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I’m adding my voice to today’s Day of Higher Ed by detailing my work schedule for today. Add your voice too to let people know that the work of academics is rigorous, valuable, and just as time consuming as any other profession. Tweet it using the hashtag, #DayofHigherEd, and see what others have written, too.

7:30am: Coffee, take the dog out, Facebook time and news-checking time.
8:00am: Check and respond to work emails, read higher ed blogs in my Google Reader.
8:30am: Workout, breakfast, shower.
9:30am: Work on Campus Writing and Speaking Program handbook for future graduate assistants.
10:30am: Blog 🙂
11:00am: Read one article for tomorrow’s class and take notes.
12:00pm: Commute to school.
12:30pm: First admin meeting for First Year Writing Program. One on one with director; discussion of our ongoing assessment of the hybrid classes and final tasks for the school year.
1:30pm: Second admin meeting for First Year Writing Program, with the entire set of program administrators.
3:00pm: Admin meeting for the Campus Writing and Speaking Program. Focus on our ongoing research project on audio-visual feedback for writers, developing plan for workshop we’re giving next month and article we are co-authoring.
4:00pm: Read a second article for class tomorrow and take notes.
5:00pm: Read an article from my oral exam reading list on rhetorical genre studies, taking meticulous notes.  
6:00pm: Family time – dinner, walking the dog, drinks on the back deck, catching a show or two.
9:30pm: Create to-do list for the rest of the week.
9:45pm: Make revisions to poster for presentation that I’m giving with Ashley R. Kelly next week at the NCSU Global Engagement Expo. Send an email to arrange printing time.
10:15pm: Read second article from my oral exam reading list, taking meticulous notes.
11:15pm: Bedtime!

While my working time for the day isn’t perfectly linear, it’s easy to see that the work goes beyond a typical 8 hour work day – and my day doesn’t even include teaching or other responsibilities that faculty members have that graduate students don’t, like reviewing journal submissions, reading student applications, serving on university committees, etc. etc.

What does your #DayofHigherEd look like?

Fall semester happenings

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I’ve gotten pretty behind on updating the blog this month, so I thought I’d do a post with “quick hits” on the the things I’ve been up to and what’s on my radar in the coming weeks. I need to focus on writing more – both scholarly and non (including the blog!) – so here goes!

I’ll start with some good news: I’ve finalized my dissertation committee! My chair will be Carolyn R. Miller, SAS Institute Distinguished Professor here at NCSU. The other three members of my committee are Bill Kinsella (Communication), Nancy Penrose (English) and David Rieder (English). They are all members of the CRDM program here at NCSU, and I’m so excited to have a great team behind me. The next step now is finalizing my exam reading lists, which I’ll do between now and the new year, so that I can begin reading for exams in January. My exam areas are (approximately; subject to more specific language as I construct the lists): rhetorical genre theory, rhetoric of science and environment, and digital media theory.

I think I’ve settled in to my administrative jobs with both the Campus Writing and Speaking Program and the First Year Writing Program. I’ve hosted a few successful workshops thus far and have a few more planned for the year with the CWSP team. One of my major projects for the FYWP will be coordinating assessment of our recently-implemented hybrid writing classes in conjunction with our large program-wide assessment in the spring. These admin roles are a welcome change of pace from teaching, and I think the jobs really agree with me – but, to get used to all the meetings!

Next week I’m traveling with Susan Miller-Cochran to give an invited talk on hybrid writing classrooms for a group of instructors in the mid-West. I’ve written before about teaching hybrid classrooms both on this blog and my WPA Hybrid Guide site, and I’m really looking forward to working with instructors at other institutions. I definitely plan to write more after the trip and will hopefully share some Tweets as we travel, too.

In two weeks I’m heading to Cleveland for the annual conference for the Society for the Social Studies of Science. I’ll be presenting my research (done with Ashley R. Kelly) on discourse about nuclear energy in the Carolinas post-Fukushima. CRDM students just heard this week that we’ll receive some funding for conference travel this year – that great news arrives just in time for this conference! I’m so glad to be in a program that can support our professional development activities and has administrators that will go to bat for us to get us the much-needed funding.

 I’ve taken on a few service-oriented tasks this fall as well – conference proposal reviewing, textbook reviewing for a publisher, throwing my name in the ring for a professional organization’s board – and am glad to start (net)working with professionals in the field beyond NCSU. I know it’s important for my development as a scholar, but I’m also keenly tuned to the discourse I hear for/from graduating CRDMers and the job market. My biggest struggle as I do my PhD is not the work itself, but what kind of work I take on. There is so much work associated with being a scholar, educator, and administrator that the real issue seems to be what work is most beneficial for my professional growth and – let’s be honest here – getting a job. Balance is a word that I hear frequently. Too much service and committees might think a candidate can’t get research done. Too much research (if there is such a thing) and committees won’t think a candidate is a team player who will make a good departmental colleague. Or is it just that when you’re a PhD student, you just need to make your CV as long as possible? As the accomplishments of newly-minted PhDs get better and better every year, the idea behind getting a tenure-track job seems to be doing as much as humanly possible.

Back to reading!

Back the grind

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And so it begins – year two of my PhD, year eight of my post-secondary career. What’s slated for this fall? Here’s what I’m up to:

I’m taking four classes this semester: one core CRDM course, Technology and Pedagogy in Communication Arts; two electives, Rhetoric of Science & Technology and Environmental Communication; and one professional development class, CRDM Colloquium.

For the first time in my graduate career, I’m not teaching this semester. Instead, I’m serving two administrative roles, with my time split between them each semester. This fall, I’m the primary Graduate Assistant Director of NCSU’s Campus Writing and Speaking Program, directed by Chris Anson and Deanna Dannels, and in the spring, I’ll be the primary Graduate Assistant Director of the First Year Writing Program, directed by Susan Miller-Cochran. I’ll be assisting each program during both semesters, but taking on a larger role for one each semester (with another graduate student filling in for each).

