Reflections on Year Three

I never reflected on Year Two, so I guess I might as well jump ahead to year three since it occurred more recently. I will also touch upon some of what happened in Year Two in this post anyways. For those who want to see my thoughts following my first year, please click here.

Warning: This post is a little longer than I expected.

At the end of Year Two with support from my unit head, I applied for my first administrative role to become director of the Kutsche Office of Local History. Solid mentors within and outside of my unit encouraged my application. Serving as director this past year has been an incredible journey. I developed our 2016-2021 strategic plan, aligning it with the overall strategic plan of both the university and college. I oversaw continuing projects and launched a new project (Histories of Student Activism at GVSU). Part of why I feel successful in this new role is because of the mentoring I receive from colleagues in administrative positions, but also because the staff and student interns in the office are integral components for keeping the office running. Support from the office coordinator aided the growth of a new signature program—Lunch with the Kutsche Office—in the fall. This new annual program also includes a featured speaker. Last year Dr. James Smither, professor of history, discussed the best and worst oral history practices and the Veteran’s History project. We also launched a new grant program, Community Collaboration Grant, for faculty working with a community partner and mentoring an undergraduate student. My first year as director has been busy to say the least. ❤

The second year at GVSU also saw me serving on my first search tenure-track search committee. It was a great experience and allowed me to witness the search process “from the other side.” By having both perspectives—as someone recently on the market and as a member of a search committee—I could better see the nuances of what makes one candidate jump off the screen more than another. And, how one candidate could resonate more with one committee member over another. This is why committees are essential to hiring, as not every member will “see” the same thing as they read applicants’ materials. In the end you always need to trust your colleagues and their judgment for coming up with the best candidate for the position. It also reinforced advice from my mentors when I was on the market who always noted that searches are quirky and it’s about the committee’s desires not you. (And yes, I realize it sounds like an academic rendition of “He’s just not that into you” or “It’s me, not you, really.”)

The skills learned as a search committee member bolstered my abilities to chair a search committee last year (2016-2017). Chairing a search from start to finish was an interesting opportunity and gave me even greater insight into how the hiring process works from start to finish. It also made me realize the importance of thinking about this process holistically and recognizing that applicants like search committee members are human.

Thoughts on Third Year Review

In addition to chairing a search and transitioning into a new administrative position during Year Three, I completed my third year review process. One of the biggest tools that allowed me to think critically about the review process is the fact that Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen shared her tips for preparing an academic dossier early on with me when I was a graduate student. I kept these tips in mind and made sure to save, save, SAVE all of the things in preparation for my third year review. I also took mental notes as I talked with colleagues about their review processes and went to workshops offered by the college. More importantly, I attended the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center Personnel Portfolio Workshop offered by my institution the summer before year two. At this workshop, I not only learned more about the institution’s norms for review, I also developed a working draft of my integrative statement. The integrative statement is meant to act as a guide for those reviewing materials in your review binder. It is meant to demonstrate your breadth and depth and underscores your trajectory as a scholar including reflections on teaching, research, and service. The workshop provides a mentor from a senior colleague in a different discipline and you operate in smaller cohorts/teams. This was such a worthwhile experience as it got me thinking about how I would articulate my career at the institution and the contributions I have made since arriving to campus.

Kim McKee Third Year Review Binder
Kim McKee holds her third year review binder.

To give folks a sense of what my binders looked like, see the photographs on the right. In addition to my main binder that held materials related to teaching, research, and service, I had two binders holding the manuscript for my monograph and the essays in the edited volume I am working on. Click here to see my table of contents. I’m sharing my table of contents to illustrate the kinds of material that are included at my institution. I recognize that expectations for review differ institution by institution. It is my hope that by discussing my third year review briefly and sharing my binder’s TOC that I can create a generative conversation around this process. I want to use this moment as a tool for productive conversation around how we can best support faculty during this process. For many faculty, the review process is daunting and we do not often have open conversations about what to expect.

