Scott Robertson on missing tenure, persevering, and connecting to mission & community

Scott Robertson comes from a psychology and cognitive science background and is now a Professor in the Information and Computer Sciences Department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Scott shares the experiences of being rejected for tenure twice and how he dealt with that. His story is one of perseverance and courage, doing what you care about, and the importance of mentors and being part of a community. He is now in a tenured position and enjoying the freedom to follow his mission around civic engagement and to get back to acting.

UPDATE: Scott has just been made Chair of his department! So not getting tenure is definitely not the end of a story!

“You have to do what you care about”

“So [failure/rejection] is survivable, not just survivable but also then you can go on to the next thing and make the best of whatever situation you are in.”

 “[Don’t] define yourself by your position or your affiliation [but] by your mission in life.”

He talks about (times approximate) …

01:30 His early career as a child actor eg on the Brady Bunch! Current acting interests and how it has enriched his academic and personal life – acting like HCI as understanding other human beings. And inhabiting another world.

05:38 Time to focus, becoming present to the moment, a centreing exercise

06:35 Discussion of early career: social science at UCI, then cognitive psychology masters, then cognitive science PhD at Yale; first using a big Vax computer in a statistics class and getting interested in computing at Yale; dissertation in how people use text editors and presenting at the first CHI in ~1981, feeling intimidated by Don Norman in the front row; HCI as his direction then

10:30 End of the story: full prof at Uni of Hawaii but not a straight forward to get there; started usual ass prof pathway in a psych dept publishing in HCI; tenure evaluation ‘what is CHI/HCI’, not publishing in APA journals etc; failed to get tenure

12:10 Still an issue for several people, feeling misunderstood in their dept, ‘what is HCI’ still

13:00 Mentors who helped at these transition points; feeling part of the CHI community but alone in the Dept so able to rely on mentors in CHI community eg Gary Olson wrote a letter, Jack Carroll helped figure out next step to IBM

14:45 Incredibly devastating – work hard, trajectory going nicely, so quite a shock; “when you look back on it you wonder why you spent so much time thinking about it” but did take a long time to settle it; move to IBM a smooth transition though intimidated as no idea how to be a researcher in a company

16:20 Felt out of place in the year after tenure denial as have to go back to the institution, the so-called terminal year; tenure denial because of vote he missed by less than half a percentage point so felt like it was random – those kind of things did occupy his mind for quite a time

18:10 Thinking back, it did allow him to move on; “so it is survivable, not just survivable but also then you can go on to the next thing and make the best of whatever situation you are in.” Doesn’t believe that ‘everything happens for a reason’ as he was often told, but “I do believe that you can turn a situation to your advantage if you focus on it and try”

19:10 In industry/research labs at IBM and US West in Colorado, doing quite different work than what he would have done in a psychology dept; chairing the CHI conference during this time and a talk he gave about the importance of the CHI community, an anchor.

21:08 Going back to academia, starting trail to tenure a second time, this time in an iSchool; better fit however also missed tenure so two tenure denials; continuing story of ‘what is CHI’ and also had decided to change research interests, looking at e-voting systems and political participation which might have cost in terms of publishing but another close decision

23:55 Shift of topic area – wanting research to have some impact and where he could make a difference; realised not the voting machine per se but the education beforehand where the real challenge is for technology

26:40 Awareness of impact/risk re tenure? Didn’t think the shift of topic was not a good idea. “I feel like you have to do what you care about.” Never thought of them as risky decisions, never focussed on the tenure issue, focused instead on what he cared about. No regrets about anything.

29:04 Experience of second denial, again surprised as had good feedback; a good lesson re having to be clear with non-tenure professors about how they are going; went through appeal process but a waste of time, should have moved on more quickly; did win an appeal that process not followed correctly but same outcome when done over again

31: 45 Still glad he went on a new direction of tech to support political decision making so easy to slide into current research on use of social media for political decision making

32:15 Same people around to support eg Jack Carroll, “so important to have a mentor all the way through” not just in tangible way but other intangible ways of advice, listening, see at conferences and ping him when he needed support/advice

34:30 Dealing with the second tenure denial, focussed more on it than the first time, later in his career; and partner/wife also an academic in humanities going through tenure process that also didn’t work out – spent half of marriage living in different places, decided not to do that any more

36:50 “Need to keep a confidence of some kind, that you are doing the right thing. It’s important to have your community.”

