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Evernote: A Guide for Academics

30 Sep

Whenever I rave about Evernote (which is quite often) I get a lot of questions about how I use it. A lot of people don’t know where to begin or aren’t sure how to get the most out of the application. Maybe an Evernote Guide specifically tailored to how an academic might use Evernote might help demystify this great appl.

I’ve been using Evernote since 2008– early enough in Evernote’s life that I actually have only my first name as my login. I’m not sure why I was such an early adopter. I probably read about it on Lifehacker, and was probably at the stage in my dissertation that having a place to organize digital material seemed useful. And as part of the Great Dissertation Avoidance Plan (doesn’t everyone have one of those?), having a place to save cooking recipes and knitting patterns was also welcome.

So, what is this Evernote thing, anyway? It’s simply an application (for your computer, phone, ipad) where you can save every bit of text you might ever need again. It’s like a filing cabinet, but because it’s a digital one, you can tag and categorize notes in ways that let’s you cross-reference different ideas. And you can search everything in a second, which you definitely can not do with a filing cabinet.

What I love about Evernote:

  • It’s my brain dump for EVERYTHING I want to remember:
    • Articles (or blog posts) clipped from the web that might use for teaching or research.
    • Lists of documentary/film recommendations, reading lists, classroom activity ideas etc. that come from the collective wisdom of the listservs that I’m on.
    • My tenure notes. I keep a list of what I accomplish (committees, panels, writing etc.) during the year as they happen so that I have it all there when it comes to putting together my retention folder.
    • Meeting notes. Whether I’m at conferences, workshops or committee/department meetings, I take notes in Evernote.
    • Personal stuff: Recipes, gift ideas, knitting patterns, medical info etc.
  • Assigning tags to individual notes means you can sort your data in meaningful ways (and then Bubble Browser which I show below is a fun way to look through it).
  • What I clip is saved forever. Online news sources do not keep articles available forever. Web addresses change. Blogs go down. Posts are deleted. When you need to access something bookmarked again, you’re SOL. Evernote saves the entire article or webpage, so you never have to worry about something (even the included images) disappearing ever again.
  • Searching all content (or a selection of content) is fast. Fast enough for me to find what I want and print it out in minutes before class begins!

What I don’t use Evernote for:

  • PDFs. I still find Evernote clunky with these, even though there is OCR. I save my article PDFs in a folder labelled by the author and year of publication.
  • To do lists: I like the Reminders app on my iphone for a to-do list. I do use Evernote for larger project-related lists, like moving across the country, etc.
  • Pictures: I only use Evernote for pictures when they’re inside an article that I’m clipping. Otherwise, I save images for teaching/research that aren’t part of an article in Pinterest.

Getting Started:

  1. Download the application Evernote. Sign up for an account.
    1. The application is free, but you can pay $45/year for more upload space per month. Honestly, I used the application 4 years, nearly every day, and never ran into their upload limit. I just decided to upgrade to “pro” this year to support the application that I love so much.
  2. Install the webclipper extension. This adds a button to your web browser (Firefox, Chrome or Safari) that gives you a way to clip things from the internet.
  3. Open the application on your computer, and create a couple different notebooks. My notebooks are:
    1. Personal Notebook
    2. Sociology Notebook
    3. Retention & Tenure Notebook
    4. Sociology Department Notebook
    5. General Notes
  4. Start clipping, tagging and organizing!
  5. You might want to start with a binge-clipping of things you’ve been saving in other ways (e.g. links and stuff saved in emails). Clip while you watch TV or something, and you’ll have a little database before you know it!

My Evernote Workflow:

When I see an article or blog post online that I like (usually posted to Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and I think I might want to use it in class, or in my research, I click the Elephant icon on my browser.


Here’s what your Evernote clipper probably looks like. You’ll notice on the top left that Evernote also installs an icon in your menu bar which you can use to save text and other desktop notes.

When I clip the Evernote Elephant, a window comes up that gives me a chance to select how the note will be clipped. I have it defaulted to “Simplified Article” which gives you a nice print-friendly version, but you could select “Full Article” for a shot of the entire webpage.

The sidebar also gives you a place to decide what notebook this article should be clipped to, and allows you to assign tags to the article. What I love about Evernote is that the more you use it to save and tag articles, it starts to predict what tags and notebooks are the most appropriate. It knows to put recipes in the “Personal Notebook” and it determines pretty accurately what articles are related to race, gender, education etc.


This is a must-read article, by the way.

Once you’ve set everything, just click “save.”

What Evernote does next is save the article or webpage to your account. You can access it from your installed Evernote application, from, and from an Evernote app on your phone or ipad.

I rely on the Evernote application for finding and retrieving things I’ve clipped. Here’s what mine looks like.


