Can I just take a moment today to talk about how much I LOVE my job and how fortunate I am to have it?
I LOVE working in academia. I love feeling like my job actually matters and that I can impact the minds of our future workforce. I love feeling like I’m contributing to something larger and helping to grow a movement of evidence-based teaching across the campus community (and abroad).
For newer readers, you may not be familiar with my career trajectory thus far.
I graduated with my Ph.D in 2013. I had one-year-old twin girls at the time.
I had a brief postdoc, which turned into a part-time research position when the person I worked with moved and took all her funding with her to another university. From there, I started picking up side-jobs. I adjunct taught at the community college and then began working with a prestigious university (not in my area) doing online teaching. It was incredibly convenient. I was piecing together full-time work while working in fully remote position, from home, taking care of my young twin daugthers.
It all happened though connections I’d made while I was still a graduate student (never underestimate the power of networking!)
I continued on with that (basically 2 jobs: the part-time research position for one university; and an online instructor for another university) for about 2 years.
Then in 2015, I applied for my current position: a full-time non tenure-track faculty position.
Maybe it was luck or maybe it was fate, but I received the call with a job offer while I was literally sitting in a waiting room at a doctor’s office with my Dad in Utah. I officially began my employment in August 2015. The same exact month that my Dad was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Degeneration (also known as frontotemporal dementia).
As things with my Dad and my sister started on a downhill trajectory, I’m fortunate that the trajectory with my career was shooting upward.
Just over a year ago – around last December – I was offered a position at another university. It led to a bit of a “bidding war” and culminated with me being able to stay where I’m at, but with a huge boost in salary. I didn’t give numbers at the time, but have since admitted I went from a $55,000/year contract to a $95,000/year contract. That new contract went into effect this past August, only 2 years after I started my job here.
I love what I do, but I’m also not necessarily a typical academic. I’m passionate about student learning and success (especially in an online forum, as this is a growing market), but I am also strategic in considering my own career advancement opportunities. I’ve been drawn toward administration and have taken active measures to meet various folks from across different departments and different offices around campus. I’ve made lots of connections and people have come to see me as a bit of a “mover and shaker,” if you will. There are certainly challenges (I’m a female and I’m quite young compared to my colleagues, most of whom are at least 10 years my senior), but I’ve been lucky to be involved in some pretty cool projects. I’ve learned a lot this last couple years.
So when a university fellowship was announced (coming with a $20,000/year stipend), I jumped at the chance to apply. It was due just before the winter break and I heard in early January that I wasn’t selected as the fellow. I thought I was a great fit so of course I was bummed, but not too discouraged. Again, I realize how “green” I am, and I was just proud of myself for going through the application process (which was akin to applying for a Federal grant in terms of the format of the application packet, all the required materials, etc.). As part of the application, I had to pitch a project I would work on as a Fellow – something the money was going to help fund. My project was an extension of work I’m already doing. Most of the funds in my proposed budget went toward salary and course release. The actual project cost is very low. But I had an interesting and perhaps “new” idea. I don’t think of it as too innovative, but I guess others did. It just made sense to me. Like a “duh! Why is this not already happening” type of idea.
So it caught the eye of someone in the Provosts’ office. If you’re unfamiliar with the structure of academia, the Provost often deals with budgets and oversees curriculum, instruction, and faculty affairs. Our provost also oversees student engagement, student success, and so on. My project proposal hit on all of these areas.
So I didn’t get the fellowship award. But I went and met with someone from the Provosts’ office recently and was told, effectively, that we may create a new fellowship award just for me. That the project I wanted to work on was important and worthy of pursuit, even though I wasn’t the official fellowship awardee.
Officially, I was told no promises could be made. But unofficially, I was told this would likely be moving forward. I’d already sent my fellowship proposal. Now I was asked for additional budget details and everything I said was met with a nod and excitement. $20,000 to me seems like a lot of money. But I guess when you’re overseeing budgets on a university-level, $20k is considered a “small investment” and a “low start-up cost.”
I don’t know what will happen. Again – no contracts signed, no promises made.
But I’m excited and encouraged. Again. I really love my job. I feel fortunate to be here and to have such a supportive environment. I really do feel like I’m at the forefront of my field and that I can effect positive change on a magnitude much larger than the scope of my own department. I’ve only been in my position for 2.5 years at this point. Maybe, with any luck, by the start of Year 3 I’ll have this new fellowship listed as part of my honors and distinctions. You know, the fellowship that was created out of thin air just for me??? It’s a lofty dream. But I was assured that this is the perfect time for the type of project I’ve proposed and I’m ready and eager to take off with it. Fingers crossed things move forward! I’ll keep you updated! 😉
Have you had any work successes lately? What has been your latest great accomplishment (at work or otherwise)?