As expected, new faculty members spend most of their time focusing on their students, but where can a budding professor go to learn how to be a better instructor or how to survive in the institution? Who stands ready to help the young academician? Too often, the answer has been no one, but a couple of recent books can help fill the void.
***image1;left***The Black Academic’s Guide to Winning Tenure — Without Losing Your Soul, by Kerry Ann Rockquemore and Tracey Laszloffy, $22.50, Lynne Rienner Publishers (July 2008), ISBN-10: 1588265889, ISBN-13: 978-1588265883, pp. 261.
Why a “Black” guide to tenure? The authors have been challenged on that point and have explained it in the book something like this: Junior faculty members in any institution of higher learning are by definition vulnerable. For White, male junior faculty, this is a temporary condition experienced only within the walls of their school. For Black faculty, vulnerability is an ongoing condition, even if they get tenure, and it spills over into the world outside the institution.
“So, we take as our basic premise that there is a fundamental difference between the experiences of Black and White faculty,” the authors write.
Different experiences call for different survival skills, and the writers indicate that they want new faculty to thrive in academia, not merely crawl to the finish. They present as a given that race and racism will be factors in an academic career, but they don’t use those as excuses. Rather, the possibility that race will present challenges is viewed as a motivator and organizing principle that can drive the Black scholar’s career toward excellence.
Rockquemore is an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Laszloffy is a coach/therapist for Black and Hispanic faculty at predominantly White institutions. They are also founders of the blackacademic.com Web site, a mentoring portal for “underrepresented faculty making the transition from graduate student to professor.
” In this book, they gently take the novice by the hand and walk him or her through the ins and outs of managing one’s time, teaching well, making time to write for publication, finding mentors and other crucial issues. Summaries at the end of each chapter and lists of additional reading materials make this book particularly accessible and useful.
Perhaps most important is their advice on the “without losing your soul” part of the title. They outline different mechanisms or habits that the academic probably has internalized to get as far as he or she has and suggest strategies to succeed going forward.
The authors also urge the young Black scholar to be cognizant of the privilege and responsibility of being an educated person of African descent today and the sacrifice of those who went before.
“Stay true to their spirit and the sheer will power they manifested in refusing to be humbled into staying silent when it may have been ‘easier’ or more expedient to do so,” the authors urge.
What They Didn’t Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career, by Paul Gray and David E. Drew. Forewords by Laurie Richlin and Steadman Upham, $15.95, Stylus Publishing (March 2008), ISBN-10: 1579222641, ISBN-13: 978-1579222642, pp. 128.
As the title suggests, this book presents its pointers in a reader-friendly, numbered list. Some entries are a mere sentence long. Others might be a page or two. Despite the format, it is not light on information.
This manual’s strength is in the crisp, straightforward tips on subjects ranging from how to handle students who may present a physical danger to how to navigate new technology for better teaching, research and writing. It is presented with a clever wit, accompanied by cartoons that depict the humor and dilemmas in academic life.
This book also includes notes and appendices on the dissertation, outside income, writing tips and health. This book by two professors at Claremont Graduate University in California overlaps with, and makes a good companion to, The Black Academic’s Guide to Winning Tenure.
What They Didn’t Teach You … includes a chapter on diversity that is brief and blunt. A sample: “Although you may hear that universities are leaning over backward to hire women and minorities, such cases are exceptions and are rare.”
— Angela P. Dodson is an online editor for Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.
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