What I Wish I’d Known Then . . . (Junior Faculty Edition)

“The Hidden Curriculum” was on the road last week, in Asilomar, attending the annual conference of the Sociology of Education Association (SEA). We thought this would be a great opportunity to  pose a question to some top scholars who were attending the conference, and share their responses on the blog.

Q: What is the one thing that you know now, that you wish you knew as a junior faculty person?

Elizabeth Stearns

Elizabeth Stearns, University of North Carolina-Charlotte: I wish I knew that professional networking at conferences is at least as important as giving a polished presentation of your work. [BTW- Elizabeth is a very good presenter, so she has clearly done well in investing in that skill set!]  Also – always present in comfortable shoes.

Sean KellySean Kelly, University of Pittsburgh: I would say that I didn’t recognize how valuable a good post-doc opportunity can be. It seems like it’s a real advantage to work with top-notch scholars who have different strengths and network ties than your adviser. Over the years, it seems that people who take the post-doc route have done very well in their careers.

Adam Gamoran, President, W.T. Grant Foundation: The importance of replication.  In particular, I wish I had guided my students to replicate existing studies with new data for their master’s theses.  A good thesis might take a well known study, replicate the findings by applying the identical model to new data, and then re-run the models to see whether newer methods or additional data would change the results.  Important and likely publishable.

Catherine Riegle-Crumb

Catherine Riegle-Crumb, University of Texas (and SEA President): Ask a lot of questions to the faculty in your department, and ask the same question to different people. Just because you may have one official (or even official) mentor that you go to the most, do not rely on that person as the sole source of information about issues related to promotion, department politics, etc. Be the person to take the initiative in inviting more senior faculty to lunch or coffee to get their input. Don’t wait for them to ask.

Eric GrodskyEric Grodsky, University of Wisconsin: Don’t invest in the department until they invest in you. It’s easy to enter a department and throw yourself into your new position, and do everything that you can for the department. But, a department also has to show their commitment to your early success. You shouldn’t think your first job is going to be your last.

Tom DiPrete, Columbia University: Have a plan for getting tenure. Also, as a graduate student, diversify your professional network, so that when you are a junior faculty person, you have a group of successful senior scholars who are willing and eager to mentor you. You will need their help to be successful early in your career, so make sure that you have people other than your adviser to support you. [At another point in the conference, Tom commented during a session that “Networks determine everything.” So – you should probably work hard to remember this one!]

Bill Carbonaro, University of Notre Dame: There is a law of diminishing returns to the time you spend on teaching. It takes a great deal of time to plan and prepare a good course for your students. But, you can spend endless amounts of time trying to perfect a course that is already very good. Students often don’t notice or appreciate the many little ‘improvements’ that you make to your courses. If it ain’t broke . . .


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