Here are some tips:

K McKee Third Year Review Binder, monograph draft, and edited volume draft
Three white binders. Kim McKee’s Third Year Review Binder, Edited Volume Draft, and Monograph Draft.
  • If your colleagues’ materials are available for you to review or if they offer them to you for review, always review them. See how they organized their materials. Learn the norms of your institution. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid.
  • If you there is a workshop dedicated to preparing faculty for the review process, go! Reap the benefits of colleagues’ expertise.
  • If a senior colleague offers to read a draft of your integrative statement and you want feedback, take them up on your offer.
  • Make sure you review your personnel guidelines. Review them with a fine-tooth comb. Familiarize yourself with the expectations. Try and eliminate as many surprises as possible.

I recognize that not everyone’s review process is smooth sailing; however the four tips above are meant to at least get folks thinking more openly and critically about this process. Sometimes just having someone else encourage you to do X (or Y, or Z) produces an invaluable change.

Remember the annual review process is meant to prepare faculty for their third year review and subsequent tenure and promotion reviews. The annual review process, in theory, should provide you with tangible feedback if you’re on the right track to meet the benchmarks set in your personnel guidelines. And, in addition to updating Digital Measures (if your university uses metrics), don’t forget to continuously update your CV. This saves you time down the road. 🙂

Reminders on Mentoring

I have written elsewhere on my blog about mentoring, but I want to highlight a series for Ideas on Fire and offer a few words. Ideas on Fire has a three-part (as of this posting) blog series on mentoring: How to Find a Good Mentor, How to be a Good Mentor, and How to Be a Good Mentee. They offer useful information on a variety of topics in their blog, but I highlight the mentoring series because often we forget that sometime we need nudges about what good mentoring is and what it is not.

As a reminder, don’t wait for a mentor. Mentors don’t magically arrive at your footsteps. This isn’t a fairy tale and you’re not Cinderella. The mentor fairy godmother won’t appear out of thin air. And we’re not at Hogwarts. Dumbledore won’t come rescue you from a cupboard. I took advantage of my institution’s program for first year faculty. In year two, I also joined the peer-to-peer mentoring program. To complement these formal mentoring avenues, I sought out multiple mentors at my institution and elsewhere to create a vibrant mentoring constellation as no single individual will have all of the answers. A mentor for one issue may not be the same mentor for another issue.

Miscellaneous Thoughts on Protecting Your Time

This past year has been one where I did not protect my writing time. I watched as blocks of time originally carved out in my calendar slipped away into the cloud as the delete button was struck removing them from my iCal. L This is not to say I did not have established writing times. I DID. And, I recognize the importance of them. For those who don’t completely buy into it, check out “Establishing a Regular Writing Practice” from Ideas on Fire.

But I shouldn’t say that I didn’t write. I did. I worked on revisions for my first book and sent them to the press in April. I also fine-tuned the edited volume I’m working on with a colleague. I submitted revisions on a journal article and completed page proofs on two chapters in edited volumes. This isn’t meant to be a listicle lauding my accomplishments over the year; rather a reminder that even if my dedicated writing time shifted, I still managed to write. Writing is writing even if the times are discrete moments. There is no perfect magic hour for writing. At least, I have not found one.

Just as protecting your time to write is important, so is protecting your free time and thinking about self care. Academics and higher ed often make faculty feel as if we’re on the clock all of the time. I am working on developing better practices at negotiating the attempt of balance. I realize that perhaps balance isn’t the best term to describe the healthy place of negotiating personal and professional responsibilities, but it does signal a desire to strive for a holistic life that allows for me to excel without becoming a workaholic.

I end with two articles focused on self-care and the end of the semester. They’re good reminders to prioritize YOU and your health.

And, to remind myself daily, I have a print out of the Crunk Feminist Collectives’ “Back-to-School Beatitudes: 10 Academic Survival Tips” (2011, August 25) near my desk.

Reflections on Year One

As I reflect on my first year on the tenure track last year, I realize that many of the connections I formed with colleagues across the university resulted from my involvement in events offered by the Pew Faculty and Teaching Learning Center (FTLC) and attending two Faculty/Staff Writing Retreats offered by the Fred Meijer Center for Writing & Michigan Authors. Given that it’s late August 2015 and convocation is tomorrow, I guess that this post is better late than never. We’re already rounding the corner to the beginning of year two!

