Year 1 by the numbers

Effective 5pm on Monday the 10th, my first year as assistant professor is officially in the books. I have sent out final feedback on projects and turned in grades for students in my summer internship and graduate seminar. I have cleared my inbox and put away books that were used in courses this year.

Fall classes begin on the 24th and faculty duty resumes on the 19th. That gives me a little over a week to regroup and prepare for the new semester. As I sit back and finally take my time with that delicious cup of cold brew coffee, I reckon this is a good time to take a moment to reflect on what I’ve learned on the job this past year. As I shared in a recent podcast interview about life on the tenure track, I have been figuring things out as I go. I am extremely fortunate to have colleagues who accept my inexperience, my flaws, and my uncertainty about many things in the world of academia. I am thankful for their patience and collegiality, and above all their willingness to share resources.

Even without the pandemic, the professorial job and its expectations are quite vague to many, including graduate students who aspire to become a faculty member. I have learned in my first semester on the job that many universities and colleges consider research, teaching and service to be the holy trinity of academe, that the workload of a faculty is typically divided among these three areas of performance. Pre- and post-tenure faculty members are held to certain distribution and ordering of these three areas, plus any additional role––like administration (labs, centers, departmental offices)––they maintain, for the purposes of tenure evaluation and rank promotion (from assistant to associate to full professor).

I admit that while my PhD program had prepared me to succeed in research and teaching, I held little understanding about service. In retrospect, I get why that was the case––my advisor and professors were trying to protect me from un/under-compensated labor. Doing research (designing and carrying out a study, writing a dissertation) and teaching while completing the degree requirements for a graduate student is hard enough. I think my program was doing its best to keep me from distracted by departmental and field service.

Anyhow, I still volunteered my time as a graduate student in various disciplinary organizations. I participated in conference organizing teams, helped review presentation proposals and proceedings, led social media activities for different groups, etc. However, the effort I put into these roles were incomparable to the kind of work that counts as service for a faculty. To show what I mean, below I quantify the service activities I had done in my first year on the job.

Following the advice by Manya Whitaker in the Chronicle, I kept an active log of my teaching, research, and service activities during this past year. Documenting my teaching and research progress was rather straightforward. For teaching, I included the information, learning outcomes and activities, and summaries of student evaluations for each course. For research, I recorded scholarly activities (grant applications, publications, presentations, etc.) in a vitae format. Keeping track of service work had proven to be more complicated; it required more attention to the nature of the service (e.g., is the work pertinent to internal or external stakeholders?). So, I came up with some broad categories that house similar service activities. With that I present my first-year service, by the numbers:

Internal – Departmental committees

  • Graduate admissions committee (MA & PhD)
  • Recruitment committee (BA, MA, PhD)
  • Asian Studies (minor) committee
  • Co-director, User Experience Research Lab

Internal – Departmental contributions (non-committee)

  • Managed program’s online social presence (FB & Twitter)
  • Participated in MA portfolio redesign efforts (conducted 2 focus groups and 1 peer program interview; contributed to new course syllabus)
  • Designed program advertisements for conference use and high school recruitment (x4)
  • Attended college and departmental student events (e.g., tabling at majors & minors fair, judge at campus film festival) (x2)

Internal – Student advising and mentoring

  • Served (as member) on doctoral dissertation committees (x6)*
  • Conducted mock job interview with PhD student (x1)
  • Reviewed PhD student job application materials (x1)
  • Wrote recommendation letters for scholarship, internship, and graduate school applications (x3)
  • Advised graduate students on projects (non-class related) (x8)
  • Advised undergraduate students on projects (non-class related) (x2)
  • Supervised undergraduate researchers (RAs) (x2)
  • Met with prospective graduate applicant (x1)

* My university considers student committee work (doctoral dissertation committees) to be teaching, not service work. I am adding them here because they count as service at some other institutions.

Internal – Guest speaking

  • Spoke at graduate student professional development colloquium (x3)
  • Spoke at student organization meeting (x1)
  • Spoke to colleagues’ grad seminars (x3)

External – Guest speaking

  • Spoke to colleague’s grad seminar (x1)
  • Spoke at graduate student professional development event (x1)
  • Spoke to podcast series (x1)

External – Mentoring

  • Reviewed PhD student job application materials (x4)
  • Conducted mock job interview with PhD student (x1)

External – Field organizations

  • SIGDOC, social media manager
  • CPTSC, administrators committee
  • STC, award selection committee
  • Xchanges (journal), review board

External – Review of scholarships

  • Journal manuscripts (x8)
  • Conference proposals (x13)
  • Book reviews (x3)**
  • Co-authored book review (x1)**

** My department considers book reviews as service to the field, not research.

Upcoming

  • Joining another journal review board
  • Becoming book review editor for a journal
  • Chairing a doctoral dissertation committee

To put things into perspectives, my service requirement is 20% of my assigned workload, per my job offer letter (the other 80% are split evenly between research and teaching). I am aware I need to be more intentional in using my time this coming year. Nonetheless, I see some service as investments into the future. I especially enjoy working with students as they establish their own scholarly identities and trajectories, and I hope through my service I am helping to shape the future of our field by guiding these rising talents.

If you are reading this as a graduate student wanting to get a sense of the service load in a faculty position, please accept the caveat that every institution and program is different, and what I offer here are mere insights from my own position and perspectives. I encourage you to speak with your advisors and professors, and ask them what they do so you can get a more diverse view of the job.

To say the least, Year 1 has been meaningful to my professional growth and I hope to do better in Year 2. Now, time for another cup of coffee!

2 thoughts on “Year 1 by the numbers

  1. Thank you for this post. This is very helpful. I’ve heard of the 60/20/20 split with teaching, research and service, but no one has really explained the service part. Fall was my first semester in the program, and I’m almost done with coursework. I was just getting to know some of the faculty, and the pandemic hit, we all left campus, and now the fall semester will be online. While there’s a strong support system in place at Tech, I must admit, I’ve felt weird asking random questions about things like service, letters of recommendation, finding a PI for an IRB study, selecting committee members, etc. Anyhow, thanks again, posts like this are very helpful.

    • I am glad you find this helpful, Aliethia! I understand how student mentoring and professional networking are suffering under our current conditions. As always, I am happy to meet and chat about my experience and answer questions. No questions are too weird when it comes to navigating grad school and learning about the job.

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