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Jim Huggins
July 3rd, 2007
03:33 pm
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So, what did I learn from my trip to Cedar Campus this year?  Watch out, a really long post behind the cut:

Nothing huge, nothing profound ... but a bunch of little things.  And one big thing.  But first, the little things.
  1. It's much easier for Jane & I to kayak in separate kayaks than in the same one.  For whatever reason, we can each manage to steer much better alone than together.  Go figure.

  2. The best way to get Isaac to take a nap is to put him in the front seat of a kayak and head out onto the water.  The combination of sunshine and rolling waves put him out like a light ... multiple times.

  3. There are plenty of other Christian parents in the world who struggle with parenting just as much as I do ... and are completely open and sympathetic about it.   I think I picked up more encouragement in one week just hanging around with these families as I did for the entire 51 weeks before that.  It's nice to know that we're not alone in this.
And now, to the big one.

Lately, I've been thinking over the "what's next?" question from a professional point-of-view.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the U.S. professorial rank system ... there are three types of professors: assistant professors, associate professors, and professors (sometimes called "full professors" if it's important to distinguish them from the other types).  Typically, new faculty are hired as assistant professors, and within 6-7 years are either promoted to associate professor (with tenure), or resign and find a new position elsewhere.  There's no such timeline on the promotion from associate to full professor; an associate professor can stay at that rank forever.  The rank of full professor is thus a recognition of special achievement.

I was promoted to associate professor back in 2002.  Thus, I'm starting to get to a point where it might be appropriate to think about applying for promotion to full professor.  It's the obvious career path ... after all, doesn't everyone want to get promoted?  And I suppose I've been moving along in that general direction for some time now.

But as things currently stand, I probably don't qualify for full professor rank.  And I may not qualify for some time ... one of the changes on the horizon here at Kettering is an attempt to toughen-up the research requirements for all faculty.  The easiest place to do that is to change the standards for full professor.

I could probably get my act together and start cranking out papers and getting some grant money and doing all those things that would get me recognized with The Powers That Be.  The problem is ... in order to do that, I'd have to stop doing some of the stuff I do right now ... most of which involves hanging out with students and being more than just an instructor.  I'd probably keep my door closed more, answer email a little less frequently, and generally become more of a hermit.

And I can't possibly do that.  It's inconceivable to me that an institution that is so dependent on students for its lifeblood would encourage its faculty out of the classroom.  But that's what I'd have to do to meet those standards.

Which is no big deal, right?  I can be an associate professor forever.  But then I'm giving up on a goal which will be continually flaunted in my face for the next twenty-five years.

As a Christian, I'm supposed to be looking to God for my life direction, not my employer.  And I can't see myself becoming like the Pharisee in the Good Samaritan story ... walking by my students in need with my nose stuck in a book.  God's called me here for a reason, and I don't think that reason is to right lots of obscure papers that maybe 30 people will ever read.

But, heavens, it's hard to accept that, when everyone around you is taking the conventional path.

Part of this mini-crisis is sparked by some unique opportunities, professionally.  I'm finally done with campus governance for awhile, having served my two years in the leadership of the Faculty Senate.  And I'm almost recovered from that.  The main consequence of that is that I've got some more mental energy available to apply to new ideas.  And with CS becoming its own department now, there's plenty of opportunity for us to step forward and lead, especially since our new department head wants us to take that sort of initiative.

So, it all comes down to one question: what do I want to be when I grow up?  (Sorry, folks ... you never stop answering that question.  Just when you think you've got an answer, the question takes a new form.)

I don't have all the answers yet.  That's not exactly true.  My head knows the answer, but my heart hasn't bought it yet.  But I think I'm seeing that the things I'm seeing in front of me --- the things that give me joy and give me energy rather than consume it --- are the things that God is calling me to do.  They may not lead to promotion.  But I should be storing up treasure in heaven, rather than titles on earth.

Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.

Here endeth the lesson.

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

(3 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:July 3rd, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC)
For whatever it's worth, I loved that I could walk into the CS office at any given time and chat with whatever professors happened to be in. My adviser is an associate professor, and he was always in his office with the door open. Or at least, the door was always open. He wasn't always in it, and I frequently toyed with the idea of leaving something funny in there. And maybe it's just me being a selfish student, but I liked that I could just pop in and chat about whatever, whether it was class-related or just about his kids' music lessons. Bob's been at Oberlin since before there was a CS department, and I don't think he really has any ambitions to rise higher. As the OberWiki page says, he's "one groovy CS professor." And there's a lot to be said for that. :)
[User Picture]
Date:July 3rd, 2007 08:57 pm (UTC)
If I do that well, I'll have had a great run.

There's one story I have to tell, because it's too good ...

As a graduate student, at one of the "faith and academics" weekend retreats I attended, a retiring professor from Wheaton talked about a lot of things. He ended by talking about his retirement party, where he was presented with an album of remembrances from former students. Most of the pages were real tear-jerkers, but the one that got to him said something like this:

"When I had you as a professor, I was having a hard time relating to my parents, and my father in particular ... so much so, that I couldn't pray 'Our Father, who art in heaven', because the image of my earthly father was so painful. But one day I saw your picture in the yearbook ... and I found that I could pray 'Our Teacher, who art in heaven.'"

I aspire to that.
[User Picture]
Date:July 5th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC)
I have to agree completely with dwh. I'm not sure I could say it any better, really. I think students feel a lot more at ease with a professor (of any level) who tries to relate to them.
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