The two FTLC programs that were the most impactful were The Inaugural Winter Teaching Life Retreat: Applying the Wisdom of Remarkable Women Leaders (December 2014) and the Strengths Based Leadership Teaching Circle (Winter 2015). The retreat and teaching circle encourage introspection. In many ways the self-reflection was fueled by two books, which centered our discussion, How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life by Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston and Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. Being in this community also encouraged me to read Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown as this is the book women who participated in an earlier program had read the previous year.

The writing retreats allowed me to focus on book manuscript revisions. Sitting with other faculty members in relative silence allowed me to center my attention on writing. This retreat complemented the weekly, online writing group that I am in with a colleague. There is a definite value in working in conjunction with one another for accountability purposes as well as in a group where you workshop one another’s work.

This post centers on three takeaways I found after reading above-mentioned books. While I believe in the value of writing groups and writing retreats, I leave you with the words from the authors of articles in Chronicle Vitae and Inside Higher Ed:

Takeaway #1: Flexibility and Adaptability

Academia is not always predictable. While we may know the major milestones in one’s career that we ought to meet, how we get there is not necessarily a linear path. There is no “right” path in the academy. Discussing indirect routes that may lead us to new ideas, Barsh and Cranston note:

Many women set out, traveling down academic and career paths, only to discover meaningful work after more than a few turns in the road. The zigs and zags of their career may seem inefficient (surely a straight shot to your goal would seem a better choice). Things are not always what they seem. In most cases, women leaders recall that these zigs taught self-awareness and those zags led them down the path to skills and experiences that opened a door. It was not time wasted. It was their time for discovering what they loved and learning new capabilities (23).

Each academic year, I set goals for myself related to teaching, research, and service. I recalibrate these goals each semester and over the summer. This process of recalibration allows me to evaluate whether I will meet these goals and reflect on where I may need to adapt in the face of an unexpected event. Barsh and Cranston encourage the evaluation and re-evaluation of one’s ambitions and priorities, writing:

From time to time, consciously reframe: Think about your goals and whether you should change them. The formula that worked for you in the past may no longer fit the circumstances. And when you see (or feel) the signs that you are locking in, take a deep breath and head for the balcony. We don’t want you to ever change being open to change (112).

Similarly, Rath and Conchie focus on creating weekly, monthly and annual goals to ensure success. Where do you want to end up? Consider your strengths and how they will help move you from point A to point B. Clearly communicate and perhaps even over-communicate what you’re doing and why. Well-defined plans articulate your motivations to faculty, staff, and students that you work with in various capacities.

Anticipate the fact new and unexpected, yet exciting opportunities are always on the horizon. Taking advantage of these possibilities opens new doors and facilitates deeper connections within colleagues and students, for example. This does not mean I say yes to every prospect that comes knocking on my door. Rather, I consider how these various openings relate to my larger goals. In my post on the Association for Asian American Studies’ East of California Junior Faculty retreat I discussed the benefits of creating a coherent narrative that links your teaching, research, and service. How does saying yes relate to your broader goals?

Takeaway #2: Know Your Passion

Find your passion and what drives you to do the work that you do. What gives you meaning? Barsh and Cranston note: “Meaning is the motivation in your life. It’s finding what engages you, what makes your heart beat faster, what gives you energy and creates passion. Meaning enables you to push yourself to the limit of your capabilities – and beyond” (22). Figure out what sustains you in the academy.

For me, it’s supporting students of color and other marginalized communities. This is particularly salient given my location in the Midwest where often I am one of the few Asian American faculty students engage with in the Humanities. There are currently no Asian American Studies courses taught on a regular basis. In Fall 2015 I will teach a one-credit course, The Hypersexual Female Asian Body, which explores the racialized and sexualized depictions of women of Asian descent in US popular culture. I also will direct an independent study, “Introduction to Korean Adoption Studies,” with an undergraduate student.

