In my short time at Lincoln, I’ve sought counsel from veteran faculty whose insights have helped shape my perspectives as an educator.
But one of the most important things I’ve done is make friends with fellow junior faculty, most of whom are around my age. Having colleagues who can identify with my growing pains has helped my transition to the university.
Here’s my piece of advice for new faculty: Reach out to people who are in similar positions as you. It’s important to build those bonds professionally and socially because it can be easy to become isolated.
I’ve spent a lot of time with young professors who are dealing with the struggles of the pre-tenure process. We’ve socialized outside of campus and have built alliances that extend beyond disciplines. Academia can be overwhelming and there’s only so much we can tell our friends who are not professors. After all, most of my friends still think I have a “cushy” job.
And contrary to popular belief, young professors don’t spend all of their time talking about research or big words such as hegemony or paradigm. We talk sports, music, politics and other subjects that are relevant to our daily lives, even though big words occasionally creep into our conversations.
I’ve been making friends with pre-tenure faculty outside of Lincoln, too, since the demands of a research institution are much different than those of a teaching institution such as Lincoln. It’s also important for young faculty of color to be in touch with each other since we are under-represented in academia.
That gets me back to socializing. Some of our most dynamic research and pedagogical approaches are shaped by how we interact with each other and how we behave in the “real world.” This is why there are happy hours, mixers and other recreational activities for young faculty throughout the country. We know the unique demands of our jobs and we need to have consistent support networks in place.
This weekend, I’m going to a party hosted by fellow Lincoln professor and Diverse blogger Dr. Emery Petchauer. Emery and I have had a number of conversations about how we can use our research to advocate social change, but we also know we have to be actively part of our communities. It’s important to let community members know we are socially and politically active.
I think getting together with folks who share the same experiences and perspectives help young faculty like me grow as educators and people. Plus, it’s not such a bad thing to have intellectual conversations with A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots and Mos Def playing in the background.