37:50 Difficulty putting down roots, friends in local community, getting back into theatre when in Philadelphia, dislodging from that difficult when moving on; value of getting back into theatre, like CHI, people interested in others and wanting to impact them

41:10 Moving on to another faculty position in Hawaii, the only one he got. Most of these transitions, only got one option each time. Prepared also to go back into industry and would have seen it just as ‘next step’ and how to make the best of it

42:45 Can’t help having something in your mind that you didn’t live up to expectations, being nervous coming back to conferences because people would know it happened but very different experience, people on his side

43:54 “When something like these things happen I think it is important to just pick yourself up and put yourself back into the game”; practical tips eg centering, who am I at the core, did these really change me, being able to see it as an external event; not an easy thing

45:00 Hawaii hard for partner’s work – not landed a job there yet but has a community;

46:00 Perspective on where you are at any given time has changed, from thinking it would be a model of prof with tenure staying put, to more jumping from one thing to another, “people are going to have to re-define themselves several times during their career … think tenure model will come to an end”; “Wouldn’t define yourself by your position or your affiliation [but] by your mission in life”; Scott’s mission around civic engagement

48:30 Tenure process at Uni of Hawaii, now in a computer science dept, supportive colleagues, tenure process opposite of everything before, smooth; one thing that has changed for academics is need to bring in money but harder to get  but also more needed to support students; success rates down around 10%; half of all writing and effort goes into proposals but not a total waste of time, making up your dream, what I want to do, creative writing of an aspirational document; if don’t get the grant then re-work it, “Persistence is extremely important”; also dealing with rejection in acting

53:00 Celebrating tenure and then having to think about what to do now so deciding to write more for general public; can’t do this though before getting tenure

55:22 Liking the computer science department, interested in work of colleagues doing things he doesn’t do, more so than when in psychology

57:00 Final thoughts – now can tell this story, “my responsibility to say that these things happen, and you can preserve through these things, but the critical issue is knowing who you are, …research direction and who you are as a person.” And realising you can jump across icebergs and be fine. And focussing on the larger community.

01:00:39 End

Related Links

Scott Robertson - http://www2.hawaii.edu/~scottpr/

Art Graesser - http://art.graesser.us

Gary Olson - https://garymolson.com

Jack Carroll - https://ist.psu.edu/directory/faculty/jmc56

Mary-Beth Rossen - https://mrosson.ist.psu.edu

CHI2017 Career Development Symposium - https://chi2017.acm.org/careerdev.html

CHI Stories - https://chi2017.acm.org/stories.html

Chris Frauenberger on post-docs, parental leave & multiple dreams

Chris Frauenberger is a post-doctoral researcher and principle investigator at Technical University Vienna. Chris shares his experiences navigating various post-doc positions, taking parental leave, negotiating with his partner about family-career choices, dealing with an uncertain future, and being strategic about trying to build up a CV and visibility to maximize the chance of getting a permanent position.   He also reflects on what happens if this doesn’t happen and being able to pursue other dreams.

 “It’s hard to say no to something because then you are effectively jeopardizing your CV and that’s a bit of a silly game”

“Sometimes it’s really healthy to take a step back and think about what are the kinds of dreams that you have and if you’ve got enough dreams to do you feel less anxious about that one working out”

“I’ve done all the things that I think I can do… but there’s a limit to how much control I have over the rest”

He talks about (times approximate) …

1:30 Moving to the UK as a PhD student and experiences; Shifting to a Post Doc position in Sussex and shifting topics

13:40 Finding participatory design aligning with his values and it becoming one of his central fields

