New! Hey Jane Column: Finding Grants

October 20, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Posted in Funding, Hey Jane Column, Writing | 1 Comment

HEY JANE!

What’s the best way to find out about available grants?

JANE SAYS:

There is no one way, but many. If you are a grad student, make sure you talk with your mentors (plural!) about funding sources in your areas of interest. Distinguish between fellowships and grants, as the former are usually for you alone whereas the latter often require a faculty PI to sign off on your behalf.  Also, don’t forget to check both private (foundations etc.) and public (government) sources of funding. If you are an international student, you will not be eligible for fellowships/grants from government sources unless you are a permanent resident; private organizations make up their own eligibility rules. Exception to the exception: international students can compete for grant/fellowship competitions internally held at your institution.  But in general, for non-nationals, private foundations become an important lifeline.

Apart from your mentors, check with your graduate school – they often have a website devoted to upcoming competitions, both internal and external. If your grad school doesn’t, check the grad school websites of top-10 schools around the country.  Remember that they often post deadlines way too late for you to tailor your project, get it through the required official channels – including signatures from financial officers (whatever your school calls its “Office of Sponsored Programs” or “Grants Management”) and Human Subjects Approval (sometimes needed at time of application, other times needed at time funding is scheduled to start). So think about funding sources one year before you actually need to apply. Most of these deadlines are recurrent, on an annual basis.

Also, read the acknowledgments often printed on the bottom of the first page of articles, and at the start of books.  It tells you who has supported that research – and thus can give you ideas for who might support yours. And talk to older graduate students, both in your department and outside. Don’t cast yourself too narrowly. Maybe your approach to research makes you eligible for humanities or hard-science based funding opportunities?

If you are already post-dissertation stage, which grants and fellowships you can apply for depends on whether you are in academia, or whether you are working e.g., for a non-profit or research facility.  If you are an academic, the same rules apply.  Key is now to make sure you are applying for grants aimed at your target group (e.g., junior profs, or post-docs).

Finally, keep in mind the NIH for health-related (broadly conceived) work, and the NSF for sociology more generally. NSF funds quantitative, qualitative, and comparative-historical research, and is particularly interested in funding data collection (rather than simply funding data analysis of existing data). Many foundations support sociological research, including SSRC, Russell Sage, Spencer, Sloan, Guggenheim, William T. Grant, and many others. It is worth meeting with the grants/foundations relations people at your university to see if they have ideas about where to look. Seed grant money can also come from the ASA Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline.

What are the components to a grant proposal? Where can I get samples of successful grant applications?

A successful grant proposal should show that it (a) is about an important topic, one with real relevance to the world outside of sociology (even when it is basic research), (b) is being carried out by someone who knows the relevant literature and is likely to produce the research (funding a proposal is taking a gamble; the review panel will try to increase their odds), and (c) has a strong research design, one that is likely to yield useful and important insights.

There are lots of guides available online, and the following essay contains great information:  http://fellowships.ssrc.org/art_of_writing_proposals/.

In addition to following general rules about how to organize a grant proposal, make sure you read, and follow, the funding agency’s actual grant guidelines. For instance, if they request information about the broader impact your research will have or how it relates to the funding agency’s mission, make sure you address this head on.  How to get examples? If you know someone who got a grant/fellowship from an agency where you want to apply (say, NSF, or Ford Foundation), ask them. Many funding agencies will list their most recent grant recipients online.  Even if the proposals are not posted, contact the recipients and ask them to share their recipe for success (or even the grant proposal).  They are your peers – probably just a year or two ahead of you in grad school/tenure track – and you will likely continue to run into each other at conferences down the road.

What are some issues to keep in mind when applying for funding for a quantitative project? For a qualitative project?

Regardless of your methodology, your proposal needs to demonstrate the elusive theory-method-data link. Make sure you understand this part: Most proposals get rejected because that link is broken.  For example, if you propose to study how gender identity shapes people’s conflict resolution strategies, doing interviews may not produce the most accurate picture.  Perhaps an experimental design, or a survey would be better.  If you want to examine how different policy contexts affect educational outcomes, you need to be clear about whether your theory is better designed to explain cross-sectional or longitudinal policy-outcome trends, and use the appropriate data.

Apart from that, good proposals, regardless of methodology, demonstrate that the PI has (or will acquire) the skills to complete this project in the intended timeframe, that the data can actually yield answers to the questions asked, and that the concepts being invoked can be gauged reasonably well with the data available. Providing the funding agency with a table of what your data sources are, what variables you will use to gauge which concepts (if quantitative) or what your coding scheme is likely to look like if collecting your own qualitative data can go a long way to getting approved.

Beware of falling into the trap of thinking that quantitative proposals have a better chance of getting funded.  It’s the theory-method-data link that remains key.  Unfortunately, in my own experience as a reviewer, some proposals simply fail because they come across as what we call “trust me” proposals – in other words, the reviewers get the impression that the PI is on a fishing expedition but fails to verbalize a clear research question, or expectations grounded in one or several (competing or complementary) theories, or seems to engage in haphazard data collection/analysis. Continue Reading New! Hey Jane Column: Finding Grants…

New! Hey Jane Column: Preparing for a Job Talk

July 26, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Posted in Hey Jane Column, Job Market | Leave a comment

HEY JANE!

I am currently on the market and preparing for my first campus interview. What advice can you offer as I prepare my job talk?

