Adding Extras to Your Presentations

I try to add some moments of levity to my course lectures. This might mean a joke, meme or a series of funny slides. I do this for several reasons, but now I’m at the point where I enjoy it and try to find ways to ensure that I have these moments. I think it […]

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Students

Students are great in many ways. Lately, my students have reminded me that they have learned more than Political Science or Technology and Society from me. I have conveyed life lessons and at times without realizing it.  This post is dedicated to those students and what they have taught me. Students pay attention to the […]

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Things I Learned (TIL) Part One

I tend to not have New Year’s Resolutions, since I live my life by the academic calendar and have thought of the new year starting in September. But, 2019 is about change and I don’t have any big resolutions beyond continuing to be more mindful of my health. This post will speak to things I learned in my five years as an Academic Administrator and this is part one of likely a few posts.

At the university where I have worked, Academic Administrators (AA) are faculty and protected under the collective agreement; however, I learned that many of faculty colleagues did not know this and assumed that an AA was one of them. You know, the big, bad administration. I don’t like the us vs them discussion, but I realize why this tension exists. There are tensions on university campuses and in some departments the tensions are thick in the air. That said, for brevity I will number the TIL.

1. Human Resources (HR) staff are indispensable. I found the consultants, workshops, and array of resources critical. If you are managing people, you need to confer with the HR professionals for assistance. Faculty normally do not get trained on people management and this needs correction. Managing teams is hard work and you need to be thoughtful and strategic.

2. Collaboration is key. If you are serving a department, parts of campus or the entire campus in your AA role, you are going to collaborate with lots of people and you will need to get out of your former silo and be prepared for this new environment. Embrace it!

3. Listening. In my faculty role, I was used to being the guide on the side or sage on the stage. As an AA my role was completely different. I was part of the team and had to learn to hone my listening skills. During my tenure as an AA, I got a tattoo on my arm that reads: Listen Learn Lead. It was my mantra as a middle management leader on campus.

4. Leadership. I tried to be the kind of leader that I wanted to work for and that took work. Again, listening is key as well as the humility to learn. For instance, I learned that it is critical to support your staff. I have had to make tough decisions around staff that included firing, hiring, and writing staff up for their performance or lack thereof. I had to participate in an investigation of a staff member’s terrible mistakes and also guide and support other staff upon their return to work. Empathy is an important part of leadership as well as good communication.

5. Managing up. I have worked for two provosts and a few vice presidents and learned that there is a revolving door with upper administration. Managing up is hard work. There are strong leaders, weak leaders, and terrible leaders and I have had the pleasure in departments and as an AA working for all of the types. The worst ones are the poor communicators, who lack people skills. Trust me–they exist and managing up is exhausting with those type of leaders. Here is where HR is again helpful.

6. Save your emails and/or get things in writing. Unfortunately, this is a reality of the job. You do need to protect yourself and at times will need the proof regarding a statement. It could be great news or a colleague’s angry email. If you don’t have emails, then write things down after an interesting meeting.

7. If you’re unionized–seek counsel from your union. I learned the hard way that I should have had my first contract reviewed by our nascent union. But, now I know my union representative and President quite well and they have helped me lots during the last two years. I learned that at times new leaders will not refer to the collective agreement and make mistakes. It’s key to protect yourself and not feel like you’re a problem when you point out that they are in contradiction to the collective agreement. You are protecting your rights as an employee!

8. I also learned that the upper leadership is homogenous. As a feminist, woman of color, in middle management and upper management there are few people who look like me or come from a working class background. This is a problem. We can do better in terms of equity, diversity and representation. I am not saying that the upper management needs more Latinas; however we need more than words on paper or holding events. And, sure, we could use more wise Latinas! Mentoring is important, but that is for another post.

I am no longer an AA, as this particular category was disestablished and all of us have been transferred or re-classified as Faculty Exempt, Management Exempt or Regular Faculty. I will miss my former department–of which I was the founding director–however, going back to teaching full-time is no hardship! There is more to come and my story continues.

I finished Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, last week and then my best friend sent me this shirt. It fits. Go high!

Taking Care of Yourself

I have had issues with anemia during the last decade for an array of reasons and each time it’s come up and surprised me. I was never anemic during my pregnancies, but somehow anemia is my kryptonite. And, the two times I’ve been anemic I had no idea until I was exhausted and had a spate of illnesses.

I was referring to my illnesses as an Election Flu, since I had been ill almost every other month for more than a year. Somehow I was caught up in life and work and didn’t think that there was a pattern of illness and exhaustion. But, my family and friends kept reminding me that I was getting sick lots. I finally asked for some blood work and realized that my illness and exhaustion was from anemia. I am eating so many green leafy veggies that I think I am seeing green. Oh, and I’m eating more meat.

But, that is not the point. The point is that it’s important to take care of your health. Self-care is not a luxury. And, in the midst of the blood work and doctors’ appointments I had a few surprises. So, here I am taking better care of myself and finally sleeping better and feeling somewhat better. What I have been thinking about is that I am not going to take my health for granted. I am enjoying this tea from Silk Road and reading with my cuppa.

Quit Lit

I have mixed feelings with academic quit lit. To explain, quit lit is the post or letter about leaving academe. The job market stinks and one could spend their entire academic career trying to piece together courses and live at or close to the poverty level. The quit lit genre feels close to home and that is likely one reason why I am uncomfortable. I spent the better part of my career as a lecturer or sessional. Part of it allowed me to get teaching experience and start my family.