On the left are shortcuts to my notebooks, recent notes, and then the contents of the selected “Sociology” notebook. As you select a note, it shows up in the window on the right, complete with tags, and a link to the original online.

You can also just open up the Evernote application and use it as a word processor, typing your notes right into it while at a meeting or workshop (I do this a lot on my ipad). Or, you can cut/paste information into it from email or someplace else.


Here’s an example of writing a note directly into Evernote. Notice that Evernote starts to relate notes to one another by suggesting similar notes.

Like I said, the more you use Evernote, the better it knows your information. Not only does it suggest notebooks and tags, it suggests related notes. This is very useful if you’re prepping for a specific class, or working through research information.

There are other applications now that interact with Evernote. Bubble Browser is especially fun, and I would love to see it developed further to show the connections between notes in more of a mind map format. Here’s a snapshot of the tags in my Sociology Notebook. You can click on each bubble to drill down to related tags, and then browse to the specific article.


So, that’s pretty much how I use Evernote. My file cabinet is mostly empty and my Evernote is full of useful stuff I can find instantly.

I would love (I’d actually physically jump up and down) to see Evernote include within-note tagging. It seems like Evernote, with it’s amazing tagging prediction and relation tools, is just one step away from allowing users to highlight chunks of different text within a single note and tag it separately. Like NVivo. But so much better, because it’s not clunky like NVivo. With this functionality, Evernote could be an invaluable research tool for qualitative sociologists. Sociologists who study the internet would have an easy way to save entire webpages for analysis, a process that right now for me is a patchwork of tasks that includes downloading multi levels of html files, converting them to pdf or txt and then uploading to NVivo. Imagine if we could skip all that and just clip! Add in the photographic and note-taking capabilities of the ipad and iphone Evernote apps, and you’d have some very happy ethnographers!

Anyway, that’s how I use Evernote. Hopefully this will help  make it an app that’s useful for you!


How to Find the Perfect Academic Job (not just any TT job will do)

20 Aug

jobmarket_catAt the Annual Meetings last week, I found myself in an unexpected position. Graduate students going on the job market, wanted to meet with me to ask me for job market advice! Me? Advice? [looks around to see if someone older and wiser is standing nearby- nope] Crazy! It’s a new Assistant Professor role I didn’t anticipate (we only have applied graduate students in our department). Then I realized that the job market was such a long ordeal for me, that I am more than happy to give advice that makes it even remotely easier for someone else.

So for what it’s worth, here’s what I found myself telling people last week:

[Caveat: This post assumes that you are not in the position for an R1 job. If you are, more power to you, but the vast majority of us do not end up at an R1, and shockingly, many of us don’t want to end up at an R1. I was in a graduate program that only prepared me for an R1, unfortunately, and does a real disservice to many of it’s graduate students as a result. Thank goodness my advisor believed that a person could be happy at any sort of job that was a good fit for them.]

