A day in the life, summer edition

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Now that the semester is over, all of my friends and family outside of academia say to me, “Wow, you must be so glad the semester is over, now you get vacation again until August!” (Or some other refrain along those lines.) And again I am reminded of how fundamentally misunderstood my job as an academic, and everyone else’s job who is an academic, is. People think that as a PhD student, I take a few classes, maybe teach one if I’m lucky – and that’s it. We need to do a better job of telling people all that our jobs entail! A lot of folks participated in the #DayofHigherEd last month (and I did too, writing a blog post for it). Hence this second version: “A day in the life – summer edition.”

Here’s what I did yesterday, Tuesday, May 15:

7:30am: Up, coffee, checking emails – nearly all work related. One related to my HOA board that I serve as secretary for that needed to be addressed ASAP.

8:00am: Read How we became posthuman by Katherine Hayles, a book on my digital media theory reading list.

10:00am: Break from reading to look at web project I’m working on with others and presenting at the upcoming Genre 2012 conference. I work on a collaborative project management doc and sending necessary emails and files to various members.

11:00am: Back to reading How we became posthuman.

12:00pm: Lunch, put in a load of laundry, feed the dog, and do the dishes.

1:00pm: Review plan for workshop presentation that I’m giving for the Computers and Writing conference this Thursday. Put finishing touches on our Prezi and make sure that I have all of my parts in order.

2:00pm: Take notes on book I read this weekend for my reading list, Where wizards stay up late: The origins of the internet.

3:00pm: Put together list of goals for the summertime and sketch out approximate deadlines for each item. Things on my list include:

  • Follow strict reading schedule to finish all exam reading by Sept. 1. (This is my number 1 priority.)
  • Give workshop at Computers and Writing on Thursday afternoon. 
  • Finish joint manuscript currently working on by June 8. Need to prep for writing meeting we have this Friday. 
  • Prep questions for Summer I class that I’ll be studying with partner in scholarly crime.
  • Finish hybrid composition course technology study – get all data in one place and backed up; set writing schedule with collaborator; identify target journal for manuscript. 
  • Continue to work on web project that our research team is presenting at Genre 2012 at the end of June. I’ve been assigned the role of task management along with my research duties for the site. 
  • Continue to think about dissertation prospectus and chip away at taking notes for that while I read and formulate a more thorough research description. 
  • Work as RA for Campus Writing and Speaking Program research project throughout summer. Major task at the moment is data analysis from the courses we studied this spring, along with a grant report. Also have to prepare for two other conferences after Computers and Writing and then, hopefully, get a manuscript written. 
  • Compile Enculturation special issue from Computers and Writing conference. This will be an ongoing project with Enculturation editors and reviewers until the issue is published in October.
  • Prep for a new class that I’ll be teaching next year.
    (As you can see, this is a huge list of ongoing projects. To complicate matters, every single joint project is undertaken with a different set of collaborators – that’s a lot of people to keep up with and coordinate schedules with.)

4:00pm: Get ready to leave for meeting at with Computers and Writing workshop team.

4:30-5:30pm: Happy hour meeting with C&W workshop team. Final discussion of plans for Thursday and a bit of fun chat, too.

5:30pm: Leave for tennis lessons across the other side of the city.

6:00pm: Tennis lesson.

7:00pm: Pick up sushi for dinner on my way home. No time for food prep tonight. Walk the dog before eating.

8:30pm: Respond to emails for a variety of things – workshop on Thursday, HOA, research grant, Computers and Writing conference, etc.

9:00pm: Unwind with husband (finally!).

10:30pm: Squeeze in a bit more reading of How we became posthuman. I find this book quite dense, and it’s taking me a while to get through it.

11:00pm: Bed. Coach Sunday kicked my butt at tennis tonight, and I have a full day planned for tomorrow!

So, friends and family, there you have it – sure it’s “summer” (aka. I’m not taking classes), but every day, I have a full plate of reading for exams, conducting research, writing manuscripts, and dealing with other tasks related to my job – conferences, workshops, etc. etc.

What does your summer schedule look like? Share it! I think it’s really important to make our work more visible so that people better understand the work that academics do – we might be fighting for our jobs, our funding, etc. in the future if we aren’t better prepared to talk about the value that our work brings.

Goals for 2011

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Happy New Year! This is my first post from my new laptop – the Macbook Pro that I’d asked for for Christmas – and to follow the theme that the blogs in my Reader have done this week, I’m writing a “kick-off” post for the new year. I am not one who makes resolutions: instead of constantly trying to do something better, I identify goals that I am working toward. I’ve also read other bloggers who say that a public proclamation of goals motivates them to accomplish what they’ve set out to do.

