothers, writers, or scholars. I can’t find one person who has done all things I want to do the way I want to do them in the same order or at the same time. Time for a reality check?

Itır: I actually do not have a role model or someone I am trying to model my career after. I am just trying to be the best version of myself as an academic. Honestly I don’t believe in role models because I believe one would learn a lot not only from the best but also the worst sides of others.

Lee: My role models are all outside higher education or followed a really nontraditional path (or both – see my post): one was my supervisor who also has a Masters in Law on top of a PhD in French, another has a PhD in history and started her own academic search firm, and the last has a PhD in Comparative Literature and is a mom/translator/lactation leader/teacher/writer/editor/publisher/activist/etc. My career doesn’t resemble any of these three women’s careers, but what I take from them is their bravery and ability to forge their own definition of success. If I can inspire one person the way they inspired me, then I’ll consider my strange career a success.

Who is your role model? Who are you trying to model your career after? Add your comment below or tweet your answer to @UVenus and we will post it on the blog as a comment.


“We Need to Talk”

In Uncategorized on 2011/01/29 at 03:52

Guest blogger, Liana Silva, writing from Kansas City, Missouri in the USA

One of my students plagiarized this semester. Not once, but twice. I graded both papers in a week’s time, so the severity of the offense seemed even worse. Instructors who have encountered plagiarism will remember that brief moment of hesitation, the slow passing of time as you wait for Google (or Turnitin) to bring up the results, the quick beating of your heart as you see the lifted passages appear on your screen, the determined swish of the cursor to “Print.” Now imagine that twice in one week. It was unnerving but also sad.

We’ve read the numerous articles on plagiarism (like David Callahan’s article in Huffington Post or Carson Jerema’s post in However, as a new, female, adjunct instructor, other concerns about my identity as an instructor come into my head.

From that first semester as a teaching assistant, I have been trying hard to convey my authority to my students. I was aware of my position as a young, new, female graduate student of color; I had also seen how some students treated other female teaching assistants who seemed less authoritative, less “professorial.” I wanted my students’ respect, maybe even more so than their admiration. Through my dress manner, tone, and the way I addressed them inside and outside of the classroom, I tried to show them I was in control of the classroom. During the semester I opened up and relaxed a little; I became friendly, chatty, sarcastic, and witty. But I always made sure I held command of the classroom. Some thought I was too stern or too serious, but honestly I always worry about being too “nice.”

Over the years, I’ve seen students do respect me. I also feel more confident about my position as their instructor. However, I’ve also noticed a difference in their interactions with me: they open up about their personal lives more often than they do with my male colleagues (whereas they usually have students come to them to talk about books, readings, ideas discussed in class). They question my decisions more than my male colleagues. Conversely, it seems to me male instructors I have worked with seem more confident in their standards than the female instructors. Even with my years of experience I still wonder if I’m too “nice” or too harsh. Is being “nice” wrong? Not really. However, it is when other instructors equate being “too nice” with not being strict enough with your students or with being easily swayed by their appeals. As I confronted the student who plagiarized, the same concerns popped into my head.

I slowly pulled out the plagiarized essays with the internet articles as evidence, and went over my talking points in my head. As I explained what I had found, I repeated to myself “don’t let X try to sway you; this student failed the assignment.” But I also wondered “does this student understand the gravity of the situation? Did the student understand what they did? Am I being too mean? Maybe the student deserves another shot.” The right and left sides of my brain battled it out. On one hand, I wanted to make it clear this was unacceptable, and there would be consequences to this unethical behavior. On the other hand, I wanted to give this student the benefit of the doubt. Meanwhile, I worry that showing sympathy or emotions of any kind will undermine my authority as a female instructor. This situation probably did not warrant sympathy (after all, this student plagiarized two WHOLE papers), but if I did not wonder so much about my tenuous position as a female adjunct instructor of color at a new school I would probably feel more comfortable talking with the student about their actions.How many of my male counterparts have the same dilemma between being too strict and too lenient?

I asked the student what happened that they felt they had to plagiarize. The student said nothing. I asked if they had plagiarized other papers in the class. Response? No. The student said they only did it one paper. I showed the student both essays, with my evidence. No response. I didn’t know what else to say, so I mentioned how plagiarism was unacceptable in a college writing course. No response. As the student walked out, they asked, “is there anything I can do?” “No.” I went to my office, drank some water to calm down my nerves, then walked to my next class. I was a minute early.