The other part of this is the luxury of having a gainfully employed partner and my absolute unwillingness with moving off the West Coast. I insisted that staying near my family of origin was necessary. But, quit lit also makes me sad, as I see most of the posts or letters penned (er, typed) by women academics. I am also reminded of my research about women in political science and all the 1970-1990 early quit lit letters to the Women’s Caucus in Political Science. Yes, the archives included personal stories about leaving political science.

I also have guilt. I ended up moving up the coast and immigrating to Canada to start over. I co-owned a business, applied for government work and had a few interviews, and on a whim, I applied to teach a class at a local university. I got on the part-time track again, but this time after a few years I moved to the tenure-track. I feel like an academic unicorn. The quit lit stories hit me in a sore spot and my sense of empathy is raw. Last hired, first fired. It’s a rough place to live. I remember. I’m including a photo of San Diego State, where I earned my BA in Women’s Studies, and MA in Liberal Arts and Sciences. I’m in town for a family issue. And, it was at State where I decided that I wanted to be a college professor.

The Pain of #MeToo: Moving Forward

The #MeToo tag and subsequent anecdotes have gone viral. The tag was first referred to by Tarana Burke, an activist, who recounted her own story. But, in the last week, Actress Alyssa Milano used the tag and it spread like wildfire on social media and beyond. The legacy media responded by covering the story and it would be pretty hard to avoid the stories. We are at a tipping point. In the last two years, more stories came out regarding the current President of the United States—some thanks to the leaked audio and others thanks to the women coming forward. We also witnessed women coming forward regarding their terrible stories with actors and Hollywood moguls.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault are not new. It’s a known fact that rape is often used as a weapon of war during conflict. But, it was just in my lifetime that marital rape was coined. And, it was also in my lifetime that academic job interviews were moved from hotel rooms to lobbies or more public meeting places. I am certainly not condoning this behavior. I am stating fact. The stories that are flooding papers, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and elsewhere are important to listen and read—even if they are painful. These stories are too familiar.

Like most women, I have my own stories. The situations that stem from a tween through recent situations. But, where I have some semblance of power is the way that I support people around me. I am empowered, if not required, to speak up and support others. And, I do. My last post referred to a more common contact that I’m seeing on my social media channels—unwanted contact by men. I’ve taken to blocking once these sorts of contacts, as I don’t want to be hit on via LinkedIn, Instagram or other social media networks.

As a leader, I am familiar with the policies at work, and as a mentor, I am also supportive of my mentees and helping them maneuver any issues. LIkewise, I am glad to see that we are talking about sexual assault and harassment and the conversations are including men. Good. Overall, we are all responsible with making change and moving forward, so that the #MeToo stories become less common. However, I want to see more frank discussion about stopping violence against women and  conversations about unacceptable behavior.

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A Few Things I’ve Learned

When I first started teaching, I was too nice. I had to establish better boundaries for deadlines, protecting my time, and protecting the learning environment of the classroom. Then, I swung to hard to the opposite side and was too strict and demanding. I’ve taught at four institutions and they spanned the gamut of a community college, comprehensive, and research one institution. What happened?

1. I caught a cheating ring in a class. All of the students submitted the same paper, but had moved some paragraphs around throughout the paper. They all earned a 0 on the assignment. One of the guilty students saw me in the library a few weeks later and bellowed at me, “You’re the reason I am not staring law school in September.” I knew most of the libraian staff and some came closer. While my heart was racing, I looked over and said, “You’re the reason you’re not going to law school in the Fall.” I walked away. This student was the only one who tried to deny that he cheated. The others dropped quickly and admitted it. Occasionally, I wondered if he did get into law school and if he’s a practicing lawyer. What I can say, he was a cretin. He was terrible to me and if I got treated this way today, things would play out differently.

2. I accepted any excuse for late work and was surpised to bump into deathly ill students in the campus pub, staffing a table, or at the gym. I soon realized that I needed to have a late policy that was more firm. But, I also didn’t like this “gotcha” culture with late work. I had to work almost full-time throughout my university experience and I’m sympathetic to work/life balance. Now, I rarely ask for proof. It’s just not worth my time or my students. The wording in my syllabus is firm, but in reality, I just want them to be successful and I don’t need them to go spend $25 on a doctor’s note.

3. I dress up for work and class. The first time I wore jeans to class at one institution a few of my students talked loudly about how I had jeans on and it was not professional. I had a nice blouse and blazer on and ignored their banter and started class. Fast foward almost twenty years and I still tend to dress up for class. But, if I could relive that time, I think I would have asked the two students to stay after class and chat about their comments. I wore jeans again, but in a more defiant way. I belonged in that classroom and in that institution even if there weren’t many who looked like me.

4. When I was pregnant and teaching, this opened up my eyes to the way in which my body was viewed as public property everywhere and how my body excited some and repulsed others. While lecturing the Cletus the Fetus moved its arm, and through the shirt the students could see an elbow and I thought a few students were going to pass out. Their eyes opened huge and they looked startled. It was quite funny to me. What I didn’t like, was the touching. I announced to the class that I did not want anyone touching my pregnant belly. It was uncomfortable. Imagine my surprise, when the chair of the Women’s Studies Department emailed me during the Western that a student had complained about this. The Chair supported me, but I still smirk that a student contacted the Chair and argued that it should be OK for her to touch my pregnant belly. It’s comical.

None of these scenarios took place at my current institution, but they all impacted me during those first five years of teaching. The biggest takeaway for me is that I am not here to police the students, to weed them out, to punish them or belittle them. I am here to ensure that they learn about the subject matter and during this time they’ll get a feel for the learning environment that I am in charge of and get a chance to think, write, and interact. This is simplistic, but this is one of several posts about what I’ve learned in two decades of teaching in Political Science, Women’s Studies, and Technology and Society.