Takeaway #3: Don’t Be Afraid to Dare Greatly

Defining what it means to dare greatly, Brown comments: “Daring greatly means finding our own path and respecting what that search looks like for other folks” (231). Daring greatly means embracing vulnerability and not allowing fear to stop one from achieving their goals. To this end, Brown notes: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual ways, vulnerability is the path” (34). As part of this process, we also need to embrace or at least recognize that imperfection is not a negative. Brown writes: “Perfectionism is not the path that leads us to our gifts and to our sense of purpose; it’s the hazardous detour” (128). One of the areas that I find this advice to be particularly helpful is with writing. Learning to share drafts of manuscripts, articles, and chapters early with colleagues is an acquired skill. This is where writing groups and friends/colleagues are helpful. Soliciting feedback on an early, unfinished piece of work may feel daunting, but it is an invaluable process.

Concluding Thoughts

Utilizing the resources offered by my institution to first year faculty allowed me to consciously and deliberately engage my community. I strengthened existing skills and honed new ones through taking advantage of the various workshops. As I embark on year two, I keep the following questions from Barsh and Cranston in mind: “Consider the next milestone in your career. Do you know what you have to do to achieve it? Do you believe that achieving it is in your control? What are you doing to reach that goal (192)?”

Reflections on #DHSI2015 #C32

From June 15 – 19, 2015, I attended the “Professionalizing the Early Career Digital Humanist: Strategies and Skills” workshop at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) at the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The workshop focused on developing professional and transferable skills that include building scholarly profiles on social media (e.g. LinkedIn, Academia.edu, ORCID), developing or improving a professional website, funding sources to support digital humanities projects, and considering how we may deploy these skills in graduate and undergraduate programs to support students’ professional development. The course summary notes: “These skills–knowledge mobilization, working collaboratively, maintaining an effective online presence, clear-language research communication, networking, project management–can help digital humanists ensure that their work has the greatest possible impact, and that they have the greatest possible opportunity to develop and deploy those skills where they wish.” Thank you to Melissa Dalgleish (@meldalgleish) and Daniel Powell (@djp2025) for a fruitful discussion, helpful tips, and advice last week.

To begin, please note that this is a lengthy post. I am hoping to provide substantive coverage of my week at DHSI. The intention of doing so is two-fold:

  1. I am aware that many graduate students and early career faculty (particularly from underrepresented communities) lack the resources or supports to attend professional development workshops such as DHSI. I was fortunate to receive a DHSI scholarship and support from my university to attend. Thank you to Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Maria Cimitile and Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies Dean Anne Hiskes. And thank you to my department chair, Wendy Burns-Ardolino for being supportive of my work and research.
  2. I am deeply committed to sharing what I’ve learned at conferences with colleagues and friends. We don’t do enough of this in the academy.

I have used sub-headers to guide your reading. This post is broken into segments that focus on the following:

  • Constructing an online presence
  • Nuts and Bolts of Websites
  • Funding Digital Humanities (DH) Projects and Example DH Projects
  • Major Takeaways (& what I hope to do at DHSI 2016)

For a deeper understanding of what occurred within the “Professionalizing the Early Career Digital Humanist: Strategies and Skills” workshop, I encourage you to view the Storify feed created by Jodine Perkins. For an in depth look at what occurred on specific days, check out “The Life DHSI” by Steve Anderson. Dan Royles also created a feed documenting the work of individuals in the “Data, Math, Visualization, and Intrepretation of Networks” workshop.

CONSTRUCTING AN ONLINE PRESENCE

Aware that one’s online presence is a construct, “Professionalizing the Early Career Digital Humanist: Strategies and Skills” sought to encourage participants to actively engage with how their image and information is being used across the web. The workshop emphasized the fact that each of us already has digital footprints from our use of Twitter and Facebook to LinkedIn and Google+ profiles. Yet many of individuals do not create a coherent link between these profiles. This could be detrimental because many first impressions between employers and colleagues may be based on what is “Google-able.”

PRO-TIP: Open an incognito tab in Google Chrome or turn on private browsing in Safari and Google yourself. What comes up first? Did you learn anything new about what people may find?