  • There IS a job out there somewhere for you. This might seem ridiculously idealistic, but I truly believe it to be the case. Very early on in graduate school one of my “academic sisters” (another advisee of my advisor) told me this, and described how it only took one TT interview for her to find what turned out to be the perfect job. It was job at a school and in a state she had never thought of and never would have imagined loving so much. She’s still there, with tenure. Her job market experience is atypical, especially today, when it takes people 3-4 moves and temporary positions to find the perfect TT fit. But, I think the advice still holds– there IS a job out there somewhere for YOU. But you might have to face head-on some myths, see past some bad advice, and apply to places your graduate program might not specifically prepare you for. In short, it has to fit you. It’s your job. No one else’s. Let me explain:
    • This perfect job might be at a place you’ve never even heard of. There are thousands of schools out there. Yes, there are well known R1s and liberal arts schools, but there are also hundreds of small liberal arts schools, small public universities, state schools, regional schools etc. And the people who work there are happy and and have fulfilling careers! So when you apply, keep an open mind, and apply widely. You never know what’s out there. I had not only never heard of my school before, I had to look it up again online when I got the interview request because I didn’t even remember applying for it.
    • Everyone’s perfect job looks different. Like I said, at my graduate school we were made to believe a job at an R1 was the only goal worth having. This is absolutely not the case. I have a  friend who, after much struggle against this expectation, got a job at a community college where she only teaches. She loves it. She realized she didn’t much like the writing and publishing side of academia. And you know what? That’s ok! That’s more than ok, actually, it’s great! Who wants to spend their life doing something they hate? Community colleges can be great places to work. Your perfect job might include more service, less research, and more teaching. Or, it might be equal parts all three. There are expectations (academia is full of hierarchies) that some schools that are more prestigious  are therefore are more desirable places to work than other schools. Again, not the case. I’ll repeat that there are lots of unknown and little known schools out there where people build happy careers.
  • Don’t make uninformed judgments about teaching loads listed in job ads. I remember applying for jobs and seeing 3/3 and 4/4 teaching loads and making lots of assumptions about what mattered at that school (i.e. not research). I applied for 3/3s but not 4/4s. Combine this with the fact I went to an R1 that not only gave me little teaching experience, but didn’t prepare me for a teaching/research job, and I really didn’t know what I was doing. It turns out that the teaching load doesn’t tell you everything. Here’s why:
    • Some schools might list that they’re 4/4 (like mine) but actually have an ongoing practice where faculty engaged in active research only teach 3/3. No one at my school actually teaches 4/4. And some schools automatically give course releases for the first couple years but don’t list that in their job ad.
    • Class size also makes a huge difference. For example, my last semester at the small liberal arts school where I had my VAP, I had 85 students in 2 classes. In one class had 50 students, the other 35. Those were the class caps– 50 for the Intro class, and 35 for topical courses (and we won’t even go into the fact kids were paying $62 grand a year for that). My current state school has a scary sounding 3/3 load (after the research release). But, I’ve only ever had 55 students in those 3 classes. Core courses are limited to 20 students (I have 2 sections of those). And topical courses, while they have a size limit of 35, generally have less than 20 students in them. And small classes make me happy.
    • Course repeats make things so much easier. My 3/3 load includes two sections of one course, so it feels more like a 2/2. Yes, it means double the students and grading, and double time spent in the classroom. But, mentally, it’s easier to teach 2 sections of the same course. It feels like less of a daily prep to just repeat what you did before.
  • Tailor your letter and application as much as you can for the school. I know everyone knows this, but I think it really bears repeating. All those unique schools out there want to know why you’ll be a good fit. They want to know that you bothered to read their website, to learn about their program, their research circles, their core curriculum, their school’s relationship with the community etc. They want someone to be there and contribute to those things, so say so in your letter. Be as specific as possible.
  • If you’ve been in a visiting or contingent position, ensure sure your letter and materials make the transition from graduate student to scholar. I didn’t realize that using the same materials I did as an ABD graduate student while I was a VAP would hurt me on the job market until I took a “Critique Me” workshop at a conference. A bunch of wonderful profs I had never met, from a variety of schools, ripped my materials apart and helped me make sure that I sounded like an established scholar, and not a student. I believe this made a big difference in landing a tenure track job.
  • can you tell this is from pinterest?

    can you tell this is from pinterest?

    Be yourself. If you want to land a job that’s the perfect fit for you, be comfortable being yourself on the job market. Make sure your application materials reflect you, and not what you think you should sound like, or what you think they want you to be like. When you go on the interview, be yourself. Be a professional version of yourself (yes, wear the suit, introduce yourself, smile, ask people about their work etc.), but be yourself. Relax a bit, laugh, be kind to everyone, and talk about your research/teaching/service with enthusiasm. That’s the best way to find a place that’s a good fit. The goal is for them to see you– who you really are– as someone who cares about their job and as someone they want to work with every day. Read all the interview advice you want, prepare your questions, job talk, teaching demo etc. but just take a deep breath and relax into it.

Surviving Academic Conferences without Crying

30 Jul

I had a sudden panic this morning. The BIG conference in our discipline is just a week and a half away! That means I need to not only prepare, but must get myself geared up for the physical and mental exertion that are academic conferences.

thisconferencesucksMy very first academic conference was right after my first year in graduate school. I decided to be uber-professional and take my advisor’s advice about networking very seriously. I also wanted to push myself past my boundaries. Not only was I so new to academia when I started graduate school that I didn’t know what a peer-reviewed journal was, I considered myself someone relatively uncomfortable at meeting new people and making small talk. Not to mention, I felt pretty unsure of myself talking about anything related to my discipline (don’t even get me started about how scared I was to speak in graduate seminars). But, I had to do these things to “network” successfully, right? So just do it was my motto.

Thus, as a very fresh, starry-eyed graduate student, I forced myself to the major professional conference in the summer after my first. And I’ll admit that I was beyond miserable at that first conference. I only knew a few people in my department, and even fewer of the people from my school in attendance. I roomed with older grad students who I barely knew, and were too far out of my own area of interest to introduce me around. Out of the 5,000+ people there, I felt like I knew no one. I wandered around alone for days without any familiar contact. It was pretty terrifying. I’m surprised I ever stayed in academia after that.

But since then I’ve been to dozens of conferences. And with some reservations, I actually look forward to them. Conferences are stressful, but all in all, they serve as a reminder of the excitement and love I have for my discipline. They’re a chance to see a lot of the wonderful friends I’ve made over the years at conference. And now that I’m out of grad school, they’re a chance to see my grad school friends.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years about attending conferences without losing my mind.

  • Think small. If you’re at a *huge* conference, try to attend a smaller conference happening at the same time, or connect with a sub-section of the larger organization. A lot of smaller organizations run their meetings concurrently, either in the same hotel or in the same area. They might have their own receptions, workshops, and hospitality suites. It’s a lot easier to get to know a smaller group of people. And if they’re people who are either similar to you, or who study the same thing you do, it will feel much homier.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Most importantly, wear shoes you’ve worn before. The first national conference I went to when I was on the job market, I broke in a new pair of Danskos. I thought Danskos didn’t need breaking in, and this was NOT the case. Oh, the blisters!!
  • Pack a conference survival bag. Include band-aids (see above), granola bars/snacks, advil/tylenol, candy etc. Heck, maybe even bring a good book with you if you think you’ll be sitting around with nothing to do (as I did at my first conference).
  • Don’t be afraid to meet new people. If you’re a student, and you see another student-type sitting by themselves, sit next to them and start to talk. You have one thing in common– the conference. You’ll be surprised who you’ll meet that way. Don’t be afraid of meeting scholars whose work you know, either. If you’re feeling shy, ask a professor or mutual friend to introduce you.
  • Don’t be upset if people you know ignore you. People are crazy-busy at conferences. And academics, as much as I love ’em, can be slightly socially inept sometimes (ha ha ha). So if one of your professors or a further-along graduate student you know blows past you without acknowledging your attempt at a “hello,” don’t take it personally. It’s not you. They’re trying to juggle presentations, meetings, workshops and all sorts of other stuff on bad hotel coffee. Unless they’re really just rude (which I guess might be the case in some situations), just assume they’re busy and try to grab them again when they look less busy.
  • Take advantage of hospitality suites, media centers, wifi spaces etc. to hang out and work during the conference. These are great places to catch your breath and meet new people. And they often have free coffee and snacks.
  • Be really selective about the sessions you attend. I spent a few years of meetings going to sessions because they sounded interesting. I ended up bored to tears most of the time. Honestly, unless your discipline is different, a lot of presenters don’t prepare and do nothing to try to make their talk interesting. To avoid getting stuck in a snooze-fest I do a couple different things:
    • I search the program ahead of time for names of people whose work I know. I make it a point to not only go to their sessions, but to introduce myself afterward if my work is somehow related to theirs. I’ve never met someone this way who didn’t appreciate hearing that a graduate student found their work useful.
    • If I do try a panel that sounds interesting, but I don’t know the presenters, I sit in the back so I can duck out, if I need to. I only duck out between papers, though, not during someone’s presentation.
  • If you’re having a really busy conference (you’re on the job market, or just have too much on your plate): Write out your own detailed schedule ahead of time of where you have to be and when. Printing this out will be much easier than trying to make one on the fly at the conference.
  • If you’re presenting, think about your presentation like teaching. I’ve seen some truly terrible presentations. There is already lots of advice out there on this, and there are some disciplinary differences (I guess in History they read their papers– I can’t imagine the snooze fest that is). I would stress these:
    • In my social science discipline, do not read your paper. Please.
    • Do use visual, selective, and appropriate Powerpoint. Pictures! Graphics! Short videos! Stand out!
    • If you use powerpoint, bring it on a flash drive, email it to yourself, and try it out ahead of time to make sure there are not technical issues.
    • Do not cram 8 million words on your slides. Do not use small fonts. The same goes with tables.
    • Do not spend more than a few slides or 3-4 minutes (in a 15 minute presentation) getting to your data and findings!
    • No surprise endings. Walk your audience through your argument, but tell them where they’re heading up front.
  • Do some  serious “networking!” My partner, who is well-versed in conferences from 10+ years of my attending, calls “networking” the most important part of conferences. Networking was what my advisor was talking about. Yes, it happens at sessions, in the halls, and at receptions. But you know where it really happens? Over drinks. In bars, out, late after the conference ends. “Networking” = drinking. Have a drink.  Bond with people. Make friends.
    • Warning: Don’t get drunk. This isn’t a night at your apartment playing Apples to Apples with your best friends. And when you’re drinking, don’t bitch about anyone. Everyone in academia knows everyone. Seriously. And you never know who is at the next table. Don’t bitch about someone using their name, and don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in a mixed-department function anyway. Just be smart about it.
  • Do something local. After going to great new cities where I never left the hotel, I try to always do one thing that’s local. It’s a shame not to try a local restaurant, explore an interesting neighborhood or go to a museum. Duck out of the conference for an afternoon to do this, if you have to. Or, if I have time, I’ll stay an extra day and sometimes even rent a car to explore the area with friends. As a result, I’ve been to plantations, museums, swamps, canyons, ghost towns, markets, and landmarks I might have never gone to otherwise. It’s definitely worth it!

Moving Advice for Wayward Academics

23 Jun

34756452I realized today that I have a bunch of awesome friends making big moves this summer. Not just big moves, but big moves to coveted Tenure Track jobs! Yay! And I realized in the course of offering lots of moving advice on Facebook, that I have quite a bit of experience under my belt moving-wise. In the past 3 years, we’ve made 2 pretty big, life-changing moves for jobs. The first was to a VAP position across the country, the summer after I defended my PhD. I defended earlier in the summer, but made some massive edits that summer in the midst of packing and moving. Then, last summer I made another sizable, although not quite as far move, for the job I have now. Does this make me an expert? Nope. But I have some good tips to pass along. Some of these are good for any move, some of these are good for academics more specifically.

1. Start a couple months before you move going through stuff and weeding out. Go through junk drawers and closets, books and clothes. Sell what you think is valuable enough on Craigslist (but follow these safety tips). We sold some collector-specific stuff, extra dvd player, unworn running shoes (i.e. speciality items) and got good money that way. Yardsales are a lot of work for just a little bit of money, but we were able to do it with our entire apartment complex, so it wasn’t a waste of time. We donated everything that didn’t sell immediately. Money we made from selling stuff went into an envelope as “moving funds.”

2. Carefully weed out academic books and articles/notes/paperwork. Academic books for a one-time project can be sold on Amazon (if you have time), to grad students studying for exams, or just given away (most departments have a “free book” spot). Do you need all those physical journals? My guess is that you don’t. Add those to the free table, or give them to a library.

Papers and articles are another issue. I had an entire 4-drawer filing cabinet brimming with journal articles, class notes, teaching materials etc. The first time I moved, I got rid of about half of it. After this last move, I got rid of the cabinet itself. Part of this is my goal of becoming paperless. You can’t search paper with the click of a mouse, but you can search electronic files. Here’s how I did it:

  • I only saved journal articles that were critical to my research or important to me, and had important notes on them. Everything else you need you can find online as you need it.
  • I made a binder of notes from graduate classes and prelims, and kept only what would be useful and what would fit in that binder. I could scan that now into Evernote and those notes would be more useful, actually.
  • I got rid of almost all the drafts of everything I had worked on. Why save those? I have them electronically, and since I got into the habit of adding my advisor’s notes directly into a Word document, I don’t need those anymore, either.
  • I also got rid of student papers, assignments, duplicate class activities etc. Any class worksheet or activity that I didn’t have electronically, I scanned with my iPhone and filed it as a pdf.
  • Now I have files in my work office for articles I teach with regularly, assignments etc. But I also try to keep those down to a minimum. Paper is my enemy!

3. Find out if your new job will let you ship your books to your new office. I didn’t get any moving money this past move (state job), but the dean did offer to pay to ship my books. I didn’t take them up on the offer because I thought the whole process of shipping would be a pain. But you know what’s more of a pain? Moving 30+ boxes of books on and off a truck, and then into and out of your car to your new office. I’m not getting any younger and I should have had UPS doing that heavy lifting.

4. If you’re still prepping for Fall courses (I imagine you are– who is all prepped months before they start a new job?) or working on an article deadline (I’ll talk about how little work you’ll get done over the summer in a minute), you’ll need to keep some books with you and accessible. Sort those out and put them in their own box, clearly labelled “books for summer.” Then you can find them when you need them. Actually, keep out the things you’ll need for the move and a week or two after:

  • A suitcase for each person in your family with clothes and toiletries for a couple weeks.
  • A bag or box with moving supplies (tape, tape cutters, rope, measuring tape, nails, hammer etc.)
  • A box of pet stuff (blankets, beds, food, treats, toys, food dishes etc.)
  • A box of immediately-needed kitchen stuff (coffee pot, pans, plates, mugs, utensils).
  • A box of cleaning stuff. Not every apartment will be super clean when you move in (or you won’t trust that it’s actually clean…) so we kept all of this easily accessible too.

5. Google Drive is your friend. I had a spreadsheet for finding an apartment, a spreadsheet budgeting for a summer without pay (another thing to plan for!) and new expenses in a new place, and a Master Moving List document with an ongoing checklist of stuff to do.

6. Apartment hunting sucks. Of course it depends on where you’re moving too, how much of a budget you have per month, what your pet situation is, whether or not you have kids etc. My partner and I moved to a rental market fueled by nearby NYC, and we moved with multiple cats. Think honestly about what you want and what you absolutely don’t want. Be firm on these, because when you start looking and feel desperate, you might sway and feel like you have to take that crappy garden apartment with the dumpster outside your bedroom window.