15:50 Not being strategic about the decision of where to next, but relying on things ‘feeling right’, just doing things; no point not being happy with decisions

19:35 Family situation, negotiating agreements to handle both partner’s career needs, but at a cost of lots of travel between London, Graz and Brussels for three years

22:30 Tensions and tradeoffs in making decisions about moving to Brussels for partner’s opportunity, leaving professional networks and career imaginations, versus financial security, time with son but (always feeling a but); in the end still a quick clear decision

25:20 Being emotionally hard to leave the UK, the difficult of thinking about doing participatory work with language issues in Brussels; making a deal with partner about next move being his if something came up

27: 30 Enjoying the good life in Brussels, looking after children, but still trying to publish, write grant applications

28:50 A lot of uncertainty around career but also a lot of security financially; but “what do I do with my career” and after two proposals fail “What if I don’t get back into that loop?”, checking out options in design companies

29:55 Third grant proposal finally getting funded – straight after the call, being hit by the reality of having to “move all this to Austria now”, almost a frightening thought that it had come true; but no regrets

32:00 The three years in Brussels show on his Google Scholar page – not just about writing journal publications but whole social networking you miss out on, not being asked to do service roles, not having visibility; also tiring without support structure around you

34:00 Motivation to work on papers while on parental leave; driven by sense of unfinished business and carving out time to work on writing around running a household

38:10 Anything different to support networking and visibility? Strategic twitter use but it still can’t replace the many small conversations you have when you meet people face to face

40:30 Problems not having parental leave officially sanctioned and impact on applying for grants where this leave isn’t formally recognized since he was technically ‘unemployed’ not on parental leave

43:15 Experiences taking on principle investigator role, being able to do what he wanted to do, employing good PhDs, steering/shaping and being able to step out and let it run

45:35: Learning curves? Leading from behind, giving as much freedom as possible, leading by asking questions but depends on having the good people to do this with – felt natural

47:20 Do differently next project? Shaping the environment, more of a research studio, getting to a more integrated way of working around a table

50:15 Reflecting on being nervous at the beginning of the project about publishing and dealing with paper rejections in the first year – concern about “what if this project doesn’t yield the currency that I need” after three years not publishing

52:15 Focussing on raising profile, saying yes to everything, lots of reviewing, service roles internationally and within the faculty – becoming more visible, setting up a good CV profile to be considered for jobs

54:30 Huge relief of next project funding after other proposals falling through, other applications not coming off, but wanting to stay where he is, which makes for vulnerability and having little leverage; making it hard to say no because of CV; but liking many of the service roles for conferences and communities, and having influence

59:25 The future after this next project? Not wanting to be in the same emotionally draining situation as at the end of the current project, diversifying in also thinking about career choices including outside of academia - “If that’s the case [of something not working out] I’m going to pursue one of my many other dreams”… wanting to stay in the academic system but recognizing that it “might spit him out

01:02:50 Academia quite hard in having to live with rejections and needing to find a way to distance self, but if things “don’t work out then you have to embrace that as a positive thing” and you go to a different dream

01:05:00 Having an absolute last parachute of going back to Brussels if really needed but not wanting to; taking best of three years to be in a place and tiring to re-build it

01:07:38 “That’s how I calm myself down, saying I’ve done all the things that I think I can do and like to think they’re working out well, but there’s a limit to how much control I have over the rest

01:08:00 One of the downsides of this constant worry is impact on doing actual research, instead time is spent on writing proposals, doing things for profile; having more future certainty will provide more freedom to do that

01:09:40 Looking at what kind of position he wants to have, by looking at others and how busy they are and how little they do get their hands dirty, “it’s not entirely positive”; ambition to have a small research group

1:11:40 Concerned with increased push to performance measurement, how to find time to write, do research and chase next job;

1:14:00 PhD time the best of your life but not believing it when you are a student!