This portion of the workshop sought to ensure all participants gained confidence in exploring and deploying digital tools and developed the basic elements of a strong digital academic presence. Four questions we asked ourselves throughout the week were:

  1. What do you need to do?
  2. When do you need to do it?
  3. What are you doing it for?
  4. How much is enough?

We discussed how we could enhance existing digital profiles. For those with a limited online presence, they learned what tools would be best suited for their needs. This conversation was part of a wider discussion concerning professional websites and search engine optimization (SEO).

PRO-TIP: If you do not have a consistent, professional headshot for your profiles, ask your university if you can get one done. If you cannot ask your university, ask a friend. Using the same or a few of the same images will allow for consistency and coherency.

The two images below illustrate what appears when I searched for the following: GVSU Liberal Studies and Kimberly McKee GVSU.

GVSU Lib Studies Google Search results

Google Search Results for Kim McKee GVSU

The next image below shows the terms that directed individuals to my website on June 17, 2015, when interviews I completed with news outlets regarding Rachel Dolezal appeared in American media. (Please note that a separate post concerning why and how adoptees and allies including myself came together the week of June 15th will appear next week.)

Wordpress Search Terms

Knowing what terms are used to find my website gives me a better understanding of how people find me online. Again, it’s about recognizing that you have an existing digital footprint and taking control of your digital identity.

Yet what was extremely helpful for me as an advisor and colleague/friend to graduate students and early career faculty was our focus on creating professionalization plans. We kept the following questions in mind:

  • What type of advising and/or professional development opportunities do they need to successfully mark themselves as burgeoning professionals in their chosen fields?
  • How can we help them create a skills based resume on LinkedIn, for example, as well as on paper to adequately capture their capabilities?

In the case of LinkedIn, when promoting yourself for a particular job, we were encouraged to insert key skills associated with the job description under our names where one’s job title typically goes. We were also urged to change the summary description to ensure it’s tailored for the position. Because Melissa and Daniel recognize that sometimes those individuals looking at #altac careers, they also noted that we should ensure that our LinkedIn profile settings have been updated to ensure our “connections” are not receiving notifications when our profiles are updated.

When discussing Twitter, we reflected on the following questions:

  • How do we value the social media site and what is our presence?
  • Do we only tweet during conferences?
  • Is Twitter part of the broader way we network and build community?

Melissa and Daniel also noted that depending on our intellectual community connecting via Facebook may or may not be a norm. For me, I connect with individuals affiliate with Asian American Studies, Women’s Studies, and Adoption Studies via Facebook. In fact it was one method used to organize an upcoming 2015 National Women’s Studies Association roundtable and was how I received an invitation to write chapter in a forthcoming edited volume. The latter was a direct result of conversations I had with one of the co-editors at the Association for Asian American Studies conference.

NUTS AND BOLTS OF WEBSITES

The individual modules associated with professional development, more broadly (e.g. elevator pitch, tools for professionalization), built upon one another to allow workshop participants consider the development of a website to enhance their digital presence. We discussed concerns about privacy and whether sharing scholarship online may impede a contract with a university press or negatively impact a journal submission. This particular discussion also explored what it means to host one’s own domain (e.g. Reclaim Hosting) and then utilizing a plugin such as WordPress versus using WordPress directly.

As someone who came to the workshop with a working website based on the WordPress platform, I am looking into migrating my site to a new platform such as Reclaim Hosting in order to have more autonomy of my materials and files. I have yet to complete the migration process. I plan on looking into various options and making a decision within the year.

We compared two different website building platforms – WordPress versus Square Space and engaged in an active conversation about what happens when your ideal, first choice domain name is already taken. What are the costs benefits of buying .info, .net, .digital versus using .com? For me, I selected mckeekimberly.com because kimmckee.com and kimberlymckee.com were already taken.

A quick note about Square Space, many of my colleagues at the workshop who selected this option use many images, which Square Space seems more ready to handle in comparison to WordPress. This judgment is based on observing my colleague’s sites. Great examples of how images are used in Square Space from my class (#DHSI2015 #C32) are from Drew Barker, Greg Chan, and Allison Lange.

