Beki Grinter

Posts Tagged ‘academic summer’

Summer Service part 2

In academia, academic management, discipline, research on May 3, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Recently I wrote a post about summer service. I said a number of things but I’ve been reflecting on a portion of the post…

I’m blocking all of June and July. I have no availability during these months. Note that that’s just two months, not the full three. And I am also not sure what I will do about students who want to defend or propose. I know people who will not participate over the summer because of this lack of compensation. That seems too extreme to me. But I’m also not making those months available for scheduling yet, because what I do already know that I like about this model is that I have the opportunity to plan some extended travel to go work with colleagues elsewhere.

It actually turns out that one of the reasons I have to block this is because I am trying to schedule some travel, and that’s going more slowly than I thought. And I should likely have phrased this that I want these months to be available to me for my research and for collaborations that I cannot have during the school year because I am required to be here. I miss the days of my PhD (and to an extent Industrial Research) where I had opportunities to plan travel to visit people. The rhythms of classes and service during the academic year make that hard and unfair to students and colleagues. After two industrial jobs and a PhD was surprised and unused to the structuring rhythms of the academic year, so the summer reminds me of those times when I was free to organize my schedule as I chose.

I’ve also learned through responses to this message that some departments have a uniform policy that students cannot graduate during the summer, or are strongly discouraged from doing so, in order to make a space for faculty to be able to leave and do work. We don’t have that at Georgia Tech and perhaps that’s why there are more perspectives on what purpose the summer has.


Goodbye Summer, Hello Academic School Year

In academia, academic management, computer science, discipline on August 18, 2010 at 4:29 pm

It’s the end of the academic summer. Actually it’s three working days from the end of the academic summer. Classes start next week. Those three days matter, I am clinging on to them with a type of mental fervor that is not to be underestimated (or is that misestimated).

Those three days represent everything I am going finish this summer. That would include my course preparation, the books I’m going to read, and clearly the papers and grants I am going to write. Three days, that should be enough.

The academic summer is a bit like the academic weekend. Friday is a time to imagine all the wonderful things that will be accomplished over the weekend. And then it starts, and stuff does get done, but not everything that is imagined, because I think like many of my colleagues I imagine that I will complete more than I can realistically achieve, especially if I also then do what I should which is take time off, go on vacation, and spend time with family.

The academic summer is also like the academic bag. Approach a colleague and ask them to remove the contents of their bag, focusing particularly on the tools of the job. How many have articles that they have intended to read in their bag for a) six weeks, b) six months or c) six years. One of the advantages of going to France was that for a time I was printing in A4, and so I could easily date those articles. Eventually I purchased a smaller bag and that seems to have solved some of this, but like the summer, like the weekend, the bag is also a place of academic imaginations.

So, my academic summer is almost over. Following FemaleScienceProfessor I was careful to compartmentalize my time this summer, and I feel I got some great things done. Computing at the Margins was moved forward, I did some writing, reading, etc. I saw my first student graduate, yay!

And there is much to look forward to with the new academic year. New students, undergraduates and graduates will arrive. Their excitement about starting a program at Georgia Tech, perhaps mixed with a tinge of intrepidation, is the adventure of a new bachelors, a professional degree, their entry into research. That they give to us, entrust in us, those ambitions, their hopes and fears, what an honour. There is also the privilege of teaching classes which I view as the opportunity to play a role in helping individuals develop knowledge. I think it’s a team process.

So, it’s really all good. But it’s different. It’s a departure from a schedule that is mostly mine to one that is a combination. It’s time to finish preparing for a class I’ve never taught. Ho hum. Classes more generally remind me of being on stage. I get pre-performance nerves. In addition to my performance, I also become the one person everyone knows, while I struggle to learn everyone’s names. And so, I’m clinging to these last days of summer, deferring anxieties about what is to come, and wondering whether my colleagues are too.

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.