Career: Academic Advising

career /kəˈrir/

verb [no obj.]

To move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction.

[Ed. Note: This is the first post under the category “Career,” in which I explore topics related to my current job and what I am going to do with the rest of my professional life. At present, I am so betwixt and between that I am thinking more in terms of the verb form of the word than the noun.]

I am trying to choose what course to take in the spring, and it’s complicated. First, there is the issue of what course to take, because I have six more prerequisites to pick up if I want to keep the nursing option open. I have done well so far in my human development class (straight As, thank you very much!), but I am terrified of stats and biology. Should I take nutrition or bioethics–the two I am more likely to do well in–and get my feet under me? Or should I push on to human anatomy & physiology? The difference could mean delaying application to a program by a year, based on when courses are offered, so it’s not an incidental decision. What should I do?

NO, SERIOUSLY, WHAT SHOULD I DO? Feel free to tell me in the comments!

The other concern is where to take a class. I can take another course at the local community college, but there are educational, scheduling, and financial considerations: I don’t think the instruction will be as good, I will have to spend more time in the car during what will be a crushing semester, and I will have to bear the tuition cost myself. If I take a course at the university where I work, the instruction might be better, the scheduling would be somewhat easier, and the tuition would be free. But this is a fraught option.

My main concern with taking a course where I work is that I might blow my cover. I am more likely to run into colleagues and especially students I know, who might wonder why they have a humanities professor for their lab partner. The biggest worry is that my department chair would have to sign off on the tuition waiver, which is standard for staff but highly unusual for faculty. He might wonder what I am up to, especially if I continue to register for nursing prerequisites. And he might later penalize me on my annual evaluation for not using my free time to pad my CV.

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Fun with autocomplete!

This is one of the things I don’t like about my current job. Being an academic involves the performance of scholarship and smarty-pantsedness under the constant scrutiny of one’s colleagues. And, despite their liberal pretensions, my colleagues are totally heteronormative about it! No one would bat an eye if I took time out to make a baby, but the challenges of being a single gal–emergency shopping to get ready for yet another first date, patching up your broken heart after yet another breakup, to say nothing of, say, picking up undergraduate prerequisites to start a new career–would not pass muster. Working where I work is like having ten sets of disappointed parents who judge you for not living up to their expectations.

You might be wondering, “Who gives a s**t what they think? Don’t you have tenure?”  I do, yes, and it is wonderful! But tenure doesn’t mean what people think it means. At a public university, it simply means “appointment without term,” which is essentially the condition under which most people work: you have a job until you don’t. The benefit of tenure is that they can only fire you for cause, not to save money or for the content of your research. Yea for academic freedom! Which, in all sincerity, is extremely important, and I will defend its necessity to my dying day.

Despite these blessings,  tenure doesn’t guarantee continued professional success. At my university, a professor’s research productivity is regularly evaluated for three reasons: promotion, performance-based raises, and teaching load. Spending time learning about human development is not helping me write my second book, which is the key to my next promotion. Also, failure to perform up to expectation will result in smaller raises, though it’s hard to imagine them being smaller than they have been for the last several years! Most concerning, if I don’t produce enough publications, my department could raise my teaching load to intellectual jackhammering levels, making my job no longer worth having.

In short, I have a lot to lose.

It’s ok (I tell myself). I will figure it out (I tell myself). I will be ok no matter what (I tell myself).


Don’t career.



One thought on “Career: Academic Advising

  1. Pingback: Mercy & Grand

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