We also discussed best practices concerning what information we should include on our sites. Melissa and Daniel offered their knowledge and skills about to embed and link documents (e.g. Dropbox or Google Drive files), video (e.g. YouTube), sound (e.g. SoundCloud plugin, podcasts), images (e.g. Creative Commons Flickr images, Instagram), and social media plugins (e.g. Twitter).

While website design may seem periphery to how people conceive of digital humanities, if we’re engaged in digital humanities we should have an online presence. This presence should not just merely exist on it’s own. Rather, it should demonstrate our fluency and participation with the online world. And remember, we already have digital footprints.

Even if you do not want to build your own website, making sure your presence on the social networking sites mentioned above is clear, crisp, and coherent is critical. To this end, make sure your profile on your university website tells viewers who you are and what you do. Don’t forget that your scholarly presence intersects with your work in the digital humanities.

FUNDING DIGITAL HUMANITIES PROJECTS AND EXAMPLES OF DH RESEARCH

The final portion of our workshop highlighted various funding schemes offered by Canadian and American government and non-government organizations. Below are the funding streams applicable to the American context:

As we pursue various funding schemes, it’s important that we learn how to clearly discuss one’s project to digital humanities scholars and laypersons. They suggested look at Karen Kelsky’s grant template from The Professor is In.

Melissa and Daniel also underscored the fact that many of funding organizations are deeply invested in ensuring that digital humanities projects have professional development plans for undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdocs working on the project and knowledge mobilization plans concerning how we intend on disseminating our findings. Moreover, these digital projects may also have both digital and print components. How do these two aspects of the overall project interface and intersect with one another? An example of a digital project is Canada and the Spanish Civil War.

As part of the weeklong workshop, I also took part in broader institute presentations. Five minutes presentations during the final two colloquia of the DHSI discussed the use of TEI (Text Encoding Initiative), data mining, and network mapping across disciplines, including history, literature, and art history.[1] These presentations also showcased the deployment of various digital tools to strengthen humanities in the twenty-first century. For example, Lindsay Kang discussed data mining in her presentation, “Robots Reading Vogue.”

MAJOR TAKEAWAYS

This past week was a whirlwind of activity and skills building. After engaging in discussion with colleagues, I created my Academia.edu profile. I had yet to do so as I was not entirely sure of it’s “value-add.” In fact, I am still in the process of developing it and adding a list of publications and conference presentations. It is very much a work in progress. My goal is to at least improve its readability and content during the 2015/2016 academic year. This profile along with my Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ profiles are connected to my website.

Since I had an existing website, I used the time this week to ask myself questions concerning what information I want to share with viewers:

I continue to make revisions to my website. I realize that it is text-heavy, so I am striving to include more photos to make it more eye-catching and appealing. I recognize that my website is a work-in-progress that will evolve and change based on the nature of my research, teaching, and service. In addition, as a work-in-progress it reflects the fact that my digital identity will never be a static presence.

Finally, the learning that occurred during DHSI was not limited to the workshops. Rather through conversations with colleagues attending the other workshops occurring throughout Week Three, my interest was peaked in using digital tools such as text mapping, GIS, and data visualization. I have already begun to consider what workshop(s) I would like to attend during DHSI 2016 as new research projects become further developed.


[1] The first five occurred during Weeks One and Two of the Summer Institute.

The Benefits of Informal Mentoring

As I transition into my first year on the tenure-track, I continue to create and sustain relationships with mentors in various positions within the academy and at different institutions. Most importantly, I learned that mentors come in all forms and that many mentors come from unexpected places. This last piece I learned while participating in the National Women’s Studies Association Women of Color Leadership Project in November 2014 from Dr. Kaye Whitehead. And yet, I should not be surprised as the informal and formal mentors that have entered my life do not fit within a narrow mold.

My mentors range from senior scholars (read: full professors and associate professors) to junior scholars (read: those further along the tenure-track than myself) and peers (read: members of my tenure-track cohort, postdocs, and folks I knew from graduate school). I realize the categories are imprecise and if I unintentionally offended anyone, my apologies. However, it is important to realize that one should have mentors (peer-to-peer, junior-to-senior) to allow for a wide range of reciprocal learning.