JANE SAYS:

The job talk is one of the most significant phases of the campus interview process. While a good job talk will not ensure that you will be offered the position, a bad job talk may very well disqualify you from further consideration by the search committee. In addition, your handling of the Q&A is an important piece of the job talk. Delivering a solid, well-organized job talk and Q&A session is thus essential to performing well during the campus interview process.

SO WHAT ARE THE COMPONENTS OF A GOOD JOB TALK?

A good talk is a clear talk. You should organize your job talk around a clear question, a clear argument, and a clear conclusion. It’s a good idea to simplify your basic argument (summed up in a sentence or two), state it explicitly both at the beginning and the end of the talk, elaborating on the simplified argument throughout the rest of the talk. In order to construct a well-organized presentation, the substance of the talk should be clearly framed around your argument. You want to make sure you don’t draw the audience into a thicket of other issues. Structure the talk like a story. Make clear what you are asking, why your research question matters and how you have answered your research question. It is also vital that you clearly address the “so, what?” question! Be certain that the title of your talk reflects the argument you’ll be making as well.

A good talk is on something you know well. Resist the urge to develop a talk around something new, a line of inquiry that you have not yet fully fleshed out or examined in the work you’ve completed thus far. Choose a dissertation chapter with which you’ve developed a good bit of familiarity, even one you have already published or submitted for publication. It will take a lot of the stress out of the preparation of the talk, and you will look a lot more knowledgeable and smooth. There are times to take risks; this is not one of them.

A good talk is interesting to the broad range of sociologists or interdisciplinary scholars that will be listening to the talk. The job talk differs from the presentation of a conference paper in that it is more an introduction to your intellectual biography and research agenda, not a talk geared specifically toward subfield specialists. So don’t write a talk that is focused for a specialty audience or journal. Write a talk that has clear relevance outside of your subfield, one that will allow the audience to connect with your arguments.  Don’t use highly technical or specialized terms, and if you are presenting sophisticated statistical analyses that some may not be familiar with, present them as simply as possible, but offer to answer any additional questions during the Q&A portion of the talk. In the same vein, rather than focusing narrowly on the significance of your work within your subfield (or within your discipline, for those interviewing for positions in multidisciplinary departments), make clear the broader context of your work and its implications in the wider world. Continue Reading New! Hey Jane Column: Preparing for a Job Talk…

Hey Jane says: Back up your work!

July 16, 2009 at 3:40 pm | Posted in Technology, Writing | Leave a comment

Do you regularly back up your work? Your data? Your photographs and videos?

Most people would probably answer no to that question.

But hard drives die. Everyone knows someone who has had a hard drive die beyond retrieving anything from it. Don’t let it happen to you!

I didn’t used to back up my computer’s contents regularly, and I’m still guilty of not regularly backing up photographs. But, about a year ago I started using Mozy.com’s free back up service, and now every single morning at 8am, a complete back up is made of my most important folders– i.e. my dissertation folder, job market folder, and teaching folder. I don’t have to even think about the back up or remember to do it. It just happens. To back up my entire hard drive I have to plug it into an external drive, so that happens less often. Even so, I know that everything has been backed up at least once a month. And the important stuff, once a day. And that’s peace of mind!

Here’s some links to advice on how to keep regular back ups:

Commuter Relationships (From the Hey Jane archives)

June 11, 2009 at 8:38 pm | Posted in Work/Life Balance | Leave a comment

HEY JANE!

“My partner and I have both been offered fantastic jobs in different states.  We are trying to decide whether or not to attempt a commuter relationship, what advice can you give us?”

JANE SAYS:

Congratulations on your job offers. Should you decide to begin a commuter relationship, much of your experience will be unique to you and your partner and your individual personalities and relationship dynamics.

Let me begin by saying that some people report many positive aspects of commuter relationships. If the job opportunities that present themselves are as fantastic as you suggest, then your actual work lives might be much more satisfying than if you accepted less than fantastic jobs in the same location.  Also consider the joy of eating whatever you want for dinner, whenever you want to; having flexibility in your daily schedule; having
time to write without interruption, to develop friendships, or to attend an evening lecture without cutting in to “couple time.”  Some of this may not be possible if you have children and are the primary parent.  However, there are also some positive aspects of being the primary parent in your children’s lives. You can develop special routines and rituals and have more flexibility in those routines as well as be involved in the children’s school and other activities.  While being the primary parent can be exhausting, it also has some great
rewards.

With that said, there are some challenges that you may want to consider as you make your decision. Continue Reading Commuter Relationships (From the Hey Jane archives)…

What kind of retirement plans do I need to make? (From the Hey Jane Archives)

June 5, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Posted in Retirement | Leave a comment

HEY JANE!

“I’m beginning to think about retiring from academia and I hear people talk about “planning” for retirement – what kinds of plans do I need to make?”

JANE SAYS:

First let me say, congratulations on reaching this new chapter in your life. Often when people refer to “planning for retirement” they mean making sure their finances are in order.  That is certainly an important piece of the puzzle; however, there are a few other things that you might want to take into account as you transition into retirement.