01:15:45 End

Related Links

Outside the Box project - http://outsidethebox.at

Ole Sejer Iversen - http://www.engagingexperience.dk

Ali Black on doing academia differently...caring, connecting & becoming

Ali Black is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia. Ali tells stories of courage and care and connection, stories that grew out of painful interactions with ‘the academic machine’ and feeling like failure. She talks about creating a different way of engaging in academia, one that is based on intentionality and meaning, on connecting to what is important, on being and becoming, and on creating a more caring and collaborative culture. An important step in this was reaching out to colleagues and forming a women’s writing group to write together and to explore their versions of slow scholarship.

“How we might cultivate ethics of care and caring where we acknowledge our human dimensions and actually care for one another as part of our work.”

“Failure is actually…an invitation and a gift to go’ well what do I want to do differently, what isn’t sustainable, what am I not prepared to do anymore’.”

"… it is finding the ‘and’ in the ‘yes’"

She talks about (times approximate) …

2:11 Long career, working in three unis, career interruptions for children, family bereavement

5:40 Writing about the blurring between the personal and professional; pressure to put on a professional face despite whatever is going on in the rest of life; the academy needing to recognize we are human beings and these personal things happen; cultivating ethics of care and caring for one another as part of our work

8:18 Inviting women friends/academics to share stories about what is it like to be in the ‘afternoon of our lives’, meeting for writing workshops, giving feedback, connecting

13:00 Stumbling across slow scholarship, trying other ways of being an academic, being more deliberate and intentional

14:55 Common themes from the stories – understanding the complexity of lives that we’re all living and how amazing to negotiate all these things

16:48 Importance of sharing and particularly responding to say ‘I hear you’ or ‘you’re amazing’

18:15 “We’re in the arena and need to be valuing each other for having the courage to stay in the arena and to do our best and to care”

19:00 Caught up in the managerialism, constantly feeling like we’re not enough, important to try to change the local culture so we can change the wider culture, and care for one another, doing those things that don’t count but count in terms of the quality of our lives and our values

21:37 Being part of the academic machine and the tension of perpetuating the functioning of that machine, but being more alive when you follow what matters to you

22: 37 Story of moving to a new university, accepting a lower position ‘to get a foot in the door’, meaning a salary reduction and being on probation for 3 years, and feeling like a failure, not being valued and wounded as a person and academic

26:37 The ‘wise women’ writing became a saving space, finding her own ways of working on what mattered to her, creating a promotion application that was “like me” and getting promoted – getting there without playing the game perfectly; “In the end I can only be myself and I’m very good at being myself”

30:05 Encouraging that might not have to do things the ‘system way’, but doing it our way within some of their frameworks; but not all happy story, having depression, but recognizing that“Failure is actually a gift because there’s no-where to go, you’re at the bottom of the heap, so you can only decide well what will I do now so it became an invitation and a gift to go well what do I want to do differently, what isn’t sustainable, what am I not prepared to do anymore.”

31:20 Office surrounded by inspirational messages, planning, decorating diary

On her desk: “Is this task vital? Does it really matter to me or someone l love and care about? Give my energy to what matters to me and to what inspires me” – as a result, not going to faculty meetings any more, anything that is deadening to the soul or joy or sense of hope

33:54 Say yes to the spaces and places to contribute that you’re going to like a lot more, find meaningful or fit your values; if we said yes to everything we’d be overwhelmed overworked and wouldn’t be able to focus on what matters to you, changing your framing for service, meetings

35:56 Importance of knowing ourselves, strengths, values

38:25 Making time for human interactions, inspired by slow strategies suggestion from slow scholarship article, valuing quality over quantity, valuing thinking, that we need time to think

41:10 Counting in some different ways, valuing time and thinking, and organizing spaces differently to engender intentional conversations taking to meet and discuss ideas – connecting caring listening important

42:58 Taking care of ourselves before we take care of others; planning weekend spots with cups of tea, cats, sleeping in, family, leaving no space for work – weekends as sacred self care, family care times

44:23 Still working long hours but on things that matter

46:02 Importance of down time for creative thoughts to gel, need to stop thinking activity is productivity, making time to think and to write; importance of writing as research, and turning it into a collective process – “supporting the productivity of the academic machine while also being fulfilled for the personal the human being … it is finding the ‘and’ in the ‘yes’