I should emphasize that mentors not only come from unlikely places, they also do not solely exist in the formal mentoring spaces that I discussed earlier this week. Rather, I have met countless mentors along the way as I transitioned from my status as a master’s student to PhD student/candidate to postdoc to tenure track faculty member. These individuals and I crossed paths at conference, via introductions through other colleagues/friends, and because I just asked for their advice. For example, I am thankful for individuals like Kim Park Nelson, Eleana J. Kim, Tobias Hübinette, Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, and Liz Raleigh for bringing me under their academic wings when I first met them in 2007 as I researched and wrote my master’s thesis. Witnessing the beginnings of the field of Korean Adoption Studies is an impactful moment that I will not forget. Their mentoring, friendship, and kindness resulted in my current connections with a cohort of scholars in the fields of Adoption Studies and Asian American Studies.

I also continue to forge friendships with colleagues across disciplines. These relationships are critical when seeking feedback from perspectives outside of one’s own field. They bring a wealth of experience and new teaching strategies. It’s also refreshing to hear about how they facilitate discussion or deploy active learning in the classroom because someone in modern languages or chemistry will use methods that may benefit me in my humanities classroom.

If I could name everyone who has influenced and shaped my scholarship, teaching, and service, I would be one of those people at the Golden Globes or Oscars having the music play while I still am talking. Their cumulative friendship and mentorship has been meaningful and significant. I hope I can only do everyone justice as I continue to pay it forward.

As you consider your mentoring needs, I suggest that you develop a list of questions concerning research, teaching, service, the job market, etc. and contemplate who would be the best person out of your network to ask. And remember, mentors come in all shapes and sizes. Don’t be shocked when some of your best mentors come from unlikely places and those who you think will be kickass mentors end up not being interested in the job.

Paying it Forward

Gratefulness – a word adoptees hear often. And yet, the gratefulness I will be focusing on today is unrelated to adoption. Don’t worry readers, I will address the grateful, happy, well-adjusted mythic adoptee stereotype in the future. But today, I’m more interested in why I’m grateful for the constellation of mentors in my life. If you’re unfamiliar with cultivating a network of mentors and sponsors, you should check out the work of the National Center for Faculty Diversity and Development.

Please note: This is a lengthy blog post on formal avenues as I seek to create a one-stop shop for folks to find resources about mentoring, the job market, and transitioning from graduate student to junior faculty. I will be posting about informal avenues later this week.

Formal Mentoring Avenues

You should be proactive and consider whether or not you’re taking advantage of all the opportunities presented to you. While at The Ohio State University, I took advantage of the Preparing Future Faculty program offered by the graduate school. I also participated in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s Dissertation Bootcamp. Both programs provided the opportunity for me to meet various faculty and staff from across the institution. Graduate students should check to see if their institution offers similar opportunities. You also may find that your Departments or members of your cohort know of workshops or retreats concerning completing the dissertation, the academic job market, or alt-ac careers.

As a Consortium for Faculty Diversity postdoc at Grinnell College, I took advantage of the early career faculty mentoring program. I also become a part of a close-knit group of non-tenure track colleagues. At the same time I created strong friendships with those in my building who provided advice concerning teaching, research, and my on campus interview. Currently, I have two department assigned mentors and am participating in the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center’s First Year Faculty Mentoring program. To complement these formal paths of mentorship, I have also sought the advice from colleagues in various departments across the university.

In addition to the formal avenues found at the above-mentioned institutions, I explored the various offerings for individuals in my field. While a doctoral candidate I attended the Social Science Research Council’s Korean Studies Dissertation Workshop. The faculty mentors provided sound advice concerning my scholarship, but also publishing and the academic job market. This past fall I participated in the National Women’s Studies Association Women of Color Leadership Project and began to make connections with women in the North American Asian Feminist Collective. I have also benefited from the Association for Asian American Studies’ graduate student/postdoc mentoring program at their annual conference in 2013 and 2014. Program participants sign up to meet with faculty members from institutions across the United States. During the past two years, I selected women whose cumulatively body of work (research, teaching, service) I admire. This year I look forward to participating in the conference’s pre-conference program, Association for Asian American Studies/East of California Junior Faculty Retreat. (I plan to write a post about the conference and the retreat in April.)