Without further ado, here’s what I’d like to do academically in 2011 (and how I might do it):

  1. Join the conversation more. Starting to blog and activating a Twitter account were two ways in 2010 that I entered the conversation as an academic, but thus far I don’t think I’ve used either very effectively to dialogue with others in the field. My conversations have been pretty one-sided, so my goal is to begin legitimate conversations with other digital rhetoric and environmental communication scholars online. To start, I will not only continue with my blog, but I will more actively seek out those of others, read, and comment when I have a question or something to say. I’ll keep “listening” on Twitter, but will plan to jump in when I have a question or something to say. In short, I’ll converse less in my corner and more out in the open with others. I’ll need a bit of help with this: the best way to find great blogs, I think, is through others. Please feel free to share your blog or someone else’s that you follow so that I can, too.
  2. Go to more conferences. I’ve stuck mostly to regional conferences thus far, quite honestly due to a lack of confidence. I need to get over this and start branching out! So, I’m going to seriously consider the conference calls that come my way and send in abstracts to the larger, national conferences. This is the status quo for academia, so I really need to step it up here if I’m going to cut it in the field (or, that’s at least how graduate school makes it seems. Feel free to correct me here).
  3. Submit an article or two for publication. Originally my goal was to get something published, but that timeline might be too tight. So I’m setting the bar low (ha!) and going with just submission. Is it better to accomplish a lesser feat, but actually cross it off the list, than to aim high and not get there? I guess I’ll see.
  4. Continue to get involved in the CRDM department. I realize that service is an important part of any vitae, but I join committees, help with workshops, and offer leadership for a greater reason: I actually want to be an admin one day. Every aspect of the department and field that I can learn about, I think, can help me in the future as I begin to reach for leadership positions in a departments. I hope this isn’t too much of “putting the cart before the horse” (ie. planning to be a dean before I even get a teaching job!), but I hope that by making connections, I’ll be better prepared to jump into a position that fewer and fewer professors/academics are interested in pursuing.

I really should also include a goal for my teaching, but since I’ve talked about improving my role in the classroom previously, I’ve kept the focus here on my role as a student/academic.

What do you hope to do in 2011?

Doctoral Student Priorities

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A little over a week into my program, and my head is full of student obligations, professional obligations, teaching obligations, personal obligations… too many obligations, not enough Meagan. Typical PhD paradox – what do you tackle when there’s not enough time to do it all?

This has really gotten me thinking about priorities. What comes first? I was initially thinking coursework… duh. But conversations with fellow CRDMers have me re-thinking this. If my ultimate goal is to earn a position as a scholar in my field, teaching somewhere, shouldn’t I focus on professional duties, such as presenting at conferences and getting published? That’s not to say that books can go unread and seminar papers unwritten, but there’s definitely a need to balance the two.

Added to this are those twenty-two little faces staring at me each day we’re in class, students who expect me to be on top of my game, teach them something interesting, and grade things in a reasonable period of time. At least, that’s what I expect of my professors, so I shouldn’t give any less to my students. Though Carolyn Miller, a professor in my program, muddied the waters for me this week when she said in class something to the effect, “Teaching is a distraction. It will eat up as much time as you let it and then some.” This was echoed by David Rieder, another CRDM prof, at our orientation, who remarked that I should always remember why am I here in the first place – that I love to learn and do research. Obviously, I’m conscientious and always want to bring my best to the classroom, but it’s true: teaching and all of its accompanying responsibilities will take all of my day and then some if I let it.

Mixed in the middle is the obligation that was reiterated over and over by our faculty – write, write, write. Hence this blog. It’s harder to write than I realized – and I know I still haven’t gotten to academic material, but that’s coming as we’re now waist-deep in rhetorical theory, communications history, and visual content analysis – especially because it requires carving out at least a half hour for these personal posts, likely more for academic material that I could be dedicating to reading. It’s true what every other PhD student has ever told me, but I never truly believed until now that I’m living it – there’s more reading than you can handle.

I’m thinking of writing a post that discusses reading strategies for tackling large block of reading that will help me focus my attention where it’s most needed. I may consult my academic idol, CRM, and other faculty for some much-needed advice and report back with hopefully some new ideas and a fresh take on accomplishing my reading lists.

In terms of ordering priorities… I’m not sure that I’ll always place coursework over getting published or vice-versa but that I’ll advocate being highly scheduled and highly disciplined when it comes to following my schedule. So, when I have a Wednesday to read a book, I get it done – then I can grade on Thursday without feeling like I’m shortchanging my studies. Or watch TV with my husband on Friday night, because I got everything done on Friday that I needed to do. Speaking of that… better go finish that reading!!

Go Pack!!