Faculty Share 5 Tips for Climbing the Academic Ladder

Post by Jennifer Leopoldt, Communication and Technology Co-Chair

“Academic life is complex. That’s no surprise.” With that, moderator Carolyn Bronstein kicked off DePaul Women’s Network’s Winter Faculty Event, “Life on the Academic Ladder,” on Jan. 25, 2013. By featuring panelists at different stages in their academic careers, the event was intended “to demystify some of the rungs on the ladder,” explained Bronstein, associate professor in the College of Communication.

Attendees heard from a diverse group of four faculty members: Rana Husseini, an adjunct instructor in the College of Communication and assistant director for Teaching Support; Rebecca Johns-Trissler, an assistant professor in the Department of English; Kelly Pope, an associate professor in the Driehaus College of Business; and Bibiana Suarez, a Vincent de Paul Professor in the Department of Art, Media and Design. Although each brought her own story of struggles and triumphs in academia, common themes emerged:

AcademicLadderTip #1: Know what works best for you

The panelists talked about how understanding your personal preferences can help you accomplish more. Pope knows she works better in the evening, while Suarez is a morning person. Husseini talked about using a timer to set limits on repetitive tasks such as grading papers. The panelists also discussed the need to realize what makes you happy, whether that is reading for pleasure or having a creative outlet. Finding projects that energize you can help prevent burnout.

Tip #2: Ask for help

Don’t buy into “Superwoman Syndrome” and think you need to do everything perfectly, Suarez says. Instead, be willing to delegate, whether to coworkers in the office or to a partner at home. Also, know your limits. As Johns-Trissler has recognized, “There always seems to be one thing that has to be moderately neglected” so others things can be attended to.

Tip #3: Say “no” strategically

The panelists touched on the importance of saying “no” to projects in a strategic manner. A few noted that women could learn from their male colleagues, who often seem better at weighing pros and cons of assignments, rather than automatically saying “yes” in order to be seen as helpful or likeable.

Tip #4: Get to know others throughout DePaul

Meeting others at DePaul can help you form good relationships, find a mentor or advocate, or find someone who understands your situation. As Suarez told her fellow panelists, “I have known and experienced your pain at most every level.” The panelists suggested resources for meeting colleagues across departments, including the Teaching & Learning Certificate Program, interdisciplinary programs and centers, and, of course, DWN.

Tip #5. Keep track of your accomplishments

The panelists talked about potential pitfalls while advancing on the tenure track. They discussed the importance of keeping detailed logs of your accomplishments, in case superiors leave amid your review process or there are shifts in your department. With clear records, you can show the extent of your work no matter how tenure standards might change.

Through the program, attendees learned that while there is no magic recipe to surviving in academia, practical advice from others can make climbing the academic ladder seem less daunting.

Did you attend the Winter Faculty Event? Please leave a comment about what you enjoyed or the lessons you learned. We’d love to hear from you. To see more photos from the event, visit our Facebook page.

Academic Ladder Panel
The moderator and panelists at the event.

What to Expect at DWN’s Winter Faculty Event

Post by Lark Mills, Communication and Technology Co-Chair

Illustration of People Climbing a Ladder

DWN Faculty committee co-chairs Carolyn Bronstein, Maria Ferrera and Rebecca Johns-Trissler share what to expect at their upcoming event, Life on the Academic Ladder, on Jan. 25. They also provide advice for faculty starting their careers and for staff who may be interested in teaching.

Who will be speaking at the event?

The panel of speakers for this event includes women at various stages of their academic careers at DePaul University.

Panelist Moderator

Panelist Speakers

What is the format for this event?


The event will begin with breakfast and informal networking.

Panel Q&A

Carolyn, the panelist moderator, will ask the panelists to share an opening statement to identify where they are at on the academic ladder. Are they starting out relatively fresh from graduate school, mid-ladder, or close to the top in terms of rank and academic experience?

Next, Carolyn will ask the panel to share insights that have helped them move from rung to rung. This may include the best choices they have made as well as some choices that, in retrospect, did not yield hoped-for results. Furthermore, Carolyn will prompt the speakers to share what has been rewarding at each stage of their careers and also what challenges that they have faced along the way.

Open Questions

Attendees will have the opportunity to address their own questions toward the panel.

