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Tony Finitsis

Hi Kent,
So you know, I'm printing and framing your three questions:
1) Is this interesting?
2) Is it useful?
3) Is it going to replenish or deplete my energy?
Then, I will hang them in my office, in direct eye-sight height, and make sure to glance on them before making any future commitments.
Now should I footnote you or put the source on the title of the slide? ;)
Thank you so much.

Kent Brintnall

Thanks, Grace. I'm curious if you have any strategies that you've relied on that have helped you sort your priorities?

And, Lisa, the word "guilt" in your comment really popped out to me. Guilt is hardly ever a helpful emotion and almost never is it an energizing one, but I think that we feel a great deal of it when we do the comparison shuffle. And the "colleague down the hall" trap is very broad and wide. I have a colleague like the ones you describe (of course, the gender dynamics are reversed); I have other colleagues who tell intense stories about their level of involvement--both as mentors and emotional supports--to their students. At the same time, I have colleagues who are quite surprised at the amount of committee work I did pre-tenure. While I've certainly scaled back, I also helped revise my department's curriculum, establish a number of interesting programs and events, etc. The lesson I'm really trying to learn is to cancel the comparative evaluation--just as I should follow my own bliss, I have to let others follow theirs. There just is no single model for doing this job successfully or making genuine contributions.

Lisa Hess

A bit cathartic to feel the inner YES! about liking (or not) one's students. What a relief to admit my own dislike and frustration on most days! I've spun my wheels a LOT in these years feeling guilty that I do not invest more time and energy in my students' lives than I have, particularly as a couple colleagues in my hallway derive intense personal energy and satisfaction in doing so. I'm sure this varies from institution to institution, but at least in my setting, I feel a huge pull in gender-expectations here too: the women faculty are to nurture the neediest, the male faculty are to further their research. Being obstreperous myself, I've adamantly protected my research time, perhaps erring on the "absent too much" side of things. I do most of my conceptual work at home, for instance, and minimize campus time as much as possible. You name all this so very well--identify what will feed your energies and DO THAT. Ultimately, it makes you healthier, aids your contribution to the whole, and makes the institution healthier too.


Kent, thank you so much for your honesty. I really enjoyed reading your piece!

Kent Brintnall

Like you, Kate, I've never met anyone who entered life in the academy in order to sit on committees, but I do know a few people who've discovered their love for institution building, or a talent for making policy or revising curricula, or even just a passion for being a good administrator for the sake of their colleagues. Not that you were suggesting otherwise, but it seems important to support those decisions, and not act suspiciously or dismissively. We certainly want committed and talented people occupying important service positions.

As to the introvert/extrovert issue, one of the most helpful concepts I've encountered for thinking about my professional life was introduced to me a few years ago: role extrovert. The role extrovert is a person who is an introvert at heart (i.e., finds her or his energy renewed by spending time alone or with very small groups of people s/he knows well), but who can "perform" in an extroverted way when assigned a very specific role. In class, I tend to be dynamic, energetic, out-going, etc., so neither colleagues nor students believe me when I talk about being introverted and pretending spending time alone with my books. Understanding better the split myself has allowed me not to dread certain situations either.

Have you found any strategies useful in switching among the various hats we're expected to wear?

Kate Blanchard

It's a fact of academic life that people who pursue it are divided between those who mostly want to teach, and those who mostly want to do research. (I've yet to meet anyone who mostly wanted to sit on committees.) It's a wee bit sad that (introverted) people who mostly want to do research often end up in (extroverted) teaching-heavy positions, but I think you're right on about accepting who you are and setting priorities and strategies accordingly.

Kent Brintnall

Thanks, Susan! Have you found any strategies particularly helpful as you've tried to identify and sort your priorities?


Being kind and telling the truth are difficult no matter the age and maturity. To be kind to ourselves and tell the truth about ourselves is a never ending challenge.
I think this article is both truthful and kind about yourself and others. Bravo!

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