When to retire:

  • You may (or may not) want to consider the timing of your retirement. On a political level, the interests of your department (or specialty area) might be a factor. Will your line be renewed or terminated?  Will it remain in your department?  Will it remain in your area of specialization?
  • Another issue to consider is that you may need to start planning well in advance in order to take advantage of your final paid sabbatical.  The rules at most universities require a person to return for a full year after a sabbatical (see Hey Jane column 13). This means that one has to determine when she is eligible for a sabbatical and plan at least three years in advance to coordinate sabbatical and retirement: a year to apply for sabbatical, a year to go on sabbatical, and a year to come back to campus before retirement.
  • The progress of your graduate students may influence the timing of your retirement.  Would you want to be able to continue directing theses and dissertations? Would you be allowed to do so after retirement? Some universities require emerita status in order to continue serving on graduate student committees (more about emerita status below).
  • Grants and grant funds might be an issue as well. Once again, emerita status may allow you to apply for grants to be administered by the university and to use grant funds you have already been awarded.  If you are receiving (or expecting) grant money, you should check with your research office and/or the funding agency to clarify the details. You may find yourself in a situation where a grant is postponed until after you are scheduled to retire.  You may not be allowed to receive salary from the grant after retirement, but may be able to continue to receive expenses.  There is likely to be a great deal of variety depending on the grant.
  • Service on key committees may influence the timing of your retirement. No one is indispensable, but sometimes the right senior person can make a difference on a project or an important committee. Once again, emerita status may allow you to continue to serve on department or university committees after retirement.

Emerita status: Continue Reading What kind of retirement plans do I need to make? (From the Hey Jane Archives)…

Can I cite my friend’s work in my own? (From the Hey Jane Archives)

May 29, 2009 at 8:26 pm | Posted in Networking, Professional Development, Publishing | Leave a comment

HEY JANE!

“I want to cite my friend’s work in my new book, but I don’t know if it is appropriate to do because of our relationship. I don’t want to recreate the ‘Old Boys Network’ of which I’ve always been critical.”

JANE SAYS:

I say, if the work is relevant to cite, of course you should cite it!  You should also let your colleague know that you have cited her.  It is particularly important for young scholars to know when and where they have been cited for tenure and promotion consideration.  And citations in books are often harder to track than citations in articles.  I would also add that if your friend’s work is good, you might consider assigning it in your classes, recommending it to other colleagues, and nominating it for an award.

While the exclusivity of the so-called “Old Boys Network” can be very frustrating, we could all learn a thing or two about self-promotion, networking, and supporting our colleagues.  In fact the mission of organizations like SWS is, in part, to do these things in a more inclusive way than the “Old Boys” model.  Unfortunately, after 10 years in the discipline, I am just learning some of these things, but many SWS members do them very well. Hopefully the lists of ideas below will spur the listserv to generate more ideas for all of us.

Suggestions for supporting and promoting our colleagues: Continue Reading Can I cite my friend’s work in my own? (From the Hey Jane Archives)…

Teaching Tips & Links from Professor Jane

May 19, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Posted in Films/Documentaties, Teaching & Mentoring | Leave a comment

Signs announces a new publication reviewing films for the feminist classroom. Check out the reviews in issue the first issue.

Included films: My Daughter the Terrorist, No! The Rape Documentary, Living on the Fault Line, Where Race and Family Meet, Slumdog Millionaire, The Breast Cancer Diaries

And Jessie over at Thinking at the Interface has a fantastic list of documentaries for classroom use.

The New York Times has an article on the video “The Story of Stuff” about the effects of consumption.

Tomorrow’s Professor has a great article on testing and grading strategies.

A few guidelines about testing and grading can help instructors to: (1) strengthen the process of instruction, (2) clarify the diagnostic value of testing, (3) make a fair assessment of what each student knows, and (4) report this achievement through grades.

And the Everyday Sociology Blog has a great piece on “cognitive dissonance” and sociology classes. I’m tempted to send my summer students as required reading. What do you think?

Jane Recommends [Links]

May 12, 2009 at 2:43 am | Posted in Publishing, Technology, Writing | Leave a comment

Historiann has an interesting post about reputation and measures of quality in women’s history journals— mentions Gender & Society.

Historiann has another great post, this time on “opting out”– reminding us all we have the power to say no and not participate in discussions and situations that may be unhealthy for us.

Becky over at the Every Day Sociology Blog writes about using participant observation to study subcultures and includes recommendations for further reading.

Tomorrow’s Professor Blog has tips on writing before you’re ready and avoiding writer’s block.

There are some great suggestions for Internet tools for PhD students (and not only for students) over at 32 Days Remaining.

Lifehacker recommends a new Firefox addon to keep you from goofing off online when you should be working.

On the Job Market When You Have a Tenure Track Job (From the Hey Jane Archives)

May 1, 2009 at 1:24 am | Posted in Job Market, New Faculty, Tenure | Leave a comment

HEY JANE!

“Although I already have a tenure-track job, I have decided to go back on the job market.  I’m afraid that if I don’t include a letter of reference from a colleague in my current department, then the search committees will think that I am underperforming in my current job.  What advice can you give me about informing my current departmental colleagues about my job search?”

JANE SAYS:

Generally, pre-tenure, it’s not advisable to let it be widely known that you are on the job market.  Despite your actual reasons for searching, people will come up with their own interpretations.  They may assume that you are unhappy in the department, that you are just trying to get a raise, or that you are afraid that you might not be granted tenure.  All of these interpretations may influence the way you are treated in your department by some people.

With that said, I think it is assumed in academia (and in most fields) that everyone is potentially always on the job market and if they find another job that improves their lives, they might resign.   One big difference between academia and other fields is that our job searches are spread out over a much longer time frame than most.  This leaves us with a much longer time period to feel like we are “keeping a secret.” I’ve known people who love their jobs and love their departments, but simply want to move to a different geographic location.  Because they have supportive colleagues, they feel guilty about even looking for another job.  There’s no need to feel guilty, I think most people understand that you “have to do what you have to do.”