This post was also published at Inside Higher Ed.

My Degree is My Mistress

In Graduate Studies & Students on 2011/01/22 at 01:35

Deanna England, writing from Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada.

I think I’m having an identity crisis. I recently joined sites like LinkedIn and based on the suggestions of those around me, but the thing is, I don’t really know what I am. Am I a student? Am I staff at a University? Am I a writer?

I know that the easy answer is that we all juggle multiple roles in life – employee, child, girlfriend, puppy-owner etc. But when it comes to my professional life, I struggle. I’ve talked about theawkwardness factor already – that’s certainly something that defines my sense of self and belonging in the Academy – and I’m probably allowing it to rule my sensibilities too much. I’ve been invited out for post-class drinks, and to house-parties with my classmates, and I’ve yet to attend. True, I’ve had valid reasons for missing each event, but I confess, I also didn’t try too hard to re-arrange things to make it work.

Read the rest at Inside Higher Ed (link here)


Academic Boredom

In Under the Rain With No Umbrella on 2011/01/20 at 04:35

Itir Toksöz writing from Istanbul in Turkey

I am a person who is easily bored. It is in my character. I get tired of things easily. Not just of things, but also of people, of places, of food, of music etc. Once I achieve something, for me the taste is gone. I then jump on the next idea to get a new natural high out of what I do. This does not mean that I am a restless soul in every way. Luckily I harbor a stable core as well which lets me keep life-long friendships, favourite cafes that date from my university years or keepsakes from years ago. But this does not change the fact that I need novelty to feel alive every so often. The need for novelty often presents itself in the form of a new topical interest and new minds to connect with.

In that sense, an academic career seemed like the right path for me. That would be where I would be able to encounter new ideas, improve myself, sail towards new horizons, engage in interdisciplinary research, interact with like-minded people with diverse interests, push my own limits, push the limits of my students. It would be fun. An academic career sounded promising for my easily bored self as it offered enough flexibility to let me explore the limits of my own mind. My own field, international relations was a right choice in that sense because in international relations, there is always some new development somewhere in the world which is relevant to what one is doing. I never thought I could be bored in academia.

Read the rest at Inside Higher Ed (link here)

Teaching, Advising, and Academe: Thinking about 2010

In Guest Blogger on 2011/01/08 at 00:49

Janni Aragon, writing from Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada

The end of the year offers some time to review the previous year and think about teaching. I am thankful for all the students who are engaged and generally want to learn. These students fill my cup and make teaching a real blessing. I am also thankful (at times) for the students who just are not sure about the material and this entire “college” thing. These students make me work more to catch their interest and attention in the subject matter and in the discipline of Political Science. These are the students who come into my office and want to chat and I am lucky to be part of their college experience.

I am fortunate to work with students as an undergrad advisor and perhaps professional mentor. This part of my job makes me work in a more individualized role with students during my office hours or via email and I have to admit that I really enjoy it. It is great when I can tell a student that she only needs a few more courses in order to graduate. Talking to students about courses and possibilities provides us a chance to think interests and career aspirations. In these moments, I am listening, mentoring, and at times giving advice. The advice is not always what the student wants to hear.

It might seem odd, but I am also thankful for some difficult students. This also includes teaching assistants who report to me and for all intents and purposes work for me. Each of these different situations have made the next one easier, and frankly, I also do not suffer any fools anymore and am quite comfortable with saying no than I was in years past. I have found it liberating to be fair and honest with students. Surprisingly, most of the students have later thanked me for my honesty or for being firm about a deadline and my expectations.

Over the years I have continued to engage in the professional organizations in my discipline and on my campus. While it does add one more thing to do to my busy schedule, the chances to network with other instructors and administrators reminds me that I do more than teach and advise. I am also part of a community of people in academe. I find that the networking aspect seem to take place at times when I really need to nourishment and reminders. I am thankful for the conferences, caucuses, other meetings, and frankly for social media. I have made more connections on Twitter during the last 13 months, than in the previous 5 years.

Getting back to teaching, though, I have had some bright and motivated students in my class this last year and they have made me teach better. They have made me excited to walk in the classroom and discuss some new article, idea or clip of a video. These moments remind me how much I love my job. Ultimately I know that I am content with my job in higher education. It was a great year!

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed.