Thursday, May 17, 2012

Percentage Shift

The envelope arrived in the mail today.  The one marked PERSONAL and CONFIDENTIAL. The one that would tell me the results of my reappointment application, submitted in February.  It contained a contract through 2014 and a two page summary of my Dean's recommendation for reappointment and the personnel committee's evaluation of my work.  So the good news is that I have been reappointed, my last formal evaluation before submitting my tenure package.  As I read through the committee's evaluation of my work, I reflected on their comments.  The report was broken into three categories - research, teaching, and service - listed in this order.

It is common knowledge in the academic community that faculty must demonstrate excellence in each of these areas.  Institutions value each area differently, but I know that research is listed first at my university.  I knew it when I accepted the job 6 years ago.  I knew it when I became pregnant with twins in my first year. I knew it when I finally started writing again after my twins turned two.  It's the hardest of the three areas to balance as a working mom, and I feel I have done well in forging new research territory and writing for my academic community over the last few years, but I also know that I have room for growth in my research productivity.  My writing voice is best suited for personal writing or for teaching journals; my academic voice takes effort and time that I have struggled to find in my current position.

A few weeks ago my colleagues and I held a book club discussion of Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us.  As I read the book , I thought that academia offered many of the characteristics that Pink suggests create a motivating environment.  I left our discussion wondering how much autonomy I truly had in my job, and I embarked on a short study to see how I spent my working hours.

For one week I tracked my time and at the end of that week, I separated my activity into four categories: research, teaching, service, and email.  Research activities related to my current writing projects; teaching activities included planning for class, holding class, meeting with doctoral students, reading comprehensive examinations and dissertations, and responding to student work; service included any administrative tasks assigned to me, school or committee meetings, and pro bono consultation.  It was impossible to separate the time spent on individual emails, which may have fallen into any of the three categories (though most often in the service category), so I kept track of time spent responding to email separately.

My results in terms of the percentage of my time spent on each category:

Teaching  61%
Service    24%
Email       13%
Research   2%

Admittedly, this sample came from the end of the semester, and I would like to take samples next year from several other points; however, it is clear that I am not finding time for my research and writing, and the comments of the personnel committee on my reappointment package reflect these numbers above.  I dedicate myself to my students; I contribute greatly to the university and school; I need to continue to pursue prominent peer reviewed journals as venues for publication.

As a tenure track faculty member, I should be spending 1/3 of my time on my research.  To do that, these numbers need to shift.  And I'm not quite sure how to make that happen.

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