Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New Associate Chair Grad Studies: Me

Did I tell you guys I'm going to be the new Associate Chair for Graduate Studies in my department, as of July 1?

It's a pretty big administrative role for me, and I'm excited, and nervous. I asked to be appointed--and apparently, I'm the first one to ever do so, which I actually found a little surprising. Grad studies questions are near and dear to my heart, as you know, since I've written extensively here (as have Heather, and Erin, and Melissa, and Margrit, and Janna, and Boyda) about grad student issues (just look at our keywords in the sidebar, and you'll see a compendium of writing on the subject--32 posts tagged "grad school").

I'm pretty proud of the intervention that Hook and Eye has made in the practice of grad studies in Canada. Just this week, I saw our blog name-checked and linked in the excellent and ambitious White Paper on the Future of the PhD in the Humanities, put together by a group of academics under the umbrella of the SSHRC Knowledge Synthesis project on the Future of Graduate Training in the Humanities. The blog was noted for its participation in 21st century practices of open sharing and graduate professionalization. The report is pretty impressive: go get the pdf, right now. I'm hoping that as I take on this new role in grad studies in my department, I can put my money where my mouth has been on this front, in more programmatic ways. It's exciting, and it's daunting.

But since this is also a blog about being a professor as much as about being grad students, I thought I'd share some of this position with you, as I figure out how to do it. Like Heather before me, I'm wary about what it means to be an administrator of whatever level and still keep a public blogging platform active. But I think I can do it.

My excellent colleague currently in the position is starting to pass some duties on to me, like some of the planning around graduate orientation in the fall. I think I did about two hours of work on that yesterday, which really got me to thinking: boy, things are really going to change for me at work pretty soon. I've been asking for advice far and wide. Some of what I've been told is:

  • be careful how much you drink
  • listen, listen, listen
  • don't try to change everything
  • there are more meetings than you can imagine
  • be kind to administrative staff
  • don't miss deadlines
  • block of time in your calendar for writing, or you will never write
  • use fewer words
  • put limits on evening and weekend work
  • book vacation time in advance and tell everyone you'll be gone

I fear the meetings and emails and busywork will spiral out of control. I fear that my plans for making more evident and programmatic the excellence of our programs are going to be too much to get done, but I fear not getting enough done. I'm worried I'll never write. I'm worried that I'll make mistakes in discipline cases, or admissions, or conflict situations. I'm worried my insomnia will come back. I'm worried I won't be good at this. I'm a little more worried that I will be good at this.

That's the squishy stuff, so far.

Here are some of the pragmatics, if you don't know them, or, if is likely, it's different at your institution. It's a three year term. I'll get a stipend every year for doing it, in addition to a two course reduction in my teaching load (so I'll be 1:1). I can change my assessment ratio for my merit review to weight more heavily towards service, so instead of 40 teaching, 40 research, 20 service, I can pitch a proportion of 40 service, 30 teaching, and 30 research, or maybe 40 service, 40 research, and 20 teaching, or even 40 service, 40 teaching, and 20 research. That's a good option to have, and it reflects how the kind of things I'll be able to get done will shift during this time.

That chunk of my day yesterday thinking about orientation, and then getting led down a paperwork / policy rabbit hole for a couple of hours has made the impending new position that much more real for me. So it felt like a good time to share it with you.

I'm still collecting advice: have you held this kind of position, or been subject to it? Any words of wisdom or warning for me? I'm listen, listen, listen-ing :-)

6 comments:

  1. Don't worry. I've got your back.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am also about to be the Grad Chair, of EFS. We should compare notes (and maybe have a drink when no one is watching).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Congratulations--you'll be great!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Congratulations, Aimee. I'm the Grad Program Director in my Department - art history, not English - and I've not found it too overwhelming (then again, given the stipend PLUS the 2 course reduction, your job may be more extensive than what I've been doing). My concrete suggestions are to not only block off time for writing, but to block off "desk time" - i.e., make sure that your calendar (which your admin assistant will likely also have access to) has times when you are not available for meetings. That's the time to catch up on email, write the memo that's due today, etc. Make sure you have both writing and desk time blocked off every day, otherwise stuff won't get done (especially the writing). I would suggest not only being nice to admin staff, but to make the best use of them. My admin assistant had been in the job longer than I had so knew the rhythms, knew who to contact in Grad Studies to actually get an answer, what was hair on fire important and what could wait. I would check in with her on Mondays to find out what needed to be done that week (sometimes nothing!) and I would rely on her to let me know if something was coming up on the horizon that I needed to address. We worked out how we'd communicate with each other (phone, email, scribbled notes...) and we'd meet regularly to touch base and to figure out if there was anything that wasn't working in our regular interactions. Last thing to remember is that no one will die from any decision you make so don't over-invest, AND you're not irreplaceable - so take the vacation. Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete

Drop us a line! We're angling for vigorous commentary, but we will cut loose any vitriol dragged up from the depths.