Further Musings

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Archive for the ‘On the Job’ Category

The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead

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coverI haven’t finished a book since February but I’ve finally finished The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead by Charles Murray.  Murray is a conservative writer whose keen eye for the social realities of elite institutions and life reminds me a lot of David Brooks.  Even when I don’t agree with him I like the way he makes me think about the world I live in.

The Curmudgeon’s Guide is essentially a series of extended proverbs written by an unashamedly grumpy old white guy.  Over the years his missives went out to his workplace via an internal listserv and now they are collected into a brief book with four sections: workplace presentation; thinking and writing; how to live in your 20s; and what it means to be happy.

The workplace section is probably the most practical of the bunch and reenforces much of what I’ve seen and learned since I graduated from college.  His sage advice about the realities of cursing, dressing sloppily, sending poorly written office emails, sucking up, etc mirror my thoughts when I see these behaviors from students and (occasionally) colleagues.  I don’t say anything but it definitely shapes my opinion about whether or not they are professionals.  Murray is astute and honest enough to name these behaviors and say that these are real barriers to your success.

The writing and thinking section was brilliant, especially being unashamedly judgmental about sloppy writing.  As I’ve worked on a team preparing a report and a presentation over the last two weeks I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve implemented the rules so that the Committee will take us seriously.  I preach to my students constantly that they will be dismissed if they misuse fewer and less or use literally to mean figuratively.   Murray agrees and has lots of specific suggestions.

His last two sections on life advice also seem very wise to me.  Your 20s are a time to explore, form opinions and think about your career.  He tells it like it is with bracing advice like “get real jobs” and “confront your inner hothouse flower” (chortle).   Finally, his reflections on what makes the good life include advice about vocation, marriage and religion that isn’t heard very often in my circles.  Consider marrying in your 20s?  Take religion seriously?  This is good advice and it makes me thankful again for one of my favorite college professors whose mix of life advice and political science shaped who I am today.

The book is a perfect gift for an upperclassman or recent graduate who is either wandering or is dead set on a specific version of success.  I’m considering recommending it to my incoming graduate students as guide to the intangibles that our program won’t teach them as they focus on hard skills and policy thinking in their formal coursework.

Written by furthermusings

June 14, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Posted in On the Job, Reviews

On the Job

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At the end of the semester one of my colleagues spotted me holding office hours out on the green.  Professoring in RI isn’t always this great but that day it was.

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Written by furthermusings

June 4, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Posted in On the Job

Sons of Providence

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Sons of ProvidenceThis afternoon I finished Sons of Providence, the tale of the Brown brothers, Moses and John, for whom the high school I walk by and the university I walk to are named for.  It taught me a lot about Rhode Island’s early history.  I had no idea that the stain of slavery was so deep so far north.

The book is about the history of Rhode Island, the Revolutionary war period, and the slave trade.  The “triangle trade” was a prominent source of Rhode Island’s wealth throughout the 60 years covered in the book.  Rhode Island merchants commissioned voyages in “the Guinea trade” that left the Narragansett Bay with rum bound for Africa, then came to the Caribbean with hulls full of slaves, and finally returned to RI with sugar to make more rum.  This trade started before the war and continued long after slave trading was banned by the Congress.

The Brown brothers serve as a conduit for this story.  Their first slaving venture killed about 100 of the 167 slaves and half of the crew.  It also lost money.  In the wake of this disastrous voyage Moses became a Quaker and eventually authored the first state level laws against slaving and was instrumental in having the Congress outlaw slaving.  John worked just as hard to oppose the laws, and when he failed, to create ways to work around them.

The book also tells the tales of the Brown family’s dominance of Providence politics, deep work in the State legislature, and deep involvement in the Revolution.  John comes out as both a hero who burns a British ship beached in the Bay and a deeply self-interested man who cons the fledgling navy on several occasions, putting purse well above money.

They were complicated men whose complicated relationship was shaped by the tides of the times much as they shaped the times.  All in all it was an interesting book.  Certainly worth the read if you like that period in history.

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January 27, 2013 at 3:37 pm

DPP Day 19: Finals

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Here’s the reason I’m a couple of days behind in posting.  Seems to happen every year…

Final_Exam_Photo

Written by furthermusings

December 19, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Posted in On the Job, Pictures

DPP Day 12: The Pool

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Been swimming a lot this semester.  The U just opened a huge new swimming pool.  I know I look like a comically displaced tourist with my swim trunks and snorkel set but given that I’ve seen a gal doing laps in a mermaid suit I think I well within the normal range for here 🙂

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Written by furthermusings

December 12, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Posted in On the Job, Pictures

DPP Day 11: The School Next Door

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Every day I walk past a great design school.  This morning I dropped a casserole dish off with a friend and walked past this on the way to his office.

SchoolNextDoor

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December 11, 2012 at 8:08 pm

DPP Day 10: The Gates

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The center gates open twice a year, to let first-years in and seniors out.

