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22 April 2008


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Christy P

I started writing a comment this morning, then had second thoughts and stopped. Checked back this afternoon, and am surprised to find zero comments, so I will start.

**I am on the tenure track as a PhD in a clinical department in a medical school.

A difficult thing about an academic career is the potential conflict between personal definition of success and the institutional definition of success. Last year at my performance review, my department chair commented favorably on how much I taught, my teaching evaluations, and my research and academic communications (mostly conference presentations). All that is great, but I think it is even better that I accomplished it as a nursing mother, and I reminded him of that fact.

Depending on your institution and department, the culture may be such that you are expected to work through the daylight hours on every day that ends in 'y'. That's not the culture that I choose. I leave my work at work and don't work on weekends. So I'm not at an Ivy League institution. I won't ever win a Nobel Prize, but at the end of the day/month/year my research might save lives and that is enough for me.


Christy: "A difficult thing about an academic career is the potential conflict between personal definition of success and the institutional definition of success."

Yeah, that was one of the things that did it for me. I had a feeling that it would be very tough for me to set my own personal definitions of success and not let the external definitions get to me. I mean, I know that it wouldn't be rational to internalize them, but I made the rational observation that I would be happier if I stopped having to expend energy trying to be rational about it. Did that make sense?

I'm very satisfied and proud, for instance, that I managed to finish my PhD despite having two babies while in graduate school, and that Mark and I did it without ever resorting to institutional day care. Hey, that was a hell of an accomplishment if I do say so myself! But I still tended to feel crummy about the quality of my research compared to other folks (I really did have to cut a lot of corners and do the bare minimum for it to happen). I couldn't see being able to get away from that feeling of crumminess unless I got off the train completely. My own personal problem I guess! Anyway, no crummies now :-)


"engineering profs are less depressed than, say, history professors"

Oh, darn.


Cheer up, Sara, I made up the data.

J.L. Powers

I'm getting a Ph.D. in history and yes, it's depressing. I actually think part of the depression (only PART, granted) of academics in the humanities has to do with the fact that our work has become utterly meaningless and disconnected from the greater good, the larger world. Who reads professional historians...except other historians? I wrote a recent post about this on my blog (www.jlpowers.net), about the problem of professionalizing the humanities (art, history, etc) and what happens when you institutionalize something that should remain accessible to all....


Ah, but your made-up data totally supports my anecdotal observations, so it must be true.

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