  • If you’re moving to a major metropolitan area, find a realtor to help guide you through the market. And not just any realtor– get a recommendation! Ask your new colleagues, listservs, Facebook friends, for anyone in realty who can steer you in a good direction. There are realtors that will screw you.
  • Don’t trust Craigslist– especially if you’re moving to a major metropolitan area. You can tell pretty quickly what’s a scam on there ($900 for 2 bedrooms when everything else is $1500?), but some of them are pretty deceptive.
  • Make a renter’s resume. This is super-geeky, but especially if you have pets, you need to do it. Include info about your job. You’ve got a PhD! You’re going to be a professor (or a visiting professor… or whatever)! Don’t hide it! Flaunt it! Landlords want someone who isn’t going to screw them over, so take advantage of the nerdy reputation of our profession! Include info about your pets, your vet, your previous rental experiences. Include your hobbies and how you spend your free time. We also created a second version with specific info on it for apartments we were applying for seriously. This had our updated credit scores, and income information (and a contact for your dean so they can verify your employment).
  • Include a letter of recommendation from former landlords with your application. Most people don’t call references (shocking, I know) so put that really good reference about you being the tenants with cats right in front of their face!
  • Don’t rent anything you haven’t seen. Seriously. It took us 4 trips to find a rental. Pictures lie. Places that look fantastic in photos, look horrible in person, and vice versa. Check out the area (Google Maps street view is great for this), and your commute to work (Google Maps during rush hour will give you traffic times)!

7. If you get moving money (instead of submitting moving receipts for reimbursement), keep in mind taxes will come out of it (ouch). If you don’t get moving money, or don’t get enough, then try to keep moving costs down by cutting back on what you’re moving and comparing different rates. Ryder was cheaper for our move across the country, but UHaul was somehow a better deal for our move a few states away. Can you drive the truck yourself (or can your partner/Dad/friend)? Can you load up the truck and have them drive it (ala UPack)? Check Craigslist in your area for free (or cheap) boxes and moving supplies as lots of people who just moved will want to get rid of those. Or go for liquor boxes as they are sturdy and aren’t too big. And heck, if you get lots of moving money from your new job, pay for someone to do the whole thing for you–loading and transport! If I *ever* move again, that’s going to be the only way I go!

8. Keep all moving receipts. My partner had a big envelope she kept with her (along with all our financial stuff in a bag– because she’s good that way) and put every single receipt into it. Did you buy sandwiches for the people who help you load? Keep the receipt. New trashcans and mops for your new place? Keep the receipt. Last minute Home Depot boxes and packing tape? Keep the receipt. Donations? Keep the receipt… get the idea? Moves for a job are tax deductible, and if you pay for the move yourself, you can wind up getting some serious change back from the government!

9. The summer you’re moving, you’re not going to get any work done. At all. Really. Especially if you’re moving pets, kids, a whole household, across the country. It ain’t going to happen. I let a book review slide for a couple months because of the move (and the journal editors worked with me). You’re not going to have time to think about your research. You won’t be able to expend one ounce of energy thinking up new research ideas, or new theoretical approaches. You’re going to fall asleep if you try reading new lit in your field. You’re going to barely get your books selected for your Fall classes (only after the bookstore pressures you), and you’re not going to finish that syllabi until you get settled in and mostly unpacked. Unless you’re Wonder Woman, this is the reality. No one is Wonder Woman. Not even me, with a beer in my hand!

10. Actually you can plan on not getting much of your own work done for your entire first semester. Don’t do what I did and beat yourself up about it. Set your sights on minimal deadlines– conference abstracts, short funding proposals, reading some new lit. Make an outline/list of stuff to do on an article. Think about your research, work on something related to it a few minutes every day, if you can, but don’t expect to get lots done. You’ll be adjusting to a new town, a new house, a new grocery store, new colleagues, a new school, new office, new library system, new grade reporting system, new courses, new students… and the list goes on. You’re going to be mentally exhausted during this adjustment, and that’s ok. I remember reading once that among the most stressful events of life are deaths, major accidents, major illnesses, and moves. Seriously. Take time to get to know the people and places around you, but don’t beat yourself up about not getting much research or writing done.

11. Finally, get unpacked as soon as possible. Spend a week getting unpacked, one room at a time. Stay up late and get rid of those boxes one at a time. Hang stuff up and make it look like home. There’s nothing worse than an unpacked apartment. When classes start, you’ll appreciate coming home to a home.

Those are my tips for getting through a move as an academic. Have any others?

It’s Mid November? Notes from 2+ Months on the Tenure Track

17 Nov

Suddenly it’s mid-November? I don’t know what happened to October. The month was lost in a flurry of emails, teaching, grading, meetings, and trying to get my car to pass emissions inspection. Now it’s nearly Thanksgiving, and I’m starting to reflect on the semester as a whole, while I struggle to get done everything that needs to be done. So many times during the last couple months I’ve thought “oh, I need to blog about this” and then never have the time. The closest I came to “blogging” was a long and overdue “catching up” email to my advisor. Maybe I should just cut/paste that here.