TheGates

Written by furthermusings

December 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Posted in On the Job, Pictures

DPP Day 7: Dancing Statue

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Ran across this on campus today.  Love how full of motion it is.

Silver and Dancing

Written by furthermusings

December 7, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Posted in On the Job, Pictures

Renters Insurance (or Making a Difference in the Classroom)

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An email from a former student came today.  It’s gratifying to know that my courses really have helped people’s lives.

***

Hi Dr. P,

Hope all is well and that you are enjoying your time at Brown. I just wanted to say a quick thank you for your budgeting lecture. I recently moved to New Orleans and thankfully, because of you, purchased renter’s insurance! All of the damages sustained from Isaac are covered under my policy. I will never go without it. Please make sure to include that lecture for your current students. It saved me so much.

All the best,
S*

Written by furthermusings

September 3, 2012 at 9:36 am

Posted in On the Job

Lunch Concert

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What is lunch in the summer with out some opera? #AsYouDoAtAnIvy?

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July 31, 2012 at 11:19 am

Posted in On the Job

Farewell Furman

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Farewell Furman. It’s been a great year.

Written by furthermusings

June 4, 2012 at 11:26 am

Posted in On the Job

The Other Office Door

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This year I shared an interior office door with a senior colleague who was storing  bookshelves and bookshelves of his old journals in my office.

This arrangement gave us some sound privacy and freed up some bookshelf space for me.

It also got a lot of second looks and compliments for creativity.  The chair liked it enough to ask me to leave it up as a sound barrier for the next person to occupy it.

HT: Sarajevo library for inspiration.

 

 

Written by furthermusings

June 2, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Posted in On the Job, Pictures

Reflections after a Year of College Professoring

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We move to RI in just over two weeks and I’ve been thinking a lot about what this year has meant and what it has been.  I took the job at Furman (and painfully left Chapel Hill) to have a test run as working as a professor.

In the end, I think this year has really helped.  After the emotional and professional turmoil of grad school my emotions and thoughts about academics felt like swirling, churning, muddy river water.  This year has been a year to let the silt settle, the water clear, and know what I want.

The year has really changed my perspective.  I hadn’t realized how different being a professor is from being a graduate student and how much more I would enjoy it.  The pressure is less.  I’m not worried about if I’m going to measure up to the department or the dissertation committee.  There is a lot less “what do I do with my life?” angst.

The days are more structured.  I taught and planned three classes a semester instead of just TAing for one class.  I see students and faculty often, and this has been really good for my mental health. And I respect myself more. I feel like an adult in a way I did not in grad school.  Students, faculty, and even the Dean see me as a valuable asset instead of a burden. That feels good.

Also, I thought I knew what it would be like to be at a liberal arts college (LAC) before I came to Furman, but sitting at the end of the year I realize that I didn’t.  I’m surprised by the depth of relationships I developed with the students in just a year.  I had students for both semesters and I didn’t expect the bond that developed seeing them twice a week for a year.  I know them better.  I’ve shaped students more here that I ever did at UNC and that has been fulfilling (and I’ve got the cards and baklava from them to prove it :-))

I’ve been surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed teaching upper-level seminars.  The students are interested in the material and they care more than they do in intro classes, the only kind I had taught at UNC.

I was surprised at what good colleagues the faculty were.  The job here demands less of their souls than a research university … they are still pretty odd by normal person standards … but a lot better than the vast majority of my grad school professors.  Furman isn’t a utopia but it’s better in deeper ways than I envisioned when I took the job.

All that to say that I’m glad I gave the academy a year or two as a professor before deciding whether or not to leave it.  I’ve had space to settle emotionally, get real experience being a professor in a way grad school couldn’t provide, and keep my options open between staying and leaving academia.  Working in Raleigh or DC is still an option but placing at a Furman (or Brown) wouldn’t have been an option if I had left the academy first.

I can walk away from the academy or remain in it with some emotional maturity that I didn’t have before.

I feel a connection with a church planter headed up to Boston who I had a beer with recently. He became a Christian his first year as a professor.  He wanted to become a minster but also wanted to make sure he wasn’t running from a fear of tenure.  He tenured and then changed careers.  Seeing in through brought a sense of solidness in his decision.

A year later I feel like I can leave or stay in academia on my terms, not being driven out by my own emotional muddiness nor by a lack of respect from others.  For that, I’m grateful.

Written by furthermusings

May 19, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Headed to Brown

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ImageIt’s official: I’ll be teaching at Brown next year and for at least two more after that.  The offer has been in the works for a while but today is the official day.

It feels great to know that we’ll be somewhere for at least three years.  I haven’t had that kind of surety since 1997 when I had three years left at Clemson.

Praise God!  Who could have envisioned such an outcome?  Amazing.

Written by furthermusings

May 9, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Posted in On the Job

Pleasures of a Home Office

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One great thing about this year has been the progression of Charity’s career.  The home office has been a welcome change from a commute and a dreary office building.

Written by furthermusings

April 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm