Beki Grinter

the Academic Summer

In academia, academic management on June 21, 2010 at 11:54 am

I love Female Science Professor, the blog. It’s fascinating, and I recommend it to academics, especially women, but also men.

So, two fairly recent posts focused on the Academic Summer, and while I don’t completely agree with her posts, I think that there are some important issues here.

First and foremost. Most professors, a.k.a. those who are not administrators, do not get paid by their Institution for the summer. That’s right, right now I am NOT being paid by Georgia Tech. I am being paid either by a grant of some type or not at all. How people are funded or not, at least in my experience, remains somewhat confidential.

And yes it does change my relationship to the Institute. I don’t think I am as extreme as some of the decisions reported in her post on the topic. For example, I have two thesis defenses scheduled for the summer, and I’m not annoyed that that’s the case, although I do wonder whether the financing questions that she raises in the other post pertain.

But, I have decided this year to be far more conscious of what I do do in the summer. I’ve decided to work from home a lot more. That really helps with protracted stretches of concentration, reduced disruption. I am still working, I am working more effectively, but the office is not a place for that, at least not for me — partially because my claustrophobia means that I have to work with the door open…

I’m also making more time for things that require long stretches of time. I know that sounds like a statement of the obvious. What I mean is that I am trying to reduce the number of things on the to-do list and order them so that I spend days on the same thing. Days, that’s a luxury in the academic year, but I think it’s what the summer is meant for.

To that end, and probably to the annoyance of some of my colleagues, I’ve decided that I’m not going to accept some reviewing assignments. Reviewing, even when it is a short document, is a context switch, to read, to write, to reflect on, etc… the material under review. That’s not just the time away from the other projects I have, but the cost of the context  switch away from what I should, according to my salary be working on. I’ve slowed down my response to a variety of email as well. I’m trying not to let the immediate disrupt and gain advantage over the important.

But I will be reading and attending dissertation defenses, I will be meeting with my students as and when they need, and going to the office every now and again is a good way of staying connected to colleagues who are also collaborators, mentors, and friends. I’m trying to balance this summer selfishness (if you can call a focus on research and scholarship selfish) with the fact that I work in an environment with a very healthy and positive collegiality.

So that’s my academic summer, just two more months left.


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