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.

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