As of midnight tonight I will celebrate the end of 10 years as a faculty member in the School of Computer Science at the University of Guelph. What a wild and strange 10 years it has been.
So much has happened since the day I first stepped through the door to my then-office. I’m more confident than I was, but I still worry that I have no idea what I’m doing and that I am messing everything up. I better understand the processes of publication and grant writing, but I also have the same anxieties when it comes to writing either. I am more comfortable with the materials I teach, but I still get butterflies on the first day of class.
Thanks to the people I’ve worked with and the experiences I’ve had, I have learned so much about myself and about the profession. Some of the lessons were more difficult than others to process. Regardless, I walked away from each with what I think is a better understanding of not only who I am or was, but who I want to be.
Over the last few days I’ve thought a lot about these lessons. I thought about how I learned them and how they affected me. And I considered how I might organize them into a simple structured post. But as I started writing, I found myself pouring lessons onto the page – chaotic and unstructured. And this seemed to make some sense as the lessons were not doled out to me in any structured format.
And so, dear reader, I present this stream of (by no means comprehensive or exhaustive) lessons I’ve learned since becoming a faculty member more than 3650 days ago.
Adopt the Yes! And… philosophy. Say yes to wild and amazing new projects, but protect yourself, and protect your time.
Have a life outside of academia, and learn boundaries. Stay active in whatever way makes sense to you. Read for fun. Take time off on the weekends.
Step into the classrooms of faculty whom the students rave about – learn what they do and how they do it.
Join projects that are big and scary and awesome and that require the brains of more than just folks who look and sound like you.
Get out into the community. Welcome the community into your classrooms. Research with the community. Recognize the value of lived experience and community expertise.
Go skydiving or bungee jumping with your students – or whatever adventure makes sense to you. Show them you are a real person beyond academics.
Practice a pedagogy of kindness.
Practice and encourage self-care.
Celebrate the big wins. Celebrate the small wins. Don’t limit these to academics. Celebrate sleeping-in.
Be honest and open about your failures with the students you get to mentor, and show them how you get up and move on from them.
Never underestimate the power and innovation of students.
Mentor students to be better than you. Mentor students to be citizens of the local and global community.
Find kindred spirits in your colleagues. Be kind to the staff. Be kind to students.
Travel. Sneak away from your conference to enjoy the community in which it is held, preferably with students or with colleagues you don’t get to see very often.
Lift up and support anyone who is in a precarious position. This includes students, staff, postdocs, adjuncts, community partners, and junior researchers. Remember your privilege.
Create space for other voices. Protect their voice so that they might be heard.
If you can, be vocal. Use your position to change or rebuild the academic structures that silence others. Fight for the students who are in your classes or in your labs. Fight for students who aren’t.
Challenge “we’ve always done it this way”.
Share your story because there is someone out there who is waiting to see themselves in academia.
Let students challenge your understanding of the world. Unlearn whenever you can. Embrace new ideas.
Work with people smarter than you. Work with kind people. Recognize that there are people out there who are both.
Have as much fun as you can. Laugh as much as you can. Cry if you need to.
Say thank you. Practice gratitude. Choose kindness at every chance.