What have you learned that you wish you had known early on in your academic career? What advice would you give faculty who are first starting out in their career?

Carolyn Bronstein Profile PhotoCarolyn: I advise junior faculty to be very clear about their research agendas and to try to focus on projects that advance those agendas in clear, defined ways. I was very open to projects in different areas when I was a junior faculty member, and although the intellectual exploration was pleasant and led me in mostly productive directions, I could have benefitted from a sharper focus.

What are the most common obstacles that faculty face in their academic careers?

Maria Ferrera Profile Photo Maria: The landscape of expectations to receive tenure seems to be changing and diverse between departments. It is difficult to really know where you stand within the process sometimes. There also seems to be little dialogue about the challenges of balancing and raising a family as an academic, particularly when you belong to a collectivist culture that inevitably will breed internal conflict in response to the demands of this position.

Rebecca Johns-Trissler Profile Photo

Rebecca: This answer is different for different specialties, but a common issue women faculty face is that they’re building their careers at the same time they’re beginning to build their families. Faculty work provides a generally good work-life balance, but that balance can be more difficult to create while you’re working your way up to tenure, needing to spend a great deal of time on publications and research. I wrote the entirety of my second book after my daughter was born, feeling enormous pressure to do so. Having a child put a tremendous damper on my ability to research for the book. I was not able to travel to Europe to do on-the-ground research I might have done if I hadn’t had an infant at home. And yet, I was more efficient with the time I did have, using it to better purpose than I had previously, knowing I had to pay a babysitter if I wanted to write.

What do you hope that faculty and staff get out of this event? Why should people attend this event?

Carolyn Bronstein Profile PhotoCarolyn: Academia is a complex career with many formal stages. Our hope is to demystify some of the “rungs” of the ladder for those who have yet to climb them. You can feel very alone during the tenure process and alone afterwards when you are confronting the “now what” questions that are common among mid-career faculty. Therefore, connecting with others who have shared similar experiences is valuable and comforting. For staff who may be contemplating a move toward teaching and research, this event is great opportunity to hear about the realities of academic life, which can be different from what people may picture or imagine. People should attend to hear diverse perspectives on the academic life from a wide range of talented colleagues who represent all stages of the ladder.

We’d love to hear from you.

  • Will you be attending this event?
  • What do you hope to get out of it? 
  • Which rung are you at on the academic ladder?
Registration for this event closes Monday, January 23, 2013.

Brown Bag Event Ties Emotions to Finances

Post by Lynn Safranek (Communication & Technology Co-Chair)

Finding financial fitness involves more than balancing your checkbook or setting aside money for a rainy day.

As financial planner and author Julie Murphy Casserly told DePaul faculty and staff, emotions and energy play a significant role in how we choose to arrange our finances. The founder of JMC Wealth Management, Inc. and author of The Emotion Behind Money: Building Wealth from the Inside Out shared her insights into the emotion-money connection on Jan. 25 at a DePaul Women’s Network Brown Bag luncheon.

Casserly’s advice applied to finances as well as people’s quality of life and achievement of their life dreams. Early in her talk, she asked the crowd to consider this question: “What are things you regret you still haven’t done?”

Most people look at their dreams and decide that following them would be too expensive, she said. Or they listen to the naysayers – those people in their lives who discourage them from following their intuition.

An Acronym for Success

DWN Winter Brown Bag Casserly advised that people should get in tune with who they are and what they want in the world. Then, she said, they should follow their intuition and pursue those goals in the most financially palatable way possible.

An easy way to adhere to this advice is to follow Casserly’s P.A.A.C.T. process:

P – Picture what you want.

A – Accept your current reality.

A – Awaken your authentic identity, passion and purpose.

C – Choose to change.

T – Take action.

This process will help people shed the shame, blame and guilt they associate with their finances because they will be applying hard-earned money to what they want most in life, Casserly said.

Positive and Negative Forces

In another exercise, Casserly asked participants to consider five traits of someone they admire and five traits of the most influential naysayer in their lives. Then she told everyone to look at the lists. “All the traits in those lists, that’s you,” she said. “Those are traits you like and dislike in yourself.” People should make an effort to choose to be the person they admire, she said.

As for the naysayers, Casserly said people should “release everything from your life that isn’t in your highest and best interest.” That may mean avoiding certain topics when talking to friends, she said, or finding a job where you feel passionate about the work.

The decisions may be difficult, but they are necessary. Without making hard decisions, Casserly said, the door to new opportunities and greater happiness may close.

Did you attend the Brown Bag? Please leave a comment about what you enjoyed or the lessons you learned. We’d love to hear from you.

The Winter Brown Bag team is all smiles after the event.
The team is all smiles after the event. From left: DWN Brown Bag Co-Chair Erin Higgins, guest speaker Julie Murphy Casserly, DWN President Christine Gallagher Kearney and DWN Brown Bag Co-Chair Jennifer McClelland.

How Emotions Affect Money: An Interview with a DWN Guest Speaker

DWN Communication and Technology Chair Lark Mills recently spoke with Julie Murphy Casserly, an independent certified financial planner and author, to discuss her unique approach to financial planning and her upcoming talk at the DWN Winter Brown Bag Luncheon on January 17, 2013.

JulieHeadshot_2011-1Julie Murphy Casserly, founder of JMC Wealth Management, Inc. and author of  The Emotion Behind Money: Building Wealth from the Inside Out, took a break from her busy schedule to speak with me by phone. Not only is Julie a top expert in her field, but she is also a savvy, female entrepreneur; she uses social media to reach out to her current and prospective clients by providing them with a wealth of information and inviting them to join the conversation

Julie Murphy Casserly’s Upbringing

Julie was the second oldest of 12 kids growing up. She explained that she did not grow up with money, but from an early age, she was intrigued with how money can grow.

“I’ll never forget the first time I realized that they paid you interest on a savings account. That was a big aha moment in my world. When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I used to deliver the Sun Times and the Tribune before school every day and I was always reading the business section. I always had an interest in finance and clearly it made me who I am today.”

What Inspired The Emotion Behind Money: Building Wealth from the Inside Out

Julie was a finance major and said the idea of writing a book herself did not seem feasible at first. However, people repeatedly encouraged her to put her advice on paper, and she eventually decided to go for it. The book debuted in August 2008. “The timing was impeccable because it was right before the stock market crash and within 30 days of my book being out, I found myself being flown to New York to be on the money desk of CNBC,” Julie explained.

When I asked Julie how her book is different from other finance books, she explained that she acknowledges the emotional side of money, which is a key component that is overlooked in her industry. Julie argues that a balance between financial numbers and emotional numbers is the real key to financial success. Moreover, Julie explained that we tend to operate only our left-side, logical brains when trying to manage our finances when we should also be operating our right-side, emotional brains in order to break the cycle of financial mistakes. “It is human beings making emotional decisions day-in and day-out and so that is the bridge that I have created in my business, just acknowledging and honoring people who are building their financial plan [and helping them find a balance between their emotional and financial numbers.]”

Financial Advice for Women

When I asked Julie if she had any financial advice specifically for women, she argued that women need to empower themselves to be more conscious about their spending habits.

“Women give away their personal power to money! They let money control their lives because of unconscious spending and wanting to stick their heads in the sand when it comes to money. When they get afraid, they choose to avoid handling it. So, it is really about empowering women to not shy away from it [money management], but to embrace it and acknowledge the emotional component. We either work things out or we act things out. When we act things out financially, there is something you are unhappy about in your life and it has nothing to do with money and you act it out by buying that dress or buying that latte to fill that void.”

Julie has lived through what she teaches to her clients: she made financial mistakes and consciously decided to end that cycle of financial dysfunction. Julie offered this overview of money management: “It is about cleaning up your financial past, which is all your debt, while living in the present moment and planning for the future at the same time.” Julie is more than a traditional financial planner; she helps guide her clients toward financial healing.

Preview to Julie’s Talk at DWN’s 2013 Winter Brown Bag Luncheon

Julie gave me a hint to what she will discuss at the DWN Winter Brown Bag Luncheon. She will focus on encouraging us to adopt a different approach to money management. She will provide us with tips and tools on how to make good financial decisions based on our personal goals and desires.

You can learn more about Julie on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and her blog. To register for Julie’s event with the DePaul Women’s Network, visit DWN’s Brown Bag Luncheons page.

What is your personal finance philosophy? Do you have any financial goals for the New Year?

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