49:25 Self care practices, reading widely, getting inspired, being content to be me but the best version of me, becoming intentional, creating a vision board

53:11 Being, belonging, becoming … and ‘becoming’ takes the pressure off, always becoming

56:40 Encouraging us to find our own groups and making local connections, and pointers to related links

1:00:31 End

Related links

If you are a woman in academia, please contribute your voice to this survey on women in academia for research by Ali and Susie Garvis: http://www.thewomenwhowrite.com/survey.html

Ali's Research Whisperer post "Saved by slow scholarship" https://theresearchwhisperer.wordpress.com/2016/08/16/saved-by-slow-scholarship/

Websites Ali has created to support women and their listening/storying/connecting

http://www.wisewomen.world/

http://www.thewomenwhowrite.com/

Blogs Ali finds inspiring

On Being http://www.onbeing.org/

Brain Pickings https://www.brainpickings.org/

The Slow Academic (Agnes Bosanquet) https://theslowacademic.wordpress.com/

Research Whisperer https://theresearchwhisperer.wordpress.com/

Slow Scholarship reading

Berg, M., and Seeber., B. (2016). The slow professor: Challenging the culture of speed in the academy. Canada: University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division.

Mountz, A., Bonds, A., Mansfield, B., Loyd, J., Hyndman, J., Walton-Roberts, M., Basu, R., Whitson, R., Hawkins, R., Hamilton, T., & Curran, W. (2015). For Slow Scholarship: A Feminist Politics of Resistance through Collective Action in the Neoliberal University. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 14, 4, 1235-1259. Retrieved from   http://ojs.unbc.ca/index.php/acme/article/view/1058

Link to ‘Wise Women’ memoirs and the ‘invitation’ I sent out https://www.dropbox.com/sh/z5q83mqkohac295/AACt8R6yox8AYaWYNdZiBG14a?dl=0

Manuscripts we have written about our collective writing or the blurring of personal/professional

Black, A.L, Crimmins, G., Jones, J.K. (in press). Reducing the drag: Creating V formations through slow scholarship and story.  In S. Riddle, M., Harmes, and P.A. Danaher (Eds) Producing pleasure within the contemporary university. Sense Publishing.

Loch, S., Black, A., Crimmins, G., Jones, J., Impiccini, J. (in press). Writing stories and lives: Documenting women connecting, communing and coming together. Book series Transformative Pedagogies in the Visual Domain, Common Ground Publishing. Eighth title Embodied and walking pedagogies engaging the visual domain: Research co-creation and practice. Kim Snepvangers and Sue Davis (Eds).

Loch, S., and Black, A.L. (2016). We cannot do this work without being who we are: Researching and experiencing academic selves.  In B. Harreveld, M. Danaher, B. Knight, C. Lawson and G. Busch (Eds). Constructing Methodology for Qualitative Research: Researching Education and Social Practices. Palgrave MacMillan: UK and US

Black A.L. (2015). Authoring a life: Writing ourselves in/out of our work in education. In M. Baguley, Y. Findlay., M. C. Kirby. (Eds). Meanings and Motivation in Education Research. UK: Routledge, Research in Education Series

Black, A.L, and O’Dea, S. (2015). Building a tapestry of knowledge in the spaces in between: Weaving personal and collective meaning through arts-based research. In K. Trimmer, A. Black, and S. Riddle. (Eds). Mainstreams, Margins and the Spaces In-Between: New possibilities for Education Research. UK: Routledge, Research in Education Series

Black, A. (2017). I am Keith Wright’s daughter: Writing things I ‘almost’ cannot say. Life Writing, Reflections section, Taylor & Francis. DOI: 10.1080/14484528.2016.1191980

Black, A.L, and Loch, S (2014). Called to respond: The potential of unveiling hiddens. Reconceptualizing Educatonal Research Methodology, Vol 5, No 2, Special Issue.  

 

Manifesto of care: