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  • Advice

    The Plight of the Newly Tenured

    For Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, the “gentleman-tradesman” was an “amphibious creature,” a “land-water-thing.” I am in the similarly neither/nor (or both/and) position of the newly tenured associate professor, laboring as a tradesman with my research, teaching, and service but poised to enjoy the…
  • Advice

    Service Masochists

    I felt unappreciated in my first tenure-track job. Sure, I loved my colleagues and students, received positive teaching evaluations, and tried hard to get my research on track. I forged close connections with some of my colleagues and tried to learn the department culture. I did what was asked of…
  • Advice

    Entering the Fog

    I was an undergraduate at a small New England college. It was like being at a Wilco concert in a small club where you see the band up close and personal. Students, professors, and administrators stood -- if not exactly shoulder to shoulder -- then within spitting distance of one another. In…
  • Advice

    Should a Mentor Be a Friend?

    I am trying very hard not to screw up a relationship that feels like the most substantial and professionally important of my career to this point. That relationship also feels like one of the most satisfying personal connections I have made in the past several years, and I find myself not knowing…
  • Advice

    Speak Only Twice

    I’ve spent more than a few afternoons this summer reciting Robert’s Rules of Order to my infant son. He’s at that very early age when tone of voice counts for more than character, setting, or plot. Inflecting my voice in a certain way sends him into peals of laughter. Sometimes, at a particularly…
  • Advice

    Part Gatekeeper, Part Huckster

    In his third voyage, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver visits the island of Laputa, a land populated by geniuses of the abstract whose minds are so attuned to the movement of the stars and to geometrical science that they require “flappers,” servants who will slap them across the face when their attention…
  • Advice

    When Hitting Reply Means Forever

    Forget blogging, most of my colleagues can’t even handle a listserv. Our department, like many others, uses an e-mail discussion list to trumpet faculty accomplishments, announce meetings and speakers, and ask for baby-sitting help. I love the instant communication. Although I sometimes wish it…
  • Advice

    Administrative Trials and Errors

    “Damn it.” I had cut my finger. It was 5:30 p.m., and I expected my first guests in a half hour. A bit of blood oozed onto a cube of cantaloupe. I resisted the urge to rinse it off and toss it into the bowl next to its brethren cubes. After performing a little triage, I moved on to the honeydew…
  • Advice

    The Grand Poobah

    At a recent department gathering, a colleague approached me and said, “So I understand you’re ‘The Man Who Would be King’?” I looked at him and squinted my eyes. “The Grand Poobah? Chairman of the Governing Council of Iraq?” he teased. I knew what he meant, but I was having none of it. “The grad…
  • Advice

    Notes From the Hiring Season

    In Plato’s Symposium, Aristophanes describes love as an attempt to recapture a lost wholeness: “Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other half.” The search for an academic job operates in a similar…