I’ve got to tackle several important milestones toward earning my PhD, including deciding on my doctoral exam areas, beginning to form (or completely forming) a dissertation committee, starting to create reading lists for my doctoral exams, and figuring out my Plan of Work for the Graduate School. It would be great if I could finalize a dissertation topic, too.

I’ll also be presenting some research on discussions of nuclear technology post-Fukushiima at the 4S (Society for the Social Studies of Science) conference in Cleveland, November 2-5.

What are your plans for the semester? Will I be seeing you at 4S? Or missing out on your presentation at NCA? Let me know!

Writing Program Administration

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This semester, I’m balancing two theory-heavy courses with a more practical course: Writing Program Administration! And yes, I’m really enjoying the class such that I’ll tag an exclamation mark at the end of that sentence. Taught by two of the field’s best, Dr. Chris Anson and Dr. Susan-Miller-Cochran, the course focuses on both theoretical and practical issues of WPA. Our work combines readings, class discussion, listening to Drs. Anson & Miller-Cochran’s experiences, and the best part, an in-depth study of a writing program. For the study, we work closely with a WPA from another school, sending a weekly question set based on that week’s topics and readings. We then write weekly reports about the program based on what our WPA tells us, what we can get from the school’s website, and our readings, reflecting about how that all comes together.

For my WPA study, I’m looking at a small, private, liberal arts school without an official “writing program” structure. It’s a great juxtaposition for NC State, a large state school with an immense first-year writing program within the English department. My WPA has been great to correspond with, and we’ve got a great system going for communicating with one another. Immediately after our class for the week (on Tuesdays), I start on next week’s readings and review what I already have on that topic before sending questions that will allow me to write a report for the next week’s topic. I send the questions by Thursday, which gives the WPA the chance to both reflect on and answer the questions on her own time. I usually get my responses by Monday morning, leaving me plenty of time to read, reflect, and write a report by Tuesday.

At first, I was really nervous about contacting a faculty member that I’ve never spoken with, met in person, or will likely ever have contact with again after this semester. However, the WPA put me at ease and has shown such genuine kindness in answering my questions – generally two parts each, and I try to keep it to only four q’s per email – with short essays! I’m very encouraged by the WPA’s generosity with his/her time: as a graduate student, it seems that faculty are always so busy with their work and that email is not a high priority. Obviously, there are faculty who value collaborating with graduate students and want to help them develop projects that they are mutually interested in.

I also hope that my weekly reports will help the WPA; at the end of the semester, I will amalgamate my weekly reports into a final program report, perhaps with a few friendly suggestions, that I will send to the WPA (hence why I am not going to name the school that I am profiling; this information is private to the school and I am privileged to be given it). The school is currently undergoing re-accreditation and the WPA is conducting an internal assessment of the writing initiative, so the time spent reflecting on the questions I send also has some value for the WPA in the assessment process.

Overall, I see great value in this kind of class for graduate students. Part of being a professional in the field – a faculty member – is administration. No one ever just teaches and researches; whether it be committee work, taking the role of assistant director of a program, or even greater responsibility within a department or the university, every one does administrative work as a part of their career. Graduate students are always primed to research (through coursework) and teach (through workshops and actual teaching assignments), so why wouldn’t we want to be educated in the other main part of our professional responsibilities, too? Some may argue that giving grad students administrative responsibilities is exploitative, or that exposing them to the inner workings of the school (and thus politics, budget issues, etc.) isn’t right. However, I disagree: we’ve got to learn about all the parts of our future professional responsibilities if we are going to be competitive candidates in an increasingly dire (desperate?) market for PhDs. Anyone disagree with me? Have an unfortunate experience with administrative responsibilities while doing their PhD? I’d be glad to hear from you.

Professional development as a PhD student

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This week I applied for a position in my department as the Graduate Assistant Director of the First Year Writing Program. It’s a great opportunity to pursue my interests in higher education administration, to get some practical experience on the job, and to work with one of the most respected directors in the country. I was so excited when I got the call for applications in my email and started working on it right away.

The call asked for a “letter of interest.” Sitting down to write it, I realized – I’ve never heard of a “letter of interest” before. I’ve certainly never written one. I’ve never attended a workshop on writing them or heard a word about them in any professional development work I’ve done. I’ve heard and seen a lot of information on writing a cover letter and a CV, reading a job call, etc. Because it was an internal call – only PhD students who teach in the program are eligible to apply for the position – I’m assuming that’s why only a letter of interest, and not a complete job application, was necessary. However, if this is a common practice for applying for internal jobs, as a graduate student, I’d certainly welcome some guidance in writing for those.

I worked on some ideas, drafted what I thought I would include to demonstrate my interest in the position, and did what any smart student does – sent it out for peer review! With the help of someone in my cohort, I think I’ve produced a strong letter that demonstrates exactly why I’m not only interested in the job but also highly qualified to take the position.

However, it leaves me wondering if my letter of interest fits the genre. What goes into an internal letter of interest? How common of a practice is that in higher education? For instance, if you’re an associate professor applying to be the director of graduate programs, do you write a letter of interest? Do you complete an application? Or is this the only time in my life I’ll see a job opening that will require (and only require) a letter of interest?

I’m also helping facilitate a series of professional development workshops for PhD students in our program. This reminds me that I need to “think outside of the box” for workshops and ask around for important information that’s not necessarily the standard PD workshop material. Inevitably, there’s always something you haven’t heard of before that you have to work on for your job application that I want to see if we can cover if at all possible. Which reminds me – I’d better start on the first workshop! January has nearly passed us by.