Resources to Share

Yet like all academics, I sometimes want to turn to the written page (whether print or online) for advice. While the information below is not a comprehensive list, it is a compilation of the sources that I tend to share with friends and colleagues. In many ways these recommendations should be a starting point rather than being viewed as the “only” available options.

For Graduate Students

  • Paul Gray and David E. Drew, What They Didn’t Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career (Stylus Publishing, 2008)
  • Anne Curzan and Lisa Damour, First Day to Final Grade: A Graduate Student’s Guide to Teaching (University of Michigan Press, 2006)
  • Gregory M. Colón Semenza, Graduate Study for the Twenty-First Century: How to Build an Academic Career in the Humanities (Palgrave MacMillan, 2010, Second Edition)
  • Lang, Sarah N. (2015, February 17) “Let’s give service a real role.” The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Academic Job Market Advice

On Writing

  • Wendy L. Belcher, Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (Sage, 2009)
  • Paul J. Silvia, How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (American Psychological Association, 2007)
  • William Germano, From Dissertation to Book (University of Chicago Press, 2005)
  • William Germano, Getting it Published: A Guide for Scholars and Anyone Else Serious about Serious Books (University of Chicago Press, 2008, Second edition)
  • Eleanor Herman, Ian Montagnes, Siobhan McMenemy, and Chris Bucci, The Thesis and the Book: A guide to First-Time Academic Authors (University of Toronto Press, 2003)

For Postdocs/Early Career Faculty

  • Robert Boice, Advice for New Faculty Members (Pearson, 2000)
  • Kerry Ann Rockquemore and Tracey Laszloffy, The Black Academic’s Guide to Winning Tenure – Without Losing Your Soul (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2008)
  • Ellen A. Ensher and Susan E. Murphy, Power Mentoring: How Successful Mentors and Proteges Get the Most Out of Their Relationships (Jossey Bass, 2005)
  • Karen Kelsky at The Professor is In, “How to Write a Recommendation Letter”
  • Noah Berlatsky (2014, November 26) “My Nemesis, Jill Lepore.” The Chronicle of Higher Education.

For Faculty of Color and Allies

What I have found to be particularly helpful are the daily and/or weekly article digests from The Chronicle of Higher Education, Chronicle Vitae, Inside Higher Ed, and the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity.

As I noted at the beginning of this section, this is not an exhaustive list. Rather, my intention is to share the resources that I have found to be helpful and pass it along. And for those curious to know what’s on my bookshelf, these are the following professional development books that I am aiming to read in 2015 (and maybe 2016):

  • Dwayne Mack, Elwood D. Watson, and Michelle Madsen Camacho, Mentoring Faculty of Color: Essays on Professional Development and Advancement in Colleges and Universities, (McFarland, 2012)
  • Dwayne Mack, Elwood D. Watson, and Michelle Madsen Camacho, Beginning a Career in Academia: A Guide for Graduate Students of Color, (Routledge, 2014)
  • Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, Marie K. Norman, and Richard E. Mayer, How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (Jossey-Bass, 2010)
  • Therese Huston, Teaching What You Don’t Know (Harvard University Press, 2012)
  • Linda K. Shadiow, What Our Stories Teach Us: A Guide to Critical Reflection for College Faculty (John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2013)

So what do I mean by “pay it forward?”

I firmly believe in sharing the advice that I find to be particularly valuable. My intention is to create the beginnings of a dialogue where we discuss what it means to combine our collective knowledge. Pooling our resources is mutually beneficial for all involved. Sharing our experiences and advice demystifies the academy and breaks down walls of isolation that may occur. To that end, if you haven’t had the chance to the view the CFP for the edited volume I’m collaborating on with a colleague from Ohio State, check it out.

If you have suggestions of resources that you would like to share with me and my readers, please email me at mckeeki [at] gvsu [dot] edu. As I receive recommendations of resources, I will compile a new list.

I realize this post took a much different tone than my first post. If you’re interested in my thoughts on adoption, Asian American issues/activism, and popular culture, I hope you stay along for the ride.