“History of the future”

I am entering my second year as a tenure track faculty member at a primarily undergraduate university. As a first year faculty member, we had a first year learning community. We (new instructors and faculty) met approximately twice per month, either within our academic college or as a whole, to discuss professional development. For example, we had presenters/discussed scholarship of teaching and learning, advising, high impact practices, and tenure procedures.

This year, the program was extended (I think for the first time) into a “second year learning community.” I think this is great, because it’s not like you figure it all out in the first year… The first year involves learning so many new things out about the courses your teaching, advising, research, service, committees, etc… that there is no way to remember everything and you often don’t know all the questions that you have. I’m excited to have the chance to continue meeting with other faculty who are in the same boat as me and engaging in professional development opportunities this year.

This year, for our second meeting, we were tasked with starting to write our “History of the Future” story. The general idea of this task is to think about where you want your life to end up, and work backwards from there. We were specifically asked to focus on our career, but this could be applied to all aspects of life.

First, we were asked to describe our desired future in areas of life important to us (with a focus on career for this week).

I picture myself as a tenured full professor in psychology. In this role, I believe I can make a difference in people’s lives. I already feel like my career brings meaning to my life, and I genuinely look forward to teaching and mentoring students most days. Some of my colleagues discussed interest in moving into administrative positions. Aside from lower level administration (department chair), I don’t think I could picture myself in administration. I truly think I would miss teaching and taking on administrative duties would take away from research, as well. I picture myself staying in a primarily teaching focused position rather than trying to take on administrative roles.

I hope as I progress in my career that I am remembered by my students (or at least some!) as having made a difference in their lives. As a college student, I remember having faculty who motivated me or inspired me to pursue research or graduate school or other opportunities. Without those individuals, I would likely not be where I am today. I hope that I can motivate my students in a similar manner. Seeing students I mentor or teach achieve their goals or do something they didn’t think they previously could do or having a break through truly warms my heart and makes me feel proud and purposeful. 

I think my role as a professor aligns with my core values of open mindedness, relentless curiosity, and challenging myself. My students constantly challenge me to think outside the box and ask new questions that I may never have considered otherwise. I hope I’m able to do the same for them.

In order to get to achieve this goal, I need to be available, open minded, and supportive. I also need to challenge my students. The first three come naturally to me, in fact, sometimes too much so. I generally think I effectively challenge my students in lower level courses. However, I tend to provide freedom and flexibility in my upper level courses that doesn’t necessarily conflict with challenging students, but it requires a little more nuance in style. One goal I have is to learn how to challenge my students in my upper level courses while still allowing them flexibility to pursue some of their own interests. 

Some action steps I’ll need to take over the next few years to pursue my long term goal of being a tenured full professor include

  • continuing to improve my teaching by
    • seeking out feedback from students and colleagues
      • need to invite colleagues to observe my classes
    • attending workshops or professional development opportunities
    • attending teaching oriented conferences
    • conducting SoTL research to see what’s working and what’s not
    • read articles on SoTL (from STP ToP and elsewhere) to gain ideas
  • pursue my research agenda, and actively involves students
    • write small-medium grants ($500-20,000) to help fund student stipends/financial support, small equipment budget, and research participant compensation (GWIS fellowship, WiSys, SAIF grants, NIH-AREA, NSF-RUI, other local grants)
      • I will start with smaller grants to build a track record prior to applying for more competitive grants
      • I will seek out collaborations for larger/more competitive grants in the spirit of interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary research
      • I will facilitate students seeking out grants locally, regionally, and nationally (e.g., Psi Chi)
    • Regularly submit articles to be considered for publication (and hopefully get published!) – goal = ~1 / year
    • Regularly attend and present at local (e.g., faculty forum, PCARD), regional (e.g., MPA), and national conferences (e.g., ACT, SfN, CNS, or other?) – goal = ~1 national conference / year and ~2 local/regional conferences or presentations per year
    • Regularly attend and support student presentations at local and regional conferences (and national when possible!)  – MPA, Research in the Rotunda, PCARD, UW-System Symposium, WPA, NCUR, Tri-States, MidBrains, and Minnesota Undergraduate Psychology Conference (MUPC)
    • Continue developing mentoring skills by attending workshops and talking with others who mentor undergraduate student researchers
  • Actively contribute to the UWP/local community
    • Be an active department member 
      • Help grow the psychology major through recruitment
      • Serve on departmental committees when possible (especially search committees)
      • Continue in my role as departmental website/tech guru (official title?)
      • Consider creating a new course(s) for the major?
        • Maybe neuropsychology or cognitive neuroscience? maybe social judgment and decision making?
    • Serve on committees I care about at the College/University level
      • (this is one I need to figure out a little more – I think I would like to be involved with either general education committee or faculty professional development committee(s))
    • Develop as an advisor and support my advisees in the pursuit of their academic, career, and professional development goals
      • This is one of my areas to work on this year! I love mentoring students but struggled a little to feel connected to advisees compared to students I saw regularly in my classes or through research so I’m trying to work on building my connection with my advisees
    • In the future, I’d be interested in developing an interdisciplinary program/minor (major?) in neuroscience – I could see three tracks:
      • LAE (Psychology): Pre-health/service, good for folks going into substance abuse counseling or working with aging populations (or clinical psychology), also good for anyone interested in PT or OT
      • BILSA (Bio/chem): Pre-health/medical (med school, nursing, PA, pharmacy, biochemistry, PT, OT, etc…)
      • EMS (software engineering): Artificial intelligence and/or bioengineering
    • Volunteer in the community
      • Summer: Behavioral Health unit at Finley, local races 🙂
  • Contribute to science and psychology/neuroscience as a whole
    • Continue in my role(s) for GWIS
      • I have enjoyed connecting to fellow female scientists through GWIS and currently feel I have the right balance of contribution to GWIS through copy editing and helping out with the LEAD committee
    • Hopefully begin contributing to Letters to a Prescientist!
      • This seems like such a great program! I think it will be fun to write letters and potentially have my students write letters/contribute, too!
    • Contribute as an ad hoc reviewer when requested
    • Potentially get more involved with STP
    • Stay active and contribute to conversations on social media (Twitter/Facebook/Blog)
  • Always continue learning and challenging myself
    • seek out professional development opportunities (faculty college, conferences, workshops, undergrad research mentor lunches, teaching and technology center events, etc…)

My core academic values:

  • challenge myself
  • remain curious
  • stay open minded
  • advocate for women in science
  • generate interest in science – particularly neuroscience and psychological science
  • challenge students to think critically, pursue continual growth, and learn how to take others’ perspectives

I have a handout/template timeline I’ll be putting this on and adding to soon!

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