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Girl, Let’s Talk … About the Academy

Navigating your way to the helm of higher education can be a labyrinthine endeavor because it’s not just about research and teaching; it’s about positioning yourself for the best opportunities and playing by a set of rules unique to academia. For women the climb can be even more complicated as female scholars often find themselves working in an all boys club. Diverse culled the advice of a diverse set of college professors and leaders, including Antioch University Seattle President Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet; California State University, Dominguez Hills President Mildred García; Sarah Lawrence College President Karen Lawrence; and University of Houston System President Renu Khator. Here are 10 tips they offer:

— Amid all the multitasking, ensure that you still reserve quiet time for yourself so that you don’t burn out — the world will not fall apart while you do.

— Don’t take criticism personally. Strive to be better than yourself.

— Balance your healthy love of learning (and sharing it with others) with good organizational skills and political savvy. Learn the academic culture, policies and decision-making processes of your institution.

— Just say no! Don’t overextend yourself personally and professionally for commitments that you know you don’t have time for.

— Support networks, both formal and informal, are crucial to your success. This means maintaining relationships with friends, family and mentors. Take every internal and external opportunity to attend programs, conferences, leadership institutes or seminars on a local, regional or national level.

— Publish! Publishing equals visibility and career mobility.

— Advertise your success! Learn how to toot you own horn to deans and department heads without looking arrogant. If you don’t let others know the quality of your work, it will be an even tougher climb to the top.

— Pursue what really interests you and make sure that academia is exactly where you want to be.

— When you start at a university, consider borrowing or bartering a teaching course formerly taught by someone who is willing to loan you course materials. Don’t worry that you’ll be perceived as lazy or weak, you won’t. This just ensures that you do a good job from the start. You can be innovative later.

— Use the last name you will always use, whether it’s a maiden name or married name, no matter what happens in your life. Name changes can wreak havoc.

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