Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Getting a Vision

[When I first wrote this post, I hadn't yet begun drafting my dissertation. As I look back on it now, I realize that I could make this vision-casting exercise a monthly activity. Enjoy!]

Over at Get a Life, Phd, Tanya Golash-Boza offered a super helpful post on having a vision a while back. As a grad student entering the dissertation phase of my degree program, I was a little overwhelmed at the idea of thinking about my vision for five years from now, let alone the overall vision for my career.

But when I sat down the other day and tried to write my way through the different levels of understanding my professional vision, I found that I was not only able to articulate my vision for the next five years, but also that doing so was extremely reassuring. I found that I could avoid putting things off due to that old feeling of, "well, everything is so big that I just don't know where to start."

Here's what I sketched out according to Tanya's plan (overall vision, five year vision, semester plan, weekly plan, daily work):

Overall Vision
I'm not totally sure about the overall vision for my career yet. Do I want to be a full-time professor, an administrator, president of the MLA, a 9-5 teacher, a big-time scholar, head of some think-tank, curriculum designer? I'm just not quite sure.

5 Year Vision
My five year vision is much easier. Seeing how I still have at least one full year left in graduate school, and seeing how the job market is so tough right now, my goal for five years from now is simply to be in a tenure-track job.

Semester Plan
If I'm ever going to get a tenure-track job, I have to have a phd in hand, so to that end, my goal this semester has been, and continues to be, to get my prospectus finished and approved. I need to be ABD and writing my first chapter by the end of the semester. I also have a conference paper to present the last weekend in May, so I'm working on that in bite-sized reading/writing sessions each week.

Weekly Plan
Knowing my semester plan makes my weekly plan easy at this point: I'm working on the prospectus! But with an eye toward the 5-year plan, I'm also working on an article and trying to be the best teacher I can be, as both my research and teaching will play into my success on the job market.

Daily Work
With those weekly plans in front of me, my daily activities are no-brainers: I've got to take each of these projects on one small chunk at a time, one chunk per day. So, this morning, I've already done an overhaul reading of my most recently-completed prospectus draft, and sent it off early to my committee chair. Now, I'm taking a short break with this blog post, and I'm getting ready to start rereading one of the primary texts I'll be working with in my first chapter. I'll take a 2 hour lunch break at 12pm, and then work on more diss. reading and my article this afternoon from 2-5pm. Tomorrow I'll teach and hold office hours (during which I'll plan for teaching and meet with students), and then work on the article/conference paper from 2-5pm while I wait to hear back from my committee chair on the prospectus draft.

This whole crazy process is not only doable, it can be enjoyable! Thanks, Tanya!!

Try getting your own vision today? If you had the choice, where would you be 5 years from now? Now, work backwards from there like I did and see what you need to be doing this week.

What kinds of visions are out there? Feel free to use the comment stream to share the results of getting your own vision.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Breaking Ground

This blog is intended as a resource for burgeoning academics, especially folks in the humanities. After more than a year of following awesome blogs like Jonathan Mayhew's Stupid Motivational Tricks, Thomas Basbøll's Research as a Second Language, and Tanya Golash-Boza's Get a Life Ph.D., I've decided to launch my own blog project that discusses similar themes and strategies, and is geared specifically towards those of us who are in the process of building our academic careers.

Whether you're a new graduate student just beginning coursework, an overstuffed ph.d. student coming up on comprehensive exams, a doctoral candidate working on the dissertation, a liminal lecturer tracking down that full-time position, or a newly-established assistant professor, this blog is for you!

The blog's title, Constructing the Academy, and subtitle, "Blueprints for Academic Success," are meant to suggest two important ideas:

1. that the day-to-day plans and strategies discussed here must be considered in light of a much larger community;
2. that those of us in the process of building our own individual careers are beginning to constitute and construct that larger community.

Here you'll find posts on academic writing, studying, planning, organizing, chilling, networking, teaching, and most everything else related to becoming a member of the academy. I don't envision this as a place to bemoan all the things that frustrate us about academia, or as a place to commiserate. Given my own experiences, I think we all do plenty of that! Instead, I'd like this blog to be a venue for positive energy and excitement about professionalization.

Among the first few posts you'll find some entries that originally appeared on my other blog, Unstable Euphony, but have been repurposed for Constructing the Academy because they belong here much more than they belong there. Among the first of these will be a post entitled "Getting a Vision," which was inspired by an entry from Tanya's blog, and is especially appropriate at the outset of this project.

Welcome! Please comment, make suggestions for posts, ask questions, offer commentary and personal experiences, and generally just share your own responses to the various ideas you see presented here!

To celebrate this inaugural week, there will be posts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Beginning next week, we'll move to weekly, and sometimes biweekly, updates. Check out links to other blogs and links to helpful sites for time management, writing, and etc. over on the right hand side.

[special thanks to Jonathan Mayhew (University of Kansas) and Sandy Hartwiger (American University, Beirut) who were sounding boards for the blog's title and subtitle]