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Showing posts from October, 2005

Professors as Thought Leaders

My article in Inside Higher Ed on the idea of the "Humanities Lab" has received such insightful comments -- I've really enjoyed reading them. The first comment referenced John P. Kotter, a retired Harvard professor: In the March 1999 issues of Harvard Business Review, John P. Kotter penned a classic, “What Effective General Managers Really Do” that, in spite of what business textbooks were advocating, suggested that “... seemingly wasteful activities like chatting in hallways and having impromptu meetings are, in fact, quite efficient.” Kotter goes on to emphasize that “flexible agendas and broad networks of relationships” enable opportunity and accomplishment “... through a large and diverse set of people despite having little direct control over most of them.” This prompted me to read more from Kotter. I became fascinated with his distinction between managers and leaders. In Leaders Talk Leadership: Top Executives Speak Their Minds, he states that "Leadership is,

The Humanities Lab

My article came out today in Inside Higher Ed. It's entitled " We Need Humanities Labs ". Although it is a bit tongue-in-cheek to suggest the idea that those in the humanities need to gather in "labs", I believe that more interaction and collegiality would improve the quality of the academic experience for grad students and also increase their creativity and productivity. I wrote it in response to the epidemic of lonely, isolated, or even abandoned graduate students that I have talked to, heard about, and read about, mostly in the humanities. I find it interesting that one of the comments to the article stated that maybe "isolation is good for you." The writer went on to say that it might be help you with independent thinking not to interact with others in your field as often as weekly. As that writer is far from his/her campus, I suspect that there may be more than a little rationalization -- I can't have it so it must be bad for you. I do

Let the (Grad) Students Take Some of the Teaching Load

I just came upon this post on teaching strategies for a graduate seminar by Anbruch : This being my third and most successful graduate seminar, I thought I'd write out some of the things that have worked for me this time around. Frontload the reading. Students can absorb a heavy reading load early in the semester. Being fresh, they are also more enthusiastic about the readings so discussion goes better. Have the students do the work for you. Well, not in so many words: you set the readings and the agenda, but you assign various student groups to lead the discussion each week. The way I've worked it this semester is like this: the group meets with me for about 30 minutes a week before they lead discussion. I give them talking points, the issues they should bring to the table, and how they might think about organizing the class. But the class itself is more or less theirs. I try to stay out of the way as much as possible, intervening only to get things back on track if things mov

Non-academic careers -- think out of the box

I just got off the phone with a client and she raised the topic I had wanted to blog about. So many graduate students see being a professor as the only possible outcome of getting an advanced degree. And yet, the truth is that many will not be professors. Here is a quote from a Chronicle Article , which is entitled "A Ph.D. and a Failure": But there are countless faculty members, administrators, and students themselves who continue to perpetuate a narrow definition of success in academe. Anything else is "less than." Unfortunately, the hard facts show again and again that only a small percentage of doctoral students can achieve the success of becoming a tenure-track professor at a research institution. In their study, "Ph.D.'s -- 10 Years Later," Maresi Nerad and Joseph Cerny found that only 58 percent of Ph.D.'s in English were on the tenure track or tenured 10 years after graduation. Of those, less than a fifth worked at top research universities

A challenge to professors: tell your students the truth and help them find non-academic jobs!

Here is a quote from "At Cross Purposes: What the experiences of doctoral students reveal about doctoral education." By Chris M. Golde and Timothy M. Dore. January, 2001. A report prepared for The Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia, PA. This information is based on The Survey on Doctoral Education and Career Preparation, a 1999 survey of 4,114 students in 27 universities. The data from this study show that in today's doctoral programs, there is a three-way mismatch between student goals, training and actual careers. Despite a decade of attention, the mismatch between the purpose of doctoral education, aspirations of the students, and the realities of their careers within and outside academia continues. Doctoral students persist in pursuing careers as faculty members, and graduate programs persist in preparing them for careers at research universities, despite the well-publicized paucity of academic jobs and efforts to diversify the options available f

Create 100 research ideas

I frequently help my clients to free themselves up enough to create new research ideas. It's clear what kind of thinking gets in their way. Here are some of the protests that I hear when I ask clients to brainstorm new ideas: It's probably already been done That's a stupid idea -- I can't believe I said it It's too obvious It doesn't seem important enough My mind is blank; I can't think of anything I suggest that you get into a real brainstorming mode when you try to come up with research ideas. Here's a reminder of what's needed to brainstorm effectively: You can't critique your ideas All ideas, no matter how bad they seem, should be written down Create as many ideas as you can. Aim for an impossibly high number. One hundred seems about right! If possible, do this with someone else, who is in on the rules of brainstorming. It sometimes helps to purposely come up with outlandish ideas, to help your brain break out of its box. Another way to help

Are You a Creative Researcher and/or Writer?

A secret fear of many graduate students and professors is that they're not creative enough, or if they have been, that the well of creativity is drying up. Of course, this fear itself is crippling. Perhaps the most difficult time is coming up with dissertation topics, when the term papers have always been assigned before. But getting a Ph.D. is not enough for many -- the fears about a creativity drought continue into the professoriate. Here are some ideas about discovering and maintaining your creativity, from a list by Hugh MacLeod (one of the most creative people I know of) at Gaping . I've added some comments in italics, and also deleted some comments of his directed at business people. Ignore everybody . Especially the naysayers. Put the hours in. Read a little and write a little every day . You are responsible for your own experience. No matter what they throw at you. Everyone is born creative. Your anxiety gets in the way of realizing it. Everybody has thei

Writing and Grant Writing Resources

One of my dissertation coaching groups has members from various social sciences, which at times has included everything from psychology to marketing. They are a very supportive and cohesive group, and I'm always impressed with how much they value each other's input and their posts to the listserv (a private one I maintain for my coaching groups.) Today one of them forwarded some resources, both from Harvard, her alma mater. The first one is aimed towards undergrads, but has useful tips for any academic writer: Harvard Writing Center . The second one has links for grants that you might want to try for: Grantseeker's Toolbox

Academic Bloggers

So, I've entered into the fray -- the blogging on bloggers in academia. Having been interviewed by Scott Jasich, one of the founding editors of Inside Higher Education , about Daniel Drezner's denial of tenure, I've now written about it in today's newsletter . Although Drezner, a highly respected and well-published scholar, stays away from stating it, the evidence points to the fact that his blogging was a part of the negative tenure decision. Although this seems hard to believe, consider the fact that the most senior tenured faculty are the least likely to read, and certainly to write blogs. The older you are, the more difficult to grasp technology. I've been told that there is something called "network effects" in marketing -- the idea that until there is a venue and a raison d'etre for something new, people will be slow to adopt it. And face it, older people are the slowest to adopt something new. This mistrust of "new-fangled" technology