As far as a letter of recommendation, if you have a departmental colleague whom you really trust to be confidential, you could ask her or him to be a reference.  It can certainly be handy to have a letter that says “so-and-so is an amazing scholar, teacher, colleague and human being who would be a terrific addition to your faculty.  We really would hate to lose so-and-so, but our loss would be your gain.” However, that letter doesn’t have to come from someone in your department, but might come from a trusted colleague in another department at your institution.  If it is simply not possible to ask anyone at your institution for a recommendation, don’t fret, search committees understand the delicacy of applying for jobs while you are currently employed.

As for informing the rest of your departmental faculty, I would say wait until you have a written offer on the table.  However, if you are hoping to receive a counter-offer from your home institution, you will probably need to begin talking with your chair and/or dean with only a verbal offer.

Once you are tenured, job hunting is a whole different story.  At this point, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for a letter from a departmental colleague.  Ideally, you wouldn’t want to bother people for letters until you have made a short-list based on your CV, however, some searches will request letters right away.  In this case, you might contact the search committee and ask if you can postpone letters of recommendation until the short-list phase of the search. At this level, there is still no need to widely inform people of your search, however, once you’ve been invited to interview, it’s probably okay to let people know.  Often, someone desired elsewhere becomes more valued at home.  Once you’ve been offered the interview, you might want to inform your home institution because some administrators have the freedom to make preemptive counter-offers to encourage faculty to decline the interview.  The counter-offer might be attractive enough that you will choose to forgo the interview.  However, if you turn down the counter-offer and then are not offered a job, you have lost out on whatever was offered by your home institution.

A few more things to consider: Continue Reading On the Job Market When You Have a Tenure Track Job (From the Hey Jane Archives)…

Phone Interviews [From the Hey Jane Archives]

April 29, 2009 at 1:09 am | Posted in Hey Jane Column, Job Market | Leave a comment

HEY JANE!

“I am on the job market and have been asked to participate in a phone interview. My department has prepared me well for the on-campus interview, but I am less confident in my phone interviewing skills. Help!”

JANE SAYS:

Phone interviews are a very important part of the interview process.  Search committees often use phone interviews to narrow down a short list of 10-12 people to the 2-3 people that they will invite for campus interviews.  Phone interviews are tricky because non-verbal communication is completely absent.  However, there are many things you can do to prepare for your phone interview.

General Tips for Phone Interviews:

  • Usually, the phone interview will be scheduled ahead of time.  However, if someone calls and wants to interview on the spot, it is perfectly okay to ask to schedule the interview at a time that is better for you.
  • Be prepared.  This is not just a casual chat, but is often a very serious stage of the interviewing process. Just as you would prepare for a face-to-face interview, during a phone interview, you should know something about the organization, department, and people who will be interviewing you.  You should be prepared to answer questions about your research, teaching and service and to ask questions about the position, the department and the university.
  • Practice!!  Many departments give graduate students the opportunity to do “practice job talks” but may not provide an opportunity for practice phone interviews.  Ask your mentor or your friends to practice a phone interview with you.  This is especially important for conference call phone interviews (which I will discuss more a little later).
  • If possible avoid taking other calls or potentially stressful meetings just prior to the call.  One time (before caller-ID) I answered the phone about the time the interview was scheduled and it was my mother.  Before I could say “can I call you back, I have a phone interview any minute now,” she blurted out that her neighbor (someone I was close to) had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  While I tried to clear my head and get ready for the call that came about two minutes later, I know I was not at the top of my game that day. Needless to say, I was not invited for a campus interview.
  • Make sure you have a quiet environment.  If at all possible, leave the kids and the pets in another room (you might even consider hiring a babysitter).  Make sure that background noise such as televisions, washing machines, etc. are eliminated.  Turn off the ringers on any cell phones that might be in the room.  You might also consider turning off the call waiting function on your phone if possible.
  • Know your equipment.  Many people recommend using a landline phone with a cord rather than a cell phone or a cordless phone that might lose power or in some ways be less reliable.  If you plan to use a mute button or a speaker phone function, make sure you know beforehand where they are and exactly what they sound like on the other end.
  • Dress nicely.  Even if you normally wear pajamas when you work from home, it’s a good idea to dress for the phone interview as you would for a face-to-face interview.  It puts you in the mind frame of a professional meeting.  However, if you normally wear earrings, you might take them out for a phone interview as they could clatter against the phone or just be uncomfortable while talking on the phone.
  • You might consider standing up while participating in the interview. This will keep you “on your toes.”  And SMILE!!  It will come through in your voice.
  • Keep your CV and any notes you have about the department handy.  You may want to post large notes on the wall, this will keep them at your fingertips, but let you avoid the sound of rustling papers.  Also make sure you have paper, pen and calendar close by.  It’s unlikely that a campus interview would be scheduled right away, but it is possible.
  • Don’t eat, drink, smoke, chew gum, etc. while participating in the interview.  However, you might remember to have some water handy in case your mouth gets dry.
  • Remember that they can’t see your non-verbal cues.  If you need a minute to think about an answer, say “That’s a great question, I need to take a minute to think about it.” Or let them know when there might be an unexpected silence or unexpected noise –  “Excuse me while I take a sip of water.”
  • Don’t ramble to fill the silence.  Finish your answers with a note of finality.  You want to avoid yes or know answers, but keep your answers succinct and with a clear ending.

A Note about Conference Call Phone Interviews: Continue Reading Phone Interviews [From the Hey Jane Archives]…

Preparing for Your 3rd Year Review [From the Hey Jane Archives]

April 27, 2009 at 1:07 am | Posted in Hey Jane Column, New Faculty, Teaching & Mentoring, Tenure | Leave a comment

HEY JANE!
I am preparing for my 3rd year review and am wondering how to best address negative student course  evaluations in my statement. I’m particularly concerned that some comments seem to be a reflection of  the student’s perception of my personal characteristics and feminist teaching style rather than a reflection  of how much they have learned during the semester.  Help!

JANE SAYS:
The first and most important piece of advice is: don’t be defensive in the framing of your teaching evaluations.  Instead, think of this as an opportunity to outline how you plan to improve.  Hopefully there will be at least one item or aspect of teaching for which you have scored well.  Start by pointing that out. Then, for items where your scores were not as high as you would have liked, be prepared to outline a specific plan for improving those scores.  Your plan might involve visiting your institution’s teaching resource center, subscribing to a teaching journal, or attending a teaching workshop at an ASA or SWS meeting. Your plan might be even more concrete, such that you propose a curriculum change or altering a current classroom practice.  By outlining your plan for improvement, when it’s time for your next review, hopefully you’ll be able to narrate a success story.  For a specific example, the excerpt below comes from my 4th year review statement:

On the overall evaluation item, the range of my scores changed from 3.4-3.9 for my 2nd year review to 3.6-4.6 with 4 out of 9 classes being above a 4 since the last review.  In the past I have been concerned with the evaluation items that purport to measure “points of view other than own,” “encouraged and responded to questions” and “respect for students.”  I have always done very well in these areas.  The last two years, I have focused on improving my evaluations on the items that claim to measure “lectures consistent with objectives,” “exam questions correspond with class material,” “unbiased grading,” and “informed class of grading criteria.”  Since I have been focusing on these items, my scores have been consistently high, ranging from 3.7 to 5.0 with most falling above a 4.0.  In the spirit of encouraging students to “claim their education,” rather than passively receive it, I have started asking introductory students at the beginning of the semester to articulate what expectations they have of their professors.  This usually leads to lively discussion.  In addition to helping the students formulate and articulate their expectations, this exercise helps me know what their expectations are at the beginning of class rather than waiting until the end of the course to see if I’ve lived up to those silent expectations.

It can also be useful to give some context to the evaluations.  One of my evaluators put it nicely by writing:

The committee notes that “Jane” teaches courses on deviance, crime, gender and health – courses that tackle issues of contemporary moral and political concern and in doing so raise the hackles of some students.  One of Professor “Jane’s” goals is to present students with a wide range of views on course topics.  Her success in meeting this goal may be seen in some comments written by students.  For example, Professor “Jane” is simultaneously too much of a feminist and not enough of a feminist.  Course content has a liberal spin and is even handed.  The committee reads these assessments as an indication that “Jane” is doing a good job of presenting a reasonably balanced perspective on topics covered in her courses. Continue Reading Preparing for Your 3rd Year Review [From the Hey Jane Archives]…

Jane Recommends [Links]

March 30, 2009 at 4:29 pm | Posted in Finances, Graduate School, New Faculty, Teaching & Mentoring, Technology, Writing | Leave a comment

GayProf over at Center of Gravitas has a great post with advice for newly hired faculty.

Gina at the Academic Ladder has a great piece on avoiding writer’s block.

For those still in grad school or still paying off loans, consumerist has posted a “big ass” list of student loan resources.

Career Advice: Dancing with Kate Smith at Inside Higher Ed has some great syllabus tips.

Historiann interviewed the editor of the journal Gender and History, Ruth Mazo Karras. Both posts have excellent general advice on publishing in academic journals.

Dave over at Academic Hack has some great tips on academic branding and creating an online portfolio.

Tax Time [From the Hey Jane archives]

March 30, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Posted in Finances, Hey Jane Column | Leave a comment

Hey, Jane, It’s tax time. What academic expenses can I deduct?

Here are responses from SWS members. Responses are usually kept anonymous but the last one is from one of our own SWSers who is a tax expert so she agreed to have her professional identity revealed. We hope this helps in these perilous financial times.

There are two categories of deductions: one is professional expenses – what helps you advance as a faculty member — professional organization dues and meeting expenses, expenses incurred in doing research, books, journal subscriptions, newspaper subscriptions if you use items in teaching, fees and editorial expenses for submissions to journals, travel that adds to your professional expertise as a teacher. The other is business expenses against what you earn in royalties, lecture fees, and other non-salaried income — here I deduct 1/2 of home phone bills, internet costs, my home computer and printer and other home office supplies (you have to argue that you can’t use your office for writing), meals with people to discuss publication projects.

I would add/clarify that you get to deduct a “home office” IF it is used exclusively for your work (that part of your house then gets “depreciated”). (If you use a tax program like Turbotax, it does the calculations for you; you can deduct the tax program too.)  I think there are also some rules, that you have to “make” money in terms of your nonsalary “self-employment” some number of years, i.e., you can’t deduct computer, etc., and always spend more than you earn in your self-employment.  But these rules may have changed…But if you have a mortgage, and a home office, then this can offset quite a bit of any honorariums, etc. you have earned.

You can also deduct some travel expenses, e.g., if you rent a cabin, or go to a writing retreat center…or anything you are not reimbursed for from your department (ASA, SWS, etc.) that is professional travel.

And…for something completely wild, IF you get a Fulbright, or do a sabbatical abroad, and you are out of the country 11 months out of 12, the income earned is tax free.  the 11 out of 12 can be in two tax years, e.g., September thru July, and does not have to be continuous, and can be any country (including Mexico and Canada).  (You may have to pay taxes in the country in which you are living, but that is not common I think.)  So, even though Fulbright does not pay much, together with travel and local living expenses, and being taxfree, and if you live reasonably modestly, that can be quite doable.

Someone used to publish a book on “Taxes for Academics” or something, that carefully outlined all the regulations and what kinds of things can be included.  I used it for several years, but don’t know if  it’s available now, might be worth keyword-checking on Amazon.  Has  anyone checked the AAUP website?  They may well have some material or  references.  There are indeed many things that can be deducted, but the  home-office deduction is very easy to go wrong with.

The book is: 2005 Tax & Financial Guide For College Teachers And Other College Personnel: For Filing 2004 Tax Returns (Tax Guide for College Teachers and Other College Personnel) (Paperback) by Donald T. Williamson (Author).

Unfortunately, it seems to be out of print, and because it’s specific to 2004 filing, may be outdated in its advice as well.  My school has a copy of it on file- you may want to check with your institution’s library! Continue Reading Tax Time [From the Hey Jane archives]…

Best Advice: Networking [From the Hey Jane archives]

March 24, 2009 at 2:41 am | Posted in Hey Jane Column, Networking | Leave a comment

Hey Jane! is a monthly advice column on the SWS listserv that addresses issues of interest to feminist sociologists and sociologist-activists. The name honors Jane Addams, a feminist sociologist not always recognized enough. This Q&A is hosted by the Career Development Committee, who solicits anonymous questions and responses from multiple SWS members.

Column 23 (January 2008)

For this month’s Hey Jane! Column I asked you to send me your “best” piece of advice.

My best professional advice came from my mother, a technical librarian. 1) Always attend your professional meetings and 2) Be on time.

Send copies of your publications to people who influenced your work or people you would like to read (and hopefully cite) your work.

If you are shy or find it difficult to meet people at conferences, start small – “I’m going to meet one new person today.”

If you want to get involved in a professional organization, go to section business meetings.  Section chairs are ALWAYS looking for volunteers to organize sessions and serve on committees.

Even in our highly technological age, there is still value to the art of the phone call.   Nominate yourself for awards, desirable committees, and positions in professional organization.

Best Advice: Writing [From the Hey Jane archives]

March 24, 2009 at 2:38 am | Posted in Dissertation, Hey Jane Column, Publishing, Writing | Leave a comment

Hey Jane! is a monthly advice column on the SWS listserv that addresses issues of interest to feminist sociologists and sociologist-activists. The name honors Jane Addams, a feminist sociologist not always recognized enough. This Q&A is hosted by the Career Development Committee, who solicits anonymous questions and responses from multiple SWS members.

Column 23 (January 2008)

For this month’s Hey Jane! Column I asked you to send me your “best” piece of advice.

Buy and use the book Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day (so that you don’t become paralyzed at the enormity of the project).

Regarding my dissertation, my mother (who is an academic) said to me, “Your dissertation is a brick, not a castle. Finish your dissertation and then spend the rest of your career building your castle.”

“Nothing, absolutely nothing substitutes for high quality publications — you can never make a ‘trade-off’ of this against anything else.  Period.”

“One idea per article,” meaning pace yourself in terms of articles.

My graduate school advisor told me to publish often – book reviews, instructor manuals, anything to get my name out there and lines on my vitae.  This was great advice – and if you can find a mentor to help you create such avenues for publication, all the better.

The best advice I think I ever got was to apply for every competition you see – campus syllabus competitions, theses, published and unpublished papers, books, and on and on.

Volunteer to be a reviewer for a journal in your area of study early in your career (ideally during graduate school).  Reviewing journal articles and book manuscripts has helped me to become a much better writer.

One time after multiple revisions requested by the editor of a journal, I found that I no longer recognized my own ideas.  A mentor advised me to “never let reviewers hijack your work.” In trying to appease several different reviewers, I had lost sight of what I wanted to say.  Use the feedback of reviewers and editors to help make your ideas better, but don’t let them turn your ideas into something you’re not comfortable with.  Rather, make the changes you find appropriate and then explain to the editor why you have decided not to make some of the suggested changes.

Best Advice: Politics [From the Hey Jane archives]

March 24, 2009 at 2:30 am | Posted in Hey Jane Column, Workplace Politics | Leave a comment

Hey Jane! is a monthly advice column on the SWS listserv that addresses issues of interest to feminist sociologists and sociologist-activists. The name honors Jane Addams, a feminist sociologist not always recognized enough. This Q&A is hosted by the Career Development Committee, who solicits anonymous questions and responses from multiple SWS members.

Column 23 (January 2008)

For this month’s Hey Jane! Column I asked you to send me your “best” piece of advice.

“Do not be defensive!”  It was advice given for my job talks, but it has served me well in every presentational setting — job talks, paper presentations at meetings and in the classroom.

After you finish a significant task or project big or small, PAUSE.  Take some time — whether 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days — to acknowledge your achievement before moving straight into the next item on your list of things to do.  There should ALWAYS be time to honor, even celebrate, your accomplishment, if only with a pause for a cup of tea.

Don’t let a bad situation make you become someone you’re not (i.e., petty, neurotic).

After you’ve faced a difficult situation, take a couple minutes and ask yourself, “If I had to do this over again, would I handle this differently, and if so, how?”  Then mentally file it in a folder marked ‘life experience’ and move on.

When you say “no,” sometimes it helps to think of it as “No. Period.”

Don’t say “I’m sorry” when you mean “excuse me.”

Something I’m fond of saying:  “There are two sayings that can be applied to any situation:  ‘Life is short’ and ‘Life is long.’  The challenge is knowing which one is called for in a given situation.”

One piece of sage advice I received from a professor/dean in graduate school was, politically speaking, to “pick and choose your battles” in the university environment.

“Stick to your knitting” meaning, don’t spend too much energy worrying about departmental politics.

Best Advice: Balance [From the Hey Jane archives]

March 24, 2009 at 2:26 am | Posted in Hey Jane Column, Work/Life Balance | Leave a comment

Hey Jane! is a monthly advice column on the SWS listserv that addresses issues of interest to feminist sociologists and sociologist-activists. The name honors Jane Addams, a feminist sociologist not always recognized enough. This Q&A is hosted by the Career Development Committee, who solicits anonymous questions and responses from multiple SWS members.

Column 23 (January 2008)

For this month’s Hey Jane! Column I asked you to send me your “best” piece of advice.

My advice is: “Don’t put second prize ahead of first prize.” I think I made up that wording myself. But what I mean is, if you will regret never having children more than you will regret not getting tenure, then don’t wait until after tenure to have kids. You can have both, but keep your priorities straight.

Syllabus prep will take as much time as you give to it.  Therefore, resist the urge to revise your syllabus as soon as classes end in May.  Put it away until two weeks before classes begin in the autumn.  This will create at least two months of pure, uninterrupted time for you to work on your scholarship.  I have adhered to this religiously and it has made ALL the difference.  (As an aside I do a modified version of this over the winter break as well and it also works to create a good chunk of solid writing time).

As someone who let graduate school be all-consuming, when I became a tenure-track assistant professor, I made a conscious decision to live a balanced life.  I took my work very seriously, but finally learned how to set boundaries.  I chose to work from 9-5, Monday –Friday, and limit my attendance at evening lectures and events to no more than one per week. Of course there were times (grant deadlines, etc.) where I had to break my own rule, but sticking to this self-imposed rule 90% of the time, I was productive at work and maintained my mental health.  I achieved tenure and continue to apply this rule, although I now usually attend two evening events/lectures.

Best Advice: Teaching [From the Hey Jane archives]

March 24, 2009 at 2:19 am | Posted in Hey Jane Column, Teaching & Mentoring | Leave a comment

Hey Jane! is a monthly advice column on the SWS listserv that addresses issues of interest to feminist sociologists and sociologist-activists. The name honors Jane Addams, a feminist sociologist not always recognized enough. This Q&A is hosted by the Career Development Committee, who solicits anonymous questions and responses from multiple SWS members.

Column 23 (January 2008)

For this month’s Hey Jane! Column I asked you to send me your “best” piece of advice.

At a teaching university, I was advised, kindly and gently, that my students are not my reference group.  Whatever students may appear to think of me (or may say to me directly) has more to do with who they are than with who I may be.  This advice really helped me to disengage from student response to the courses I teach. I spend 12 hours a week in a classroom and I am required (by contract) to post 4 hours per week of office hours.  And students do expect that professors are available for a chat, a pep talk, a review session, all manner of things, even outside of posted office hours.  So, remembering that my reference group does not include students allows me to keep some emotional distance and focus on my big-picture goals (for educating the next generation of sociologists, as well as my own research interests). Actually, I’ve found that I need emotional distance even from students who think I hung the moon.  Most young people are still figuring things out and I try to avoid the seduction of being the “well-liked professor.”  I believe this supports my efforts to be the “respected professor” who offers students significant learning experiences.

As a graduate student I was being chastised for grade inflation.  I was told that if you don’t distinguish between “A” students and “B” students and “C” students and “F” students, in the long run you do the students a disservice.  It took several years for that advice to truly sink in, but now I really appreciate it.

Any self-criticism you make in the classroom will show up on your student-teaching evaluations.  For example, I used to occasionally say “I’m feeling frazzled” today and inevitably I would receive multiple written evaluations that said “she was often frazzled in class.”  It was the specific use of the word frazzled that clued me into the mimicking behavior of the students.

Always have multiple mentors.  At different stages of your career you will need the advice of different people.  Also, you can be a mentor at every stage of your career.

Best Advice: The Job Market [From the Hey Jane archives]

March 24, 2009 at 2:15 am | Posted in Hey Jane Column, Job Market | Leave a comment

Hey Jane! is a monthly advice column on the SWS listserv that addresses issues of interest to feminist sociologists and sociologist-activists. The name honors Jane Addams, a feminist sociologist not always recognized enough. This Q&A is hosted by the Career Development Committee, who solicits anonymous questions and responses from multiple SWS members.

Column 23 (January 2008)

For this month’s Hey Jane! Column I asked you to send me your “best” piece of advice.

Get as broad a variety of experience in graduate school (research, teaching, advising, etc.) as possible.

Apply for jobs broadly.

This wasn’t exactly advice, just an observation, but it helped me figure out my priorities about the job market.   My undergrad advisor said once, “you have to like young people — really LIKE them — in order to be good at this job” (and the job he was referring to was being a professor at a liberal arts college, as opposed to a Research I institution).  When I was on the market and doing on-campus interviews I paid close attention to the way the faculty at different institutions spoke about their students.  I took the job at the one place where everyone seemed to actually LIKE their students, and I have never regretted it.

As for the best career advice I ever got, I think it is a tie between two, the first from a dissertation committee member and the second from an informal mentor whom I met through a professional organization (not SWS). The first involved a decision I had to make between two job offers, neither of which was an ideal choice. I was advised to take the one with the lower teaching load and the teaching assignments closest to my research interests and to gear my publication productivity level to the type of institution where I would like to work. The advice was good and I was able to move from my first job to one that better suited me. I don’t remember the exact wording of the advice from the informal mentor, but it basically was that to be successful and sane as an assistant professor in academia one needed to be always cognizant of the criteria by which one was being evaluated, but also “to thine own self be true…” If one strayed too much from one’s core values and core interests in the quest to be successful, one would end up alienated and ineffective in the long run.

The best advice I was given came in a “job market” class it graduate school: Stay away from temporary lecturer positions, or visiting professor positions unless they are at the institution where you received your Ph.D.

The best advice I ever received was to *meticulously tailor* each job application to the school to which you are applying (and I don’t mean just swapping out one sentence in your letter or reordering the paragraphs!).  I spent more time than my peers preparing my application materials, but it really paid off.  I came from a decent, but not great, school, and had a decent, but not great CV and I was invited for six campus interviews my first year on the market. It was absolutely the result of the extra time and care I put into those materials.

Regarding the job interview process, I was given three pieces of advice by graduate school professors:  1) Remember that you are interviewing the members of the committee as much as they are interviewing you – this may be your job for a long time; 2) You get an interview because you’re qualified for the position. You get a job because of the chemistry between you and the committee members.  Getting a job is as much about fit as it is about qualifications; 3) When someone on the search committee asks you if you can teach course “X”, you should say yes.

Best Advice: Undergraduates [From the Hey Jane archives]

March 24, 2009 at 2:04 am | Posted in Hey Jane Column, Undergraduates | 1 Comment

Hey Jane! is a monthly advice column on the SWS listserv that addresses issues of interest to feminist sociologists and sociologist-activists. The name honors Jane Addams, a feminist sociologist not always recognized enough. This Q&A is hosted by the Career Development Committee, who solicits anonymous questions and responses from multiple SWS members.

Column 23 (January 2008)

For this month’s Hey Jane! Column I asked you to send me your “best” piece of advice.

My best bit of career advice came when I was a senior in college – I had applied to graduate schools and also to law schools, gotten into both and was trying to make up my mind. My political science professor asked me what was attractive about each option — I said that law school seemed to be a route to self-support (since grad school led to the academic job market and in those days it was truly terrible) but the classes in grad school seemed more like fun to me. He urged me to do what I thought was fun “and when you can’t afford to do that anymore OR it gets boring, then shift to something that seems more practical” I then got some good (not great, but ok) fellowships for grad school that allowed me to indulge myself for at least two years and after that I thought I’d have to bail out and head to law school. But I’ve been in sociology for over 25 years and haven’t gotten bored yet! And I keep managing to pay my bills. My cousin, with whom I was close as a kid, made the opposite choice — he’s making a bazillion bucks as a drug company lawyer — but I have never once regretted following the fun rather than the money, and while I am not rich, I’ve never been poor since grad school either. It’s the classic “do what you love and the money will follow” moral but it really is the best advice — and vice versa: if you get bored and unhappy, quit! There are other routes to making a living, and you are never actually making a decision that you can’t revoke if you decide the career really isn’t fun for you after all.

One of the more interesting pieces of advice I received as an undergrad was to think less about one’s major and more about the type of work you want to do.  Otherwise you can end up like someone with a BA in history who hates teaching; what do they do next?  There are, of course, a few other things to do with a history degree, but what if they are no more appealing to you then teaching?  Then what?  This advice was based on the idea that if you like teaching, you could probably teach several things–what you majored in, almost majored in, minored in, or a couple of your hobbies–and be happy.  But if you study a subject and don’t see a job that you will be happy at, you’re in trouble.  The other good advice I got, which is contradictory on the surface, but can be combined with the above, is even if you are clueless where it is going, just study what you are interested in– rocks, languages, music, whatever–and just go with that. The third piece of advice I found useful, was don’t think about any of this stuff too much.  Something like 80% of people are away from their major within five years of graduating (with a BA). Personally I just ignored the conventional advice and picked the area where I thought I could have the greatest effect (as an activist/organizer/etc.)

Choosing a Specialization:

Go with your heart and passion.   We don’t make enough money to be in this business unless we really believe what we do matters.  So choose to do what matters to you.

My best advice was NOT to do an interdisciplinary Ph.D. degree…. I have seen people pay the consequences of doing so…. you can still do Women’s Studies within disciplinary departments. I see some of my students being encouraged to do Women and Gender Studies in graduate school and there are so few jobs out there.

Regarding choosing my area of specialization, as a graduate student I wanted to study sexualities. My graduate school advisor told me to pick an established field in sociology, learn to speak “mainstream” sociology, and then do more marginal sociology within that field.  So I now identify myself as a family sociologist with a focus on gender and sexualities. I have a great tenure track job – and I’m not sure I would have gotten it without fitting squarely into the larger field. And I still study the sociology of sexualities.

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