More on Academic Skills: Conflict Resolution, Time Management, Work/Life Balance
Posted by Neal on January 27, 2011
And now for the last of the LSA2011 panel on skills for academic success. In addition to the presentations on networking and collaborating, there were talks on advisor/advisee relationships, conflict resolution, and time management. I’m combining these because I didn’t have as many notes on these talks. Also, I’m not going to post a summary on advisor/advisee relationships, because unlike the rest of the topics, that’s one that really is specific to graduate students, and won’t be as interesting or useful to a wider audience. Besides, I got there late for that talk, and missed a lot of what was said.
So with that, let’s move on to the fourth presentation from the panel, Robin Queen of the University of Michigan on conflict resolution with a gripping tale of submitting a chapter of her dissertation to her committee members. Her advisor had given her positive comments on it, so when one of the other committee members flagged her down in the hall a few days later, she was eager to hear what had to say about it. She followed him into his office, and for the next half hour he berated her for just about every aspect of that chapter. His face was inches from hers, she kept backing away, he kept advancing, until literally she was backed up against a file cabinet waiting for him to run out of steam.
She later talked with her advisor about this incident, and they both decided that it was so out of character for the other professor that they should just pretend it hadn’t happened, and from then on, that one committee member was helpful, friendly, and kind, as if the confrontation had never happened. The moral? Actually, I didn’t get the moral, but luckily, Maryam Bakht (one of the organizers of the panel), did get it, and clued me in. As Maryam wrote to me, Queen was saying that “you needed to assess to see what was the right course of action for each situation. However, you need to think hard before either inaction (or hiding) or aggressive fighting for every point. In other words, choose your battles wisely.”
After that introduction, Queen said that a lot of conflict resolution in academia was like conflict resolution anywhere else, and it was hard to focus on issues specific to that setting. She noted, however, that academic discourse is founded on conflict, so a lot of conflict is not personal.
Maryam Bakht adds:
One of the takeaway points that Robin had is that linguistics/academia is a workplace. It isn’t the whole of your life. Thus, one should be mindful of the ramifications and consequences that come with the different choices that one makes. While people are and should be their own agents, it’s also the case that people should also be mindful that they will have to deal with the consequences to come.
Following Robin Queen was Judith Tonhauser of Ohio State University, but I was on my way to an American Dialect Society talk on what phonetic factors made someone sound gay. (The answer: It’s better to ask what makes someone sound straight; significant differences from that in any direction can increase perceptions of gayness.) The talks had been interesting enough, though, that I had already decided I was going to blog about them, and after the conference, fellow audience member Hui-wen Cheng of Boston University was kind enough to provide me the following notes:
[Tonhauser] said time management is actually career management. You should have a plan about how long it takes to get your PhD degree, to do a post doc, and to get a tenure.
After becoming a faculty member, you won’t have a big block of time to write papers, so you have to learn how to make use of any small amount of time that you have. She suggested to pick a certain period of time of the day to do writing, and to organize a support group with your peers to push your progress. She recommended a book, How to Write a Lot. Actually the two suggestions come from the book. She and other faculty members organize a support group which meets regularly and works very well for them.
One audience member asked about her dilemma: She and her boyfriend/husband live in two countries in different time zones. The time that her boyfriend/husband is able to talk to her happens to be the time that she feels most productive of the day. She doesn’t want to ruin her relationship or delay her academic progress. The speakers ended up telling her both she and her boyfriend/husband have to comprise to some point.
The final speaker was Monica Macaulay of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (who blogs at Mr. Verb). Maryam Bakht reports that this presentation was basically a synthesis of the earlier ones, but that there was special focus on the issue of having children. From Hui-wen Cheng’s notes:
This talk ended up a discussion about when is a best time for female researchers to have babies. She told a story about a young faculty member who is warned by other senior faculty members not to have more babies when she was pregnant with her first baby, otherwise she won’t get her tenure. This is because when an institution hires a new faculty member, they expect him/her to contribute a certain amount of time and energy to the institution. Having a baby is a distraction for a female faculty member. It is sad that whether and when to have a baby sometimes is not only your personal decision. You also have to put other faculty members’ opinions into consideration, because this is about what image you want to have for yourself.
So that’s all for the panel on skills for academic success. The last summary I’ll post will be from the previous night’s panel discussion on the academic job search.