Could it be true?

September 20, 2012

So I am starting my 6th year of service at Morningside College – the year the tenure is traditionally granted.  The tenure portfolio is in and I’ve been told not to worry.  I’ve been an active member on campus, was voted onto a curriculum committee that is currently doing curriculum revision, chairing a sub-committee for our upcoming HLC accreditation visit, have started a new and exciting research program at a local drug and alcohol treatment center, and the recipient of one of the prestigious teaching awards on campus.  I guess I do not have much to worry about.  But what is beginning to dawn on me and feels quite unnerving is the fact that I will soon be moving out of the category of ‘Junior Faculty Member.’

It is not an uncommon experience to not feel at advanced (in work, age, or what have you) as you actually are.  I still feel a part of the junior faculty here, though I may soon not be seen as one by the ‘real’ junior faculty.  I still have my moments where I feel I do not know the institutional history or traditions.  I still feel that I am working hard to better myself as a mentor, instructor, and scholar.  However, I also still feel that sense of being an imposter where though I have been given some heavy responsibilities, that I will not live up to them.  A tenured faculty member doesn’t feel like this, right?

Perhaps what is making this acutely present for me is the fact that we have two new faculty members in our department this year.  I feel that I want to be present for them as a mentor, but I also do not want to impose my methods onto them and allow them to create their own way of teaching, advising, scholarship and service.  But what is becoming more clear to me now than it has in the past is that I may be a bit of a wonder to these two new people.  How is it that I am able to do a major book project, start a new major line of research, be present for my students, hold classes that students enjoy and yet work incredibly hard, volunteer at our writing center, and still manage to have a social life?  I find that I may be becoming the new Susan Burns in the psychology department (those of you who know her will get this reference).

Susan was my primary mentor when I first started at Morningside.  She was a sight to behold and was a wonder to me first starting.  I though she was superwoman.  She also was (and still is though she has since moved into an administrative role) an excellent teacher, students loved to work with her, she was active in faculty committee and served as a strong voice for psychology for the college.  I always wondered how she managed to do it all and still have time for a personal life (which I know she does).  I guess the answer is that it seems to just happen.  You take on a little bit here and and then little bit more there.  You are presented with opportunities that you simply cannot pass up because they are once in a life time, continue doing what you were because that is the main part of your job and you learn to manage it all.

I am not the only faculty member like this at Morningside.  I can list several good friends and colleagues that are similarly ‘super.’  BUT we are not super-people.  We are simply people who have either 1) learned to manage everything and have enough tools and activities in our teaching and advising toolbox that this preparation takes less time or 2) gone completely out of our minds.  Option 3 is perhaps a little or a lot of both and probably more likely.  In any case – still not super.  Or at least we usually don’t think we are.  We just do what we do because we probably would not have it any other way.

BTW, Susan if you happen to read this, thanks for all of the mentoring and support you gave me as a junior faculty member, I would not be where I am, doing what I am doing now had it not been for your support and guidance along the way.