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.

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