Here’s a smattering of observations and experiences from the last semester:

  • Being tenure track is awesome. It’s just as awesome as I always thought it would be. I feel welcomed at my new school. I feel like I have dozens of new mentors. It’s really fantastic. Actually, yesterday, I felt so much warmth toward my new school, that I almost went into the bookstore and bought a school sweatshirt. I’ve never owned a college sweatshirt (I only own a t-shirt from where I went to grad school) so this seems strangely significant to me.
  • Another part of my new school that’s fantastic is the diversity of the campus. I really, really, appreciate that students, staff and faculty come from so many different backgrounds and experiences. The diversity in my classroom contributes to what we’re able to discuss and learn together.
  • Teaching has been an adjustment, but not a terribly difficult one. Thank goodness that the workshops I attended before classes began helped me get ready for the classroom. I’ve had to rework what I do during class time. I almost spend less time prepping outside of class, and more time listening to my students and thinking in the classroom. My classes are much more interactive, and I’m always thinking on my feet about what I can do differently or use as an example to make a concept clearer. Yes, there are new struggles in terms of getting students to do reading, and make it to class (busy work schedules and long commutes) but they are realistic problems and I’m figuring out how not to let that distract from what we can learn in the classroom.
  • We’ve had some obstacles this semester. The most obvious has been a lost week+ of class time due to Hurricane Sandy. I’ve had to be even more flexible with my syllabus, with deadlines, and have had to make some painful cuts to readings. But, we’ve also been able to have some great discussions about the unequal impact of the hurricane on different areas and segments of the population.
  • After the hurricane we lost power for a week. Thank goodness we live in an apartment with a gas stove and gas hot water heater, so we didn’t suffer too much, although being without internet was difficult to say the least. I couldn’t get to all of my academic books on campus, so instead I read the pile of academic advice books I had here at home (it was either that or get hopelessly lost in a bunch of mysteries). By the light of my headlamp, I ended up reading:
    • Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom by John Bean. I got this one at the writing workshop this summer, but hadn’t had a chance to read it yet. It’s definitely going to be the only teaching book sitting on my desk for a while. Engaging Ideas is chock full of practical, writing-focused teaching ideas. Using it, I drafted some grading rubrics, and constructed a peer evaluation worksheet that we used in class last week.
    • Preparing for Promotion, Tenure, and Annual Review: A Faculty Guide by Robert Diamond. This one was included in the tenure materials given to my by my new school, so it seemed to be an important read. It’s actually quite useful, and I made a ton of notes on what I can include in my retention packet, and prepare for my future tenure dossier.
    • The Teaching Portfolio: A Practical Guide to Improved Performance and Promotion/Tenure Decisions by Seldin, Miller, and Seldin. Another one that my school gave me when I started. This book has lots of concrete examples and will be very helpful when putting together my teaching materials. I also appreciated the focus on being up to date on pedagogy for your discipline– definitely something that I enjoy, and that matters to the school.
    • Finally, I got around to reading Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing by Robert Boice. Boice is the author of Advice for New Faculty, a book which was so revolutionary for me when I read it in grad school that I still keep it by the side of my bed (not kidding). I consider to be sort of a bible for my academic career. Professors as Writers is less philosophical than Advice for New Faculty and very action-oriented. I’m now toying with the idea of waking up a little earlier to do some writing first thing every morning instead of trying to fit it in during the day. While I am not, and will never be, a morning runner (that’s for the evening), I could write for a while with coffee in my PJs. Maybe even before checking my email or Facebook. More on this in another post!
  • It’s a good thing I read all that stuff on retention and promotion during The Great Blackout of 2012, because it turns out I have my first retention packet due in early January! It’s been described to me as “another job application” in terms of professional content (but not in the sense that they don’t keep us– they very much want to work to keep each of us). Thankfully, colleagues have already offered to read drafts of personal statements, and to loan me their retention packets to look at. Here’s what I’m working on for the three areas (weighed equally at my school):
      1. Scholarship: Since we just started, they don’t expect a lot here. I have an article I am planning to send out before the end of the semester. I’m also working on a book review, and a submission for a national conference. Additionally, the contributions I make to a well-known blog count as scholarship. And my participation in the interdisciplinary faculty writing group counts as ongoing commitment to scholarship.
      2. Service: First year faculty are technically exempt from serving on committees, but I was asked to serve on the GLBT Advisory Board and happily accepted. I’m serving as a mentor to an at-risk student on campus. I am also the social media guru for a national organization, which counts as service to a wider community.
      3. Teaching: In our first semester they definitely want to make sure we’re doing well in the classroom and adjusting to new teaching challenges. In this section I expect to talk a lot about the adjustments I’ve already made and what I plan to change in the future. Mid-semester evaluations show that my students are happy with my classes, and the fact they’re asking me what I am teaching next semester leads me to believe I’m doing well. We also do regular peer teaching evaluations. I completed one for an adjunct, and I’ve had 3 colleagues observe my courses. The feedback has been incredibly positive and helpful. I love the fact that the goal is really for all of us to help each other succeed as teachers, and as scholars.

All in all, it’s been a great semester so far. Provided I can make it through all the grading ahead, prep a new syllabus for a spring class, and put together a good retention packet, I should be just fine. I appreciate that a mid-year retention packet helps me think through where I’m at, and goals for the upcoming months.

Really, though, my big goal right now is just to land an office with a window!

Collected Advice & A Plug for Evernote

15 Aug

For the last few years I’ve used the fantastic memory app Evernote for saving useful information (and recipes, so many recipes). Every time I get a useful bunch of info in an email– lists of documentaries, classroom activity ideas, book publishing advice, writing tips, course readings etc.– it goes into Evernote. Whenever I find an interesting blog post or newspaper article related to research, surviving academia, or teaching, I clip it to Evernote. Even if the original link to the article or post goes down, I have the text and images saved. If I need an article for classroom activity, I can quickly search Evernote for something useful, print it out, and head to class. I was using an app on my ipad for saving meeting and conference notes, but now I am transferring those over to Evernote as well. In short, Evernote is my brain. I’ve built up 900+ notes over 3 years (ok, some of those are recipes), and haven’t hit the limit of the free version yet. It’s an app I’d gladly pay monthly for, though, and that’s not something I typically do, so that’s saying a lot.

I’ve collected a bunch of tenure track advice over the years, and tonight I’m rereading and organizing what I have. Here are some highlights:

Advice for New Assistant Professors by Older Woman, Scatterplot

I particularly like tips #2 and #5. I want to make sure I integrate myself with the faculty and administration (and this is a much larger school than my last one), while also staying open and accessible to students. I have two workshops in the next couple weeks (one on writing and one on diversity in the classroom) that will help with the former. And making scheduled writing and research time is a priority, while I work on finding out more about the preferred balance of teaching/research/service is at the school.

I’m not sure about #8. I’ve never hated a job, and can’t imagine hating this one. Yes, it is good (as I learned during my visiting position) to keep myself mobile and not too attached to the institution if I want to go someplace else. But, I’m the sort the sort that stubbornly makes the best of everything. And I’m truly excited for this job.

Five Steps to Creating a Five-Year Plan to Achieve Tenure by Tanya Golash-Boza, Get a Life, PhD

I’ll need to adapt this for four years, but overall the advice is excellent, even if the goals seem rather large and daunting at the moment. I like the semester version of Tanya’s goal setting, as well, and plan to do that this semester as it worked well for me last last year.

How to Figure Out the Publication Expectations for Tenure by Tanya Golash-Boza, Get a Life, PhD.

Another fantastic post from Tanya. I especially the idea of checking out the CVs of those recently promoted at my institution, and making sure to share research and publishing plans with senior colleagues and mentors.

First Tips for Faculty by Mary McKinney, Successful Academic

This is a great collection of tips, even if it is slightly geared to those freshly out of grad school. I’m already more than familiar with the feeling of juggling waaaay too many balls in the air. Actually, I’m looking forward to that this semester (I’m crazy, right?). The tips that stand out here are: to find a support system (and hopefully writing group) of other junior faculty on campus (and at nearby institutions), finding mentors on campus, and avoiding potentially controversial committees and committees that meet frequently (no matter how interesting they sound). Also, this sounds all too familiar:

For many academics I’ve worked with, it is easier to get caught up in smaller projects with firm external deadlines – such as sending off abstracts for conference deadlines – than it is to work on papers that you wish to send to prestigious journals. Beware of getting wrapped up in projects that are relatively unimportant. Don’t be seduced by short-term commitments that are less anxiety provoking than your biggest chores.

Starting a Tenure Box by Anastasia Salter, ProfHacker

Perfect, practical advice! I’ll start a tenure Evernote file and secure folder in Dropbox (and I’ll back it up on an external HD because I’m nuts like that). I don’t need a document scanner, because I have my iPhone and JotNot Pro for that.

The Sunday Meeting by Kerry Ann Rockquemore, Inside Higher Ed

I really like the idea of sitting down weekly to plan the week out and write out goals. Whenever I do this, my week goes much better, and doing it regularly would be fantastic!

Collegiality: The Tenure Track’s Pandora’s Box by Mary McKinney, Successful Academic via Tomorrow’s Professor

There’s some really good advice here like “The rules of collegiality are similar to the rules of dating. A conversation has gone well when the other person has done most of the talking,” and “Find a likeable side of everyone,” and of course, “Don’t get angry, get tenure.”


All that advice just makes me more excited for the year to begin! If you have any sage advice of your own (or a link to something else), please feel free to share it in the comments!

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